We moved to our new home in northern Illinois more than a year ago and I spent a lot of time planning the shop, drawing plan after plan, searching the net for ideas and so on.To give her credit, my wife tired of the plans (even though I told her it was half the fun) and gave me a SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw for Christmas! If you wonder why I went hog-wild with a SawStop, I’ll tell you that one of my long-standing rules, even back in my days up north was “nobody gets injured, safety is job one”. And when you’re working out on the tundra miles from anyone else at minus 20F that’s a really good rule to stick to! And it’s important for a software engineer to have all his fingers and thumbs so the safety of the SawStop was worth the extra cash. Besides, the saw is really sweet machine!
But when I got the saw the first problem arose. The saw comes in several boxes on a pallet and weighs over 300 pounds. Fortunately, the delivery man had powered pallet lifter and was nice enough to wheel it down our long (300 foot) drive to the garage.
That’s a big, heavy box…
Another couple hundred pounds of iron-mongery…
Now what? The cabinet alone (with motor) was over 150 pounds. I’m pretty strong but I also value my back and didn’t want to damage the saw before I even used it. Part of the problem is we are in this semi-rural area where many of the homes are vacation homes for folks down in Chicago. So there aren’t a lot of people around. And as someone who works remotely with teams in San Jose, Seattle and Bucharest (not to mention India) I can’t ask for help from a co-worker! :-) Fortunately, I have a new neighbor who is friendly and he lent me a hand to get the cabinet on it’s top (to put the mobile base on) and bolt on the cast-iron wings. Then I could assemble the rest myself.
Rolled on to its side:
The saw takes wing(s)!
I was in business! Well, sort of. A table saw is good, but it’s going to take more than that. My plan is to build (like everybody else it seems) a Holtzappfel type bench. THEN I can start buildings some real furniture (my wife is making a list and I work all day on a piece of crap kitchen table from Ikea). So I’m either going to need to spend years with a set of handplanes, or get a jointer and a planer.
I decide to be lazy and get a jointer and a planer. After a lot of research I decided to get a Grizzly 0490X with the spherical cutter head. Price was good and I didn’t fancy hassling with straight knives. So it arrived last week. First problem was when UPS called me and said they were ready to deliver it – did I have a forklift? Um, no. “Curbside service” meant, apparently, that they pulled up to the curb then looked at me expectantly. Yikes. Thing was on a pallet in two boxes, one 150 pounds, the other 400!
Well, turned out I DID know someone who owned a forklift, a local contractor who builds and maintains seawalls (lakewalls really). He was willing to help out for a small fee. But when UPS arrived his forklift was DOA. But he had a bobcat with bucket. “Don’t worry” he said, “piece of cake”. So he trundled up with the bobcat. We managed to load the cabinet box (ONLY 150 pounds) into the bucket without too much hassle, walked it down and deposited in gently on the garage floor.
Now the jointer bed. That didn’t go so smoothly. When we tried to move it from the truck into the bucket we underestimated how much momentum that sucker had and it almost tumbled off. Eye-bugging moment as we steadied it. Second try was better and we go it into the bucket. Then walked it to garage and ever so gently decanted it onto the floor. Whew! Mission accomplished.
Coming in for a landing!
The plywood box with the jointer bed was a little cracked on one corner, but but with the lid pried open it was pretty clear it was undamaged.
Next was getting it assembled. That proved … interesting.
Once again, even handling the cabinet was challenging. Helpful neighbor wasn’t around so what to do? First instructions were “with the help of another person, turn it upside down, remove the box, then turn it back over again”. Well, that seemed like the hard way to do it. So I pulled out my trusty pocket knife and slowly cut my way around the base of the box the cabinet was in. This was not easy as it was a very robust “cardboard” box, a dense, half-inch cardboard with very dense 1/8” cardboard reinforcements on each edge. But by sawing away I managed to cut the sides of the box free from the bottom. About halfway through I realized that I was destroying the packaging. If the jointer was damaged how could I send it back? Oh well, too late anyway. I wasn’t going to put the crappy plywood box back together again, anyway.
I then mounted the wheels and dismounted the motor, which was bolted to the inside of the top for shipping. Easy enough, this was going to be a piece of cake (ha). Then I needed to put it back on its side – while not letting the heavy motor tumble about. “Another person” should hold the motor, according to the manual. Hm, nobody about. Quick! To the bungees! I grabbed a couple and lashed the motor to its future mounts and slowly tilted it onto its side. I then bolted it to its mounts and heaved it back on its base, now complete with wheels. Great, this really would be easy. Somewhere the gods chuckled.
Now I had to get the 300+ pound bed up on the cabinet. Back to the phone and my contact with the bobcat came back with a couple of guys to lift the bed into place. The bed was supposedly bolted to the crate, but the crate was so flimsy that at some point it had buckled and pulled the washer and bolt through the bottom. You’d think they could spring for a couple of decent sheets of 1/2” ply, but cost is cost. So two of them grabbed it and lifted it up and we guided it into place.
Once the bed was on the cabinet, it was simple to bolt it down. Then, mount the control column and the fence carriage. I was on a roll now. Mounted the cutterhead and motor pulleys without difficulty. Now, let’s see: “Wrap the ribbed belt around the cutterhead pulley and the motor pulley”. Check. “Loosen the bolts holding the motor and let it slip down, tensioning the belt. Now tighten the belt”. Check. Turn the motor a number of turns and … the belt starts crabbing off. What the hey? Repeat process, same result. Hm. “Ensure the pulleys align by visually inspecting their alignment”. Easy enough if you are superman, but I can’t see through cast iron and 1/8” steel, so that didn’t work. Finally figured out to wiggle my thick steel straightedge up to check if the two pulleys were aligned. I put my small Stabila level on the straightedge and checked. Yep, perfectly plumb. Now what?
There ensued a frustrating eternity (half hour) of grunting, straining, sweating, swearing and generally futilely trying to convince the two pulleys to align with the belt tensioned and still keep the belt on. I figured out fairly quickly that I somehow had to also ensure that not only did the pulleys have to be aligned, but the shafts needed to be parallel. But how? I loosened every bolt, pulled, tugged and wiggled to no avail. I eventually realized that the lower rail of the motor mount was not machined quite right and was preventing me from getting the shafts parallel. So I took the damn thing off entirely and pushed and pulled. In so doing the light finally dawned that the right way to ensure it was all good to go was put the level on the straightedge, place it flush against the cutterhead pulley, then check that not only was the straightedge plumb, but also that the other end of the straightedge was exactly flush across the entire face of the motor pulley as well. If these conditions were met, then the pulleys were aligned and the shafts parallel.
I achieve this, replaced the other motor-mount (inverting it so it fit better) tightened the whole shebang and I was in business! Be nice if Grizzly had added this little tip to their manual.
So now it was time to remove the grease and paper and generally clean up the jointer for the homestretch. Well, the cleanup took a little while. Apparently, when the jointer is completed in China they have a person with a bucket of grease and a small brush with instructions to swab grease on each and every surface that looks like it is not painted. And they do. There was grease everywhere! Getting it off the flat beds was easy, but everywhere else? Yikes. And the spiral cutterhead? OMG, getting it off the cutterhead was a bear (tip: use a toothbrush and patience). I finally finished (more or less) but it took me the better part of 2 hours to get it all off. It is nice that they do this – wouldn’t want to have rust on the machined cast iron. But did he have to grease the galvanized wrenches they supplied? And the anodized bolts? And the blued Allen keys?
But it was finally done and I then truly was on the homestretch, mounting the fence and other bits (and cleaning more grease every five minutes). And then I was done. The jointer gleamed and it looked really nice. Beautifully machined. Putting my Starrett straightedge on the beds there isn’t a glimmer of light underneath. No way to get a 0.002” feeler gauge underneath it. Nice.
Sorry that there aren’t any photos of the process. Between my frustrations, sweat and grease, I didn’t really think about picking up my camera. But here’s the beast.
Then the real test. Ran a piece of Afromosia through it. Slid through with almost no resistance, honing the board flat and glassy smooth. And quiet? I was amazed how quiet. Thought it would be really loud but it wasn’t. Hooray.
Next, getting the planer up and running so I can actually start building my bench.
-- Ric, Northern Illinois, "Design thrice, measure twice, cut once... slap forehead, start over"