I have to choose between a long-bed jointer and a short-bed jointer. Help!

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Forum topic by Peter posted 02-27-2008 04:44 PM 4681 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Peter's profile


23 posts in 4315 days

02-27-2008 04:44 PM

Topic tags/keywords: powermatic jointer used equipment long-bed short-bed

I have an opportunity to purchase a 2002 Powermatic 54A 6” jointer for $550 (new they cost $800). A good friend of mine is recommending that I look at the Grizzly or Jet which I could purchase for the same price but get a brand new machine. The bed on teh Powermatic is 66” long while the other units are ~ 44-46” long.
In a nut shell, since this will be my first jointer I would like to know other folk’s opinion. How important is the longer bed? Is it more important to get an 8” jointer? Would a new machine be your recommendation over a used machine?
If you have used the powermatic jointer, are there any shortcomings to the unit? What should I look for when I am inspecting the used machine?

Any help or thoughts would be tremendous.

Thanks to all,


-- ~Peter

15 replies so far

View Belle City Woodworking's profile

Belle City Woodworking

356 posts in 4219 days

#1 posted 02-27-2008 04:54 PM

If you are going to buy a 6” jointer, I would buy the Powermatic and not look back!


-- Formerly known as John's Woodshop - and NO not the one from Ohio!

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4517 days

#2 posted 02-27-2008 04:56 PM

Run out and get the long bed today before it gets snatched up. Good used tools are hard to find.

View SPalm's profile


5325 posts in 4084 days

#3 posted 02-27-2008 04:58 PM

I went through that same dilemma just recently. I just got my new Powermatic 54A set up last weekend. I certainly have not put much wood through it but, WOW !!, what a beautiful machine. The fit and finish are fantastic, from the base on up. The reasons I chose it over the Grizzly are the know quality, the long bed (and it is really long), and I personally did not want over 1.5 hp so I did not have to do any special wiring. I am sure I will like to have the extra 2 inches of width in the future, but for a hobby shop, it is a joy to own.

The length of the bed is only really needed if you want to joint long boards. I would say grab it while you can. I doubt you will look at it someday and wish you had bought a cheaper new one.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4024 days

#4 posted 02-27-2008 05:01 PM

Hi Peter,

I bought the 54A about 3 years ago and while it works fine already wish I had gone with the 8”. The longer bed is an advantage when working with longer lumber but I am generally working with lengths of 5’ or less so it doesn’t come into play very often. With the 66” bed you can reasonably handle 9’ material but it will be awkward.

As far as shortcomings go the 54A works fine for me. It did have some vibration problems but I aligned the upper and lower pulleys and it seemed to resolve the issue. Its dust collection is ok. I get some bypass from the knives and around the top of the tool but this is only a minor issue.

My recommendation is to go with the 8” model. New or used is your choice. I tend to buy new vehicles so I go with new tools as well. With a used tool you are going to have some issues- bed rust, nicked knives, scratches, etc. If you can live with these then you will save some $$$. But, like buying a used car, I generally don’t buy used tools unless I get a real bargain.

Hope this helps.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3947 days

#5 posted 02-27-2008 05:15 PM

I bought a new Powermatic about 5-6 years ago and I couldn’t be happier with it. I’ve had no problems. I went through the set up when I got it and didn’t have to adjust anything. You get what you pay for and that’s why Powermatic is at the top of the line. I do more long than wide boards, mainly because quarter sawn white oak is hard to find in very wide boards. If I do have wide boards that I want to use, I just flatten on side with my hand planes and run it through my thickness planer. Like some have already said, just check it out good before you buy.

View DaveH's profile


400 posts in 3981 days

#6 posted 02-27-2008 05:18 PM

I’d take a look at the Grizzly 8

-- DaveH - Boise, Idaho - “How hard can it be? It's only wood!”

View Mark E.'s profile

Mark E.

387 posts in 3945 days

#7 posted 02-27-2008 05:19 PM

My preference would be for a wider 8” model. The extra 2 inches of width would probably be more useful more often then the extra bed length.

If you do decide to get an 8”, the Grizzly G0586 model has a 75” bed length. Wider and longer, but, a little more than $550.00 you can get the used 54A for.

-- Mark

View caocian's profile


47 posts in 4589 days

#8 posted 02-27-2008 05:30 PM

I own the Powermatic and it’s a great machine. But, as others have said, I wish I’d held out for an 8” model. No complaints about the Powermatic – I did the same modifications as Scott, above, to decrease some vibration issues. Runs smooth as silk today and the extra long bed is fantastic. Just wish I had more width.

View coloradoclimber's profile


548 posts in 4270 days

#9 posted 02-27-2008 05:44 PM


I have that exact jointer, the PM-54A. I’ll start off with the positive, I really like this jointer. It is an excellent compromise of size, cost, and quality. When I say compromise it is not because of anything wrong with the jointer. For a 6 inch jointer I think it is the very best straight knife, 6 inch, dovetail ways, long bed jointer you can buy. Obviously I think it is the best, when I bought this jointer new I looked at all of the jointers in this class and spent my hard earned dollars on this one.

So if you want a straight knife long bed 6 inch jointer I think the PM-54A is at the top of the heap. It is heavy, low vibration, the motor is strong, it is well made, every surface is flat and true. It is easy to adjust. It is all things good in it’s category.

Notice how I keep putting in all those caveats, 6 inch, straight knife, and such. Because that is what it is, but that by no means means it is the best of what there is. Other immediately obvious choices are size, 8 inch instead of six, spiral head cutter instead of straight knife, parallelogram tables instead of dovetail ways, and even longer tables and bigger motors.

For my shop size, wood working needs, shop space, etc, I was looking for just what I got, a 6 inch straight knife. If I had a bigger shop, maybe a little more money, worked on bigger projects, I’d probably have been looking for an 8 inch spiral head.

So far the size, 6 inch vs 8 inch, has not really been a problem for me but I have pushed it right up the edges of the knives, 8 inch would be nicer than 6 inch. A spiral cutter will, in general, give less tearout on highly figured woods or wood with changing grain direction. The straight knives definitely are prone to tearout where the grain changes direction. That is probably my biggest beef with what I have. I work with a handful of exotic woods and as often as not I’ll have tearout in one section of the board or another. BTW the same problem exists on the other side of the board as soon as you take it over to your straight knife planer.

A spiral cutter head jointer and planer would be nice.

For me 8 inch would be nice, but the 8 inch jointers I looked at were quite a bit bigger and more money. Not worth it for me for the work I’m doing right now.

The long table is nice if you have the room in your shop. I have jointed some longer boards and aside from the technical purpose of referencing the stock flat the longer tables are just nicer and easier to work on, more support in and out, easier handling of stock.

In this class, 6 inch straight knife, I would recommend the PM-54A over any other. In it’s class I don’t think there are any shortcomings.

What to look for in a used jointer is pretty much the same as you would for any piece of power equipment.

- First, what is the general appearance, are there any obvious signs of abuse, is it dented, badly scratched, bent, warped, twisted, rusted, rattly, ratty, worn out. Or does it look clean and well maintained. If the tool looks like it has been neglected or abused, it probably has been.

- Next check the technical issues. It’s a jointer, jointers make things flat, in order to do that they have to have flat reference surfaces. Take a known straight edge with you. Are the tables flat, and co-planer, or are they warped, cupped, dropping, twisted. Take a straight edge long enough to span the knives and get a feel for infeed to outfeed alignment. Check the fence, is it flat edge to edge and diagonal corner to corner. Jointers also make things perpendicular. Check that the fence can be set easily to 90 degrees to the tables. Can the fence be easily adjusted. Is anything sticky or bent or rusted or bound up.

- Make sure the jointer is unplugged and check the cutter head, does it rotate freely. Any signs of abuse. Does it rattle or in any way feel loose or worn out. Grab the end of the cutter head and push it around. Is it tight or loose.

- Check the knives. Are they nicked a little or a lot. A little bit of wear and tear is expected. Totally chewed up knives is a sign of abuse or improper use.

- Since it is a piece of power equipment check the cord, motor, and belts. First the visual inspection. Look for any obvious signs like worn cords or worn belts. Make sure it is unplugged and rotate the motor by hand. Take the belt cover off, it comes off with two screws, and look at the belts and pulleys while you’re turning the motor. Listen and look, any sounds of grinding or wobbling? Smell the motor. You cant get right up to the motor, at least not very easy, but open the back panel on the stand and put your face right in there and give a big sniff. A little bit of insulation smell is normal. I whole nose full of burnt smell is not.

- Finally turn it on and run it. How does it sound, how does it look. Put your hand on the table while it is running. How does the vibration feel. Run a piece of stock over it, how does it sound. Is it easy and smooth or do you have to fight it.

If everything looked good and sounded good I’d put it in my truck and take it home.

Good luck.

View MrWoody's profile


325 posts in 3977 days

#10 posted 02-27-2008 05:49 PM

IMHO, you want the longest & widest bed you can get on a joiner, so if you have the space get as big as you can afford. I have a 6” and it seves me well, but there are times it would be nice if it was wider.
So to answer your question, if the used machine is in good shape (no rust), buy it or wait for the 8”.

-- If we learn from our mistakes, I'm getting a fantastic education.

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 4077 days

#11 posted 02-27-2008 06:28 PM

I have an 8” jointer with a 76” long bed. If I had to choose between a length and width, I’d take the longer jointer without hesitation.

-- -- --

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4165 days

#12 posted 02-27-2008 06:40 PM


-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Peter's profile


23 posts in 4315 days

#13 posted 02-27-2008 11:10 PM

Wow, thanks to everyone for the tremendous replies! This is all very helpful.

Taking a quick survey there are 5 votes/recommendations to try to hold out for an 8” jointer. The two 8” Grizzly Jointers that were recommended look great but add $300 to the purchase price. I am afraid that when I consider the other power tools I hope to buy this year that extra cash is not in the budget. It is too bad that these things do not show up very often in the used market. Or at least they don’t anywhere near Charlotte.

The other quick survey shows 7 possitive responses to buying a powermatic jointer and not one negative review other than some vibration from miss aligned pulleys, and that is very fixable. I will be keeping that in mind.

Lastly, let me give a big thanks to Colorado Climber for the advice on what to look for, and how to look over, a used jointer. I will be following your suggestions.

Best regards to everyone,


-- ~Peter

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3971 days

#14 posted 02-28-2008 12:14 AM

take the longer jointer. that gives you more support for longer boards and shorter boards alike. you never know when you may have to joint 8 ft boards for a grand dining table or something like that. a longer bed is more support. for most uses i think a 6” should be fine though. I am not saying this by personal experience but 6” should be fine unless you work with 7 or 8” boards. personally most of my hardwood boards are either 10 and 12” (too big for an 8” jointer) of 6” and under which would work on a 6” jointer. but you’ll have to make your own decision on whether you are going to use those extra 2”. my verdict is that it just depends on how you are going to use it and what you are going to use it for.

P.S. also remember to perform checks on the jointer before you purchase it such as Coloradoclimber said. you don’t want to end up with a used machine that looks good on the outside but is totally useless as far as performance goes.

View pmulry's profile


21 posts in 4173 days

#15 posted 02-28-2008 01:01 AM

I bought a used Woodtek 8” jointer last summer and I love it. I find that I rarely use the entire width of the cutterhead, whereas I often appreciate the long beds. I’d go with the longbed jointer if I were you.

-- Pat Mulry, Dallas, Texas ||

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