Nice small jointer for lightweight work

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Review by ferstler posted 12-09-2008 07:57 PM 24466 views 1 time favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Nice small jointer for lightweight work Nice small jointer for lightweight work Nice small jointer for lightweight work Click the pictures to enlarge them

As a retired person who was a relative newcomer to the hobby, this was the first tool of this type that I purchased, and I had hopes that it would do what I needed in the way of hobby-grade woodworking. (I will use the terms jointer and planer interchangeably in this review.) Unfortunately, the short length of the aluminum table sections (spanning just 30 inches) made it difficult for the device to do a good job planing longer boards. In addition, the lack of a solid, two-sided lockdown with the in-feed table made for problems with snipe and slightly tilted cuts with some pieces. (More on the lockdown issue up ahead.)

In addition, the two-knife cutter and the not really powerful motor (its ten-amp rating notwithstanding) limited the tool’s ability to smoothly cut broader surfaces.

Eventually, I bit the bullet and purchased a Ridgid JP06101 jointer to handle more arduous tasks. (I have reviewed the Ridgid elsewhere on this site.) However, I kept the small Delta unit to handle smaller-scale and less important tasks.

For all of its size-related limitations, this planer does have some positive attributes. First of all, it is a variable speed planer, with a range of 6,000 to 11,000 rpm which allows the user to work with a bit more flexibility, particularly if working with plastics or lighter-grade woods used in model making, for instance. (One review I read on the internet indicates some durability issues with the variable-speed control, but I have never encountered that.) The manual even has a speed-selection chart that the operator can use to get the best cuts from various materials at various widths. I usually run the thing flat out, but the speed options might come in handy.

Second, the light weight makes it possible to haul the thing to a job site for work. Most framing carpenters are not going to do planing of this kind (if they need to plane they probably use a portable hand planer), but some will, and the device could come in real handy when doing interior cabinet work and the like. The light weight would also allow a model-making enthusiast with limited space to stash the thing easily when it was not in use.

Third, it has a nifty cutter-head lock that holds the thing solidly in place while you replace the blades. This is a nice touch. The blades themselves are easy to adjust with the supplied wrenches.

Fourth, the cut-depth adjustment scale is considerably broader than what we have with other jointers (including my Ridgid) and you can fine-tune cuts within the 1/8-inch range more precisely than you can with some other larger and more expensive tools of this kind. Normally, with a tool like this precision is not an issue, but the scale is at least easy to read.

Unlike big, cast-iron jointers, the two aluminum tables on this jointer are easy to remove. This makes it simple to shim the things underneath to get them parallel with each other and to get the out-feed table at the same height as the knives. Fours bolts recessed into the tops of each table can be removed to pull either.

To make it work better I did do some modifications.

First, I installed a second lock-down screw on the in-feed table. I did this by removing the table, drilling a proper hole, and then installing a nice screw/knob that pulls a nut and thick plastic washer tightly in place to secure the other side of the table. In combination with the existing lock-down knob on the other side of the table, the result was a more secure surface.

Another modification involved adding extensions to each table. These were each ten inches long and were made out of 1.25-inch thick solid oak. The things had U-shaped runners that allowed each section to be wrapped down the edges of the existing aluminum tables, and if you look closely you can see where I had attached them to the sides of each table. The table sides themselves were drilled out and the holes now contain just short stove-bolts. Yep, after I got the Ridgid unit I decided to forget about the extensions to make it easier to move the Delta around.. The bolts are cosmetic fixes for those ugly holes. I will say that the extensions did work well at stabilizing longer boards, but they did not correct the power problem with the tool, obviously.

Still another mod was the installation of a vacuum hookup. Normally, cuttings just slide down the chute, but I wanted better extraction and installed the hookup. Both the tool and the chute assembly are screwed down to a solid board underneath, and the chute itself is held in place by wing nuts that can be quickly removed. That facilitates me cleaning any clogged chips out of the chute area.

The tool came with wrenches, a set of push blocks, and a manual. The manual itself was pretty good, but on page 8 the picture of the carton contents (yes, you do have to do some assembly work after the purchase) has two numbers wrong. Number 10 should be 13 and number 13 should be 10.

I did purchase a couple of sets of spare knives for the unit, and thankfully, they were fully stocked up with the things at Lowe’s where I had purchased the tool itself for $220. The blade sets cost about $25 each. I also purchased a spare drive belt, but I had to do that directly from Delta. I will note that a Delta shaper I purchased some time back went out of production a bit later and when I tried to get a spare drive belt for it I was informed by the Delta parts people that it was no longer available. This makes a case for getting a spare drive belt for this planer. Plan ahead.

I like the tool, but under no conditions would I use it in preference to the bigger Ridgid JT06101 (or any other cast-iron-table jointer) for serious larger-scale woodworking. I mainly use it when I am in a hurry and have a small piece of wood to trim down in thickness for some kind of shimming or related work. Beats using a hand plane.

Howard Ferstler

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342 posts in 4981 days

18 comments so far

View Dusty56's profile


11868 posts in 5148 days

#1 posted 12-12-2008 07:00 AM

I just can’t believe that they are still making these virtually useless pieces of ** . I bought mine nearly ten years ago and had nothing but problems with it…Actually I got three total units (two replacements) back then . I f i had the space back then i would have trashed this one and purchased a real jointer for not much more money…...I picked up a well used Rockwell Delta 6” jointer and haven’t even looked at the little guy since…...God bless anyone that buys one !

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

View ferstler's profile


342 posts in 4981 days

#2 posted 12-13-2008 12:47 AM

Well, as I indicated in the review, this is not a tool that is designed for serious jointer work with large pieces of wood. For hobby grade stuff that involves small scale operations I think it is OK. I have a nice Ridgid six incher for stiffer operations, and in no way would I even compare the small Delta to that item, let alone to really large eight, ten, and twelve inchers.

I have had zero problems with mine, now that I diddled with it a bit, and my only beef is the short tables. With small workpieces that deficiency is no big deal.

Howard Ferstler

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 5224 days

#3 posted 12-13-2008 01:00 AM

I’d have to agree with Dusty, if someones looking for a good, small jointer because of lack of space in a shop, I would steer them towards looking for an old Delta / Rockwell 4” jointer.

View ferstler's profile


342 posts in 4981 days

#4 posted 12-14-2008 07:03 PM

This assumes that Woodchuck 1957 has compared the JT160 to the 4-inch Rockwell, and found the former wanting. It also assumes that a used Rockwell would not have had the daylights beaten out of it.

Actually, if one were serious about a small jointer, one still better alternative would be a unt that Sears sells that is about the same size as the JT160 and has a cast-iron table.

Howard Ferstler

View Dustin's profile


393 posts in 4910 days

#5 posted 12-17-2008 09:19 AM

listen, for the price there’s nothing I’ve seen compare with what you’re going to get with a grizzly jointer.
I spent nearly a month pricing them used and new on ebay and all over the internet and I just finally got this one:

I love it, and it’s perfect for my tiny shop.

I usually stay away from the bottom line products. Delta sells good products except for this bench top jointer and their 12.5” thickness planer.

cheers :)

View ferstler's profile


342 posts in 4981 days

#6 posted 12-17-2008 09:04 PM

Well, that Grizzly unit is WAY bigger than the small Delta I reviewed. Howeverr, I also reviewed (elsewhere on this site) the Ridgid cast-iron-table, 6×45 iincher available at Home Depot, and I paid only $350 for the thing, plus sales tax of course.

My take on the small Delta was that it would be a nice hobby uinit for small projects, or for use as a secondary jointer for a worker who already had a big jointer. Nobody in his right mind would attempt to compare it to typical six-inch (or larger) jointers that were floor-standing types with cast-iron 45-inch (or longer) tables.

Howard Ferstler

View wiswood2's profile


1138 posts in 5157 days

#7 posted 12-17-2008 10:06 PM

I got one of them small picess of junk ,It has spent more time in the back of a UPS truck than it has been cutting wood. any thing would be better than that delta.

-- Chuck, wiswood2

View ferstler's profile


342 posts in 4981 days

#8 posted 12-19-2008 08:37 PM

Some of the problems with this small Delta planer might have involved the lock-down feature for the infeed table. With only one lock-down screw the table can actually tilt slightly when in use. Note that in my review I mentioned how I installed a second lock-down screw on the other side of the infeed table, and that modification stabilized the table and forced it to stay parallel with the outfeed table. Without the mod the table was unacceptable.

Howard Ferstler

View Kolchak's profile


2 posts in 4885 days

#9 posted 01-09-2009 08:45 PM

Howard – thanks for your review. I too own the small delta and have found it useful for small projects,
but definitely lacking for larger ones. I am not in the market for a new jointer, but was looking to make
similar mods as you stated in your review…....okay now I know am going to get the usually “go out and buy a better tool” speech from some. However, the delta fits in my shop and I don’t want to spent the $$ right now. Perhaps in the future I will. Given that – I would be interested in pics of your modification installed on the jointer if you have some. Also – did you do anyhting with the vertical fence. In my opinion this is one of
the biggest problem with this tool, as it flexes when you feed larger boards through it.


View ferstler's profile


342 posts in 4981 days

#10 posted 01-12-2009 01:14 AM

Hi, Kolchak,

OK, I added two photos. The new one in the middle shows the undercarriage with the infeed table removed. Note that there is the blue knob on the left that is the normal lock-down item, but that there is also a black knob on the right that is the one I added that helps to fully stabilize the infeed table on both sides. The photo on the right shows where I drilled through the side panel and installed a nut, lock washer, and blue-colored plastic spacer to the knob/screw connector. The spacer fits between the outer sheet metal and the inner carriage for the table. When you tighten the black knob the carriage is clamped to the outer sheet metal, with the spacer in between. This stabilizes the back side and tightening the blue knob stabilizes the carriage against the front panel sheet metal. This locks things down.

In the left photo the end panel is pulled outward a bit to make for a better picture, but in this case it cannot be removed, because the planer is bolted to a flat-wood base underneath. To do the conversion the panel must be completely removed to allow the worker to get his fingers into the area to install the items on the inside. I unbolted the thing from the base before doing the work.

The blue spacer is a piece of thick plastic sleeve material from my miscellaneous parts bin. I have no idea where I got it, but it would be easy to cut a stubby piece from a broom handle (nice, hard hickory), drill it to size, and use it as a spacer. The nut and lock washer would fall off if the knob were loosened too much, but I just loosen it enough for the carriage to be adjusted.

As for the flexible fence, well I have no answer to that. As I have noted before, this planer is for small-scale work and for big jobs where heavy lumber and high pressure would deform the small fence on the Delta unit, I use my larger Ridgid 6×45 planer, with its cast-iron fence. I did lightly sand the sliders on the fence carriage to let it slide more easily both horizontally and vetically when doing adjustments.

Note the stove bolts in the sides of both tables. Those once helld wrap-around extensions to the tables (made of thick oak that brought the full table length out to 52 inches) that actually worked OK. However, doing that still did not allow for planing heavy wood. You need a bigger planer for that. Note that I did review my Ridgid unit on this site a while back, and I have it mounted on a roll-around base that makes it quite portable. The wheels underneath are soft-rubber jobs that are 4 inches in diameter. The thing is easy to move with those wheels, and I lock things in place with shop-built wedges.

Howard Ferstler

View Kolchak's profile


2 posts in 4885 days

#11 posted 01-12-2009 05:11 PM

Hello all -

thanks for all the welcome messages. They are very much appreciated. I look forward to
your collective woodworking wisdom and hope to return some back.

Howard – thank you for the detail on the additional lock down knob. This weekend I had taken apart
the the infeed and outfeed tables and I was wondering how you added this additional lock down.
The pictures show a lot of detail.

I have searched on the web for mods to this jointer, and there is not that much out there.
So with that in mind and the nice primer you have provided I am going to attempt a mod of my own and
post it here. Perhaps someone else will also find it useful. The jointer does have one nice feature; it is easy to disassemble and looks to me that mods to it would also be do-able.

So – here is what I was thinking:
1. replace the infeed and outfeed tables with an laminated MDF torsion box. Sound weird – but I think this would provide the flatness and strength need to support larger pieces. The new infeed and outfeed tables will be further supported with metal cross braces attached to the stand the jointer is mounted on.
2. Implement the additional lock down knob as Howard has described.
3. Improve the dust collection similar to Howard’s design. I am thinking of making this part of the outfeed table and it would serve a dual purpose of additional support.
4. Adding a sturdy fixed 90-degree fence that spans the new infeed and outfeed tables. I find that one of the biggest weaknesses of this jointer is the flexing of the vertical fence. In the future I may add an option to tilt the fence, but for now I want it fixed to better judge how well (flat) the infeed and out feed design work.
I will post pictures as I progress.

Finally – who wants to take bets that before this is done (or after) I get frustrated enough to go out and
buy a Grizzly or Rigid jointer :-)

View ferstler's profile


342 posts in 4981 days

#12 posted 01-12-2009 09:36 PM

Hi, Kolchak,

While I still like what my modified small Delta jointer can do with small items, there is no way that it is going to be able to simulate or equal what one can get from a good, cast-iron jointer with a powerful motor. I modified my small unit at first, but after I obtained that hugely larger and more powerful Ridgid unit I realized that the Delta was a small jointer that should be left for small work. The dual-knob mod that I did managed to stabilize the infeed table, but in no way is that chassis going to be happy dealing with heavier pieces of lumber.

Howard Ferstler

View  woodshaver Tony C   's profile

woodshaver Tony C

8639 posts in 4813 days

#13 posted 03-23-2009 02:22 PM

I like the upgrades you did to the Delta Jointer and want to thank you for posting your findings. Anything to help this unit is a plus! I must try that 2nd lock knob idea! I’m 62 and I’m still learning, thanks to people like you!

It didn’t take me long after I bought my cute little light Delta 6” jointer to know I made a mistake. I needed a Flat bed and bought an S-10. I learned over the years that there are many levels of quality and uses in the products I buy. If you need a boat you better get the one that will float everything you want to carry on it, or else. It’s like buying a car and showing up at the brick yard for a skid of bricks. When I bought my Delta 6”Jointer I assumed it would be ok to do an occasional heavier work load and it should be ok. Boy was I wrong! I found my self wishing I had bought a better tool. I agree that this planer is not up to speed with other 6” jointers out there and I have had my difficulties with this unit but only when I asked it to perform past it’s intended uses. I Just wish Delta told me it’s limits. This jointer is for smaller projects, Heavy duty is out of the question and If I had only been doing only small woodworking projects this jointer would be ok for that purpose. Those short beds just can’t carry the load. Most woodworkers get better and do more as time goes on so think ahead when buying a tools. I still use my Delta, and try not to go Overboard!

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

View bell's profile


1 post in 4568 days

#14 posted 11-22-2009 06:59 AM

I bought the JT160 today. It is very simple to adjust. I will use it mainly for full size violins making. My boards are about 5 inches wide by 17 inches long. It is just perfect with these sizes. The woods I use is spruce and maple.

I was hesitating between this Delta JT160 and bigger floor models like Grizzly or others. But I noticed at another luthier that even with the bigger model, I had to fine tune the joints by hand at the end. I think that for the very fine tuning, there is more option on the JT160. I use it in combination with a 21’’ Veritas Jointer for fine tuning quickly. At the very end, with Maple mainly, I use a long flat file to get perfect joints, just to take out very tiny gaps, less than a hair width.

So the JT160 works just fine for me. It has gone through very hard Big Leaf Canadian Maple like a charm.

I had to fine tune the Delta JT160, mainly adjusting perfectly the blades alignment with the table, this is easy to do.

Before buying, I was a bit too worried with the fact that there is only two blades, but when I used the JT160 on the hard Maple, I was not an issue at all. Well, I am happy with this compact and affordable unit.

For sure, it fits perfectly with small job projects.

View ShopCat's profile


121 posts in 5040 days

#15 posted 03-14-2010 05:11 PM

Got mine at very deep discount via craigslist. I would not pay retail for this tool; I would not even pay half of retail for this tool. It does beat a hand plane, but probably should not be called a “jointer”. I have access to a couple of serious jointers at a local community college, but find this little Delta can make life easier by handling small stuff. Used gently, max speed and slow careful feed, I’ve cleanly edged oak up to 4×30, but most pieces are much smaller. Not quite a toy, not quite a tool.

-- ShopCat

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