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Mortising Machine

Photo of Mortising Machine Photo of Mortising Machine
Building: Car Shop
Machine Power: belt
HAER Map Key: II
Date Built: unknown
Manufacturer: H. B. Smith Machine Company
Model: unknown
Serail Number: unknown

This morticing machine is used for making square holes, or motices, in wood. motices were commonly used in wood jointery. Part of the connecting pice of wood is milled down to creat a "tenon" which fits into the motice. Once assembled the joing is usually pinned with a metal or wood pin to keep them from working loose. This joining method was used in post and beam building construction, window frames, and wood rolling stock frames among others. Contemprary motising machine combine the drill and the chisel into a single head, and hense a single step, but this machine has a separte drill and chisel head making it a two step process. The drill removes materia from a circular hole, then teh chisel cuts the square hole square. Motises may pass part way into a wood member, or all the way through. Window sashes, post and beam buildings, and wood railroad cars are examples of where motise and tennon joints are used.

This announcement in a trade magazine describes an very similar earlier model from the same maker: "New Car Mortising and Boring Machine The machine represented by the cut on this page and made by the H B Smith Machine Company Smithville NJ is intended for the heaviest car work and will make a 2-1/2 inch mortise through a 12x12 inch stick of timber. The head stock carrying the crank shaft and chisel bar is fed down to the work by power and has a quick return movement. Power for this purpose is taken from the crank shaft a lever at the base of the machine serving to apply the power for starting a screw in either direction for raising or lowering the head stock. The head stock is stopped automatically when it reaches its highest point and an adjustable cam is provided for limiting its downward motion; so that the chisel may be made to penetrate any desired depth to six inches, an index on the frame showing to what depth It is cutting. The table is adjustable vertically by means of a powerful screw and double ratchet lever. A rack and pinion feed is provided for moving the lumber horizontally under the chisel, an adjustable clamp holding it securely to the table. The table also adjusts to and from the machine and tilts for bevel work. The chisel is reversed by Smith's friction belt. The chisel progresses into the work gradually, the whole head stock with chisel bar and crank shaft being propelled downward by a large screw controlled by a foot lever. The shock of the chisel stroke is nearly all absorbed in the weigh of these moving parts, and very little of it is communicated to the screw; no more than is communicated to the screw under the table. The bearing in the reversing cylinder is made of bell metal, split and adjustable to keep the chisel bar true. For car and agricultural shops the machine is usually supplied with two boring spindles, one in line with the chisel for boring hard wood previous to mortising, the other having an adjustment across the table for boring bolt holes, &c. Both of the boring attachments are driven by a single belt direct from the crank shaft, and can be started or stopped in a moment with shifting clutch levers."1

This machine is misidentified in the HABS/HAER documentation as a drill press. Conventional motising machines sometimes consist of a jig mounted on a traditional drill press, but this is a dedicated motising machine. This machine does have what is basically a drill, referred to as a boring spindle, but is intended as a compliment for the mortising chisel. Smith would release a hollow chisel (with drill inside) mortiser in 1912. 2

The morticing machine has not operated since the shops closed in 1956. As or 2012 no restoration work has yet taken place on the machine.


1American Machinist, Vol 4 #15, Apr 9, 1881, p. 3, 7
2Dunn's Review, Vol 10 #1, Sep 1912, p. 98

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