Full Chisel Blog

July 7, 2012

Chopping a Mortise like Roubo

On an English style Joyner’s bench by an American with a Japanese chisel.  Have I covered all the bases?  I was in need of a large 1 inch square mortise in my workbench to accommodate my new anvil.  After a discussion over at WoodCentral I decided to chop the mortise near the support leg of my workbench using the manner of Roubo pictured here.

Everything from the grip of the mallet to the grip on the chisel is how I did the mortise.  And while the stance pictured in the illustration may be good for shooting a rifle, it just doesn’t work for mortising.  I tried and I just didn’t have any balance, so I just widened my stance to the width of my shoulders and pounded away.  I laid out the mortise with a pencil and chopped it with my modified Japanese chisel and it took 15 minutes.

It was square, right next to the leg with blow out on the bottom.  But I didn’t take a picture of that because no one will ever see it anyway.  I think I will have to reevaluate the old engravings with a better eye as everything may not be correct.



  1. Mr Shepherd,

    You mentioned that you widened your stance to stabilize yourself. How close were your feet when emulating the engraving? The way I read, and imitate, the figure I end up with a shoulder-wide stance, one foot turned out. Most weight is on my right leg, but the left is still there doing its part. Perhaps I’m over-reading the perspective on the drawing?

    Comment by Joe — July 8, 2012 @ 8:15 am

  2. .

    I think that you may be overlooking the artistic licence of depicting stance in the 17th / 18th centuries suitable for the drawing room, not the workshop.

    Rubo may be depicted in the picture but he certianly did not compose the picture and the artist would have been left to depict the stance at the bench as he saw fit to satisfy an exclusively literate and didactic readership. It seems to me to be a dancer’s stance – not one adopted by your average village carpenter.

    We need to take the picture, I believe with a pinch of salt. The artist and engraver certainly would not have used the chisel or been aware of body posture in this work.

    Just aa thought… my particular take on the subject.

    All best from Wales



    Comment by Howard in Wales — July 8, 2012 @ 8:39 am

  3. I believe that is the sixth position of Ballet, suitable for chopping mortises? The left foot is forward of the right by one half a length, point at 45 degrees to the center line. The part I cannot understand is how the downward sloping bench comes into play in the process.

    Comment by Gary Roberts — July 8, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress