Tuesday, December 8, 2009


           While the jointer can be used as a planer for small pieces of lumber, the principal function of  this woodworking machine is to put a straight, smooth, level edge or edges on a board in preparation for edge-to-edge glue-up. Rabbeting can be accomplished on some jointers but I prefer to use the table saw for this task. Chamfering, or making angled cuts, can be performed by tilting the fence.

          Accurate jointing or chamfering this requires that the cutter head blades be adjusted precisely with reference to the out feed table. The edge of each cutter head blade must exactly at the level of the out feed table: not above or below it. In most cases, sharpening the cutter blades requires that they be removed completely from the cutter head and then replaced and adjusted after sharpening. This is why I recommend the use of solid carbide as opposed to high speed steel blades: Carbide blades last a lot longer and that means less time and effort has to go into removing, replacing and adjusting blades. Buy two sets. That way, you can continue to use your jointer while the dull set is out for sharpening and you will always have a sharp set waiting.

          Always unplug your jointer from electrical current before attempting any blade adjustments. In my jointer, an 8” Rockwell/Delta classic, the blades are removed and replaced by using a flat wrench that came with the jointer. This wrench is used to loosen and tighten the hex head machine screws that press against the blades and hold them in place in the cutter head. It is very easy to round over the hex heads, so I am very careful not to do so. I purchased a gadget that helps me align the blades with reference to the out feed table. It magnetically attaches itself to the surface of the out feed table and magnetically attracts the blades upwards and holds them in position while I tighten the hex bolts. Each blade (there are 3 in my machine) must be in the extreme vertical position before it can be individually correctly adjusted and tightened. When all 3 blades have been set properly, they should just touch, but not lift, a flat piece of wood laid on the out feed table, extending over the cutter head. They must do this across their entire length of each blade.

          In a tool review at http://www.perfectwoodworking.com, I take a look at several jointers of different sizes from different manufacturers which may help you select a new jointer that's just right for you and your shop. This post was excerpted from the beginning of that series of reviews.

          Jointer size is most commonly determined by the full width of the blades (knives). A 6” jointer makes a maximum 6”-wide cut. An 8” jointer makes a maximum 8” cut and so on. It would be rare to use the entire width of even a 6” knife set at once, so the real advantage of wide knives is that you can move the fence to use a shaper place on the knife when the knife becomes dull. The wider your blades, the more use you will get out of them before it is time to re-sharpen. I usually start with a sharp blade and the fence all the way to the right end of the cutter head and move the fence, in increments, a bit wider than the maximum board thicknesses, to the left until the blades are all used up.

          Sometimes, with curly or wavy grain structure, you will experience tear-out from the lumber edge even with sharp knives. Sometimes you can turn the board around and run it through again backwards with very shallow cuts until the edge is fully jointed and the tear-out is gone. At other times, you may have to settle for a sawn joint made on the table saw. Usually you can make fairly good glue joints this way, if you have to, but a jointed edge is always my first choice.

          The depth of cut is determined by the height of the in feed table with reference to the out feed table. The lower the in feed table, the more wood is removed with each pass over the jointer. It is not a good idea to take off too much wood with a single pass. The chances of tear-out increase with the depth of cut and you may end up removing more precious wood than you really needed to, to get your perfect joint.

    In the jointer reviews at http://www.perfectwoodworking.com/jointerreviews, I work from the smallest up to the largest and the least expensive up to the most expensive. Those reviews include the Delta 6" Variable Speed Bench Jointer, the Jet  JJ-6CS 6" Closed Stand Jointer, the Jet JJ-8CS 8" Closed Stand Jointer, the Powermatic 8" Parallelogram Jointer, the Laguna Tools 12" Industrial Jointer and the Powermatic 16" Parallelogram Jointer.

Bob Gillespie
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Friday, December 4, 2009


          The more experience you have as a wood turner, the easier it will be to choose your next lathe. To accommodate everyone from beginner to expert, I will try to keep my comments basic and yet complete. If you are an expert, please bear with me. If you are a beginner, this post may save you a lot of headaches at the school of hard knocks. 

        I’d like to start out by saying that creating beautiful lathe turnings is an art which requires a certain amount of specialized talent. The only way for you to know if you have this talent is to take some lessons from someone who does. You can be an excellent woodworker, adept at the table saw, band saw or router and yet, you may not have the particular kind of fine touch that it takes to be a master at the lathe. Before you fork out your hard-earned dollars for a dream lathe, get some experience first.

          There are some basic things to know when shopping for a lathe and probably the most important question you might want to ask yourself is, “What do I want to produce on my new lathe?” and, “What do I think I might want to produce on my lathe in the foreseeable future?.”  If all you ever want to do is turn pencil and pen blanks, a micro lathe is all you need. If you plan on turning out huge bases for round tables, you might want to consider investing in an industrial behemoth.

          Numbers wise, you will want to consider the lathe’s bed length, the distance between the base of the tool rest and the center (diameter that can be turned), the maximum diameter of bowls that can be turned safely (usually on the outboard side of the lathe head), the horsepower and RPM of the lathe motor and the variable speed range.

          One thing that may not be immediately obvious is that all lathes create vibration. This vibration is transmitted to the point where the cutting tool touches the wood. Vibration makes for poor or rough cuts and vibration must be dampened out as much as possible. A flimsy lathe stand is not going to do this for you. I went so far as to build a heavy lathe bench which incorporated a large box which I filled with sand bags. A heavy-duty stand might suffice for you, however.

          Be sure to check out my review of six lathes, small to large, at http://www.perfectwoodworking.com/. I examine and compare the Jet JML 1014 10" x 14" Variable Speed Mini Wood Lathe, the Jet JWL-1220 12" x 20" Wood Lathe, the Delta 46-460 Variable Speed Midi Lathe, The Jet JWL-1642-EVS-2 16" x 42" Full Size Wood Lathe, the Powermatic 3520B 20" x 34 1/2" Wood Lathe and the Powermatic 4224 24" x 42" Wood Lathe.

Bob Gillespie
For similar articles and tool reviews see: