Tool Review: A New (?) Jet Mortiser


An old friend dropped into the Popular Woodworking shop this week. You know how nice it is to see old friends. Memories flood back about the first time you met and the times you’ve spent together.

The interesting thing is that our friends change as time passes. Upon greeting them again you can’t help but notice something is different.  I noticed right away that my friend was changed.

Usually it’s the weight. Not this time (although I can’t say the same about myself). My friend has a completely different look , almost pale in color. Much different from the yellowish-brown cast I was so use to seeing.

Allow me to introduce my friend. What I knew as the Powermatic 719A is now known as the Jet JFM-5 mortise machine. (Jet tools are painted white.) You’ll have to dig deep at the Jet web site for information. Use stock number 708589K. In fact, not many distributors know about this tool.

Back in 1999, Powermatic, a company whose founder began making machinery on a farm in 1921, became part of the WMH group. WHM owned Jet and Performax. The three companies, along with Wilton Tool Company, joined to form WMH Tool Group as we know them today.

Now you can see how my friend changed from a mustard color to Jet white. Sometime back, Powermatic decided to morph the 719A machine to the 719T version. The “T” stood for tilting head. I’m not sure why the tilting head  was added. I’ve never seen the need for that feature during all my woodworking days. Also, the decision to discontinue the original 719A was a wonder to me. I would pass on the tilting head design. Maybe that’s why they dropped the 719A from the line.

Now it’s back. At least by first appearance it’s back. Everything that I’ve studied so far is the same. Mind you, I might have missed something that I’ll notice when I spend more time getting reacquainted with my friend. And I’ve planned a huge amount of work for the new mortiser.

I’ve used this design for many years , but I used a benchtop mortise machine when I started building furniture. In fact I used two of them over a period of three years. Both benchtop tools gave out. The handle that locked the fence in position broke on both machines. So when it was time to purchase a third, I wanted the best that was available. To me, that was the 719A or what is now the JFM-5.

The table is the primary reason I consider this the best mortiser for the woodworking shop. Using those early machines required that I hold the work by hand while cutting the mortise, then slide the workpiece to the next point of plunge.

The left and right travel of the JFM-5 table , no more repositioning the work , is a dream. Large hand wheels control the table’s front-to-back movement for setting up the mortise, as well as the side-to-side movement while performing the work. All the while the workpiece is held fast and tight in the table. It’s clamped in position.

Nearly ever piece of furniture I’ve built involves mortise-and-tenon joints somewhere in the construction. My mortiser has always stepped up to the job and finished the work without hassles. If the newly transformed JFM-5 does what the old Powermatic 719A did, I highly recommend you get this tool.

Everything you’ll need for your mortises is included with the JFM-5. You get the machine plus three chisel bushings (5/8″, 3/4″ and 1-1/8″) and a chuck-extension adapter. The JFM-5 is available at toolking.com priced at $770 and I’ve found mention of it in a Jet flyer for $750.

I hope that WHM Tool Group continues to make this machine available. If you use mortise and tenons, you’ll find this tool as important to your work as I have. Developing new friendships is one of the good things in woodworking.

,Glen Huey