Combination machines that offer a jointer and planer in one unit are the talk on the Internet and most woodworking forums these days. We’ve written about the Grizzly and Jet machines in our AWFS coverage, listed the tool as a “Best New Tool of 2007” in our December issue (#166), and we continue to receive questions on a weekly, if not daily, basis. We’ve test-driven both, so, let’s take a look at the Grizzly G6033 and the Jet JJP-12 and do a little side-by-side comparison.
In my opinion, there are a number of areas to discuss such as the motor, the jointer’s fence, the blade guard, the jointer’s table and the complexity of the changeover operations (switching between the jointer and the planer).
In comparing the motors of the two machines, one glaring difference stands out , horsepower. A 5-horsepower, 220-volt motor powers the Grizzly tool while the Jet machine boasts a 3-horsepower, 220-volt motor. Each motor produces more than 5,000 rpm making the number of cuts per inch about equal; Grizzly has 15,102 cuts compared to Jets 16,500 cuts.
After the motors, the next most important feature is the fence. The best feature of the fence on the Jet machine is that it does not need to be removed in order to switch between the two operations. However, you do have to slide the fence fully to the rear of the tool in order to lift the jointer bed. The fence is aluminum and over-sized. Being attached in two locations made the fence difficult to adjust (see photo). We experienced racking as we slid the fence across the bed. Knobs and levers hold the fence in position and we felt there could have been more development based around the Jet fence.
The Grizzly fence is strong and easy to adjust. A simple flip of a lever allows you to rotate a knob and move the fence across the jointer bed. The bad news with the Grizzly design is having to remove the entire fence before converting the machine to planer mode. The fence slides off a dovetail way, which is easy enough, but storing the fence each time you use the planer is burdensome. Additionally, because the single tube holding the fence is long and sticks out the back of the machine, it isn’t possible to position the tool tight to a wall in the shop. In essence, the footprint of the tool grows. Overall, however, the Grizzly fence is much better than the Jet in our opinion.
The blades guards for these two machines come from different universes. The Grizzly has the more familiar (at least in the United States) pork-chop style guard. It swings out as the material, and your hand, moves past the cutterhead. The Jet features a design similar to European machines in which the rigid guard raises and lowers, allowing you to adjust to the thickness of your stock. This type guard helps keep your hands from ever passing over the blades. The staff prefers the Jet guard. It’s an overall safer design.
When it comes to jointer tables, the Jet machine has a single, heavy table. The top is corrugated. And while that might be easier to keep flat during manufacturing, we felt it added a bit of drag to the workpiece. The jointer table is locked to the base with two catches, one at each end. Release the catches then lift the bed. After that, all you need to do is flip the dust-collection hood and you’re ready to plane your stock. Of course, that’s after you spin the hand wheel to raise the planer bed. (As with all combo machines, you have to lower the planer bed to convert back to the jointer and vice versa.)
The Grizzly has a split, smooth and polished jointer bed and that means an extra step in converting to planer mode. Unlock the catches and lift either the right- or left-side tables, then lift the other half. It doesn’t matter which half is lifted first, you still have to fiddle with the blade guard to finish the positioning of the jointer tables , the guard has to be maneuvered out of the way of the outfeed table.
Next, you’ll need to position the dust collection for the planer. The hood is flipped similar to the Jet but without any latch hook to keep it locked. Also, because this tool has a separate dust-collection port for the jointer, the attachment of the hose to the planer is tricky due to part of the jointer hood being in the way.
Both machines performed excellently in milling and regular operations (we have the G6034 spiral head Grizzly combination machine so a one-to-one comparison is not possible). And prices for the two competitors are relatively close. The Jet JJP-12 can be purchased for around $1,700 while the purchase price for the Grizzly G6033 is at $1,795 (the spiral cutterhead brings the price to $2,295).
Whether these types of machines are the answer to your shop needs is left up to you. I, for one, am quite fond of my dedicated jointer and planer tools. I’m not yet ready to experience changeover when switching operations. There are many times I appreciate leaving the setup on the tools in place. Returning to the jointer to mill another piece of stock is better if you don’t have to spend time carefully matching previous work.
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