Mortiser - Multico K2

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(Tom Newsom) #1


This is a morticing machine, used for drilling/chiselling square holes.

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What the Morticer does:


A Morticer has one dedicated use, to cut a perfectly square hole in timber. Usually, several of these square holes would be made one after the other in a piece of wood, to create a larger and/or rectangular hole - ie. the mortise into which a tenon would be fitted to make a mortise and tenon joint.

The Morticer is essentially a pillar drill (AKA drill press) that uses a square, hollow chisel bit, sharpened on all four sides, containing an auger drill bit in the middle which cuts and clears the majority of the waste material. The square hole cut by the Morticer is called the mortice, and the waste material is cleared by the auger bit through a gap in the side of the hollow chisel bit - while the 4 sides of the chisel neatly pares and squares off the edges of the mortice itself.

It takes some preparation to set up correctly, but like any machine tool, if being used to cut many mortices at the same depth/size, it will give you consistently superb results.

What are the risks?

  • Entanglement in the tool is relatively unlikely, as the auger bit is well enclosed. However, care should be taken not to become entangled through the waste hole in the chisel or in the gearing of the drill head, which can be exposed at times during use.
  • Dropping sharp auger bit and/or chisel - these two separate parts include 5 points and 4 sharp edges, and will cause serious injury if it lands on you, even from a short height - beware hands and feet! If the sharp edges hit a hard surface, such as the metal bed of the machine, then they will be seriously damaged.
  • **If cutting a large


  • Do not wear loose clothing
  • Ensure long hair, jewellery, and any clothing drawstrings are securely tied back
  • Eye protection is recommended - though correct usage should not cause wood chips to be ejected at speed, in large quantities, or more than a few cm away from the bit
  • Masks are not normally required, as there is very little dusk produced
  • Sensible footwear with sturdy toes should be worn at all times in the workshop. Steel toe-caps are a bonus.
  • Do not wear gloves - they are an entanglement risk with woodworking machine tools

Anatomy of the tool


  • Bed - flat metal plate with a rear fence and front clamp attached, onto which you place your workpiece. There are two control wheels in front of the bed which can be used to move it - the larger wheel (around 30cm diameter) moves the bed from side-to-side, whilst the smaller wheel below it moves the bed forwards and backwards.

  • Clamp - there is a sliding clamp built into the bed, which is designed to clamp your work place against the flat rear fence. The clamp is adjusted in two stages - the horizontal black-tipped handle can be loosened to allow the clamp body to be slid forward and back easily by hand, or tightened to hold firmly in place. Once the clamp is locked in approximately the right spot, the silver handle can then be turned to force the clamping plate towards the fence - this allows for a much tighter clamping action. Always ensure that both the handles are tightened before using the mortiser, and that your workpiece is securely held in place!

  • Drill head - similar to the pillar drill, the drill head is a large electric motor mounted over the bed, to which the hollow chisel and drill bits are attached. It is raised and lowered by the control arm. There are cut-outs in the side of the drill head to allow access to the hex socket used to change the bit.

  • Control arm - silver metallic arm on the right-hand side of the mortiser, which is pulled down to lower the Drill head

  • Hollow chisel bit - four-sided chisel with a circular hollow up the middle for the auger drill bit. The leading edge of each side of the chisel curves up in the middle, meaning the chisel has 4 very pointy corners. The chisel edges and the points all need to be kept very sharp - take care when handling! At least one of the four sides will have a long opening down most of its length - waste material is cleared out from the centre of the bit through this gap.

  • Auger drill bit - fits inside the hollow chisel bit, and is turned by the motor in the drill head. It removes material between the four sides of the chisel, and clears the waste material through a hole/gap in the side of the hollow chisel.

  • Collar - some bits have this third competent, a short metal cylinder (with some cut outs/thickness changes), which sits on top of the chisel bit, surrounding the top of the auger drill bit.

  • Storage compartment - on the lower right-hand side of the body of the tool, is a door to a storage compartment beneath the bed. This contains the box of bits, chuck key, allen keys, etc.

Prepare your material:

  • The tallest piece of material that can fit under a bit in the raised drill head is around 6 inches.
  • The widest piece of material that fit the clamp on the bed is around 10 inches
  • Depending on how long your workpiece is - eg. if it’s the top of a door frame, to fit a lintel - then you may need to clear material stacked near the tool. If you think itself needs moving, this MUST be discussed with a woodtech first.
  • Check your workpiece fits in to the mortiser!
  • Mark the outline of the mortise you need to cut on the top of your workpiece - be clear and very accurate! Convention is to crosshatch the area to be removed, for the sake of absolute clarity
  • On the sides of your workpiece which will be visible when it is clamped, mark the depth you need to cut down to as a horizontal line.

Preparation for usage:

  • Isolate the tool by turning off its power supply - always do this before adjusting any powered tool.

  • Always use the largest bit you can - to minimise the number of passes need to make your mortise, ensure that you are using the biggest bit that will fit the width of your mortise

  • Use an Engineers Square to check that:

  • Fence is square to the bed.

  • Hollow chisel side is square to the fence - if you change the bit, repeat this check afterwards.

  • Ensure the four-sided chisel is square (ie. it hasn’t been damaged and ended up diamond shaped).
    If any of these are not square, then you will not get a proper mortise and could damage the machine. Report it to a woodtech, and do not use the mortiser until resolved.

To change the bit:

  • Double-check the tool is isolated
  • Take the toolkit out of the storage compartment in the base
  • Place a scrap piece of softwood on the bed under the hollow chisel and drill bit - this is to provide something soft for the chisel and bit to fall into when loosened. If the chisel/bit drop onto the bed, they will be damaged.
  • Look inside the “cut-out” hole on the side of the drill head - locate the hex socket, and insert the allen key from the toolkit
  • Loosen the allen key (lefty-loosey), which will release the drill bit, and allow it to drop onto the scrap wood on the bed. Carefully remove the drill bit (this may involve raising the drill head a little)
  • Use the spanner from the toolkit to loosen the nut on the right-hand side of the drill head, at the very bottom. Loosen the nut until the chisel slides out of the drill head into the scrap wood. Carefully remove the chisel (this may involve raising the drill head a little)
  • Put the drill bit, chisel and collar back together and put neatly in their box in the toolkit.
  • Select the new bits you want to fit
  • Carefully slide the cylindrical top end of the chisel into the bottom of the drill head. The cylindrical top of the chisel should slide all the way in to the drill head, until the profile of the chisel changes, stopping it going any further. Hold the chisel in place make sure that the “cut out” side(s) of the chisel are facing sideways - as this is the best direction for the waste material to be cleared.
  • Take a coin from the tool kit (for small diameter bits use the 20p piece, for larger diameter bits use the 50p piece) - and insert this between the bottom of the drill head and the top of the square profile of the chisel. Essentially, we are stopping the chisel going all the way up in to the drill head - but only by a couple of millimetres.
  • Gently re-tighten the nut which holds the chisel in place. You only need to tighten the nut enough to hold the chisel lightly - not full tightness.
  • Raise the drill head, and insert the back of the auger drill bit into the bottom of the chisel. Place the tip of the drill bit onto the scrap softwood, and then lift the scrap gently, to slide the drill bit all the way up. Lifting it using the scrap wood reduces the risk of injury - there is no other way to change the bit without ending up holding a very sharp blade!
  • The drill bit should slide all the way up until the back of the tip of the auger bit comes into contact with the inside of the bottom of the four-sided chisel - it cannot be pushed in any further than necessary.
  • Hold the drill bit in place using the softwood, whilst you use the allen key to firmly re-tighten the hex socket through the cut-out in the side of the drill head.
  • Put the scrap wood back on the bed beneath the bits.
  • Hold the four sided chisel lightly (by the sides, not the sharp bottom!) -then slightly loosen the nut which holds it in place. You do not want it to drop - just loosen enough to move.
  • Remove the coin you inserted between the chisel and drill head - put it back in the toolbox!
  • Now lift the chisel the extra couple of millimetres, until it is flush against the bottom of the drill head. Hold it in place as you slightly tighten the nut to hold the chisel in place.
  • The business with the coin means there will now be a small clearance between the back of the auger drill bit tip and the inside of the four-sided chisel - this will improve performance, as the tool can more easily clear waste - and it also reduces noise and wear!
  • Use the square to re-check that the chisel is square with the rear fence of the bed. You may need to twist the chisel a little to make sure it is perfectly square. Adjust as necessary.
  • Firmly tighten the nut holding the chisel.

Clamping, positioning and depth stop:

  • Clamp your workpiece firmly on the bed. If your workpiece is not very tall, then the clamp on the bed may only catch the top of it. Place some scrap wood underneath to raise your workpiece until it is firmly held by the clamp. If your piece is not correctly clamped, then it may come lose when you raise the chisel - this could damage the machine and your material.
  • Work should always be correctly clamped, firmly against the fence - ensuring that all of the workpiece can be morticed without unclamping and moving the piece. You can test this by bringing the head down until the chisel is near the material, and then using the control wheels to move the bed around and check the chisel will easily reach all sides of your mortice.
  • Use the control wheel to move the material so far to one side that it is not under the chisel. Now lower the drill head until the top of the chisel cutting arches are the same height as the depth mark you placed on your material. The mortiser will clear all material down to this level, and there will be a rough surface below here, as the chisel corner tips and the auger drill tip will go slightly deeper. This rough surface is ideal for the glue you will typically put inside the mortise to strengthen your joint!
  • With the drill head at the right height, set the depth stop on the left hand side of the drill head
  • You are now ready to mortise!

Cutting a mortise

  • Ensure the tool is isolated from the power!
  • Ensure that the tool is set up correctly - visual check, and make sure all clamps/nuts/adjusted components are firm tightened. Ensure the spanner and allen key have been removed from the tool and placed back in the toolkit.
  • Ensure your piece is correctly clamped
  • Reconnect the power to the mortiser
  • From now on, only touch the control wheels and the arm to raise or lower the drill head - this will ensure your body never gets too close to the sharp bits or the drill mechanism.
  • Use measured and even force and speed when pulling the arm down to drop the cutter into the timber - let the tool do the work - remember that auger bits are designed to pull into the wood - don’t push down hard.
  • Always ensure the cutter had been raised out of the material, and returned to the fully raised position before moving the bed position
  • Each cut should not go deeper than half or three-quarters of an inch into the material. At this depth, pull back and allow the tool a moment to clear debris before making further passes.
  • Usually your mortice will require several cuts in a grid-like layout to get the right dimensions. Always start by making cuts that involve all four sides of the chisel contacting material, with about 5 millimetres of space between each “hole”. Then, come back and clear the 5mm spacers with a later pass. This will reduce the wear on the cutter, and help make it more even.
  • It is recommended that you cut the bulk of the mortise with a “margin” of a few millimetres within the full shape - then come back to the very precise edges last, as this will make it easier to cut perfectly neat and square edges to your mortise.

Cleaning up after use

  • Ensure the tool is isolated from power

  • Sweep and hoover up all dust/shavings/chips - always try to leave the workshop cleaner than you found it!

  • You can leave the chisel/drill bit in place in the machine

  • Ensure the allen key, spanner, engineers square, coins and other bits are all neatly put away in the toolkit, and that the toolkit is put away in the storage unit in the base of the mortiser

  • Note - if you ever need to adjust the control arm (ie. to rotate the arm without moving the drill head) - then please note that the arm is secured to the mortiser with a left-handed thread. This means that the loosening and tightening go in opposite directions to normal - turning left makes it tighter, turning right makes it looser. This is because in normal operation, when you pull the arm down to drive the cutting head into your material, you are also twisting the retaining nut to the left… and you don’t want it to loosen easily in use!

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