JET Tools is at it again. They are heading into tool gift season with a spate of new offerings and a host of improvements on their already impressive line of power tools. Included in the “new and improved” category are a cleverly designed planer jointer combo; a new category of table saw that offers the advantages of a cabinet saw with the low price and easy transport of a contractor saw; helical replacement cutter heads for their jointers and planers; and their newest cabinet saw incarnation, the Deluxe Xacta Saw.
For the cook’s tour of the Xacta Saw, head over to the Tool Preview section of this issue, but for the rest, stay right where you are. We’re about to get a guided tour of what’s new, courtesy of JET’s director of product management, Patrick Curry.
Planer Jointer combo
“Imagine a 12-inch jointer and a 12-inch planer all in one convenient, convertible tool that switches back and forth in under two minutes,” Curry began. I don’t know about you, but that certainly sounded intriguing to me, so I asked him to tell me more.
“We start with a full 12-inch jointer with a three-blade head and a 56-inch long bed. Rather than an old style ‘pork chop’ guard, this tool sports a telescoping guard that lets you keep the blade covered even if you are just edge planing. The whole guard not only goes in and out all the way to the fence, but also goes up and down. That means it will ride over a flat board so that the blade is still covered even after the cut is done. When it is time to change the blade, you can rotate the whole thing out of the way.
“Once the jointing is done, release two levers and lift the table out of the way on its hinges. It’s easier than it sounds, in part because the hinges are spring-loaded and take up much of the weight. Once the jointer bed is up, it will lock in place so it won’t fall on you.
“Next, grasp the standard four -nch dust port, pull the release pin and lift. It will rotate 180 degrees and lock into position for planing. Now you have a 12-inch planer. Engage the feed roller lever, crank the big hand wheel to adjust the table height, and slide in the board. It’s that quick and easy.
“One of the advantages of this tool over the typical lunchbox planer is that the bed moves up and down. That means the head, infeed roller and outfeed roller never move, which helps them stay in adjustment. Under the hood is a three horsepower, single-phase, 230-volt motor powering the cutter head. It drives the cutter head at 5,500 rpm with a feed rate of 20 feet per minute.
ProShop Table Saw
“Another new entry into our line is the ProShop table saw,” Curry continued. “It’s priced like a contractor’s saw at 600 to 700 dollars, but it looks more like a hybrid saw. The motor is completely enclosed in the cabinet, and it boasts improved dust collection and a standard dust port. In spite of its size, it is fitted with substantial contractor style trunnions and guts. In that respect, it is more like a traditional cabinet saw but with the transport convenience of a contractor’s saw.
“One of its slickest features shows up as a discreet yellow dot set flush into the top. When it is time to change the blade, raise the arbor all the way up and the yellow dot raises up into a button. Push on it, and it locks the arbor to allow you to change blades with one wrench and without having to jam wood into the saw teeth.
“Like a cabinet saw, it has a one-piece trunnion, but because the motor is tucked away inside the case instead of sticking out the back as in a normal contractor saw, it relies on a two-belt drive. One belt goes from the motor to a countershaft and a second from the countershaft to the arbor. That second belt is a poly-V belt designed to offer smoother operation and greater transfer of power.
“All that allows us to collapse the saw so it takes up less room, and permits us to use a cabinet saw type trunnion. Unlike a contractor saw, the arbor moves, but the motor does not. The net result is a machine that not only takes up less space, but runs smoother and quieter with far less vibration than a contractor’s saw. Fixing the motor allows us to beef it up as well. We added a one and three quarter horsepower motor, the largest we could use that still plugs into a standard 110-volt power outlet.
“While the saw does stand on legs, the cabinet itself is completely enclosed so dust is contained and evacuated instead of dropping on the floor. There’s an access door with a built -n dust port to let you get in if you drop your arbor nut. No dust collection available? Don’t worry; you can also run the saw with the door off, and the angled sheet metal floor of the cabinet will let the swarf slide out the back.
“On the front is a large paddle style off switch that you can hit with your knee to shut down the saw even if your hands are busy. The fence sports extruded aluminum faces with a top T-slot to accept a variety of T-nut based jigs, fixtures, feather boards and hold-downs.”
Helical Jointer and Planer Heads
“Although it is not yet available on the combination jointer planer,” Curry told me, “you can now get a helical head on JET’s six-inch and eight-inch jointers, and on the 15- and 20-inch planers.
“A straight knife cuts in a chopping motion,” he explained, “but a helical head shears the wood off. That makes for quieter, smoother cutting with less tearout, even on problem and figured woods. The inserts are carbide rather than high speed steel so they stay sharp longer, and each insert is four-sided. That means when it is time to ‘sharpen’ the blade, all you need do is loosen the set screw and rotate the cutter insert 90 degrees. You’ll have four changes of tooling before you have to replace the cutters.
“There are 27 inserts in the cutter head of a six-inch jointer, and 36 on the eight. The same head design is available on a 15-inch planer, with 68 inserts, and the 20-inch with 92 inserts.
Each insert costs six dollars but has four lives. To top it off, the carbide will last two to three times longer than high speed steel so you don’t need to ‘sharpen’ as often. That means one set of inserts is equivalent not to four sharpening rotations of a typical steel knife, but closer to 12. That comes out to about 12 dollars per sharpening.”
The less obvious advantage is the time savings. When you do replace cutters, it involves nothing more than removing one and popping in a new one. Each insert automatically seats itself in the perfect position so that you don’t have to mess with setting the cutter heights. Even if the price advantage doesn’t sway you, you’ll have to admit that rotating a tooth, or even swapping one out with a replacement, is vastly quicker and less aggravating than sending the blades out for sharpening and tediously re-setting the blades.
All this improvement feeds nicely into the goals Curry described for the company and its products. “JET will be the best value product you can find,” he insisted. “You’ll get the best quality, the best fit and finish, and all the features you need at a very good price. That, to us, is good value.”