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Serious Imperfection

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Review by Purrmaster posted 10-05-2013 10:50 AM 4820 views 0 times favorited 44 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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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.




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Purrmaster

799 posts in 749 days



44 comments so far

View grumpy749's profile

grumpy749

216 posts in 1033 days


#1 posted 10-05-2013 02:16 PM

I’m sure you know this but its worth stating, make sure you joint with the grain and not against it. I agree harbor freight tools are junk. That’s why everything is half price. Just my opinion !

-- Denis in Grande Prairie. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mistery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.....Pink !

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cabmaker

1311 posts in 1465 days


#2 posted 10-05-2013 02:40 PM

I hope your brush with sub standard machinery does not keep you from enjoying your pursuit but I can only be sympathetic with your experiance due to you seeking advise and reviews from forum circles

If you ask enough people you will always find support for bad decisions.

Harbor freight is clearly sub standard, but that is not to say that you can’t find a few items there that are usable.some refer to these few items as gems. I have another name for them.

If your looking for decent machinery, harbor freight is not your store. Even if you have no expectation you may be disappointed.

JB

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Dusty56

11659 posts in 2344 days


#3 posted 10-05-2013 04:43 PM

”....or wobble much” ?
Are you saying that the jointer itself wobbles , or it is sitting on an uneven floor ?

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View mcfr's profile

mcfr

6 posts in 353 days


#4 posted 10-05-2013 04:43 PM

I feel your pain although in a different way. I agree harbor freight has its place. I have gotten some tools there and have had good luck. I needed to repair a air framing nailer that was leaking. After some searching I found that the repair kit from Bostitch worked perfectly. As for a planer I purchased a Craftsman 6 1/8 that worked but needed some tlc. Only to find out the infeed table will not level because the f dovetail is broken. I figured no problem as it is a craftsman I will just order the part. Now the bad—they do not make replacement parts for it anymore so I have a perfectly good working jointer that I cannot use. So I am not in any better shape right now than if I had the harbor freight planer. Anyone know where to look for parts for a 113.232211 jointer???

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mantwi

312 posts in 552 days


#5 posted 10-05-2013 04:48 PM

I had one of those about 24 years ago but my experience was different. I got rid of the open stand and made an enclosed base with dust collection, major improvement. As you said the castings were well within tolerance so there was no issue with the alignment. I’ve always liked end mounted fences they give you a longer bearing surface and that’s always a good thing. Replacing knives is a pain no matter what system is used to bring them into alignment. Just lightly snug the knives then pry them up or tap them down with a wooden block. After they are all set at top dead center torque em down then you can use a ceramic stone laid on the outfeed table to hone them into perfect level. (by moving the stone lengthwise on the blade not by running the machine) Mine left a very smooth surface. The only thing I really didn’t like about it was the plastic handwheels, I just hate plastic on a machine. I think a lot of your issues are due to not knowing how to properly set up a jointer and that can effect any machine regardless of cost. And please, always, I mean always check the knives on any new machine to make sure they securely installed. Loose knives or other bolts aren’t just a harbor freight problem. It’s a human problem.

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jcwalleye

290 posts in 1729 days


#6 posted 10-05-2013 07:22 PM

I’m a bit confused by your comment:

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.

I don’t know of any circumstance where you’d try to joint 1/4” or 1/2”. I imagine only the highest end production equipment would try to take that bite at once. I rarely take more than 1/32” off at a time. It takes a lot of passes, but that’s the best way I’ve found to minimize chip-out.

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View jumbojack's profile

jumbojack

1182 posts in 1280 days


#7 posted 10-05-2013 10:03 PM

you sure the blades are oriented the correct way. I had one of those jointers and it did a very serviceable job for me. I bought it used and it needed a little tweeking. I pulled the blades and sharpened them myself, an easy job. The knives were pretty easy to set with a jointer pal. Depth of cut could be a problem as you mentioned 1/4” cut. About the most I ever take is 1/8 and I consider that hogging off some face grain. Anything deeper than that and I EXPECT tearout. As to the scalloping, this sound more like a feed rate issue. If you dawdle the material thorugh it is prone to scallop. Increase your feed rate.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

3407 posts in 1850 days


#8 posted 10-05-2013 10:32 PM

Hell. it’s made in China…...What did you expect from Harbor Freight…..? Nothing but junk in the way of power tools…....Your’s is not the first story I’ve heard and read about…....Prolly won’t be the last…...

-- " I started with nothing, and I've still got most of it left".......

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CharlesA

1436 posts in 454 days


#9 posted 10-05-2013 10:55 PM

It appears that HF no longer carries this (or any) jointer. At least I can’t find one on their website.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View Dallas's profile

Dallas

2908 posts in 1143 days


#10 posted 10-05-2013 11:16 PM

Here I go again…...
It’s a poor workman that blames his tools.

I use to buy Globemaster tools when I was young and broke.
They worked for what they were meant to do, but not for long.

If you had read more than one article on using a Jointer, you may have learned that anything more than 1/64” to 1/16” is about as much as any non commercial machine should be expected to take.

1/4 to 1/2” are you kidding? what do you think it is, some kind of super table saw blade?

Instead of giving a bad review, how about learning about how operator error is often to blame.

And for the ones who “Squealed Like A Pig” when HF was mentioned, until you use some of those tools be quiet.
There are several threads about HF tool reviews. Read them. Learn from them. Embrace them.
I would like to know how many of you have absolutely no chinese built products in your house, vehicles or shop?

Even the food you eat often comes from China and it ain’t killed you yet! LOL

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View JustJoe's profile

JustJoe

1554 posts in 694 days


#11 posted 10-05-2013 11:40 PM

Here I go again……
It’s a poor workman that blames his tools.

and it’s a poor tutor who tells a student that the tool is never wrong.

If you had read more than one article on using a Jointer, you may have learned that anything more than 1/64” to 1/16” is about as much as any non commercial machine should be expected to take.
and if you had read the whole review you’d have caught this line:
  • 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 realize I’m just a newb here compared to you, but if your entire mantra is to never blame the tool, then why bother commenting on any tool review? What can you add to the review? Doesn’t matter if the reviewer praised it or panned it, you aren’t going to blame the tool.

I’m beginning to wonder if I missed some clause in the forum enrollment that said we could only give 4-5 star reviews, because it seems now that every bad review brings an instant attack against the reviewer for having the nerve to disparage someone else’s favorite maker, or it brings philosophical BS like “it’s a poor workman…”

-- This Ad Space For Sale! Your Ad Here! Reach a targeted audience! Affordable Rates, easy financing! Contact an ad represenative today at JustJoe's Advertising Consortium.

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Dallas

2908 posts in 1143 days


#12 posted 10-06-2013 12:10 AM

Just Joe that is what would give me my first clue that I am doing something wrong. Then I look for a reason what I am doing it wrong.

If it turns out that it isn’t me, HF has an excellent return policy I am not afraid to take advantage of, BUT condemning a tool that doesn’t do what you think it should because it wasn’t built to do it is just wrong.
Many reviews of that particular jointer aren’t great, but are at least very acceptable.
The first place I would have gone is HF customer care.

Notice, the OP hasn’t bothered to answer anything on his own thread.
HF is not my favorite “maker” by the way, I don’t personally have one, but as some other posters immediately discounted any item made by the Chinese as ”Junk”. The majority of what you have is made in China or some other Pacific Rim country.

I don’t have a problem with low star reviews. What I have a problem with is reviewers that don’t include all the information they have, giving poor reviews because they haven’t done due diligence, or giving poor reviews because they were too lazy to contact customer support.

HF has a 90 day guarantee….. If the OP didn’t know he had a problem in that time, that is his fault. Waiting two years to try to give a poor review is nonsensical.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

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casual1carpenter

353 posts in 1132 days


#13 posted 10-06-2013 01:26 AM

Dallas, when you say, ” that is what would give me my first clue that I am doing something wrong. Then I look for a reason what I am doing it wrong.” I have to agree with JustJoe, this particular Jointer is not behaving if you are taking light cuts just barely more than 0, and having issues.

Purrmaster stated that “the 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.” At the least the jointer needs better assembly instructions for a machine spinning blades at, what 4000+ RPM. Perhaps the issues stem from some operator error as you assume or perhaps they come in some part from improper parts, casting, machining, or assembly. Missing parts and inadequate documentation by themselves are enough for a 2 star or less review, and that is without consideration for the performance issues that he was not able to resolve.

Pacific Rim does not mean bad in and of itself, I will agree with you there. But kindly remember that all Pacific Rim manufacturing does not hold to the same Quality Control, specifications and standards.

View mantwi's profile

mantwi

312 posts in 552 days


#14 posted 10-06-2013 01:34 AM

Just Joe, I have to agree with Dallas on this one. I think the reviewers complaints were slightly exaggerated at best. I know guys who couldn’t get a properly jointed edge regardless of what manufacturer made the jointer. Their technique is that bad and I suspect it has a lot to do with this guys results too. Harbor freight makes low end tools, we all know that. Even the ones that work have their drawbacks but these can be compensated for with a little research and ingenuity. This guy seems to be clueless even his recommendations are ambiguous. If you don’t know any better this might be for you but then again maybe not. It’s hard to take him serious. As for dogging Harbor Freight I think it should be clear that any tool or machine that is purchased for a fraction of the going cost is going to be less than perfect and if your not willing or able to make any modifications required to get the performance out of it you need than don’t buy it. Save your money and buy a Powermatic or Delta or other major brand machines that are made in Taiwan or China just like the Harbor Freight but with better on the ground oversight from the company who’s name is on the label. If on the other hand I get a hold of a Powermatic or Jet or Delta or even Grizzly machine that’s a dog I’ll complain long and loud. These manufacturers have solid reputations and you have a right to expect exceptional performance from their equipment. It’s what you pay for that’s why brands like Ridgid, Craftsman etc get no mercy from me. They give the impression that their stuff is top of the line and when it’s not they should be called for it. I don’t think Harbor Freight ever has that problem, people know what it is going in.

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Purrmaster

799 posts in 749 days


#15 posted 10-06-2013 01:49 AM

Ok, a bit of clarification here:

I’ve never set it to take 1/4 or 1/2 inch off. My setting has been about just about 1 mm shy of the zero mark on the depth scale. I mention the greater depths because 1/2 inch is only halfway on the depth scale it says it can take off.

As far as my study on jointers…. I read as much information on the web as I could. A book’s equivalent worth. I also posted for assistance on several forums. I also read at least 3 books on jointers. I am not an expert on jointers even so. If I was I would probably have figured out some way to make the thing work properly. Hence why I said if someone was good with jointers this might be worth a try for that person.

I don’t have an ideology as far as brands go. I don’t have a hate on for Harbor Freight. Quite the opposite, really. I shop there frequently. I think some of their tools are quite good, including some power tools. In many cases I think their price to performance ratio is excellent.

I also don’t have an ideology as far as origin of tools. You can get quality products from China and crap products from elsewhere. And vice versa. This will probably piss off even more people but…. my SawStop is made in Taiwan and I love the thing.

As far as wobbling… no, it doesn’t wobble under the majority of circumstances. It’s one of the good things about it. It’s heavy enough to be steady. The stand was a pain to put together but once assembled it’s been fine.

Harbor Freight still carries it. It’s not listed on the website but you can get it at the store. There are several items listed on the website that are still available. I don’t know why.

As I said I am not a jointer expert. Even so, I learned as much as I could and have put many hours into tweaking, checking, and adjusting the jointer. I sharpened several different sets of blades well beyond 2,500 grit. I am open to the idea that I have screwed something up. But I have tried and tried and tried to get this machine to cooperate.

If someone would be kind enough to come over and help me fiddle the thing into workability I would be most grateful.

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