It seems that every time you turn around, JET is coming out with new and improved machinery. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but it does tend to keep us on our toes.
JSSG-10 Jet Slow Speed Wet Sharpener
One of the newest kids on the block from JET is their slow-speed wet grinder. The online buzz has been that it bears a striking resemblance to that of another well-known manufacturer, but as they say, appearances can be deceiving. To find out just what is different, and to get a peek at some of the other new tools JET is offering, I spoke with John Otto, Director of Market Management for Woodworking, and Barry Schwaiger, Director of Engineering and Product Development.
“Our slow-speed wet grinder is the sum of a lot of improvements,” they told me. “In three years of development, we interviewed a lot of wet sharpener owners. We collected their requests for improvement and incorporated them into our machine. For instance, we’ve added a better drive train, and better water management to keep the water in its tray and not on the bench. If your wet sharpener makes a big puddle on your bench, you begin to question the sanity of wet sharpening, so we enhanced the water control to prevent that.
“We flared the edges of the collection tray,” they explained, “and added gutters on the inside of the stone to direct the water back into the trough. If you are grinding a two-inch plane iron, water tends to climb up and dump off the side of the wheel. Our system prevents that.
“There’s also a variable speed to both adjust for wheel wear and to give you the ability to remove material faster in cases where that is needed. The DC motor is what allows us to put in a variable speed. While DC motors typically have less torque, we have gone to a larger motor to compensate for that. In addition, the drive system rests on wide sintered metal bushing instead of narrow plastic ones.
“Originally, the variable control was added to allow you to adjust speed as the wheel wears. The drive speed must increase 10 percent for every one inch of wheel diameter wear in order to maintain the same surface speed. However, once we started to use the machine, we discovered that speeding up the wheel lets you grind tool angles more quickly, then allows you to slow down for fine tip work. After months of use, we found it became second nature to vary the speed depending on the application, just you would when driving a car.
“Accessory storage was a big deal,” they continued, “so we included a drawer in the main tool and two more in the extra base. We made our angle setting jig magnetic so you can conveniently store it by sticking it anywhere on the steel case. While some similar machines have open sides, ours are closed to keep things clean. As an added bonus, they keep your fingers out of harm’s way, and prevent grinding swarf from contaminating the interior of the machine. There are also end caps that enclose the motor to protect the bearing surfaces.”
Plane Iron Camber Jig
“Naturally, there are a wealth of jigs available to make all sorts of grinding and sharpening jobs easier. One of the most interesting of these is the plane iron camber jig. Many woodworkers like to grind a slight crown into plane irons to prevent the edges of the iron from digging into the wood. JET’s jig allows you to determine exactly how much camber you want to grind, and do it consistently each time. Imagine being able to drop just two thousandths on each side equally and with no facets. With this jig, you can do just that.”
With all these improvements, it makes sense that the subject of price came up during online discussions about this tool. Initially, JET introduced the tool at $400, which is about what the major competitor charges, but JET included a cover and auxiliary base for free. However, on September 1st, and continuing to the end of the year, JET dropped the price to just $300 in order to help introduce the tool, and they are still giving away the cover and base at that price.
Why the drop in price? “JET is known for bringing lots of value for the money,” they explained, “and comments have been made that some of our competitors are overpriced. What we are offering is a real value to the customer. The way we see it, you get an extra hundred dollars to spend on other tools, or on accessories for this tool.”
And what about those who bought at the original $400 price? “Because of this adjustment, those who bought the tool at its original introductory price were sent a $100 refund. We have not forgotten those who bought early, and we always take care of all our customers.”
There was also some talk about where the tool is manufactured, so I asked John and Barry to comment on that. “The country of manufacture and the reputation of the company producing the item are not one and the same thing,” they pointed out. “If you go to Asia and you know what to ask for, you can get the quality that you get here in the U.S. If you go and do not know what to ask for, that is when bad quality results, and that tends to smear the reputation of the country. Unfortunately, perception lags behind reality. The question is whether you want to make buying decisions based on perception or reality.”
What else is new in the world of JET? Take a look at the Powermatic PM 2800, a floo- mounted drill press loaded with interesting new features and a lot of solid value for its $800 price tag.
“Starting from the top,” John and Barry pointed out, “we have a mechanical variable speed from 400 to 3,000 rpm via mechanical sheaves, all in one motion of the control handle. There’s no need to remove the cover or change belts on step cones to change speeds. The motor is a full one horsepower, which is larger than most. There’s also a digital readout that tells you exactly what speed you are running at, and the main button is a lockable switch with a power lamp to let you know the tool is on.”
“A laser system creates a visible crosshair point where the bit will center. Two long-lasting LED lights create illumination without a shadow from the chuck. Handles are reversible so you can operate the drill press either right- or left-handed. A smooth, high quality keyless chuck eliminates the problem of losing or searching for a chuck key, and makes changing bits vastly faster.”
Perhaps most important is the table, which Barry says is designed with the woodworker in mind. “It has a fence with independent side plates similar to a router fence, and a port for dust collection for those times you use the drill press with a drum sander. There are pull-out extension wings for more stock support when needed, and the table itself can rotate all the way to 90 degrees, allowing you to drill the end of a board. There’s even a removable insert in that table that allows you to create a zero clearance insert for those times when you need to drill a hole with full support, something that can be quite handy with small pieces or thin materials.”
Also new is an upgraded Byrd ‘shelix’ spiral cutterhead, available on their 15- and 20-inch planers. The head has inserts on a shear angle and a camber on the insert. By virtue of it shearing, it acts more like a hand plane than a chisel and mallet. As a result, the planer is vastly quieter and will even cut smoothly backwards against the grain.
Before I let them go, I asked them to clear up one more thing. I had heard that JET tools were hard to find in Canada. “For all intents and purposes,” they told me, “there is currently no distribution of JET WMH tool group products in Canada. Legally, JET WMH products cannot be shipped to Canada though, of course, some slip through. There is, however, another company called Jet in Canada that is not part of this company. The Jet name in Canada is owned by a company that primarily distributes material handling products.”
All in all, if you are lucky enough to be buying here in the U.S., there’s a lot of slick new offerings from JET. But considering how often they come through with upgrades and improvements, that’s really nothing new.