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Foot Powered Mortising Machine

Mortising machines, including those operated by foot power, evolved rapidly in the 1840's and 50's, as witnessed by a flurry of new patents. This handsome machine was patented June 14, 1853, by Fergus Purden, of Baltimore. It recently surfaced near Baltimore and was likely made there. The only claim in Purden's patent is for the adjustable gap in the two part bed piece (table)which allowed the gap to be set to the width of the chisel. This prevented breakout while allowing chips to fall through. Purden's mortising machine was written up in the Scientific American in 1853 (p36), including a drawing of the divided bed.

The machine is 6 feet high, with a 4 foot long table. The double leaf springs, mounted at the top of the massive upright twin beams are 3 feet long. The table adjusts vertically by a large central bolt riding in a slot in a heavy metal plate. Horizontal movement of the fence is by an iron hand crank in the rear. The table slot can be smoothly adjusted from 1/4" to 1" by either of two levers protruding from the front of the table. The heavy foot treadle can be adjusted to either of two positions to vary the leverage. The chisel holder swings 180 degrees to instantly reverse the chisel, with spring loaded levers locking it in position.

Included are a set of six chisels with square shanks chamfered on one edge for the chuck's set screw. The chisels are 5/16", 3/8", 7/16", 1/2", 9/16", and 5/8". The original chuck wrench is also present. The machine is fully functional and in very good condition. This item can be stripped down and shipped in two packages via UPS. Or, reliable third party delivery can be arranged to the 2001 shows at Waukee Iowa, Portland Indiana, or Brimfield, Mass. Or I can hold it for buyer pickup.

the wooden leaf springs

the chisel holder and slide

the lever for the adjustable slot table

the set of six chisels and chuck wrench

the markings "pat'd by F. Purden, June 14, 1853"

making a square hole in an oak stile

Price: sold
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Contact: Richard Van Vleck - Email:

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