You've probably heard stories over the years of carpenters taking tools beyond their normal scope in order to complete some truly difficult projects.  Sometimes it's about being resourceful with a limited number of tools on hand, sometimes it's a stroke of genius and planning, and sometimes it's just plain luck and risk-taking.  We hear fun stories like this every day from our customers at Timberwolf Tools - it's one of our favorite reasons to come to work!

In particular, we've encountered several folks recently who are doing clever projects with their Mafell LS 103Ec Chain Mortiser.  You might know carpenters in the Timber Framers Guild who create beautiful mortise and tenon wood joinery with their Mafell chain mortiser, but did you know that this tool can produce glulam splines, fence posts, and even martial arts dummies?

Here's a sample of the innovative projects we've seen, and afterwards we'll do a brief comparison of Timberwolf's top two chain mortisers.  We hope this will be a helpful resource the next time you are in the market for a new tool.

Glulam Splines

A.L. Vineyard Construction in Laguna Hills, California had a project that required thousands of 2" to 4" deep splines in glulam timbers like the ones seen in these photos.  Each spline was taking well over an hour to complete using a router.  Andy discussed his project at length with Timberwolf Tools, and we decided that the fastest way to speed up his project would be the Mafell LS 103Ec Chain Mortiser with a 2.0" chain (to hog out as much wood as possible) and a powerful 240V motor (so that he could cut his amps drawn in half).

The result:  Andy's team is now completing their splines in 10 minutes!  Their project was back on schedule in less than a week, and they saved thousands of dollars in man-hours.

"The Mafell Chain Mortiser is a gift from God.  It does the work of six men with routers."
-Andy Vineyard, CEO of A.L. Vineyard Construction

Wooden Fence Posts

"We have been using your LS103 Chain Mortiser tool for the past 25 + years in our fence business.  This tool allows us to separate us from our competition in a couple of ways.  First off there are times where we are required to have the boards (finished side) face out.  For instance, if there is a neighbors chain link fence that is staying up and we are working in a town that requires the finished side to face out, and our customer does not want a big gap between their new fence and the neighbors chain link, we will pre build the panels in our shop, use your chain mortiser machine to hog out the posts so that the rails go into the posts and install this fence as a one shot install.

"Second, our typical installation method is to face nail the 2x4 to the post.  If our customer wants more of a finished look, we can offer the 2444 construction (2x4 going through the 4x4).  We use a full size 4x4 post by the way.
This is a great tool !!!!"

-John Hewson Jr, City Fence Inc, Lancaster, NY

Martial Arts Dummies

James Biggica of Warrior Martial Art Supply makes some of the finest wing chun dummies in the world.  These dummies literally take a beating, so the all the peg tenons must fit perfectly in the trunk mortise.  James says the Mafell LS 103Ec Chain Mortiser with the 1.5" chain is the only tool that makes these mortises perfect every time.  They get big kudos from Timberwolf Tools for thinking outside the box and having the craftsmanship to wield such a powerful tool for fine woodworking.

Which chain mortiser is right for my business?

If you are a professional timber framer, you already know that using a chain mortiser is a huge time saver.  Quality is the top priority, but saving time on each joint while maintaining quality means higher productivity and more projects in a year.  The last thing anyone wants to do is turn down business because there isn't enough time.

What's not obvious is which chain mortiser to use.  At Timberwolf Tools, we only carry products we believe in and will serve you well, so there is no bad choice.  It really comes down to which route is best for you.

We believe there are currently only two credible options when it comes to chain mortising:  the Makita 7104L and the Mafell LS103Ec.

Makita 7104L Chain Mortiser

Timberwolf Tools has been featuring the Makita 7104L Chain Mortiser for over 30 years.  There's a reason Makita hasn't created a replacement for the 7104L in all that time:  it just works.  We love it and our customers love it.  It's reasonably affordable and a quantum leap better than drilling and chiseling.  It's worth buying even if you're planning on using it for only one or two projects.

Here are a few keys takeaways:

  • It comes in 120V power
  • It uses a clamping mechanism to attach to the wood (max 12-1/8" timber)
  • It can cut most standard size mortises in 8-10 plunges
  • Maximum mortise depth:  7-1/8"
  • Aside from different sized chains, the unit is complete and versatile as is - no accessories needed

Mafell LS 103Ec Chain Mortiser

To say Mafell is familiar with timber framing is an understatement.  Mafell literally invented the electric chain mortiser 90 years ago in 1926.  Many years and many versions later, they released the Mafell LS 103Ec which is a technical marvel.  Our customers appreciate how fast and accurately this machine makes their mortises.  From the magnesium casting to the computer-controlled electric motor, this machine is hard to beat.  It is expensive, but, if you make a living building mortise and tenon structures, the LS 103Ec will pay dividends.

Since it uses a cross-cutting direction, it doesn't need to clamp like the Makita.  As soon as you set it down, the machine hugs the timber and plunges exactly where you want it.  Extremely accurate and fast.  Since the Mafell LS 103Ec can also be used as a slot mortiser with the SG-230 slotting stand and corresponding chain/bar/sprocket, this tool goes far beyond the capabilities of the Makita 7104L.

Here are a few key specifications:

  • It comes in 120V or 240V power
  • It does not require a clamping mechanism, so you can plunge immediately
  • It can cut most standard size mortises in as little as 4 plunges
  • Maximum mortise depth:  150mm (5.9")
  • It can be easily converted to a slot mortiser

It's important to note a recent development:  PROTOOL/HEMA has undergone significant changes in the last two years and they have stopped making new portable timber framing tools.  This means that they have discontinued their CMP150/ZKS15 chain mortiser (don't worry, important chains and spare parts will be available for many more years).  This might come as a shock, but you probably already knew that this tool had some limitations, the main one being that it was only available as 230V.  It's a fine tool and we will continue to support it for many more years.

At 3 times the price of the Makita, is the Mafell really 3 times better?

It really depends on your application and what is important to you.  In the rare instance your mortise needs to be over 5.9", then the Makita can be a better option.  For other applications, the decision is a little more difficult.  If you ask a professional timber framer, to whom simplicity and time savings are important, he or she will say the Mafell is the best choice.  If you ask a hobbyist who is working on a handful of small projects every year and has plenty of time to complete the structure, he or she will say the Makita is the best choice.  It really comes down to repetition:  if you find yourself making hundreds of mortises per year, the Mafell really makes life a lot easier.  It can reduce the number of man hours required to complete a project, which leads to cost savings and/or an increase in annual projects and revenue.

We believe both products have great value, and are happy to discuss further and help you make the best choice for your projects.  Keep us posted if you have any questions!

We hope you are staying cool this summer!

Jeff & George
And the Timberwolf Tools family

Toll free: 800-869-4169