Mortising on the Drill Press: Tips and Techniques

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Mortise and tenon joinery is typically the mainstay of a woodworking shop that is focused on furniture production. This robust joint has been proven over the years to withstand the abuse that furniture can be subjected to. Over the centuries there have been many approaches to forming this joint, and in today’s modern woodshop, we have the luxury of having a great many aids to help us create mortise and tenon joinery more efficiently. One popular approach, particularly as woodworkers begin their venture into mortise and tenon joinery, is to do mortising on the drill press. Mortising on the drill press can be done with a relatively simple setup, and can add a lot of precision and time savings over chopping them manually with a mallet and chisel.

Drill press

You will need a good quality drill press with a table that is dialed in to be exactly perpendicular to the drill bit. For deeper mortises this alignment is particularly critical, so be sure to take the time to ensure that the table is adjusted perfectly square to the bit.


A good quality fence is extremely important when doing mortising on the drill press.

Forstner bit

You will not want to attempt to do mortising on the drill press using common twist bits, as this will lead to wandering of the bit, and also that style of bit is incapable of making good quality overlapping holes which is important when cutting mortises.

Mortise machine

If you get hooked on making mortise and tenon joints, you might want to explore the possibility of picking up a dedicated mortising machine, as these can add a lot of efficiency to the process. If you decide to get one, it will be important to set up the mortise properly to ensure good performance.