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I looked at the four jointer/planer combinations that are moderately priced and readily available. All four combo machines delivered excellent results in my tests. Using maple, white oak, and cherry, I face-jointed and edge-jointed long, wide boards without difficulty, and planed boards with no snipe. These combo machines don’t sacrifice performance, and they don’t command a steep premium.
The MiniMax USA uses a 12-in.-wide cutter head, with a 59-1/2 in. long jointer bed. It has two standout characteristics: It has the same type of swing-away cutterhead guard found on conventional jointers, and it comes with Tersa knives as standard equipment. These disposable knives are extremely easy to change and are held in place with wedges and centrifugal force, so they need no fussy adjustments, as conventional knives do.
This machine has other strong points. It takes less than a minute to change modes. That’s mainly because the planer bed must be lowered only 3-3/4 in. (38 cranks) to accommodate the dust hood. The 59-1/2-in. jointer table is one of the longest. It also has the best fence, mounted to a bracket attached to the end of the infeed table. When you switch from jointing to planing, you just lift off the fence in one motion and stow it nearby. (Fences on the others must be loosened, slid to one side, and locked there.) It’s also the only one with a stop to prevent it from deflecting sideways under lateral pressure.
I found two small drawbacks. One, the MiniMax has two dust-collection ports, so you have to remove and reattach the dust-collector hose at every changeover. Two, the crank that moves the planer bed works counterintuitively-clockwise to lower, counterclockwise to lift. It fooled me for a while.
Photo: David Heim
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