Monday, January 31, 2011

Review of 10" Jet Jointer-Planer Combination Machine

I’ve had my Jet 10” Jointer-Planer combo machine for several weeks now, so I’m ready to give a rundown of my experience with buying it online from CPO, setting it up and using it. While this is not a heavy duty jointer-planer by any means, it does fulfill its promises and works well.

I had heard some horror stories about machines arriving with missing parts, broken parts or warped parts but had the opposite experience myself. The unit arrived encased in a Styrofoam sarcophagus with everything included and nothing damaged. The one exception is the fence, but it wasn’t damaged in shipping. It started out that way (see more about that below). The other problem, which was quickly resolved, was that one of the knives seemed to have a nick in it. I contacted CPO, and they ordered replacement knives from Jet and I received them shortly after. Overall, I was very pleased with CPO’s service and the shipping process was very smooth. (It is a bit of challenge not to refer to them as C3PO.)

Despite the fact that I had to visit the ER to get four stitches from a run-in with a slippery wrench, the set up was easy. The hardware was straightforward and the instructions were actually quite good and helpful. Identifying which bolt or washer went where was a bit of a challenge but not a big deal. The blades were aligned right out of the box. Now, I didn’t use a dial indicator to check it down to the thousandth, but for my purposes they were right on the money. After struggling a bit with installing the fence, I eventually gave up when I realized the fence is fairly useless. I’m off to the drawing board to come up with a better solution, which might be as simple as clamping a thick, jointed board to the front table and calling it a day.

In jointer mode, the unit exceeded my expectations, producing a smooth, flat surface on several kinds of wood from butternut, walnut and cherry to maple and ash. I haven’t tried oak on it yet. In planer mode, it produces the same results. After all, it uses the same motor and the same blades. The adjustment is a little loosey-goosey for my taste, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. In terms of power, you definitely know that you aren’t working on a huge stationary machine with an enormous motor. It takes a bit of force to push a board across the knives. You have to take very shallow passes, especially on wider boards, but that’s how I use jointers anyway. Overall the machine is plenty powerful for my modest needs. You get what you pay for, they say, and that holds true with this machine. Someday I’ll probably graduate to something bigger, but for now this is perfectly adequate for a low-volume woodworker like me.

Mobile base
The mobile base was thrown in for free when I bought it, so that was a big plus. It works well and seems sturdy enough, though it is a bit high for my taste (and my vertical stature). I haven't jointed particularly long boards yet, but I will be extra careful for fear that the stand makes the unit a bit tippy. I may end up making a shorter base with a little storage below.

Changing modes
Changing modes isn’t rocket science on this machine but it isn’t automatic either. Mercifully, the learning curve isn’t very steep. Once you try it a few times, you get the hang of it. Is it annoying to change from one mode to the other? A little. But this is the tradeoff for having two machines in the space of one for the price of one.

The fence, I’m sorry to say, is useless. It isn’t anywhere near flat and the mounting hardware is so flimsy that even if you can get it clamped down, it moves with the lightest pressure. I’m not sure why a company would skimp so much on something so important. It is a battle for price point, I’m sure. I’ve got a thick piece of ash jointed perfectly at a right angle, so I’m going to clamp it to the front table and use that as my fence until I can come up with something better.

Bottom line
The bottom line is that I would recommend the Jet 10” Jointer-Planer combo machine to others in my shoes. The jointer creates a smooth, flat surface with minimal tearout and the planer creates a parallel surface with the same quality. If you’ve got the space and money for a larger machine, that would be preferable. But if you don’t, this machine delivers enough on its modest promises at its modest price to earn its place in my shop.