Mortise Guide


The coffee table has three mortises in each leg and and eight more supporting the shelf. Chopping mortises by hand is like running. The first steps are rife with anticipation, the next come with labored breath, but with training and patience a rhythm is developed that helps clear the mind and ends in an intense focus. It’s probably a little too far out on the limb to describe it has “mortise chopper’s high” but it is a very calming work.

Ensuring crisp edges especially where a through mortise is chopped takes practice. Helping a long the way is this little guide that Paul Sellers introduced me to a month ago. It is simply two pieces of wood and a small piece of counter top that can be used to guide the chisel along one edge. Making two of them one 3/8″ and the other 1/2″, they can be placed adjacent to the mortise and as long as I register the chisel against it, I will maintain a very nice edge.



  1. July 15, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I have to admit, just like you, there is something about chopping mortises by hand that I like. I think it is the meticulous, careful nature of it; I don’t know how to put it into words. The real genius again here is Paul Sellers. The jig is simple but works perfectly, like every jig should. I’m a little surprised that Sellers hasn’t caught on in the mainstream, as in a television program. That may be something he doesn’t want to get into, but he is much better than anybody on the current scene and I think he is entertaining to watch. Who knows? Maybe he will do a regular show.

    • July 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Talking to Paul he had filmed a couple of classes with the BBC in England, not sure if they ever aired. He is certainly a brilliant teacher.

  2. Jeff Brann
    July 15, 2013 at 9:19 am

    I think Paul had used a piece of brass in the first guide I saw but I think I prefer your choice of counter top material here. Rich this could almost be as exciting as the MasterClass! Keep up the excellent commentary and progress.

    • July 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      Hi Jeff, good to hear from you, I like the thought of using whatever is lying around and the counter top worked great.

  3. Greg
    July 15, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    When are you going to start a school ? Sign me up as # 1 student!

    Sent from my iPad

    • July 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      It’s all in the notes, did that guy ever send you the copy?

  1. November 11, 2013 at 8:37 am
  2. March 28, 2015 at 8:34 pm

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