Just shy of $300 in 2010, Craftsman’s 21907 sells for below the average price for this test group — a good thing — yet it comes with plentiful standard features. Some are nice, and others come up a bit short. First, I’ll address its strengths. Its cast-iron base offers one of the larger working areas of the test group, at 8-1⁄4″ x 13-3⁄4″ with the fence pushed all the way back. Extra tabletop is only a plus when you’re mortising longer or wider workpieces. At 2-1⁄2″ tall, the fence on this tool will also give you sufficient backup support for mortising door stiles or larger legs, and it’s drilled for adding taller fence facings when you need them.
I prefer the horizontal grip orientation on this and other machines here; it’s easier on your wrist for repetitive work. Craftsman allows you to switch the machine’s lever for left- or right-handers. Nice.
Other good standard items include a riser block that increases the chisel travel from 5″ to 7-1⁄2″, a tool holder and four chisels.
Setting up and using this machine left me with some mixed reactions, however. All mortisers have a hold-down mounted over the fence to keep workpieces from lifting when withdrawing the chisel. Craftsman’s stayed put, but it requires an Allen wrench to adjust it. Handles or knobs would make this job easier. Keep those wrenches handy; you’ll need them to set the depth stop and lock the chisel in the headstock bushing. There is a handle to lock the fence. The fence’s microadjust feature proved to be subpar. Its collar bound on the post when I slid the fence for coarse adjustments.
Installing the chisel’s auger bit in the tool chuck is close quarter work on the 21907. The pinion gear that moves the headstock nearly touches the back of the chuck. More clearance for fingers would be better.
Once it was set and ready, the machine tested well on oak, maple and cedar, but the chisel jammed three times on sugar pine and stalled the motor. Still, given its extras and overall performance, this mortiser seems a worthy buy.