Saving the edges

When I’m morticing, I inevitably find that after I’ve been chopping for a bit, I get a bunch of chewed up wood bits stuck inside the mortice I’m trying to clear.  This can get exacerbated once you flip your workpiece and start in from the other side.  Now, some people will use a smaller chisel to root around inside the mortice and try to clear that gunk out, but it comes with some disadvantages.

First, it’s kind of a waste of a well-honed edge.  Poking about will take the keenly refined edge off of your chisel.  And if you start trying to twist it around or pry other bits up, you can actually damage it.  And what if you’re working on a tiny mortice that’s already using a small chisel?

Second, you can blow out the back edge of your mortice by running at it too aggressively with a smaller chisel.  It only takes a second to push a hair too deeply against the mortice walls and you will tear splinters off of your back edge.  The same problem goes for those who try to make a mandrel of sorts and just hammer all the waste out of the backside: it can bind up and split out.

So with these shortcomings, I present a better tool.


The dental pick makes short work of getting out all of those grubby bits there.  It readily gets under the chips instead of just chopping them finer.  Not only does it work well in a through-mortice, but it’s also exceptionally good at clearing a blind one.  Give it a try, and I think you will find your experimentation well worth it.