Shopping for a Jointer

Woodworkers discuss desirable characteristics to consider when considering a jointer purchase. May 21, 2009

I am considering purchasing a new 20" jointer and have narrowed my choices down to the Griggio 510 and SAC. (I really want the Martin but can't drop that much right now.)
Wondering if anyone is using these machines and the differences/advantages of either one. It is my understanding that they are comparable in price, and I would obviously like the best for my money. Not particularly interested in used machines.

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor M:
Just out of curiosity, how much does the SAC and the Griggio cost? If you're at 10K for either one of them, do your best to find another 6K and get the Martin. Having said that, I have a 12" SAC I bought new 5 years ago and it's been a dependable jointer. The designers made it very easy to replace the bearings for the head if the need were to arise. So that's a plus for the SAC. I didn't think that SAC had any US dealers any longer. Who carries those machines?

From the original questioner:
Thanks for your thoughts on the SAC jointer. Looks like the machines I mentioned are in the 11-12K range. SAC is sold by Allwood machinery in NJ. Plus I was told the new Martin is now 21K!

From contributor P:
So I need to ask why you are not interested in used machines? I picked up a Northfield 24 in with knife grinder a few years back for 3K. There are many machines in the 16 to 20 in range out there for 3-5k. Very few shops have 10K plus to throw at a big jointer unless they plan on using it 8 hours a day.

Plus, if you ever have had to use one of these big machines all day, they really beat you up. Wide stock means you have to bend over farther and it will wear you down. I use mine plenty, but smaller stock always get run on a smaller machine. Just something to think about.

From contributor J:
I think the big advantage of a modern 20Ē jointer is the ease of use for timber both large and small. A smooth easy moving fence, powered infeed table, flip down fence for small pieces and an easy to set power feed make it easy and quick to set up for any size material. Add in the safety factor with better guards like the Suva, quiet running, and the Tersa or other inset heads available, itís pretty hard for the old iron to compare.

You should check with Carl at Martin if you didnít already. Prices might not be that high. The dollar is gaining a little. If you look at specs for all the machines Martin will always have a little more weight, table length, etc. And will work right the first time.

Griggio 530 jointers, SAC and the SCM Invincible line are all decent machines. I was recently looking at shapers with bead recovery saws in Italy. I felt Griggio had a little better fit and finish and engineering than SAC, but they were both better than most of the other Italian brands. The SCM Invincible line has some impressive features and engineering. Their prices are just as much or approaching Martin.

From the original questioner:
What contributor J said about the modern vs. older/used machines. Never want to reset knives again, never mind grinding them down. Surely I can make a lot more money building things from wood than being a mechanic. I have experienced the ease of a Tersa head (spent time on a Martin jointer in the past) and there's no way I would go back. Plus that Suva guard is pretty convincingly the safest I have seen. Getting more into larger scale furniture work here and want to be able to flatten large slabs for tabletops as easily as possible.

Thanks also for the insight on the quality of Griggio vs others. I was leaning that way but will revisit Martin for the latest pricing. I always try to get the best equipment possible - even when it stretches the budget at first. It has always paid off in ease of use and reliability.

From contributor N:
Are you considering buying a first jointer or adding another one to your shop?

From the original questioner:
I have been running an 8" Delta for the last 8 years... An upgrade is long overdue. There is a T54 (that replaced a 30" Oliver!) in my neighbor's shop which I use on occasion, but I want to be self sufficient. I have waited a while and want to make the right move.

From contributor V:
I would just like to play devil's advocate for a moment. Have any of you actually done a time study recently on how long it takes you to process solid wood with a jointer? I believe a jointer has great advantages. (I rebuilt a 16" Northfield and mounted a feeder with serrated wheels. I only use it for surface jointing of wide boards that must stay wide.) Everything else goes through the P64 (forerunner to the SCM Syntex).

I think once you get into the dollars associated with a Martin jointer you have to take a step back and ask if you would be better off with a used 4 head molder with straightening table.

The same argument can be applied to some of the higher end ELMO table saws. At what point does the limitation stop being the quality of the equipment and become the way the equipment processes material (e.g. sliding table saw versus beam panel saw)?

I recently did a very involved time study for the business taking into consideration the work we have done for the past 5 years, which of that work was most lucrative for the company, and what we wanted to pursue more of. When all of that was taken into account, I found that what I thought was the first piece of equipment I needed to upgrade (the edgebander) was actually the last piece of equipment I should put any money into.

My advice is to rethink the expensive jointer completely.

And in terms of quality of cut, Tersa heads: Invariably the wood gets two passes on the planer because the powerfed cut of the planer is far smoother at the front and back of the board than any hand fed cut. So as long as a jointer can take the cup and bow out of the board width you use you probably have all you need.

From contributor J:
Iíve done several time studies on jointer - planer vs. four side moulder for processing solid wood. The four sider wins every time. We have a numeric controlled T-90 S4S with a great straightening table and floating head for glue joints. The modern jointer is still a key part of any shop doing much solid wood processing. The S4S machine is used for 90% of all our processing, yet the jointer runs every day. We use the jointer for a lot more than facing, especially when we have to do one piece flow of certain products. The Martin jointer shines brightest for its versatility and working right the first time. It would be tough to use anything else, but I think some of the other mentioned brands can do the job also.

One poster mentioned you need to use a high end jointer 8 hours per day to justify owning one. I disagree with qualifying any machine purchase like that. I figure the S4S machine, 3 head wide belt, numeric shaper and SLR are the big bread winners in our shop, but a lot of other machines are just as important to the process even though they donít run much.

From the original questioner:
I appreciate all of your thoughts as always. I have no doubt that machines like the t-90 are superior for production milling, but mine is a two man shop doing custom kitchens and one of a kind furniture pieces, so I need quality and reliability instead of high output. I have on occasion wished I could have a setup like that for half a day when we are doing the rare set of rail and stile cabinet doors, but I could never justify getting such a machine for my scale of operation.

From contributor N:
We're going through something similar at our shop. Back in the day we would flatten a pack of 1000bf with the jointer. Now we run it through a 2 sided planer with spring loaded fingers carpet feed on top. Then rip strips for mouldings.

We recently have been addressing our waste, mainly with walnut (we only ship the straight mouldings and eat the rest) for our high end customers. Low and behold what we found was ripping the blanks from a rough board and taking the time to flatten and straighten them on the jointer and then planing them oversized for the moulder has given us about a 35-40 percent increase in the mouldings to keep. So sometimes you have to ask yourself what's more important - time or materials?

From contributor M:
I know I'm now diverging from your original question, but you made a comment in your last post that I thought I would address.

I too thought that I could never afford or justify having a moulder to do S4S work in a small shop (one man and a helper), but after looking into it, I found they were much more affordable than I thought. After I got it into my shop, I kept saying to myself I should have done this 10 years ago. Don't rule one out too fast. The ROI is much faster than you might imagine. I'm with contributor J - 90% of my stock goes through the moulder, but the jointer is still essential.

I don't have a Martin jointer, though I hope to some day, but I do have their saw. After you get your first piece, you'll be spoiled for life. I mentioned my SAC jointer in an earlier post, and it's been a good machine, but with all things Italian you still have to go back and fiddle with something to keep it running true. That's always the tradeoff when one is trying to save a buck. I couldn't afford the Martin when I bought it and therefore have no regrets.