Barn News

Dealing With Book Acquisition Disorder 3 – A Near Perfect Tool

With the exception of my Victorinox Spirit multi-tool, I’ve always had the impression, and mostly the experience, that devices designed for a multitude of functions end up not performing any of them well.  To that end I generally avoid “combination machines” for woodworking, even though I have long owned a Mini-Max over-under jointer/planer.  Truth be told it was way too big for my current workspace in the basement and has mostly served as a lumber rack for the past 15 years, but I look forward to rehabilitating it in the machine room in the first floor basement of the barn.  The Mini-Max’s mortising attachment has never been attached to the best of my knowledge, and I will rectify that shortcoming shortly.

One combination tool that did make some sense to me is the jointer/planer offered by Hitachi, Makita, and others in which the cutterheads for both functions reside side-by-side on the same drive shaft.  For much the same reason as the Mini-Max – I simply never had the space for one of the 8” x 12” units – I never looked into them closely.  Then came the day some years ago when I went to a garage sale promising “Tools, tools, tools!”

makita j-p tag

As I approached the garage I saw this petite little version of this machine, a model I have never seen and frankly was unaware existed, and at $100 it was almost my moral duty to purchase it.  The capacity is for jointing and planing 4” wide stock and it can plane about 3 ½” thick, which limits the usefulness to very small projects.  Or so I thought.   It sat around mostly gathering dust out in my shed until I moved it out the The Barn a couple years ago, where it gathered more dust.

Flash forward to the present, when I need to crank out a couple dozen doors for The Barn Biblioteca.  I had just returned from the Roubo bench fest in Georgia the night before, and I had this stack of rough-prepped stock to get over the finish line.  The mondo oak slab for the bench top is smack dab in the center of the Great Hall of The Barn (I have to work on it in the only place where I had an overhead hoist), making maneuvering with my Ryobi or Dewalt planers problematic.  I guess I could have planed everything by hand, but the clock for relocating is ticking really fast.  Hmmm, what about the little Makita combination machine? It was dramatically smaller and more nimble, at least when it comes to moving it and the workpieces.   I pulled it out and gave it a test run.  It passed with flying colors.

jointer side

After a quick look-see and cleaning and lubricating I fired it up.  No flying shrapnel, always a good sign.  A quick edge jointing: perfecto.  A quick face jointing – since this was door frame stock nothing was wider that about three inches – and it was still performing just fine.  Setting the planer height and immediately planing the other face of the stock and I knew I had a winner.  Literally I could prep three sides of each piece in under a minute.  I spent more time moving the stock than working the stock.

planer from infeed side

In considerably less than two hours I was able to edge and face joint and thickness plane each stick followed by a finish ripping on the table saw.

It is such a delight when you encounter any tool, hand powered or pigtailed, that performs its function perfectly.  This tiny machine is a perfect tool for the task of preparing small, long stock.  I expect to give it a real workout in the coming months and years.

stack o stock

If you ever find one, you might think about picking it up.