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Powermatic 54A 6” Jointer

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Review by PeteMoss posted 01-07-2010 10:35 PM 12477 views 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Powermatic 54A 6” Jointer Powermatic 54A 6” Jointer Powermatic 54A 6” Jointer Click the pictures to enlarge them

Jointer Overview:

I decided to purchase a jointer for my home workshop. I did a LOT of online research and talked to as many local folks as I could trying to make sure I made the best purchase. I considered the value of Gizzly, the somewhat less expensive Jet models available, looked for quality OLD jointers to restore, plus a dozen more possibilities. I wanted an 8” model but couldn’t quite swing it. In the end it came down to a four-day 15% off sale on Jet and Powermatic at my local Woodcraft. I really didn’t want to spend this much on any 6” jointer but with the discount, the promise of a yellow tool in my basement, the extra long sixty-six inch tables, and the potential (at least inside my mind) for a better resale value on the Powermatic, I placed my order.

Ordering and Delivery:

Ordering the unit at my local Woodcraft store was no problem, I was in and out in about ten minutes. Someone purchased the floor model about thirty minutes before I arrived at the store, but this was okay as I would rather have one new in the box that I set up myself. They told me it would take seven days to come in, but it took fourteen. The truth is with that big sale WHM Group probably did have a lot of orders they had to get out. Anyway, the machine came in at the store and I went to pick it up. Doing it this way you don’t have to pay for shipping, but you do of course have to pay sales tax.

Assembly:

I had a large friend of mine help me unload the jointer from my pickup once I got back to the house. This was actually pretty difficult. I knew it came in two containers, so I though it wouldn’t be too bad, but as it turns out one container held the base and weighed about sixty pounds and everything else was in the other box, which was over two hundred pounds. This normally wouldn’t be too bad but there was just really no good way to get hold of it. The jointer was packed in a cardboard box and then in a one piece molded Styrofoam insert. It was good packaging and there was no damage. But because the unit comes pretty much completely assembled (except for the fence) and because it was upside-down in the Styrofoam it was unusually hard to get out of the box and then flipped over onto the base correctly.

Once set on the base, the physical assembly of the jointer was very easy. It only required mounting the jointer to the base, installing the belt, back door, and fence. The instruction manual was thorough and covered this well.

Adjustments:

After assembly I began going through the adjustments. This is where things started going sour. I tried checking the tables to make sure they were flat, coplanar, and all that jazz. They looked pretty good with the basic tools that I have, but I don’t really have the necessary tools to guarantee that. I don’t even have a set of feeler gauges. Then it came time to set the outfeed table height even with one of the blades. It was supposed to be set form the factory but mine was slightly off. When I tried to adjust it, the table would not move. There are about five gib adjustment screws on the outfeed table and I suppose that they had been tightened down too much at the factory thus locking the table in place. I started to tinker with it but then just decided that since I had to adjust the knives anyway that I would just adjust them all to match the outfeed table at its current position.

One of the things that drew me to this particular jointer was that it was touted to have Quick-Set knives. I mistakenly thought that this mean it was like a lunchbox planer and I would set the knife in place, tighten it down with no adjustment, and it would be ready to go. This is not correct. The knives still have to be adjusted in and out. It just means that there are two rotatable cams per knife that you can turn to very minutely push the blade out on each end. This sounds good in theory but it actually stinks. There are two major problems. One is that the cam will push the blade out, but not pull it in. So if you need to lower the blade you really have to start over by lowering it too far, manually pushing the blade down to seat on the cam, then using the cam to try and raise it back to the right level. Secondly, and more annoyingly, is that you cannot turn the cam while the blade is rotated into a position that you can measure it. So you might, for example, determine that the front of the blade needs to go up a little. Then you will have to rotate the cutterhead about an eighth turn to give you access to the cam, make your guestimated cam adjustment, rotate the cutterhead back, and see if you got it right or not. Repeat, repeat, repeat…… Then tighten the blades down and hope that they don’t move while being tightened.

I then began the adjustments for setting the fence tilt stops for zero degrees and forty-five degrees both forward and backward. The problem here is that the zero degree stop is a piece of metal that flips in and out and is somewhat flimsy and even after setting it, when you tilt the fence and then move it back to zero, it isn’t really at zero. So, I just gave up and decided that I would manually set the thing to zero each time with a square. I didn’t even try on the forty-five degree stops.

Usage and Impressions:

First off let me say that I have zero experience with a jointer, so please take my two cents with a grain of salt. The jointer seems to be quite sturdy. It is made of good heavy cast iron and the base is heavy duty. The base has the more appealing solid molded look to it rather than the stamped steel look. The 66 inch jointer tables are long for a six-inch jointer. This is certainly a benefit. Everything seems to be well built, though not factory adjusted as well as I would have liked. My one complaint around the fit and finish is that the paint job on the jointer itself was not all that great. I used alcohol to clean some gunk off it and it did remove paint to some degree. Also, in one closeup picture you can see where the paint on the beveled edges near the table surface is chipping off badly. I really think they should have probably masked that beveled area and let it be bare cast iron anyway. I guess it will be before long. The paint job on the base was very well done.

In usage it runs smoothly and had no problem with some six-inch wide hard maple that I ran over it with a light cut. The surfaces that come off it seem to be very flat and straight. Anyway the short of it is that I don’t have any complaints at all in usage. I really do like the machine for doing what it is supposed to do, making stock straight, flat, and square. I hope that as I use it over time the knife adjustment process and a few other annoyances will get easier with time.

-- "Never measure......cut as many times as necessary." - PeteMoss




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PeteMoss

207 posts in 2157 days



11 comments so far

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JasonIndy

186 posts in 2122 days


#1 posted 01-07-2010 11:12 PM

Good review, thanks for putting in the time.

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Beginningwoodworker

13342 posts in 2360 days


#2 posted 01-07-2010 11:15 PM

Great review.

-- CJIII Future cabinetmaker

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CreekWoodworker

409 posts in 1985 days


#3 posted 01-08-2010 02:15 AM

Nice review. You got to love the extended table it looks awesome. I could of written you first paragraph, except I was looking for a bandsaw. I ended up getting the Powermatic 14” at the same Black Friday Sale at Woodcraft. 15% off, no delivery charges, and free riser block. I actually ordered two weeks earlier but they honored the sale price and I was able to pick it up before Thanksgiving. Did they throw in a free Powermatic sign?? I wasn’t expecting that when I got mine.

-- Mike ...Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction

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PeteMoss

207 posts in 2157 days


#4 posted 01-08-2010 04:37 PM

Mike: That’s great, I’m glad they honored the sale for you. 15% on machinery is a huge discount. No, I didn’t get a Powermatic sign, bummer. In fact the only freebies that I think I’ve ever gotten were a Fetsool hat and shirt once. It better than nothing I guess.

BoardSMITH: Dude! You’re supposed to be making me feel all warm and fuzzy with this thing. You should be telling me the positives and letting me know that my issues aren’t really that bad and that it gets easier with time. Man, you guys that just have to tell the truth….... :)

-- "Never measure......cut as many times as necessary." - PeteMoss

View Sodbuster's profile

Sodbuster

38 posts in 1737 days


#5 posted 01-18-2010 08:18 AM

I’m having some of the same problems as BoardSMITH, especially the part about the infeed table drooping again and again over 2 years. While I really like the long beds, I think the adjusting mechanism, spindly gib screws engaging a mild steel gib bar, aren’t up to supporting the weight leveraged that far out. Because they wouldn’t send me a drawing that was actually readable (the one in the manual is too crude) I had to disassemble the machine to see what was going on. Besides the gib bar being sprung, there was an area on the cast ways that was never finished by a milling machine. They sent me a new gib bar, but while reassembling the machine, which requires removing the cutter head, a little too much torque cracked the, in my opinion, fragile cast bearing block. Now I get to wait for another part, and see what help the tech rep has in mind to get and keep the tables coplanar. At some point, I may be able to joint some boards.

-- M Clark, Georgia

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Bertha

12951 posts in 1380 days


#6 posted 08-07-2011 12:53 AM

I just bought a 2008 model and had all the problems you mention, then some. Does your microadjust on the infeed table work? Does the crank easily move the infeed ways? I completely disassembled mine, knocked down the horrible casting on the mating surface, seafoamed it, lubed it, and it still takes an act of God to move.

The boards the things spit out are fantastic. And it runs uncommonly smooth. Dust collection? forget it.

I’d give it a 4/5 for the boards it produces. 2/5 at best for everything else.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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Grandpa

3182 posts in 1362 days


#7 posted 08-07-2011 01:09 AM

Good review. The only Powermatic jointer I have used was an 8” and it was painted green. It had a lot of wear and tear on it but it still functioned well when you got it set up.

View Sodbuster's profile

Sodbuster

38 posts in 1737 days


#8 posted 08-07-2011 01:32 AM

I should have updated my review earlier than this, but better late than never. Microadjust none too good, and even with a thorough lube job, the infeed ways are stubborn. On the other hand, the new gib bar has so far kept the tables parallel, but with the cranky infeed adjustment problems, I’m gunshy and don’t adjust the depth of cut anymore; just make more passes. The machine looks great, but I wish I had a green one. As most of the folks at Woodweb.com suggest, but used American made!

-- M Clark, Georgia

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Bertha

12951 posts in 1380 days


#9 posted 08-07-2011 02:38 AM

I’m with you, Sodbuster. I wish I’d held out for a green one. I’ve got mine set to a clean 1/32 and I hope to God I never have to change it. I’m not in the mood for profanity and deadblow hammers.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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coloradoclimber

548 posts in 2754 days


#10 posted 08-07-2011 05:44 PM

I’ll offer a counter experience on the depth of cut adjustment. I have this jointer and I’ve never had a problem with adjusting the depth of cut. When I first bought this jointer I was used to using a hand wheel to adjust the depth of cut so I was not sure what I thought of this handle thingy. Now I really like it. I can make large adjustments quickly, full travel, by pushing the lever up and down and then tune the final position by twisting the handle. With a hand wheel you are cranking all day to make a large adjustment (but to be fair I almost never ever adjust the depth off of 1/32).

I’ve never had a problem with my adjuster handle and it works smooth and easy. Sounds like it might be worth checking before buying but there is at least one out there (mine) that works well.

I use a 3 hp bag type dust collector and it sucks every crumb out of this jointer. Even when I don’t use a dust collector, just making a few quick cuts and all that, I still don’t get chips on my infeed. I do get chips coming out between the table and the base but nothing back up on the table. Sounds like YMMV.

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PeteMoss

207 posts in 2157 days


#11 posted 09-06-2011 05:38 PM

Sorry, for taking so long to respond. I have been away for a while.

My experience to this point is that the infeed table adjusts with no problem (assuming I remember to loosen the gib locking screw on the back before adjusting). I actually really like the lever style adjuster. I have had issues with the tables sagging. I’m not sure which side actually, but I have shimmed the outfeed side to compensate. It looks like it is about time to do it again….I’m not very happy about that either.

As for dust collection, I use a 3HP cyclone and it does suck everything out of the cabinet. It doesn’t have very good airflow at the cutterhead though and so a lot of chips get thrown off the infeed end of the machine. I think this is mainly because it has a simple dust chute rather than actual ducting up to the cutterhead. I imagine a lot of airflow is lost because of that. I suppose I could try sealing some of the openings to help that, but I have been too lazy.

Again, their quick-set knife adjustments suck out loud.

Overall, the machine does work and is much better than the way I used to have to flatten stock. I just think it should work a little better for the money.

-- "Never measure......cut as many times as necessary." - PeteMoss

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