|Review by Jarrhead||posted 03-07-2010 05:29 PM||10663 views||0 times favorited||7 comments|
When I started wood working, a drill press was one of my first tool acquisitions. I bought a Delta 12 inch benchtop model, that has served me well, and continues to do so. Last year when I embarked on the “21st Century Workbench” project (see my project posts), I knew that the little Delta wasn’t going to be up to the task. It doesn’t have the necessary spindle travel to get through 3 inches of lumber, which was required for drilling the dog holes. There had been a few other instances when more capacity was required, so I set out to upgrade. I narrowed it down to two. The Powermatic 18” model (of which there is another review on this site), and the Jet JDP-17DX. Obviously, I opted for the Jet. The primary consideration was cost. The Jet was almost half the cost of the PM. The PM had features that, although nice, I suspected I would rarely use. Most significantly, the electronic speed control. I rarely need to change the speed on my drill press, so when I do, switching belts isn’t that big a deal. Overall, I would say that I am only moderately satisfied with this product. It boasts a “laser crosshair guide” that has limited usefulness. To start with, when the machine arrived, it was nowhere near properly adjusted. I tried for hours to adjust it according to the user’s manual, to no avail. The laser did not react to the adjustments as the manual suggested. I finally called Jet, and their technical department said, “Oh yeah, we’ve had some problems with some of those units”. They were great about sending me a replacement, which worked as advertised, kind of. I was able to get the crosshairs zeroed according to the manual. However, I have found that when you raise or lower the table, the “zero” does not remain constant. To use it at varying table heights, you need to adjust it at each height, which totally negates the usefulness of the feature, IMHO.
The other thing I find negative about this machine is the chuck. To put it simply, it “binds”. The collar does not rotate freely independent of the rest of the chuck body. So, unlike my much cheaper Delta, I cannot make rapid adjustments for differing sizes of drill bits. On the Delta, I can spin the collar with one hand while holding the bit with the other until it snugs down. Only the collar spins, the rest of the chuck remains motionless as the palls expand or contract, depending on whether I am loosening or tightening. Once the palls engage the bit, then I tighten with the chuck key. On the Jet, I have to hold the body of the chuck while I spin the collar. Otherwise, the friction spins the whole chuck, spindle, belts, and motor. It is very frustrating.
The last shortcoming I will note, is the table adjustment. It is somewhat difficult to raise or lower the table, and when you need to rotate the table to one side or the other for special clearance or such, the piece that the gear meshes with on the post tends to bind. I had similar issues with the Delta, although I will say that the table raises and lowers easier on the smaller machine. That is probably directly proportional to the difference in the weight of the tables. Both machines have the crank handle that effects those adjustments too close to the table. There are serious clearance issues for that crank, which are compounded when a larger sacrificial table is mounted.
In the end, the Jet JDP-17DX, does most of what it was engineered to do without too much trouble. I think there are better options out there though.