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on October 6, 2010
This is a very well made tool of all metal, precision machined parts. It should last a lifetime. It assembles in two minutes right out of the box. I did have to emory the bit for a few minutes to get it to slide freely through the bushing. This left me with a tight tolerance fit, which maintains the system accuracy. Much better than a loose fit. I didn't need to read the directions, the tool operation was quite intuitive. So I just clamped it to the bench and cut a mortise. Excellent on the first try.

The work position setup scales are very easy to read and use. Also quite intuitive. The scales are calibratable for fine tuning, Mine were fine, out of the box. The tool is adaptable for using the loose tenons that JessEm sells or integral tenons from the maiting piece, up to 3+" wide, depending on bit. I also got the 1/2" and 1/4" kits. They work just as well. The built in dust collection system does an excellent job.

This system is also quite portable. I can take it to a job site and set up in seconds. I find I get a much better fit with "rounded" mortise/tenons than traditional "squared" mortise/tenons. The rotary cutting action of the mortising bit cuts a much cleaner slot than a drill/chisel system. For my money, I'll take this over the drill/square chisel systems every time.

Note: To round the edges of an integral tenon, I do the following. Cut the tenon to size in squared form. Cut 1/8" X 45 degree bevels on the tenon edges with a utility knife (for 3/8" thick). Finish the rounding with sand paper wrapped around the tenon edge, pulling the sand paper back and forth, using the old shoe shiner's technique. This process takes less than 2 minutes per tenon and provides excellent results.

I liked this tool so well, I bought a second (also on sale) as a back-up, so I'll never be without. I bought the pocket version as well (a better fit for tighter budgets). Its not as slick and adaptable, but also works quite well, but for 1/4" thick tenons only.
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on March 28, 2012
The machine is built with high grade aluminum and brass knobs. The Jessum loose tenons are made from hardwood and they are exacting. They fit the mortise very closely.

The downsides are numerous. Set up is difficult. It literally takes me an hour to set up the machine. Because the slots need to be exact the jig needs a micro adjustment rather than loosen the knob and push it one way and then another. If one side is a little off the measurement to correct it is one-half the difference, and that makes it tough. More than once I have ended up moving the carriage setting back and forth numerous times and making test cuts to get the mortise where it needed to be. This is frustrating and time consuming.

But the big problem is clamping. If you watch the videos demonstrations you will note that no one is shown clamping the stock to the unit. If you use a C clamp the motion of clamping will turn the stock, and if you use a quick clamp system it will not hold the stock in position while it is being milled. The problem is the jig is slick - that is - well machined. The areas that the stock butts up against need to be rough. I tried attaching sandpaper but that did not work well. It changes the measurements and makes centering the stock harder. I finally attached sandpaper to the quick clamp and that helped. The clamp area is small, and the area where the stock must the clamped is below eye level causing me to do deep knee bends every time I changed the stock. The stock must be held very tightly or it will move while the cut is being made and destroy your work.

Setting the machine for side to side and end to end cuts for the mortise is not easy. It takes a lot of test cuts. The depth is simple to set. Once set correctly, IF your stock does not move during the cut, the results are excellent. The jig is made for cutting the mortise at the end of stock. Cutting a mortise down the stock, such as the middle of a leg, is much harder because it does not have a way to hold the stock at the same location every time (the stop block can't go more than about 2 inches from the top or bottom of the stock). This leaves the user with an eyeball job trying to line up the stock with the machine. If any of the mortises are off it may show because the stock will not go together square.

The cutting is slow, especially in hardwood. My battery powered drills will NOT cut the mortise. I use a corded drill for this work, but even with a one-half inch DeWalt drill the work is fairly slow.

It is also important, very important, that the stock be absolutely square and straight before it is inserted into the jig. The clamps do not pull the wood into square (nor should it be expected to do so).

I am impressed with the strength of the loose mortise. It also allows you to put your project together in units.

The machine comes with a three-eights drill. Jessum also sells one quarter and one half inch drill and bearing sets for the unit. The Zip Slot has a vacuum attachment. That is a 2 1/2 opening. My old Sears vacuum easily slips into the jig, but the suction holes to the stock are small causing the vacuum to work a lot harder than it should. The vacuum heated up during a long session of mortise cutting so I had to shut it off while changing stock. The time between stock changes is long.

Jessum advertises that the jig can be used for doweling. It does work but the drill (3/8 anyway) that came with the Zip Slot is a little too big for the dowels. I changed to a drill one step down ( 1/64) and it worked well. The "slop" in the bearing was so small with my regular drill it did not matter.

Compared to other kinds of joining systems, such as the Kreg Pocket Hole, this system is slow in the extreme. I will assume these joints are stronger but I have not ran a test. The Kreg system works well if you clamp down the work before inserting the pocket screw and the results seem strong enough for most applications. The key difference, besides strength, is the mortise is a hidden joint allowing its use in finer furniture projects or other uses were an exposed joint is not desirable.

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on February 19, 2010
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on September 17, 2010
This thing works exactly like the directions say. I make end tables, coffee tables, and frames for shelves and cabinets. The only down side is that you need deep clamps for holding the wood to this jig. That is easy to accomodate for perfect mortises every time. I got this for $56 at wood craft. They are not selling it anymore, but jessem will still make them, service them, and sell tenons and parts for it forever!

Once the measurments are set for a particular size wood, you can reproduce that tenon over and over. Its like no work at all. Acuracy and quality of parts is insane. No plastic parts anywhere

I mounted the jig to a piece of birch then it mount it wherever I need it.

I had an extremely tight 3/8 bit attatchment that needed to be replaced. Jessem replaced it without question or hassel, kudos to them. You should be able to push and pull the drill bit through the assebly hole with a firm strong hand.

To be able to dowel with this jig is just a bonus. I use this for making jewlery boxes.
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on March 8, 2011
Based on the positive reviews here, I bought both variations of the mortise mill plus the accessories for three different size joints. I guess none of the other reviewers read the directions because they are just terrible. Most of the settings require using formulas that add, subtract and divide odd fractions. They present the formulas by using the measurements from their example so you have to go back to the example to find out what part of the formula the number is. To put the stop on the bit, you have to add four tenths of an inch to a fraction of an inch. Why would they make every customer look up the decimal-to-fractional conversion instead of just putting it in the instructions?

There are a lot of scales on the machine. The ones for setting the location and width of the slot (they call the width the "depth" for some reason) are not at all intuitive. The real kicker for me is that I finally got set up to make 1/2" joints by marking the center lines and end points on the wood and setting the jig to match and it takes a really long time. You crank the handle back and forth cutting maybe 1/64" each repetition even with brand new, factory sharp bits. This is a job for a router, not a slow moving drill bit.

The workmanship is good and the materials are quality but I put my machines on Craig's List and felt guilty for passing them along at half price. If you are going to make small joints and a lot of one size, the JessEm might be worthwhile but it's too slow for large joints and the setup is too troublesome for making just a few joints at a time. That's my guess for why they are marked down to bargain prices.
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on January 31, 2011
If you are looking for a loose tenon tool or a new dowel jig this is the tool for you. I suspect JessEm is going to discontinue this item because it competes with their new dowel jig at twice the cost.
You can get this ZIP Slot Mortise Mill for about 75% off the original price at JessEm right now. It bores perfect dowel holes as well as slots.
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on December 27, 2014
Great tool for making loose tenon slots. The dust collection could work a little better but the over fit of the loose tenons could be not better. The walls are cleaner than most wood workers could make with other hand tools. As we all know that smooth sides of a tenon hole make for a better bound The tool is heavy making it a resalable means of cutting many holes for tenons. .
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