|Review by Purrmaster||posted 10-05-2013 10:50 AM||5720 views||0 times favorited||44 comments|
This review is for the Harbor Freight (some call it Central Machinery) item #30289. 6” free standing jointer.
I’ve had this thing for about 2 years now. It has probably been the most frustrating tool I have but it has also come in handy.
This was my first serious woodworking power tool. I’ve read some reviews that said it was basic, but pretty good.
I got this because I needed a jointer and it was the only one I could afford. Every other jointer that wasn’t a benchtop model was about twice as much as this thing. And I had read that while benchtop planers are ok, benchtop jointers are not.
If I had to do it all over again I wouldn’t get this jointer. It’s driven me nuts on many occasions. Even with all of the tweaking and studying I’ve done it still doesn’t work very well.
Assembly was a nightmare. It took forever, mostly because the instructions were terrible. Figuring out where to put what was a process in of itself. The actual assembly instructions were too short and the operating and tuning instructions are non-existent. The parts list and drawing looks like it was done by a 5 year old and Xeroxed about 5,000 times. There were many bolts missing and I had to go procure bolts myself. I also put a link belt on it for smoother operation.
Once everything was put together I tried to run it. It didn’t explode so that was a good sign.
The initial jointing, even with shallow depth pulverized the wood more than it cut it. What wasn’t torn out left a horrible scalloping.
I had the blades sharpened and tried again. They came out of the slots and one end smashed itself to death.
I got some new knives from Holbren. They helped a little. I then got one of the jointer knife setting jigs with magnets. That helped a little.
I got two dial gauges to try and set the knives perfectly but then discovered it has no jack screws. No fine tuning. The only way to set the knife height was to tighten down the set screws. Which in itself tended to screw up the height of the knife.
Eventually I got the Veritas honing jig and sharpened knives myself. That helped a little.
At this point I can sometimes get it to straighten the edge of a board. If I run the face of the board over it I will get massive tearout and plenty of scalloping. This is when I take a cut that let’s just barely more than 0. I assume if I tried to set it to something like 1/4” or 1/2” it would rip the wood into a thousand pieces. The desire to smash it with a bat comes up often. Dust collection is a bad joke.
I’m sure there are some tuning steps I could take to improve it but I’ve tried everything I can find out.
But, to be fair, it’s not all bad. Here are some good things:
It’s nice and heavy so it doesn’t move around or wobble much. The beds themselves are flat enough. I’ve checked them with two straight edges. But I’m pretty sure the beds are sagging now (they weren’t in the beginning)
It seems to have enough horsepower. On the few occasions I ran the face of a board over it didn’t bog and the cutters kept on cutting.
It’s been reliable. It hasn’t had heavy use but (with the exception of the sagging tables) but it hasn’t given me any trouble mechanically.
It’s the cheapest free standing jointer I’ve seen. If you can find it on sale use a 20% coupon the machine is very affordable.
My recommendation is this: If you know a lot about jointers and are looking for a cheap but sturdy one this may be worth a look Otherwise, pass this by.