Helical Insert Cutter Head
Grizzly offers a few different helical cutter heads with solid carbide inserts as optional accessories for its jointer. There are some benefits to paying a premium for this type of head. With all 32 cutting edges made up of four-sided inserts, you have four sets of sharp knives ready to be refreshed without the downtime and calibration work required with standard knife replacement. If you get any knife nicks or worse from embedded grit or metal in wood, you only have to rotate or replace the affected inserts. The carbide cutters are much harder than steel knives, so they should last longer between "sharpenings," but to a trained eye they don't leave quite as polished a finish as a freshly sharp steel knife. For gluing up or sanding edges, though, this is not an issue. There are also advantages to the way a helical head cuts. Instead of taking one big bite all the way across the wood like a standard knife, the inserts make a lot of little cuts in sequence. This cutting action avoids rippled mill marks, runs relatively quietly, and demands a little less from the tool's motor. (Grizzly H7653, $245. Grizzly T10125 [shown], $325.)
Some of the tools in the test share the same fence designs and components. The Grizzly (below left) and Delta [below right] fences are basically identical crank-out types. You move the fence position with a notched tubular arm that engages with the teeth of a drive gear. After loosening the ratcheting lock lever found on top of the arm's housing, you turn the adjacent plastic knob to crank the fence in or out. This method is slow, but more accurate for setting rabbets or other exact cut widths. To set the fence angle, you simply loosen the lever to the right of the arm and tilt the fence forward or back manually. Black 45- and 135-degree stop bolts are clearly visible, as is the 90-degree stop bolt and flip-up stop plate. Though the arm locks the fence very solidly, its length takes up a lot of space behind the machine and keeps it from being placed close to a wall.
The Ridgid [below right] and Jet (below left) sliding-type fences also share many components. Moving the fence position in or out is as simple as loosening the vertical locking bolt on top of the fence-adjustment mechanism and pulling the fence into place. And with the bolt loose, it's easy to lift the fence slightly off the outfeed table to keep the fence's support foot from wearing a groove in the table surface. A keyway between the fence-adjustment mechanism and its support bracket keeps the fence straight and makes it lock down without play. The fence angle is adjusted by loosening the horizontal locking bolt and tilting the fence manually. Both models have similar 90-degree stops with a flip-up stop plate and similar 135-degree stop bolts. For 45-degree angles, Ridgid has a stop bolt, but Jet relies on jam nuts at the back of the connecting rod that holds the fence up.
Ridgid's large padded knobs and levers are more comfortable to use than the all-metal controls of the Jet. And because Ridgid's position-locking bolt fits through an elongated slot, it doesn't have to be moved between two different holes for the full range of fence movement as with the Jet.