Powermatic’s Philosophy: Go Big, or Go Home
When we met with the folks at Powermatic last year at AWFS, they didn’t have many new tools to show us. Instead, they spoke with us about their plans to refocus and rebuild their tool line from the ground up, looking to offer no-compromise machinery designs for woodworkers.
According to Barry Schwaiger, director of product development, that means tough choices. He says, “It’s easy to breathe your own exhaust,” a clever way of saying keeping the status quo. But Powermatic is turning its franchise on its head, says Schwaiger, and plans on “wiping out existing categories and starting from scratch.” With a new priority on product development and innovation, it looks like Powermatic’s strategy is paying off. Earlier this year they rolled out a beast of a lathe, the 4224B. At IWF they’ve introduced a new drill press and new bandsaw, both of which offer innovative features that any woodworker will appreciate.
Better drill press for woodworking
The 18 in. drill press, model No. PM2800B, will replace Powermatic’s PM2800, and boasts plenty of improvements from the ground up. The base is bigger, giving a stronger, more stable footprint. The table also is bigger, with features that practically eliminate the need to make an accessory table to give you a larger worksurface. The table on the new drill press is square, with a handy clamping ring around the lower edge. It also has a convenient pop-out insert that can be replaced with a shopmade version when it’s worn out. The included fence features an easy-to-use cam-action sliding stop that locks in place with one hand.
Other features include a keyless chuck and LED lights in front and back of the chuck, locations that eliminate that annoying shadowline created by the bit. There’s 6 in. of quill travel with one rotation of the handle, and the spring-tensioned handle won’t fly out of your hands if you release it, eliminating knuckle raps.
The machine is super quiet at all speeds, and speed changes are accomplished with a handwheel on the side of the motor. Simply rotate the wheel while the machine is running, and dial in the speed by following the digital readout on front.
According to Schwaiger, the PM2800B will be available at the end of the year, with a street price of around $1,300.
A bandsaw like no other
Schwaiger couldn’t wait to show us Powermatic’s new bandsaw, and it’s easy to see why. The 15 in. saw is a new kind of animal for American tool makers, unlike any other on the market.
Essentially the baby brother of their iconic PM1800 18 in. bandsaw, the new PM1500 features a 3 hp motor and boasts a huge 14 in. resaw capacity. It has a big cast-iron table, a tall resaw fence, bright tires on the wheels to make centering the blade easier, and beefy cast-iron trunnions.
A common procedure for woodworkers is to loosen the tension on the saw when you’re finished with a job, to reduce the stress on the blade. The problem with that is many folks forget to reset the tension before starting the saw a week or two later. That can be dangerous if the blade comes off the wheels once you start the motor. That can’t happen with the PM1500 because the saw won’t start unless the blade has been tensioned. A very smart safety feature.
The PM1500 will be available at the end of the year, says Shwaiger, and will have a street price of around $2,899.
What’s new at Jet?
With Powermatic on a strong path forward, Schwaiger is turning his attention to the Jet brand. Borrowing the successful approach that has invigorated Powermatic, Schwaiger is rethinking the entire Jet line-up, making tough choices on what models to keep and what to eliminate and start over.
In a down economy, that’s a smart approach, as innovative products will stand out among the crowd of tools mired in the status quo. Companies that have been successful in these tough times, such as Festool and Bosch, have been leading the way in product innovation, and Jet hopes to be a leader in innovation as well while keeping its prices in line with the budgets of home shop woodworkers. Toward that end, Schwaiger is refocusing his team on industrial designs that are clean and attractive, and they’re evaluating a number of ideas and models, hoping to make a splash down the road. We’re looking forward to seeing what they have in store.
Jet, like Powermatic, is undergoing a design revolution for all its tools. The company is reenergizing itself by refocusing on clever, innovative designs for its tools that are attractive and useful. This is a scale model of a benchtop lathe they're working on.
Powermatic's new 15 in. bandsaw is a game-changer. It's essentially a smaller version of their iconic PM1800, and boasts 14 in. of resaw capacity.
The tall fence and increased resaw capacity make this bandsaw a winner for home shops.
The PM2800B has a great fence. It's easy to adjust and features an innovative sliding stop that locks and loosens with one hand.
To dial in the speed, turn on the drill and rotate the handwheel on the side of the motor. The digital readout on the front will let you know when you're on target.
Powermatic's PM2800B boasts tons of useful features for woodworkers.
Powermatic's monster lathe was the first tool introduced based on the company's build-it-best philosophy.