Problem Solving Products: Issue 33

Super-solid door frame cutter

Freud Premier Adjustable Rail-and-Stile Set

Freud’s newest rail-and-stile bit sets not only cut standard cope-and-stick profiles, but also create full-length (or less) tenons. The key is the two-part rail bit. After cutting the ends of the rails, you remove the top section of the bit and continue using the cutter to increase the length of the tenon. But is it as simple as it sounds? I requested a set to find out.

The Setup and Trial Run

Freud’s basic set consists of the rail-and-stile bits, plus wrenches and a set of shim washers. The bits will handle stock from 5/8" to 1" thick. The shim washers enable you to adjust the groove width to match the thickness of your panel or mortising bit from about 7/32" to 3/8".

I tried the standard cope- and-stick joint first in my table-mounted router, and then made test cuts in cherry to produce stub tenons. Next, I set up the stile bit to match the rail configuration. The cuts were clean and mated nicely.

To create a long tenon, I installed shim washers in both bits to match my drill-press mortiser. After coping the ends of my rail stock, making stub tenons, I removed the top half of the rail bit and, in ½" increments, routed the stub into a 11/4"-long tenon. To rout the opposite face, I replaced the upper cutter, flipped the rail stock, and then lowered the bit until it was flush with the stub tenon. Using a backup block, I repeated the ½" cuts until the end of the rail’s tenon touched the fence. After cutting the tenon’s haunch with a handsaw and the corresponding mortise on a stile, I tested the rail/stile fit. It proved airtight.

Best Applications

If you’re content with ¾"-thick doors and glued-in plywood panels, you can get by with regular rail-and-stile bits, but if your woodworking includes solid 7/8"-thick doors with floating raised panels, you need a longer tenon. The Freud set does both.

Tester’s Take

Cutting the tenons and mortises doubles the time it takes to make a standard frame door, but in some cases the strength makes the investment worthwhile. Weekend woodworkers interested in making such doors might start with the two- or three-bit set, and, if the need arises, buy additional matching cutters for installing panels or making thicker interior doors (up to 1 1/4"). Optional sets also can cut stub and long tenons.

Round Profile   #150675   $119.99
Ogee Profile   #150676   $119.99
Bead Profile   #150677   $119.99
Bevel Profile   #845352   $119.99
Double-sided Profile Cutters
#150678-#150681   $95.99
Glass Panel Door Cutter
#150682   $37.99

Tester: Craig Bentzley

Rout perfect mortises and tenons

Leigh Industry’s Super Frame Mortise and Tenon Guide

The mortise and tenon ranks as the strongest of all joints, but many woodworkers shun it because it’s challenging to cut by hand or requires time-consuming setups when done on a mortising machine and table saw. Enter the new Leigh Super FMT (Frame Mortise and Tenon) Guide, which calls on your router to get the job done with high precision and in short order.

The Setup

Out of the box the Super FMT’s heavy-gauge steel jig frame and router sub-base come almost ready to go. Assembly consists of cutting and mounting a 5 × 24" baseboard to the jig frame for clamping to a bench and attaching the sub-base to your router. The instruction manual provides detail for attaching over 45 different routers, but guidance for additional routers can be obtained by contacting Leigh. Actual router mounting may take 30 minutes, but this is a one-time investment. Centering the router on the sub-base is absolutely critical for producing precision joinery, but using the supplied centering mandrel makes this process painless. You simply position the sliding stops tightly against the router base to “lock in” the router and prevent any lateral movement. The sliding stops also locate the router on the sub-base for speedy removal/reattachment without impacting accuracy. The jig uses one bit, one guide, and one setup for each standard joint. Optional bits and guides are available for cutting mortises and tenons from 1/16" wide × 1/8" long to 1/2" wide × 5" long.

Trial Run

After setup, I cut perfectly fitting 5/16" × 1/2" mortise-and-tenon joints in minutes, all at one location. I next challenged the system by making eight 3/8 × 1 1/2" mortises and tenons. Here I determined the secrets for routing perfection. When making mortises, initially overlap the plunge holes, working from one mortise end to the other. Then pull the plunged bit through the holes to create clean, straight mortise walls. To make mortises deeper than 1/2", plunge-rout in increments, using your router’s stops. Doing this prevents burning. To shape clean, crisp tenons, again work in increments for long tenons and initially make very shallow “climb” cuts (moving the router clockwise) to establish the shoulders. Always make test cuts and test-fit parts to ensure a flush, snug joint. Unlike other jigs, the Super FMT’s precision adjustments are easy to make and dead-on accurate. By turning the left guide pin 1/8 of a turn for a 0.001" adjustment you can literally “dial in” the perfect fit.

Tester’s Take

For the quality, versatility, and ease of use, the Super FMT represents a great value. If you’ve shied away from mortise-and-tenon joints, especially those with more than one tenon, or mitered mortise-and-tenon joints, you might rethink your position. For the woodworker who plans for a lot of mortise-and-tenon joints in his or her upcoming projects, this may be the time-saving ticket. For chip collection, consider the Vacuum Box as a must-have accessory.

Super FMT   #150724   $399
Super FMT Vacuum Box #150725   $49

Tester: Jody Garrett

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