Powermatic’s engineers did a brilliant job when designing the 701 and turned out a top-notch mortiser, in my opinion. For starters, it comes with a 3/4hp motor that was not only able to handle the test mortising, but also a round of 3/4″-wide, 1-1⁄2″-deep mortises in black ash. Hearty torque was definitely available for driving the big auger bit.
Knobs and levers in all the right places make setups virtually a toolless job. The chuck access is spacious and right up front where things are easy to see. You even get two spacers that swing in or out to help set the clearance space between the chisel and auger bit — an important detail not to be overlooked when using any of these mortisers. And, the 701’s feed handle can be mounted left or right.
Powermatic equips this tool with the best workpiece anchoring system of the test group. The hold-down has a threaded post with two knobs to set it for use: the top knob allows you to adjust downward pressure on the wood, and a side knob locks the position. Up front, the table has two rubber wheels that press against the wood, yet still allow it to move sideways.
The 2-5⁄8″-tall fence slides fore and aft easily on its rack, then locks down with two levers. Table workspace is adequate at 8-5⁄8″ x 12-7⁄8″. My only grumble about features is that the depth stop — a collar mounted to the column — can shift if you bear down too hard or bang the headstock against it.
While $399.99 (as of 2010) isn’t pocket change these days for a tool that essentially does one thing, this chomper is well-built, powerful and nicely appointed. It’s quite tempting.