Stopped Cuts Made Easy | Popular Woodworking Magazine

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Routing of interrupted or “blind” cuts is much easier when building a fence with adjustable stops.

This extra long mortise fence helps you cut “blind” joints in your work.

C.cabinets and furniture often have “blind” joints – dados, grooves or ledges that stop at one end so that the joint on the outside of the enclosure is not seen. Sometimes these joints are “double blind”, in the sense that they are firm at both ends. A mortise is a perfect example of a double blind nut or groove.

The key to accurately cutting a blind joint is to precisely stop the cut in the right place. To make a double blind joint, you also need to start the cut with precision.

This is where a mortise fence comes in handy. This is a long fence that can be attached to your table saw, router table, drill or mortiser. It has two stops: one to start the cut and the other to stop it.

Making the fence

To mill a mortise or similar double-blind joint, place a piece of masking tape on the router table just in front of where the work will pass over the tip. Using a small square, mark the diameter of the tip on the tape. The line to the left (as you face the fence) is your starting point; the line on the right is the stopping point.

There are only five types of parts in the fence: the base, the face, the supports to hold the square face to the base, the stops, and the dowel pins to keep the stops aligned.

The face is grooved and the risers are notched for the carriage bolts that hold the latches in place. Rather than milling this slot into a single plank, I instead made the face from two pieces of wood, glued together with 3?8“X 3?4”X 1 ″ spacers from each other at the ends.

To make the fence as faithful as possible, I joined the square face to the base after it was assembled. I made the face, base and braces out of mobile quality plywood. Then I glued the pieces together, without using nails or screws. I made sure to let the glue harden for 24 hours before aligning the face of the assembled fence by running it over the jointer. (I recommend making your fence face out of hardwood, which is easier on your carpenter’s knives.)

The stops are beveled on the business ends, which prevents sawdust from building up between work and stop, interfering with the accuracy of the cut. Smooth the end of the stops so that they come to a point. Each stop makes two 3?8“- hole diameter – a hole for the alignment pin and a hole for a bolt to hold the latch in place during use.

Extra long mortise fence cutting list

Item No. dimensions (inches) material

TWL

1 Base 3?4 x 2 1?2 x 60 plywood

1 face 3?4 x 3 3?4 x 60 hard wood

11 suspenders 3?4 x 2 1?2 x 3 plywood

2 stops 3?4 x 3 3?4 x 3 1?4 hardwood

❏ 2 centering pins 3?8-dia. 1 1?2

Use the Fence

Using the square again, transfer the tracing lines indicating the ends of the mortise to the surface of the wood. Lower the tip of the router below the table surface and align the starting end of the mortise with the starting point on the tape. Slide the right stop against the end of the job and tighten the wing nut securing it to the fence. Slide the work so that the other end of the mortise lines up with the stop point on the belt and set the left stop. Raise the cutter and make the cut, sliding the wood between the stops.

How you use the fence depends on the joint you are cutting and the tool you are cutting it with. If the joint is blind on one end, remove one stop and set the other to stop work when the cutter reaches the desired position. I usually prepare the fence so that the cutter stops a hair, then finish the cut with a chisel. Since blind joints typically have square ends and most cutters leave a curved end, you still need to work with the chisel.

To make a mortise or double blind joint, use the second stop to start the cut in the desired location. Rest the end of the work against the stop and slowly lower the work onto the cutter. To avoid kickback and increase accuracy, cut the joint in several passes.

Since the cutters and nut blades cut the underside of the wood, you cannot see the cut as it advances. To compensate for this, mark the cutting diameter of the tip on the table as shown in the photo below.

Transfer the layout lines that mark the blind ends of the joint to a panel surface that will be visible when you make the cut. This surface must be adjacent to the indicator lines on the table. To monitor the progress of the cut, observe the tracking lines on the wood as they move between the indicator lines. PW

Nick, author of more than 50 woodworking books, built and flew a replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the first real plane. He is now working on the 1905 version.


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