Powermatic - PJ-882HH 8-Inch Parallelogram Jointer (Rating: 4)

Purchase Decision. Woodworking is a hobby in my 2 car commandeered garage. I thought it time to upgrade from my 6" Craftsman jointer with its 36" long bed. The Craftsman never let me down since the late 1980's, continued to work well, and was a great entry level jointer. However, it lacked the convenience of a long and wide bed. Replacing straight knives was always a challenge.

In addition to an 8" wide X long bed, I wanted a helical cutter head and tables mounted with a parallelogram system. I felt the parallelogram table support system would make adjusting the outfeed and infeed tables easier than with dovetail ways. Having no experience using the helical cutter head, I had some concern that the jointed surfaces would be slightly grooved or scalloped.

From my research I quickly concluded that Laguna, Grizzly, and Powermatic were my top three. All had 8" wide X 7' long beds. I concluded all three to be comparable in features, probably performance, and price (within a few hundred dollars).

I liked the Grizzly design of hand wheels to raise and lower the tables and Grizzly. I would have upgraded the Grizzly 36 straight edged (I think) insert helical cutter head to the Byrd Shelix cutter head with 54 curved edged inserts. Even had I chosen the Grizzly, they were out of stock on many of their jointers over several of months. I was concerned that Grizzly was doing something behind the scenes, maybe switching factories and/or making design changes. I did not want to be on the leading edge of these changes if either was the case.

The Laguna looked like a nice machine, but with a 1 year warranty and so many complaints about customer service, my leaning was away from Laguna. I found few on-line reviews for the Laguna model. But I have a Laguna spindle shaper and it is a great machine, so I am sure their 8" jointer would have nonetheless been a good choice.

I selected the Powermatic PJ-882HH 8" jointer in spite of what I concluded was a negative Lumberjock review from 2013. The reviewer's negative comments had to do with the difficultly of adjusting the tables co-planar and Powermatic customer service. The review was largely silent regarding performance. I have two Powermatic machines which, in my experience, are well built machines. Powermatic offers a 5 year warranty, suggesting their confidence in the quality of the machine. Shipping was included in the price.

I also bought the Powermatic mobile base since I sometimes have to move machines out of the way. I ordered the machine and mobile base on-line from CPO. Lift gate service was included.

Delivery and Setup. The mobile base arrived within a few days of ordering. Estes, the shipper, set the PJ-882HH on my driveway in front of the garage workshop about 2 weeks after I placed the order. There was what appeared to be superficial damage to the shipping crate. I noted the damage on the bill of lading, which the shipping guy initialed and dated, took a couple of photos just in case, and disassembled the plywood crate. The jointer was well secured in the shipping crate, all parts were present, and nothing was damaged.

I rented an engine crane hoist and using a long tow strap, lifted the jointer from the pallet and set it on the mobile base. The mobile base required no assembly. The jointer offered 4 built-in retracting lifting bars from which the jointer is lifted. I highly recommend this method for setting this machine in place.

I cleaned the jointer's cast iron with Sprayway's 909 Heavy Duty Orange Plus Degreaser I bought from Grizzly. It removed the protective oil coating from the cast iron easily. I mounted the bar that supports the on-off switch, installed the cutter guard, checked belt tension, and the machine was ready to go - except for any tuning up.

A dedicated 220v 20a circuit with a switch next to the receptacle is used to power the machine. The power cord and plug were pre-wired to the jointer. The illustrated manual is easy enough to follow and was mostly complete, but shared print space with the PJ-882 straight knife jointer. Several manuals were included. I kept only the English version. I really dislike single 200 page manuals printed in 4 languages.

The only adjusting I performed before making the first test cut was to ensure the inserts on the cutter head were fully seated. While all inserts were well fastened, a few inserts were further tightened by just a slight firm twist by hand using the included pair of star drivers. I wanted to ensure the inserts were firmly seated for performance and safety.

The jointer started right up and ran quietly with a solid sound. A test board was edge jointed, revealing snip at the end the cut. The outfeed table was set too low when raised against the stop. A quick adjustment of the limiting stop brought the outfeed table up to top dead center of the fence-side inserts and the snip was eliminated. I did note that while one edge of the outfeed table was now perfectly aligned, the top dead center of the insert on the opposite edge of the table just barely (hardly at all) caught the edge of my straight edge, but I felt this was probably close enough.

While I had the 4' level out, yeah not the most precise of straight edges, I checked for co-planar tables. They looked good. I took a 2' long piece of scrap about 5" wide and face jointed it several times. When the scrap piece was laid on the table saws flat top, the jointed surface looked flat to me. Longer 6' face jointed boards lay flat one on the other with no gaps. Powermatic recommends checking their factory settings and since I figure they whip through these adjustments pretty fast, I thought I was going to be in for a long day. However the factory adjustments looked pretty good.

I elected to replace the 4" dust port with a 6" diameter dust port. This involved mounting a 6" adjustable HVAC elbow to plywood and replacing the provided 4" dust port. Mounting tabs were cut into the 6" HVAC elbow. The 6" elbow mounting tabs were sandwiched between two pieces of ¼" of plywood cut to the same rectangular size as the factory provided 4" dust port mounting plate. It attached to the machine using the mounting holes and screws provided for the included 4" dust port.

Performance. The jointer has not been long in the shop, so problems that could be revealed after a jointing a few thousand board feet of lumber will go unnoticed in this review. Overall, the PJ-882HH jointer is a very nice machine and the cutter head is great. Irregularities in rough lumber are readily removed leaving a silky smooth finish on lumber made flat. I was amazed and am sold on the Powermatic Cutter Head (I think it is Byrd's Shelix cutter head). With the light cuts I take (maybe 1/32"), the resistance from pushing the lumber across the jointer bed is perfect. One Powermatic push pad (two are included and offer thick neoprene pads) with light downward pressure is all the force needed (though I always use two push pads). The 84" long beds provide great support for the stock, a big difference from the Craftsman jointer.

The fence slides easily and quietly across the width of the table and locks firmly in place. The rack and pinion fence tilt mechanism operates smoothly, tilting the fence toward or away from the operator and easily locks firmly in place. Both locking mechanisms are within easy reach. There are fence angle stops which work ok, but are not ones on which I would rely. They perform well enough to dial in the fence to a close approximate position, but whenever I want a dead accurate set-up, I will use an accurate angle gauge. I find this problem common among most machines - not unique to Powermatic.

The jointer is heavy and the motor and cutter head are well balanced. The 2 hp motor has plenty of power especially with the segmented cutter head and the light cuts I make. There is no perceptible vibration from the machine, even during cuts. The wife reports that she can barely hear the machine running from the adjacent living room, even under dust collection. In summary, while expensive, it appears to be a great machine within the scope of my use thus far.

The mobile base is a welded heavy frame with 3-3/4" diameter wheels. The two fixed wheels are set proud of the sides of the frame on the outfeed side of the jointer but are out of the way. These are locked by knobbed screws that press into the wheels. The swivel casters are mounted to L brackets welded to the opposite end of the frame and set under the jointer, keeping them out of the way. The swivel casters side-mounted locks hold the swivel wheels firmly in place. The jointer stays put, sets close to the floor, and rolls smoothly. The mobile base more expensive than most mobile bases, but is well-built and well-designed.

Misses. However, the machine is not perfect. The biggest and most significant issue I found is with the cutter guard. The cutter guard was designed with a stepped edge. The cutout in the cutter guard's edge is located where stock contacts the guard to swing it out of the way, creating a void along the edge. The un-stepped edge of the cutter guard is where it fastens to the table. It clears the cast iron top at the attaching point by about 1/4" or so, depending on how the cutter guard is attached to the table. The stepped section of the guard's edge is cut out all along the infeed and the outfeed sides of the guard where it sets over the tables. As is, the cutter guard works fine for edge jointing. It is also ok when face jointing stock that is thick enough to contact the guard and not slip underneath. However, as the thickness of the face jointed workpiece equals the relief cut in the cutter guard, the workpiece slides under and contacts the edge of the guard allowing some downward pressure to be applied by the guard. This problem can be amplified if the guard sags at all or stock slips under the guard and the workpiece increases in thickness as the workpiece is advanced. Although it has not happened, I can foresee stock getting jammed under the guard.

Wood Bumper Gas Automotive exterior Automotive wheel system

Photo Showing Cutter Guard Stepped Design

Rectangle Wood Household supply Bumper Tissue paper

Photo Showing My Cutter Guard Solution

I contacted Powermatic Technical Support (TS) regarding this issue. TS offered no alternative cutter guard, could not explain the engineering of the guard, nor could they offer a solution.

I hated doing so, but it became such a problem that I installed cardboard with masking tape to close up this gap. The cutter guard now works fine since stock contacts the cardboard and swings the guard out of the way, but the new jointer looks awful. This is a real disappointment and the reason for a 4 star ratings; and perhaps it should be rated at 3 stars because of this single issue. Also, unless I find a more durable solution, the fix will have to be repaired or replaced from time to time.

The second performance affecting issue I ran into is the plastic insert in the fence that keeps the cast iron of the fence from rubbing against and scratching the cast iron table as the fence slides across the table. Powermatic is evidently proud of this innovation since it is touted in their literature. It is a nice touch. Unfortunately when received, the plastic insert was not flush with the face of the fence. As a result, the edge of face-jointed lumber would catch the edge of the cast iron at the plastic insert, spoiling the cut. In my case the plastic insert was recessed from the surface of the fence.

I removed the fence and adjusted the insert until it set flush with the fence. Removing and re-installing the fence was easy enough. However, getting the plastic insert flush was a 3 hour project. The plastic insert deforms slightly along is length and height and moved out of position when tightening the mounting screws. There was no engineering that I could see that would allow for this flush-up adjustment. Since the cast iron fence was not beveled where the plastic insert is installed, it must be flush mounted. The manual offered no help in this regard. Of course, great care was required to ensure the plastic insert was not proud of the fence since otherwise it could affect edge jointing. Now that the plastic insert sets flush with the fence, the edge-catching problem is fixed. I doubt I will every have to revisit this adjustment.

Observations. A common complaint I have read concerning machines with switches mounted at eye level is the flex in the post to which the switch is mounted. The PJ-882-HH is no different. There is some flex when turning the machine on or off. However, deflection when pressing firmly against the switch is very minor (I doubt it more than ¼" or maybe less). The limited flex in the switch post on this machine is probably because the Powermatic cabinet is made of a heavier gauge metal. I do not believe this is a problem, even after years of use.

This is not really much of an issue, just one I decided to mention. When using the PJ-882HH jointer, I find the convex cabinet with the mobile base extends the belly at the front of the machine out putting the base a little in the way when running lumber across the jointer bed. I am not sure whether the bellied front is an aesthetic design element, adds machine stability, and/ or required to accommodate the motor. Nonetheless, a couple of additional inches at the floor would have made the jointer a little more comfortable for me to use. But then the Craftsman was on a leg stand, open in the center at the floor, but the splayed legs of the Craftsman were always in the way. I figure I just exchanged one problem with the Craftsman for another with the Powermatic. In the end, I am sure I will adapt and this bellied cabinet will not be a problem. And it is not much of a problem even now.

It would be nice if Powermatic offered 5" and 6" dust ports for this machine and perhaps they do. I never checked. This change I made was cheap and easy enough to make without modifying the machine.

Conclusions. I recommend the PJ-882HH 8" jointer, in spite of my somewhat negative comments. because overall it is a very nice piece of shop equipment. It produces silky smooth cuts while doing what a jointer is designed to do, flattening and straightening boards. It does so with just a hum, far quieter than the Craftsman and its straight knives. The machine is clearly well built and should last a long time. Renewing the edges of the inserts should be very doable when required. These are the overriding features important to me.

The biggest miss on this machine is the safety guard - not sure what Powermatic was thinking when designing the stepped cutter guard. The anti-scratch insert is a good idea poorly executed. I count the plastic insert problem among the common nuisances often encountered when setting up any new machine.

I believe an important feature of any machine is the ability to adjust the machine; this machine provides that capability. I am content that should I need to adjust the tables or service the cutter head, I will encounter no problems; just aggravation as with any machine.