Benchtop 6" Jointer
A benchtop jointer flattens and squares up lumber for hundreds of dollars less than a floor-standing model while taking up less space. Though limited by short beds (additional infeed/outfeed support might be needed for boards longer than 4'), their 6" cutters provide the same width capacity as larger machines. Of the five we tested, these three impressed us most with their power and cut quality.
The bargain heavyweight
Grizzly G0725, $235 (above)
So long as we took 1⁄16 " or shallower cuts and used a steady feed rate, the G0725 produced surfaces free of chatter marks and tear-out. The two straight knives adjust easily by loosening the gib screws and rotating the jackscrews. The cast-iron body on this 95-lb machine virtually eliminated vibration, and when we jointed 6'-long boards, that heft kept it from tipping, even without being clamped or bolted down. A nice little perk: The G0725 comes with a huge chip-collection bag that empties easily.
The cutting-edge middleweight
Steel City 40610CH, $300
The 40610CH boasts a feature not found on any other jointer in this class: a segmented insert cutterhead (above). The replaceable high-speed-steel inserts—each with two cutting edges—can be rotated to a fresh edge should one get nicked. We found the unit's cut quality good if we limited cuts to less than 1⁄8 " deep. The quietest among these units, it lacks the high-pitched whine common to many universal motors. With a cast-iron table and aluminum fence, the 40610CH weighs 50 lbs.
The powerful lightweight
Porter-Cable PC160JT, $250
The PC160JT had plenty of power to face-joint 6"-wide hard maple. Its two straight knives adjust easily with a simple lock-and-jackscrew leveling system: Loosen the blade a little, then turn the screws to adjust the height up or down. The aluminum bed and fence make this 35-lb tool easy to stow and carry, but we had to clamp it to a benchtop to prevent tipping when jointing boards longer than 4'. Although it has a variable-speed motor, we never found a good reason to run it slower than the highest speed.