After two decades of flattening and jointing wood by hand or with various edge jointing techniques using a router or table saw, I finally threw down the cash for a jointer.
The Wen planer I purchased several years ago, though not the beefiest planer in the world, does its job—but often after hours of flattening the lumber with hand planes.
I knew if I was ever going to turn casual woodworking into something I could make some money with, I needed a jointer-planer combination.
But a good jointer is expensive.
A six inch jointer simply would not do, nor a bench top model. Most boards from the local hardwood supplier are in the 5”-8” wide range, and I was sure to be frustrated without at least eight inches of jointing width. I regularly work with boards of 48″ or longer and needed a long infeed/outfeed table. I have a 50amp 220 outlet available in my shop, so any size would fit its capacity.
Ideally I would have liked a ten or twelve inch jointer, but the cost jumps to $4k or more.
So an 8” jointer it was.
The other requirement I had settled on was a helical cutter head. In the end my jointer choice was between the helical cutter head or a parallelogram design. I went with the helical head and dovetail ways.
I couldn’t be happier with the choice. Once adjusted, the dovetail ways performs perfectly fine.
What brand? I looked at them all. The Bailey with its beautiful blue paint was highly enticing, but at 83” long it would have challenged my shop space and the shorter version was too short. Grizzly was in the mix, and Jet, and Shop Fox, but ultimately the Powermatic 60HH was the one I settled on. The 72” bed was just right for my shop and long enough for most boards. I found one at Southern Tool with the rolling base for less that $3K back last June.
That price would be a steal now.
Unfortunately it was backordered (everybody had it backordered), but I plunked down the funds and waited.
I will not go into the heartbreaking story of the jointer getting damaged and lost in transit, resulting in another three month wait, but all’s well that ends well, as they say.
I had some friends help me lift the bed out of the crate and onto the cabinet, which I already had set up. The instructions for the cabinet and for getting everything connected were fine.
I did have to search around for a 50amp to 20amp connector for the 220 line and found suitable one on Amazon.
The fit and finish were standard Powermatic yellow-gold. The paint on the sides of the bed, tables and the fence apparatus is liable to chipping, so I’ll need to be mindful. There is touch-up paint available from Powermatic.
When I was shopping and looking at reviews, the Powermatic 60 (HH or C) got great marks for “ready to use out of the box.”
That was not my experience.
I checked with my 48” steel straight edge and the outfield table was slightly low (1/32 or 1/64?). I actually chipped two cutters when checking and had to replace them (five extras and replacement tools are included). Adjusting the outfield table with dovetail ways is not the easiest operation, but I figured it out with the manual and eventually got it dialed in perfectly. Fortunately the feed tables were exactly level with one another in every other aspect.
The fence was also slightly off with one end lower than the other. No instructions there, just some trial and error with all of the various bolts. Once I got it dialed in though it is perfect. I do check square before and after I turn the power on because the jolt of the motor has caused just the slightest change a couple of times. I recently purchased some machinist squares for just that task.
What do I think of this beast of a machine after getting it tuned to perfection?
I love it.
And there are lots of reasons why.
Here is my review:
1. This jointer works as advertised. The long bed, the substantial fence, and the helical cutterhead, along with the 2hp 220 motor combine for a pleasant operational experience, whether flattening or squaring an edge. There is simply no bogging down and the machine is amazingly quiet. It literally sounds like a massive hummingbird.
2. The extremely robust fence is quite the contraption and is adjustable for any operation required. It can even be skewed if necessary. So far I have only needed perfectly square, but I experimented with chamfering and mitering, and the results are great.
3. Once I figured out the adjusting mechanism for major and minor bed changes, the process is easy. The infeed table moves up and down easily, and the fine adjust knob dials in the smallest of changes. When lowering the table, turning the fine adjust knob counterclockwise causes incremental drops of 1/32”, while turning clockwise raises the table continuously for even the most minute depth adjustment. For normal operations, this is not an issue, but for depth sensitive ones like rabbeting, this feature is essential. The depth gauge is just the slightest bit off, but we are talking 1/256th of an inch or less.
4. When needing to drop the infeed table past 1/8”, a stop on the back of the bed prevents this. For the vast majority of operations, the stop is a useful feature, since most flattening and squaring needs nothing deeper. When needing to rabbet (or taper—which I’ve not attempted), the infeed table usually needs to be lower. To do this, the knob in the back must be pulled out with right hand, while the left hand is holding the infeed table up with the major adjuster, then lowered slowly before releasing the knob. It’s a bit awkward at first, but I am getting the hang of it.
5. Speaking of rabbets, one of the reasons I chose the Powermatic is its robust rabbeting extension. I have already used this feature quite a bit because I don’t have to set up my table saw for ripped rabbets. The rabbet can be up to 1/2” deep and and up to 8” wide. Wow. And the results are outstanding with the helical cutterhead. Of course, narrow cross-cut rabbets or tenons still need the table-saw, but I have easily cross-cut rabbets on raised panels with no problem. The one safety issue is that the cutterhead cover must be removed—not the easiest thing to do, but I think I’ve gotten used to both removing it and putting it back on efficiently.
6. The table is composed of three major pieces of steel. This model is made in Taiwan. Whether the steel is sourced there or not I don’t know, but the substance of the bed and the quality of the infield and outfield tables is spectacular. With proper care, this machine should stand up to whatever I bring it for the rest of my life.
7. As for the cutterhead, what superlative can I use? The substance, the quality of the cutters, and the finish it produces are beyond what I imagined. The most figured of maple passes over like butter and comes out with a pristine finish. With carbide edges that can be rotated to three other sides, I don’t need to worry about this finish changing for years, the occasional chip aside.
8. The safety features are standard, but well-implemented. The cutterhead cover is engineered well and works as it should. The on and off “buttons” are easy to access. Further, a magnetic switch can be removed to prevent any power at all. Sawdust is sucked downward and out through a large dust port on the base below the outfeed table.
9. Several extras are included. I’ve already mentioned the additional cutters. Tools include Torx wrenches for the cutters, a screw-driver, several end wrenches and Allen wrenches. Also included are two hold-downs that have magnets for storage on the base. The “grip-ability” of these is suspect. I have had little success getting a board moved across the table and cutterhead with these. They simply slip forward no matter the downward force. My palms and a push stick are what I am using, though I would rather the hold downs would grip.
10. With the custom fit rolling base, I can easily move the jointer around the shop as far as the power cord allows. I can even position the eight inch wide table just under the end of my planer outfeed for the deposit of narrow pieces. At this point the cord is long enough for anything I have needed, and I can stow the jointer if necessary.
Though I have a few other items on my shop wish list (like a 14” bandsaw with 12” resaw capacity), I now have a complete suite of power tools for accomplishing what I need: table saw, bandsaw, floor drill press, planer, router with table, fixed and plunge bases, compound miter saw, chop saw, sanders, circular saws, biscuit joiner, rolling dust collector, small lathe, and now the jointer. All major tools are also on wheels.
No matter the other tools, the jointer is the one tool that cuts down a huge amount of wood processing time. The Powermatic 60HH does the job and does it well. Though hand planes will always have a place in my woodworking, no longer will I spend hours flattening lumber.
I’ve got better ways to spend my time.