Shop Fox’s W1671 was an unexpected surprise, once I had a chance to weigh its versatility and performance against its rock-bottom pricing. It has a twin-tube column for the headstock and unlike the other mortisers, you have three options for mounting the gas-charged shock. (Note: all of the machines in this article have gas-charged shocks to support the weight of the headstock, but only the Shop Fox allows for different mounting options.) Depending on which lugs you mount the shock to, you can change the stroke from 4-1⁄2" to an impressive 8-1⁄2" without a riser. The column’s base swings around for off-the-table mortising by loosening two bolts. It’s simple to do, if and when that need occurs. The fence mounting block can be set to two positions so the chisel will reach the center of an 8" workpiece. All in all, lots of workpiece capacity here and, while the table is a bit narrow at 6", it offers 16" of usable side-to-side width. The fence also has a better micro-adjust than Craftsman’s version.
Shop Fox bolsters this machine for rigorous mortising by outfitting it with a 3/4hp motor; Powermatic is the only other 3/4hp tool here. It spins twice as fast as the other mortisers, which created more chisel noise — but doubling the auger speed made for quick, efficient chip clearance. The tool didn’t struggle through my battery of mortising tests, and it was up to task on the same torture trial I subjected the Powermatic to: deep mortises with a 3/4" chisel in ash. Fit and finish weren’t stellar here: its castings and paint job were a bit rough in spots, and the fence was .014 out of flat. The tool could also use levers or knobs for tightening the chisel and hold-down. Only one chisel comes standard. But, here’s the clincher: Shop Fox’s W1671 is the lowest priced mortiser in this group. And, you get that bigger motor for 40% less than a Powermatic 701.
So, based on motor size, capacity and a thrifty price, Shop Fox seems a workaday value for any tight budget. It earns my “Best Bet” pick.