Rated 4.5 out of 5 by 2
Rated 5.0 out of 5.0 by lilrabbit Well Made, Easy to Assemble and Set Up, Good Value
Steel City 6" Stationary Jointer with Helical Cutter Head Model 40630GH
Summary: This machine was easy to assemble. It appears to be solidly and accurately made. The cutters are easily accessed for maintenance. It face- and edge-joints nicely. The 46" size works well in a small shop. The power switch is protected by a safety key. Cutter replacement is fast and simple. Good value for the price.
Review: The jointer arrives in one large double ply cardboard box. The parts are all well wrapped in plastic and there are packets of silica gel to keep everything moisture free. A styrofoam clamshell keeps the parts cushioned against the bumps and bruises of shipping.
The owners manual is conveniently located on the top of the package so our first step was for my son to read the manual to me. If you are going to teach your children to work in the shop be sure to start with shop safety. We repeat Norm Abram's mantra every time we start a project, and we followed up by reading the safety rules for our new jointer.
Before doing anything else, I laid a straightedge (my four foot level) across the infeed and outfeed tables. At the zero depth of cut they appeared to be coplanar as there was no place to slip in a feeler gauge at all and there was less than .003" clearance between the straightedge and the cutter head...perfect. This was not a step listed in the instructions, but from past experience, I wanted to be sure the tables and the cutterhead were properly aligned from the beginning.
The cutterhead is a series of small rectangular blades arranged in a helix around a cylinder. The cutters are affixed with Torx screws and Steel City supplies the wrench required to remove and replace them. The cutters are easy to remove and replace (yes, I just had to try) and have two cutting edges so you can rotate them when one edge gets worn down. If you nick an edge, you can just replace one cutter, or trade the damaged cutter to a less used side of the cutterhead.
On to the assembly:
We spread the parts out on our work table, taking inventory as we examined each parts package. All the parts were accounted for, including two nice push blocks and a kit of assembly and maintenance tools.
Assembly begins with the stand. It is made from sheet metal and goes together so easily that my ten-year-old did most of the work. He tightened everything "finger tight" and then, after testing the supplied end wrench (spanner), used a ratchet to snug everything up. (The manufacturer does provide a double ended (10mm - 12mm) spanner which would have been adequate for the job.) With the bolts all tightened down, the stand is sturdy and stable. The two lower leg spreaders will easily support a shelf that we will add to the machine later, and we will also be adding a tool board to the base to hold a selection of push blocks, push sticks and feather boards convenient to the machine.
Four socket head machine screws secure the jointer to it's stand. A small assembly problem here, the supplied screws were larger than listed in the manual, too large for the supplied tools and a tight fit in the mounting holes of the jointer. They fit, but it took cranking on them with a wrench to push them through the base. Fortunately we had the right size wrenches (5mm hex, 13mm socket) on hand and were able to turn the screws through the base of the jointer. I departed from the instructions here by installing the mounting screws with the heads under the base and the nuts and washers on top. That way, if a mounting screw vibrates loose, I have a pretty good chance of spotting it before I lose the nut and washers. The mounting holes pass through a set of rubber grommets, so be careful when you snug these down or you will crush the grommets and lose any anti-vibration value they might have. I tightened them down just enough to flatten the lock washers and plan to replace the nuts with nylocs soon.
Next step was to install the fence, which, like the tables, is machined from granite. The fence bracket and adjustment mechanism are of cast iron. The fence can be angled from 45° to 135° with adjustable stops at 45°, 90°, and 135°. Out of the box the 90° stop was dead on, or at least as close as I could check with a framing square. I initially was puzzled when looking down at the machine to note that the fence does not line up parallel to the edges of the feed tables. Instead it forms a slightly acute angle with the cutter head. I eventually figured out that this is intended. The angle causes the cutter to gently push the workpiece up snug to the fence as I found out when edge-jointing a couple of test pieces. It was quite easy to control the stock with pushblocks and I did not have to fight back any desire to drop the push blocks and hand hold my test pieces.
Do be aware that the dust chute is secured to the machine with a pair of machine screws that thread into the base of the machine and two phillips head screws that thread into the rubber grommet "feet". I over tightened one of the latter and stripped out the hole. This doesn't affect the use of the machine, but it is something I will have to repair when we do get a dust collector.
I tested the machine on some scraps of rough-sawn pine. First I had to set the depth of cut. By training, I set the depth of cut to 1/32", or as close to that as I could. The machine and the manual give no indication as to how far the hand wheel is supposed to move the table per turn, but there is a fractional inch depth of cut scale on the infeed table. 5-1/2 turns of the wheel move the table through the 1/8" indicated range so that's what? 1/8" divided by 11/2 = 1/44" per turn? I raised the infeed table until it was coplanar with the outfeed table and then dropped it down 1-3/8 turns. (Hey math fans 1-3/8 turns X 1/44"/turn = 1/32") Then I locked it down. I will probably just leave it at this setting forever.
Jointing a face and edge of a piece of rough sawn pine was no problem for the machine. I made a quick trip to the table saw to rip the piece to a convenient width and then back to the jointer to clean up the saw marks. Not counting the one time fiddling and adjusting typical with new tools, it took me less than 5 minutes to square up a couple of test blocks. Satisfied that the machine works well, we proceeded to clean up a stack of oak planks salvaged from a couple of pallets.
Altogether, this is a nice tool. It's heavy enough that it doesn't wobble or wiggle as a stationary too, but you can move it around the shop without too much effort. I expected the universal motor to be noisy, but it was quieter than I had feared. (Still, wear your ear protectors.) It would be nice if the manufacturer specified the depth of cut settings by listing this in the manual, but just so you know, 1-3/8 turns of the hand wheel = 1/32". The stand is plenty stable once the machine is mounted to it. Assembly and set up was simple, and less "fiddly" than I've experienced with much more expensive tools. A fair and reasonable price for a good quality tool
December 24, 2012
Rated 4.0 out of 5.0 by woodsman 6 inch granite helical cutterhead jointer
The jointer stand holes were 1/16 inch out of alignment.
June 11, 2014