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Review 16


 


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A Mortise table from the CraftsMan Gallery

Mortise Table

"An adjustable height/tilt mortising platform (31” long by 7” wide), with 5 T-tracks and 2 vice L-clamps/stops, that provides horizontal work holding for cutting on the face or edge of wood. Attaches to Router Boss's sliding bar providing power feed capabilities when cutting mortises, grooves, and flutes. A cut-out in fence provides for crosscut operations and a V-slot in fence allows round object clamping. In addition to horizontal work holding, a slot in the platform allows boards up to 5/4" by 3.5" wide to be clamped vertically for tenoning cuts on end of board (requires an optional toggle or UTC clamp). Provides unique capability to cut both a mortise and a mating tenon with same setup. As an additional option, the mortising platform T-track can be separated and attached vertically to the sliding bar providing capabilities similar to our Power Feed work holder.

You can shop make a simple mortise rail from wood or MDF with plans in our manual, but our aluminium mortise table provides more function and unique versatility. Can be mounted on Router Boss or WoodRat."

Mortise Table is, in my opinion, an understatement as this very substantial accessory is rather more than just a support to cut mortises as you will see from the following review. It has been through a lengthy development cycle and after a fairly long wait I now have one to test out. Not quite a 'quick fit and use' attachment some forward planning may be necessary in your workflow but in the short time I have  owned it I am finding more and more work methods.

I intend this to be a two part review. The first will deal with the basics of installing and hopefully the second part will comprise of owner feedback on work holding ideas.

See Page 2

Oh....... before I forget to mention it, this is a weighty bit of kit and it is supported on the Router Boss slider. To get consistent results it is essential to make adjustments to the slider for smooth operation and as little play as possible.

Don't miss the update at the page bottom.

Horizontal or Table set up.

Pre assembly The kit in the delivery box weighs one ounce under twenty pounds and so is no light weight bit of engineering. For table set up a back plate or spine is fixed onto two vertical T-slot support rails which in turn are screwed to the sliding bar.
The horizontal table top is connected to the spine via three angle brackets. The table top is not an extrusion but a precision engineered plate which weighs 4055 grams or 8 pounds 15 ounces with the brackets. The spine weighs 1652 grams or three pounds and 10 ounces.
Man handling these parts and fitting to the Router Boss can be a bit tricky and I have now settled on a procedure which I find easiest for me.
Fix one bracket either end of the spine and the centre support bracket to the middle position of the table as shown opposite.
Height adjustment is made by sliding up and down in the vertical rail t slots. The rails are set on the slider just like fixing the standard fence.
On the slider use the second fixing holes in from the left side, offer the spine up to the machine and check which holes are used to fix the second vertical rail.
More than once I have fitted the first spine only to find it is in the wrong position!
VS Rail
VS Rail2 A long steel strip slides in the track and is held by a star knob and machine screw.
In the kit there are four alloy packing pieces. Two thick ones and two thin ones. For table mode one thick one is used behind each rail to space them away from the box section face. Alloy spacer
VS Rail3 Here it is all mounted. Just like a standard fence. Test to ensure it is fixed square to the box section top.
Fitting the spine can be trial of dexterity!
I loosely hold each track bar with just  a star knob and get one end entered first and hold it with light tension. Fiddle and get the other track bar entered and then move the whole thing up until level with the top of the vertical rail. Fix the top screws as shown but do not fully tighten as this may not be the desired final position.

Note the V-groove running along the top of the spine.
Makes it easy to clamp round work to machine flutes to a leg or dovetails on the end of a column etc.
Spine level
Bracket square I did a check on the angle brackets and found them to be machined square.
No cost cutting here then!
All parts have an excellent black anodised finish and I couldn't find any flaws at all. Rather smart but very difficult to clearly photograph.
Right then.........Then spine is now fixed in it's temporary position with the left and right brackets secured. Spine mounted with two brackets
Resting1 The instructions include a plan for a shop made MDF fence to fit on the spine next to the table cut out. I made mine from good plywood and screwed it on.
Now we can fit the table section. By resting it on the already fixed outer brackets the centre one can be screwed on plus there will be a lot less swearing. Attempting to hold the hefty plate with two hands and bending and screwing on the three brackets with your third hand...well you see what I mean!
There will still be some kneeling and bending involved.
Pre-assembling and fitting on to the vertical rails was just too much for me.
Middle bracket
Post Top I followed the dimensions of the post to the letter but found the top to project a little above the table top. Easy matter to take it off and trim it down a bit.
With the post in place you can tenon a piece up to 4 inches wide by 3.5 inches thick. Remove the post and replace it by two plastic plugs in the ready drilled holes and you gain an extra inch in working width.
It is entirely feasible to hold and cut a mortise in work held horizontally and a matching tenon an a vertical piece at the same set-up.
The easy way to set the table parallel to main base is to set in place a flat board underneath and raise the whole table to the desired depth. I generally prefer to have the work touching the plate underside to maximise available plunge depth.
Now you can finally tighten up the table star knobs and screws!
Now........... an extra feature: Because each side mount is independent the table can be set an angle. Just perfect for routing tapered table legs.
Set Level
Centre Point Just to be thorough I did a little test on the tracking accuracy.
To do this I set a centre finding bit in the router....
....then tracked some MDF end to end through the machine.
Perhaps you can just make out a fine line scored along the length.

Result:
Over a travel of 31 inches the edge to line varied from 21.48 mm to 21.47 mm.
In woodworking terms absolutely perfect.



Line
Messy I have not yet bought an adapter for my dust extraction hose to fit the front chip extraction hood of the Router Boss. As a result mortising is a messy business as the wood can obstruct the rear dust chute. Work holding in this mode is very simple using the two supplied vise clamps.
The T-slots in the table top are not equally spaced making it easier to select the optimal position for the hold down knobs.( Don't forget to fit the star locking washers) If you arrange for the knobs to be at the inner most of the mounting slots as shown then finally tighten the centre hold then nothing can move when machining.
This is not to say that the vises will move in this mode anyway but it just gives extra gripping power.
Follow the white arrow and you will see one of the precision stops from the CraftsMan Gallery. $34.00 each but invaluable for accurate setting. I use two to set front and back positioning of the router. Makes mortise cutting simple, accurate and repeatable.
This is a frustrating problem! Follow the white arrow and you will see a machined slot. This is intended for mounting a clamp to hold your vertical work. There is a slot either side of the post........except you can't! Fit a clamp that is without dropping the table, disassembling the clamp, passing the clamp hold-down bolt through the slot from the back and re-adjusting the table.
A time consuming process.

The solutions are simple enough. Either file two flats off the clamp fixing bolt head to allow it to pass through the slot. ( Turn it before locking of course) or file a  hole at the end of the slots to permit the clamp bolt to pass through.
See the update at the bottom of the page.
Spine slot
Spine clamp If you are aware of this then plan ahead and  fit the clamp before mounting the spine like this.
Here is a little trick to get extra locking tension. Gently tighten the central hold down with a spanner like this.
Don't over do it as it is not necessary. The work is protected by a plastic pad on the end.
Spanner
Stop mod1 It was not long before I made a modification to my vices.
I drilled and tapped two holes in the clamping faces so that I could mount MDF cheeks like this.
Metric 6 mm bolts of course with domed Allen socket heads.
I slotted the MDF so when fitted they could be made mirror images of each other.
The sizes are not critical just use what you have.
Stop mod2
Set Fence I routed a rebate down the top edge as shown on both pieces.
Set and lock the first one down square to the table face.
Now you can easily hold small or larger pieces between the jaws. Holding1
Holding 3 Held this way you are free to cut horizontal slots, grooves, trenches or rebates with ease.
To the best of my knowledge this is the first commercial accessory to enable this.
Providing your Router Boss slider is correctly adjusted the table will be  level with the underside of the main plate but since the slider plastic bearings strips are resilient it is possible to deflect the table down and out of square if you load it too much. I don't think it is enough to cause any problems in practise though.
Warning: in the course of testing I was tempted to use the plastic pegs to set the work flat on the table and at an angle to the spine face. I could not get the sliding vises to hold the work with certainty and so some other clamping method is best advised.

 

Vertical Mounting

Two Packers In a similar manner to the Power Feed work Holder, see here, the table top can be mounted vertically onto the slider.
Use a thick and thin alloy packer plate each side to space it away from the slider, attaching it with the supplied bolts into the slider fence fixing holes.
This turns it into a super duper power feed work holder but with fewer angle peg holes.
Placing the setting pegs into the T-track plate the work can be preset at 45, 30,22.5 and 15 degrees plus of course 0 or 90 depending how you look at it. This can be to the right or to the left.


 
The plate is pre drilled to accept a standard fence too. Alloy Fence
Pegs Two UTC clamps very securely hold the work at an angle against the setting pegs.
Two clamps hold this chunk of MDF against the fence with every confidence that nothing is likely to slip. Using a substantial panel raising bit was not at all intimidating with this set up and it is probably the best way of all of holding heavier work. All works perfectly with the riser plate and router fences in place. Panel Raising
Scale This plate could be left in place to do most of your wood working but it is spaced away from the main face. I measured mine to be 19.39 mm or 0.763 inches. When dovetailing you reference the side scales when setting the pin cutting positions. The scales can not be moved out far enough to set their zero position so you must compensate for that.

 

A Third Way

Third way There is a quick, unpublished, until now that is, way of mounting in table format. Only suitable for light and small work though.

Fix the vertical support rails onto the slider in the normal way and mount two brackets fixing only with the star knob into the T track sliding bar.
Mount the angle bracket into the second set of tapped holes on the track plate.

Conclusion

This is a finely machined piece of kit which finally maximises the ways to hold work in all manner of  ways and  completes the Router Boss system as an all round joint maker. It is, I understand, usable on the WoodRat but I have not yet tested it on mine. ( I just wonder about the 'Rat carriage rattle).

You pay a little more and receive something solid and properly made, it should certainly withstand the rigours of a busy workshop. Not always the case these days.

It breaks down into mostly flat parts so storage is not much of a nuisance.

It is true it takes a bit of time  and effort to fit and the bracket screws do cause some body bending so forward work process planning is best.

I quickly found full pre-assembly on the bench and fitting was not for me but the two bracket technique  I described does make it easier. I believe the first production batch very quickly sold out so others must agree that that it fulfils its purpose well.

The clamp fixing problem on the spine did initially irritate me as so much has to be un/redone to sort it. This is easily fixed and perhaps the next batch will be ready modified.

Horizontal work clamping has many possibilities and I have only shown one idea. I have others and know that the Craftsman Gallery also have some designs in the pipeline.

I would like to follow up this initial review with ideas and gadget additions from you, the reader, as like the iceberg this accessory has great hidden depths. Email me here for any input you have..........thanks

Item code 12-250 price $210.00 from the Craftsman Gallery

Is it worth the money................yes

Update!

 The Craftsman Gallery have responded with some clarifications and valid points which and  I feel sure, they will not mind me publishing here.

"The left vertical support should always be installed in the second set of taps in the sliding bar as we show in our assembly diagram.  The right vertical support may be installed in the sixth set of taps as shown, or optionally in the fifth set of taps.  Using the fifth set provides more room for the UTC clamp to operate in the elongated slot under the table (and the slot is not shared with the knob)."  See below:

I didn't realise that..........Thanks

WoodRat mount

"For WoodRat, the mortise table is always mounted as shown above. The T design keeps everything solid"

Good to hear that.

"Total assembled weight is a little over 12 lbs and, although somewhat heavy, I believe it is manageable and quicker to mount it to the vertical supports without disassembly (table attached).  Even if you mount disassembled, you’ll still have to move it up/down and deal with the weight after attaching the table.  The T-track bars (dual tapped strips) that ride in the vertical support t-track were conceived by Frank Mutchler and they made it easier to mount.  I mount with both the top screws and the knobs loosely attached to the T-track bars then tighten the knobs first when I have the T-track bars in the vertical supports.  I think trying to put together without the top screws attached to the T-track bars takes more dexterity, rather than less." 

I will retry.

"A UTC clamp is only $17 so, if you are going to cut tenons using the cut-out slot and vertical mount then I would buy a UTC for the mortise table and just leave it mounted.  Drilling a hole at end of the elongated slot to insert the clamp screw head is a good idea for those who do not leave the UTC mounted and we’ll include in next batch of mortise tables." 

Good news and a rapid response.

" The other elongated hole on the left of your ply post (lower fence) is for the vertical support when mounted in the fifth set of taps in sliding bar, not for the UTC clamp."

Sorry folks. My mistake. Thanks for correcting me Lewis. I must, I must pay more attention to the instructions!

"It was never intended that the locator pins would be used in horizontal table mode.  We show the locator pins being used in vertical mode only on our assembly diagram."

I guessed that. It was an additional warning to those of us who are a bit adventurous.

The included vice clamps can be used north/south or east/west, but were not intended to be used at an angle.

 

If it looks as if it can be done then we will try it. Perhaps that should be added to the instruction notes?

 

 We did intend to allow the table to be tilted at an angle.

Yes and it works well too.

 " It was not intended that the vertical mode mortise rail be used for dovetail pins, but, if you decide to cut dovetails in this mode then add your 19.5 (rounded) offset measurement to your guide rail setting when cutting the pins and it should work."

OK I will make a note of that.

"The ‘unpublished’ way of mounting is for a future possible enhancement". 

Great! we look forward to that.


 


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