Specs are provided by each manufacturer and are not verified by Tools of the Trade.
CraftsmanFENCE SIZE CUTTER-HEAD SPEED MOTOR RATINGWEIGHT STREET PRICE
217054-1/2" x 29-1/4"4,800 rpm / 14,400 cuts per min.1-1/2 horsepower / 120 or 240 volts231 pounds$580
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Comments
Some rough design elements – most notably its crude fence – made the Craftsman our least favorite. This solid tool cut just fine but was hard to adjust accurately. We wouldn't want to compromise on such an important aspect of a precision cutting tool. Especially when paying a serious price for it.
Fence: The Craftsman's fence is the least sturdy of the group and allowed too much play. The fence support bracket is very short, so the keyway that holds the fence parallel to the tables engages very little area and feels loose. Because of this, the fence does not lock solidly in place. Even with the locking lever cranked tight, the fence can be pushed out of alignment without much force. The cam-action locking lever has a vague feel; it's hard to tell when it's tightened enough, especially compared with other fence-locking bolts, which snug down predictably.
Infeed Table Adjustment: The long adjustment lever moves the infeed bed height quickly but is difficult to set to an exact position. We appreciate that the ratcheting locking lever and spring-loaded 1/8-inch lockout pin are positioned on the front of the tool where they're easy to see and use.
Switch: The large Off paddle on the elevated switch is easy to hit without looking.
Maintenance Access: A cabinet panel with 12 small machine screws has to be removed to access the motor and belt. The base cabinet racks out of square easily, so the panel is hard to align and the screws strip readily; any maintenance is a real pain. This made it especially difficult to deal with the knives - another notable compromise.
Contact
Craftsman
www.craftsman.com
800-383-4814
DeltaFENCE SIZE CUTTER-HEAD SPEED MOTOR RATINGWEIGHT STREET PRICE
37-275X5" x 35"4,800 rpm / 14,400 cuts per min.1 horsepower / 120 volts225 pounds$649
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Comments
The Delta is a high-quality, high-price machine with nice performance and features, especially its extra-large fence. The fence and infeed adjustments are less refined than those of our winner, though. This model appears to be nearly identical to the Grizzly.
Fence: The large fence is adjusted with a long rack-and-pinion mechanism that you crank out to the desired distance with a knob. This fence is slower to adjust than slide-out types and makes the machine take up a little more floor space. The fence-position and angle-locking levers are well-placed and easy to use.
Infeed Table Adjustment: The long adjustment lever moves the infeed bed height quickly but is difficult to set to an exact position. The lever arm is angled toward the front of the tool, which improves its access, and has a trigger that activates stops at 1/32-inch increments. The ratcheting locking lever is at the rear, but the 1/8-inch lockout plate is on the front and is fairly easy to deal with.
Switch: The large Off button on the elevated switch is easy to hit without looking.
Maintenance Access: Motor and belt access is easy; two screws on the rear panel of the cabinet need to be removed and two need to be loosened.
Special Features: An accessory mobile base is available for about $100. It makes the tool easy to roll around, but since it doesn't bolt to the machine, it adds an unwelcome top-heavy wiggle and extra vibration and noise.
Contact
Delta Machinery
www.deltaportercable.com
800-223-7278
SECOND
GrizzlyFENCE SIZE CUTTER-HEAD SPEED MOTOR RATINGWEIGHT STREET PRICE
G04525" x 35"4,800 rpm / 14,400 cuts per min.
1 horsepower / 120 volts257 pounds$425 / $499 including shipping
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Comments
The Grizzly is our second favorite overall, with its strong performance, extra-large fence, and very useful wheeled base. It has the same rudimentary fence and table adjustments as its Delta twin, but with a unique mobility feature and a noticeably lower price. For the carpenter who doesn't often need to set the fence to odd angles, this machine could be the best choice.
Fence: The large fence is adjusted with a long rack-and-pinion mechanism that you crank out to the desired distance with a knob. This fence is slower to adjust than slide-out types and makes the machine take up a little more floor space. The fence-position and angle-locking levers are well-placed and easy to use.
Infeed Table Adjustment: The long adjustment lever moves the infeed bed height quickly but is difficult to set to an exact position. The ratcheting locking lever is at the rear, but the 1/8-inch lockout plate is on the front and is fairly easy to deal with.
Switch: The large Off paddle on the elevated switch is easy to hit without looking.
Maintenance Access: Motor and belt access is easy; two screws on the rear panel of the cabinet need to be removed and two need to be loosened.
Special Features: Integrated casters make this machine unbelievably easy for one person to move around. This great feature is indispensable when you need to keep your setup mobile in the shop or at a job site. Grizzly also provides a knife-setting tool and has an excellent instruction manual.
Contact
Grizzly Industrial
www.grizzly.com
800-523-4777
JetFENCE SIZE CUTTER-HEAD SPEED MOTOR RATINGWEIGHT STREET PRICE
JJ-CSX4" x 291/8"4,800 rpm / 14,400 cuts per min.1 horsepower / 120 or 240 volts215 pounds$700
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Comments
The Jet is an expensive rock-solid performer with the smoothest cutting right out of the box and easy adjustments, but its controls could use some updating and we wish it had a taller fence. It's similar in build to the Ridgid model with respect to the bed castings and fence.
Fence: With the 4-inch-tall fence, it feels as if some control is given up when edge-jointing wide boards. A generous fence-support bracket with a long keyway guide makes the fence very sturdy when locked down. The fence's simple slide-out movement is very fast, but its locking bolt must switch between two holes to reach the entire range of settings. The position and angle-locking levers are well placed but not the most comfortable to use.
Infeed Table Adjustment: The front-mounted crank is our preferred type of height adjuster because it's easy to reach and provides fine fingertip control for exact settings. The ratcheting locking lever and the spring-loaded 1/8-inch lockout pin are both hidden at the rear of the tool. The Jet also has an effective crank spindle lock as a backup table lock.
Switch: The switch is mounted low on the machine and cannot be operated reliably with your leg. You must look, lean down, and push the Off button by hand.
Maintenance Access: A latching knob and four tiny screws secure the rear cabinet panel. Skipping the screws makes accessing the motor and belt much easier.
Special Features: A universal accessory mobile base will fit this machine and is available from Jet for about $100, but we didn't test it. Jet also has an excellent instruction manual.
Contact
Walter Meier
www.jettools.com
800-274-6848
RidgidFENCE SIZE CUTTER-HEAD SPEED MOTOR RATINGWEIGHT STREET PRICE
JP061014" x 29-1/8"3,450 rpm / 10,350 cuts per min.1 horsepower / 120 or 240 volts208 pounds$429
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Comments
Ridgid's machine is a capable performer with a nice price and some welcome user-friendly upgrades, but we wish it had a taller fence. As the only tool in the class with an open stand, it has a slight weight and stability advantage. It's similar in build to the Jet model with respect to the bed castings and fence.
Fence: With the 4-inch-tall fence, it feels as if some control is given up when edge-jointing wide boards. A generous fence-support bracket with a long keyway guide makes the fence very sturdy when locked down. The fence's simple slide-out movement is very fast, and the locking bolt is set in a slot so it can reach the entire range of settings. The large rubber handle on the position locking bolt is a nice comfort feature, as is the rubber sleeve on the beefy angle-locking lever.
Infeed Table Adjustment: The nice end-mounted crank is fairly easy to reach and provides fine fingertip control for exact settings. The tiny locking lever is at the rear of the tool, but the spring-loaded 1/8-inch lockout pin is at the front for easy access. It has a nice rubber knob and rides in a slot that stops the table at the 1/8-inch setting but doesn't lock in and prevent you from moving the table back up.
Switch: The protruding Off switch is mounted low on the machine, where it can be easily pushed with a leg without looking.
Maintenance Access: The open stand makes it relatively easy to reach under the machine to access the motor mount bolts for tensioning the belt. But simply removing the belt for setting or inspecting knives is difficult.
Special Features: Its light weight, wide stable stance, and lack of an elevated switch make the Ridgid easier to load and transport than the other models. This makes it a good candidate for job-site work – though the open stand makes it harder to lift with a hand truck than the others.
Contact
Ridgid
www.ridgid.com
866-539-1710
WINNER
RikonFENCE SIZE CUTTER-HEAD SPEED MOTOR RATINGWEIGHT STREET PRICE
20-1104-3/4" x 29" 4,500 rpm / 13,500 cuts per min.1-1/2 horsepower / 120 or 240 volts264 pounds $550
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Comments
Rikon's new-generation jointer has the winning combination of great performance and the finest, most accurate fence and table adjustments. As the newest player in the category, it seems that the company set out to improve upon features found lacking in older designs – and the effort paid off.
Fence: Complex fence adjustments give the tall fence unparalleled control and accuracy. This model alone lets you dial in and lock down an exact fence angle, even one-handed. The fence can be moved either by sliding or by using a controlled crank mechanism, and it locks in place tightly.
Infeed Table Adjustment: Rikon has the nicest front crank adjuster; it's easy to reach and its large diameter provides the finest fingertip control for exact settings. The ratcheting locking lever and spring-loaded 1/8-inch lockout pin are hidden at the rear of the tool. A second tiny locking lever and an effective crank spindle lock serve as backup table locks.
Switch: The elevated switch is height- and angle-adjustable and has the unique flexibility to be mounted on the infeed or outfeed side of the machine. The Off button can be found with a glance.
Maintenance Access: A single latching knob on the rear cabinet panel makes access to the motor and belt the easiest of all the machines.
Special Features: The Rikon has two speed settings. Low is meant for high-torque cutting, like dressing green wood, but we find it easier to reduce the depth of cut or simply feed slower if the going gets tough. The flat drive belt doesn't take a set, so rotating the cutter head by hand to inspect knives is easier and safer than it is on the other machines. The belt is the easiest to tighten or remove, as Rikon features the only tool-free motor-adjusting turnbuckle. A unique cutter-head locking pin holds the knives in a fixed position for inspecting, removing, setting, and honing.
Contact
Rikon Power Tools
www.rikontools.com
877-884-5167