Jet Planer/Jointer Combo
Review by: Bas
First, a bit of background: Before I bought this machine, I was using a 6” Grizzly Jointer and a Ridgid 13” lunchbox planer. That’s fairly standard equipment in the woodworking world. There were two main reasons I wanted to upgrade:
- Jointer capacity. I don’t like having to rip boards down because my jointer can’t handle them. Yes, a planer sled works, but it is very cumbersome.
- Setting knives. I hate setting knives. It often turned into an all-day affair, even with jigs and a dial indicator.
I estimate that an 8” jointer would handle 60% of all the lumber I typically buy, a 10” jointer would handle 85%, and a 12” jointer 98%. For those once-in-a-lifetime boards, I’ll find someone with an aircraft carrier.
As for setting knives, while there are indexed knife systems, by far the best solution is to use a helical head with carbide inserts. The carbide lasts longer, reduces tearout, and the inserts are easy to rotate/ replace. But it’s not cheap. And it doesn’t make a lot of sense to buy a jointer with a carbide helical head but use ordinary knives in the planer. That’s when I started to look at a combination machine.
With a combination machine, you use the same head for both jointing and planing, meaning you only pay for the helical head once. That’s a big plus. At 600sq.ft. I have a decent sized shop, but it’s not a ballroom. It’s not too hard to fit two separate machines; the tricky part is making sure you have enough room (8+ ft.) on both the infeed and outfeed side. That’s much simpler with a single machine.
There are many good combination machines available, but in my price category, there are only two real choices: The Grizzly G0634Z (which replaces the G0634) and the JET JJP-12HH. I had the good fortune to see both machines beforehand. Both looked very solid and well-made. In the end, I decided against the Grizzly for two reasons: First, the fence on the Grizzly must be removed from the machine before switching to planer mode . That’s not so easy to do in a small shop – where are you going to put it? Second, the machine is almost a foot wider (deeper) than the JET because of the rack-and-pinion fence system.
Installation and setup
The machine was delivered in a large, wooden crate. It wasn’t the best packaging (it was nailed to the pallet in a rather ungainly fashion), but it protected the machine, which is what mattered. This thing is HEAVY, so if you need to move it, get some help. Installation is a snap: Remove the packing material, clean the cosmoline off the tables (which was a only a very light coating) and attach a plug to the cord. Everything was dead-on from the factory.
I put casters from Great Lakes on my machine; they fit perfectly in the holes used to bolt the legs to the crate. Once lowered, the machine is very stable. There is a little “give” if you push hard against the top of the machine, but it doesn’t move at all, even when jointing large, wide boards with some force. I don’t plan to move this machine more than once a year (if that), so instant mobility was not high on the list of requirements (raising the feed requires getting down and dirty to move the turn wheels on the casters).
The machine was perfectly aligned out of the box. I put a 36” straightedge across the infeed and outfeed tables, and it was dead flat. I face jointed a 4’ board and put the straightedge on that – dead flat.
Motor and electrical
The machine has a 220V 3HP motor. The amperage requirements are somewhat confusing. The manual lists the motor at 12.5A, for both the helical- and non-helical versions. Yet the manual states the helical version requires a 30A breaker, whereas the non-helical version requires only a 20A breaker. I went with the motor specs, and plugged it into a 20A outlet. No problems whatsoever.
The machine makes a very satisfactory rumble when started up. It’s radically different from the noise my Ridgid used to make, it’s much, much quieter. Two simple buttons control the machine, one red, and one green. I didn’t need the manual to figure out which is which.
The jointer uses a European style guard, which is quite different from the “pork chop” guard. I definitely prefer the Euro guard, the pork chop guard was always slamming back at the wrong time, or a thinner piece of stock would get caught underneath it. This is a much better design, and a breeze to adjust.
The fence is my least favorite part of the machine. It’s certainly solid enough, in that it doesn’t flex when you joint your boards. That’s critical. But to move the fence, you have to loosen it via two handles. There isn’t much room to turn them, so if you need to loosen/ fasten more you lift up on the handle and return it to the original position. I might replace them with some knurled knobs. Also, the fence is not parallel to the table. It doesn’t need to be of course, but if you’re used to the rack-and-pinion system, it takes some getting used to. This is where the Grizzly machine does better, and why it’s a foot deeper. I also found it slightly difficult to set the fence 90 degrees to the table. If I lock it down “as-is”, my Wixey digital angle gauge shows 90 degrees at the bottom of the fence and 89.5 at the top. If I apply a little bit of pressure to the top of the fence when I lock it down, it’s 90 degrees all the way. So I may need to do a little filing. I don’t think the 0.5 degrees really matters much anyway.
Enough has been written about a helical head with carbide inserts. So I’ll just add this: Wow. The machine comes with 10 replacement inserts, although for some reason the little plastic box I received only had 5. A quick call to JET’s customer service fixed that. So now I have 15. With any luck, they’ll go unused for a long time.
The infeed and outfeed table are “ribbed”, which supposedly reduces friction. I’m still on the fence as to whether I prefer ribbed or smooth. The stock feels more secure as you joint it, but I suspect the ribbing adds some friction, although I only noticed this as I was joining an 11 ½” wide piece of 8/4 Purpleheart. The cutterhead may also be contributing to this feeling of resistance; it feels as if the cutters are pushing the board down.
Dust collection in joiner mode is outstanding. Even with an ordinary 1.5HP DC, very few chips escape the jointer. The helical head helps here: there are no long protruding knives that fling the chips onto the table.
At first, the planer table appeared “short” because there are no infeed/ outfeed tables like my Ridgid had. But you don’t need them. I planed longer boards (6ft) as well as short boards (18”), zero snipe. There is a lever you have to move in order to engage the feed rollers, it’s a little stiff but works fine. Locking the height is easy and secure. When you feed the board, you can really feel when the roller grabs the board. And once it has the board, it’s held flat. I really like the tactile feedback you get from this. Dust collection is good, a few chips fall on/ beside the planer table, but 99% gets sucked up as expected.
Oh, and did I mention the helical head with carbide inserts? I planed a variety of species (QS red oak, FS white oak, Purpleheart, Hard Maple, QS Sycamore and QS beech) just to see how it would handle different grain patterns. The Sycamore had some very wild figure, and the oak had lots of knots and swirling grain. I planed each board with- and against the grain. The results were outstanding. With the red oak and Sycmore, I had to use slightly shallower cuts to avoid tearout, but not by much. The results were much better than with my Ridgid planer. The only way I could come close to these results would be with fresh knives and feeding the boards at an angle.
Jointer/ planer changeover
This is the real test of course. I am very happy to report the changeover is extremely fast. The most time consuming part is raising/ lowering the planer table. This is because the dust collection chute must be flipped between modes, and the planer table has to be 7” below the cutterhead for that. The table moves very smoothly, so it’s not too big of a job. I had seen a modification to use a power drill to move the table up and down, but I decided it’s not worth it. All-in-all, the changeover takes about 20 seconds. If I had a separate joiner and planer, I’d probably spend the same time wheeling each machine into position.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the machine. It is well engineered, it has plenty of power, and the helical head tackles even the toughest grain. I think JET has found a real sweet spot here, offering features normally found on much more expensive machines, and in a very compact form at that. I’m not going to presume it is in the same league as some of the more industrial machines from Hammer and Felder, but I don’t do this for a living. I suspect this machine will last me a lifetime, which works for me.
Would I buy this machine if I had a 30×40 shop? That’s tough to say. A 12″ jointer with helical head is only a few hundred dollars cheaper than the JJP-112HH combination machine, so is the extra cost of a planer worth it to avoid the changeover time? I’m not even going to worry over that!
Originally posted at http://www.ncwoodworker.net/forums/f35/jjp-12hh-review-28363/
February 19th, 2010
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