The Jointer Upgrade

With the lathe back in the shop, the bandsaw upgraded, the drum sander purchased, I could not ask for much more. Except for a reliable, accurate jointer. I purchased the 1996 Craftsman profesional series 6 1/8″ jointer back in late 2011, and never really trusted it. Sure, it would give me a flat surface, but the fence I could never quite get to 90 degrees and it showed up in some of my work. So much so that often I just left it out of my workflow.

With the other aspects upgraded, this was really the last frontier for my shop to get accurate. It was to be one of my last big investments, at least in terms of big tools at big prices. I was looking at the Jet, Powermatic, and Laguna 6″ jointers. I could not go up to 8″ due to space and power requirements, so really this purchase would only be about getting a usable, reliable machine. I might get the added benefit of a spiral cutterhead, but I would gain no capacity.

$700 (if I could sell mine for what I wanted, plus grab what I wanted on sale) was a lot to spend on something that was just newer. I had been given the advice to go to 8″, which I couldn’t, but what if I could wait until I was in a new space to make the investment? Could my jointer be salvaged? I was going to find out. Why? Because after I sold my bandsaw I tuned it up before the buyer arrived and it turned out well. If I had to deal with it for financial reasons, I could have. As it was, the budget for the new saw was there, so I tuned it up simply because I wanted to see if I could, and to cement the sale.

There were three big problems that I needed to address. The most minor was chip collection, the setup I had didn’t work that well and didn’t get everything. Second was that I hadn’t touched the knives in eight years, you could really feel the board bounce a bit because the blades were dull. Third, and most important, was the fact the fence wasn’t square to the table and it felt like the tables were out of being coplanar.

It was finally time to dig into this machine to decide once and for all. The first thing to check was that the tables were coplanar. I recalled previously that the ends of the tables were lower, but when I went to confirm this with my straight edge, I pleasantly found that they were good to go. No shimming required, which is a great result out of the gate. Next I checked the fence, which I was sure was twisted. Same result here, the fence was flat in both planes all the way across the face. There were some extremely slight variations away from the straight edge in a couple spots (valleys), but nothing that would impact a piece long enough to safely joint. So why did the fence lock to 90° on one table but not the other?

I started really investigating the fence. If it was all in the same plane, and the tables were in the same plane, everything should meet at a 90° angle, but it wasn’t. It had to be something to do with the locking mechanism or the stops. I backed the stops off, and re-set the fence. Still not accurate. So I played around with forcefully using a square to set the angle and I finally got the fence to be a true 90°. However, if I tried to do so right at the pivot point for the fence, it wouldn’t work. I had to be a couple inches toward the infeed side. OK, that’s a quirk I can live with. I set the stops back up, and it went out of square again. Fine, I can live without stops, particularly when I’ll need to re-verify a true 90° each time I set the machine up.

With the machine proven salvageable, I ordered a set of high speed steel knives from Amazon for $17, and it took a couple days to arrive. I began by removing the jointer from the stand to address the chip collection issue. I bought a new 8″x 8″ jointer hood from Rockler for $8, and bolted it to the top of the stand. This would be a replacement for a heavily modified and broken one I had put there some time ago. I decided on this vs going with a custom sheetmetal HVAC solution. It won’t be perfect, and I’ll likely follow up with some taping. I’ll do some testing on this before I fab up a replacement side panel on the base that will incorporate a port. I want to make sure that there isn’t any large kinks in the flexible 4″ duct.

To further reduce kinks, I relocated the motor slightly. It was already at the maximum range for the factory mounting points, so I drilled two new holes further back so that the dust hose would have a gentler bend. With the link belt I already had installed, there was a little bit of slack that allowed for this to work. The belt is now pretty tight, and hopefully is still within spec to not put too much stress on the pulleys. A lot of sheet metal stands are flimsy, but this one has some thicker gauge to it and didn’t drill through easily. A good sign.

With the dust collection situation partially addressed, it was time to put the jointer back on the stand. I cleaned it up quite a bit from years of dust and grime with IPA and dry lube. IPA, to help protect the motor as the liquid will evaporate with time. Lube, because it also dries fairly quickly and was what I had on hand. I attempted mineral spirits, but abandoned that. I also shortened up the mobile base platform, as there was too much gap. I took just a little too much off, but made it work. This will make the jointer much less wobbly when I lock the wheels for operation.

The jointer was reinstalled to the base, and thankfully cleared the bolts for the dust hood. With the new knives in hand, I could try and tackle the last question as to whether I would indeed keep it. The nuts were fused in place, a consequence of probably being tightened too much by the last owner, and not addressing them myself in the previous eight years. This is the exact reason why I never tried before, the fear that I couldn’t get them undone. And the uncertainty of how to set new ones. I had to purchase a thin set of wrenches from the auto parts store, and even then the wrench started to round. Dry lube didn’t work, 3n1 oil didn’t work, fire didn’t work. Eventually, I came to a solution using needle nose locking pliers on some, and a nail set and hammer on others. I used the jointer knife jig I had purchased many, many years ago, and was able to set the knives to the right height on the first try. Again, I found something that I should have done several years ago.

With the machine put back together, it was time for the final verdict. I took a scrap piece of mahogany and ran it through. A perfect joint and pretty smooth to boot. The operation was a success. I took a piece of scrap 2×4, what I had used to mount my monitor, to try through as well. A great finish, and again a perfect 90° joint.

There’s a feeling that some people get when they purchase new things, it’s a feeling of euphoria almost. I got that feeling when I purchased my new bandsaw and realized what I could do. Same thing with my drum sander. Here, the realization that I didn’t have to spend several hundred dollars and I could accomplish the same task gave me this feeling as well. I’m so excited, and so wish I had the confidence to tackle this years ago.

Unfortunately, Byrd as it stands does not make a spiral cutterhead for this machine. It’s possible it shares dimensions with another, existing one, but they don’t know unless I get them the exact specs. To be honest, I’d rather spend the money on a spiral head for the planer if I had to choose one. I may pay a bit more for straight carbide knives, but the ones I got from Amazon are really cheap and can be here in two days. We’ll see how long they last, but so far so good.

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