Tool Test: 8-in. Jointers
We test the Grizzly G0495X, Jet JWJ-8HH, Laguna MJOIN8012-0130, Laguna MJOIN8020-0130, Oliver 4230, Powermatic PJ-882HH, and Rikon 20-108H.
Synopsis: There’s a wide variety of jointers on the market, but for the small shop, the 8-in. jointer with a spiral cutterhead hits the mark in terms of price, footprint, and capability. Because the spiral cutterhead produces a markedly better surface than the traditional straight-knived cutterhead, Ellen Kaspern stuck to models with spiral cutterheads when testing 8-in. jointers. She assessed the models for surface quality, and ease of use, specifically how easy it was to set the fence at 90° to the tables and lock it there, and how easy it was to set the depth of cut. Models tested include the Grizzly G0495X, Jet JWJ-8HH, Laguna MJOIN8012-0130, Laguna MJOIN8020-0130, Oliver 4230, Powermatic PJ-882HH, and Rikon 20-108H.
A jointer might not be your first big tool purchase, but when you do buy one, it will make milling so much smoother. Tuned up right, jointers let you easily get a flat face and a square edge, two critical reference points for nearly every step in a build.
While jointers come in a wide range of sizes, the 8-in. jointer hits the sweet spot for price, footprint, and capability in the small shop. Jointers of this size handle wider boards than smaller models, and their typically longer beds provide more infeed and outfeed support.
The models I looked at all have spiral cutterheads. While jointers have traditionally had cutterheads with straight knives oriented perpendicular to the feed direction, that approach is being supplanted by spiral cutterheads, which have a series of small, square cutters running in a spiral pattern. This design reduces tearout, leaving smoother surfaces, especially on figured stock. Because the advantage in surface quality is so clear, we left jointers with straight cutterheads out of the test.
To see how each jointer performed, I assessed the surface quality it left behind. All the models performed well on both pine and curly maple. With these results being so similar, the real test came down to how user-friendly the jointers were. First, and most important, the fence should be easily set and locked at 90° to the tables. Additionally, the fence shouldn’t interfere when feeding a board. And it needs to adjust smoothly, which is why I prefer jointers that use a rack-and-pinion mechanism to move the fence to those that have you just pushing or pulling it. Setting the infeed table, which determines your depth of cut, should also be easy. For these jointers, that means turning a wheel or using a lever. I prefer the wheel for its more precise control. Last, there’s the guard, the spring-loaded cover over the knives. It should push out of the way as you feed a board but snap back in place when the board has passed. If this doesn’t work well, it’s not just a hassle; it’s dangerous.
From Fine Woodworking #273