Part 2: Review of Functionality, Quality, and Performance
In part one of this review I explained my rationale behind choosing this tool, and gave some perspective on the set up process. Now I will take a look at some of the machine’s key attributes and put it through a few shop tests.
Vibration problem turned out to be the motor. As I mentioned in part one of my review, the jointer initially exhibited excessive vibration during startup and spin-down that was diagnosed by Grizzly tech support as a belt problem. Three days later the belt arrived but unfortunately it didn’t resolve the problem. After further discussion with tech support, they routed me to someone with more knowledge about this specific jointer who indicated that the 490 series has been known to occasionally exhibit this problem, particularly during spin-down. He described it as an electro-magnetic effect in the motor as it spins down, creating a sort of electric brake effect, which correlated well with what I was observing. I indicated that the problem was so severe that it had loosened the fastener holding the upper pulley in place, and after several troubleshooting steps the motor had completely stopped working. The technician said he would send out a replacement, which he did and it arrived seven days later.Replacing the motor was relatively easy, and it addressed the vibration problem to my satisfaction.
Now that we are operational, let’s have a look around the machine:
Levers vs. wheels. My old 6″ jointer has wheels to adjust the height of the beds, while the 490X one uses levers. There has been a long standing debate on bulletin boards all over the internet with woodworkers taking sides in this “tastes great / less filling” style dialogue. I had previously believed that wheels would provide a smoother, more gradual adjustment compared to levers. After working with this tool a bit, I am now firmly on both sides of the fence. I like wheels, but I like these levers too. A lot. Adjustments really could not be more smooth or controlled, as I can precisely set depth of cut, with no slop or hassle involved whatsoever. Anyone who avoids changing their jointer’s depth of cut because it is a hassle (you know who you are) would love the depth adjustment on this jointer, and would not hesitate to use it.
Large, readable scales. My eyes are not what they used to be, but I have no problem reading the calibration scales on this machine without squinting, bending, or bringing in extra lighting. Makes me think that someone over the age of 40 was involved with the design. On behalf of aging woodworkers everywhere, thank you!
Fence. The fence is made of dead flat heavy duty cast iron, is generously portioned at nearly 3 feet long and 5 inches tall, and is one of the key features of this machine. The mechanisms to adjust the fence are well made, operate smoothly and engage solidly. No slope or flex. Wherever you set it, it stays set, and the positive stops allow you to easily and confidently return to your favorite angles of 90 degrees, or 45 degrees in either direction.
Built-in wheels. The integrated mobile base included with this machine is sweet. The pedal engages easily to raise the machine, making it mobile. It is a little tricky to drop the machine back down smoothly, but all in all a nice design.
Parallelogram vs. Dovetailed ways. The parallelogram design seems to be nearly universally revered as being superior by engineering minded folks, providing more adjustability for tuning the beds to parallel. This design also maintains a consistent distance between the bed and cutter head as the bed travels on a path that follows the curvature of the cutter head when adjusting cut depth. Grizzly’s implementation of this feature is solid. My infeed and outfeed tables were set perfectly parallel at the factory so I did not have to make any adjustments, but having this capability gives me peace of mind if I ever need to utilize it.
Switch. The switch features a two step power up sequence which offers a nice safety mechanism and prevents accidental starting of the machine. It feels like a bit of a hassle to take this additional step each time I fire up the machine, but if it prevents me from having an accident at some point, it is well worth taking the additional step with the machine. On a minor note, the feel of the twisting action on the stop button is not as solid as I would expect on a machine of this stature, and does not match the industrial grade ruggedness of the jointer overall.
Cutter head guard. This important safety device is well designed. It is heavy duty with a solid spring-back mechanism. I like when safety equipment is well made and easy to use because people will actually use it.
The spiral cutter head is impressive. Precision ground, and everything has a high quality look and feel. The carbide insert cutters are easy to adjust and replace in the event that they become dull or damaged. This is a great upgrade over the traditional knife-based cutter head. (I will discuss spiral cutter heads in more detail in an upcoming article.)
Let’s put it through a few tests:Infamous nickel test. I was able to balance a nickel on the jointer’s bed, start the machine, let it run for a while, and then bring it to a complete stop without tipping over the nickel. I consider it an impressive engineering feat to maintain that level of stability on a machine delivering this much power to the cutter head.
Long board test. I couldn’t wait to see how well the machine would handle longer boards, since I had struggled with this for years on my 6″ jointer. Infeed capacity and weight are the keys here, and at 600 pounds with a 43-3/8″ infeed table, it is a piece of cake to joint longer boards. The board shown is a tad over 7 feet long, and it fed through easily, creating a perfect joint.
Gap free joints right out of the box. I was impressed by the quality of the edge produced without any modifications to the setup of jointer beds. This machine will produce great panel glue-ups, even for large table tops, king size headboards, etc.
Easy Rabbets. With a 3 HP motor and an ample size rabbeting ledge, it does a great job removing large amounts of stock to mill rabbets, although for deep cuts you will still want to make multiple passes for quality and safety reasons.
Jointing bevels. The long, high fence makes jointing bevels an easy, repeatable process.
Let’s try some face jointing. One of the reasons I wanted to upgrade my jointer was to get greater capacity for face jointing rough lumber. One of the reasons I wanted a spiral cutter head was because they are known for (among other things, which I will cover in a separate article) delivering great cuts on figured stock. So I ran a few pieces of figured stock through to see if it would live up to the hype.
Curly red birch. This sample came out perfect in one pass. I was amazed at the surface, which looked like it had not only been finish sanded, but had such sheen to it that it looked like it had been finished with polyurethane as well.
Birdseye maple. The 490X produced a mirror like surface on this sample with no chipping around the figured areas.
Quilted maple. I saw some minor surface chipping around the figured areas on this board, but nothing that could not be removed with a light sanding. I also took a second pass at a slower feed rate and with a lighter cut and was able to remove most of the chipping. Honestly, I don’t look to the jointer for perfect surfaces, just flat surfaces, so the tool exceeds both my needs and my expectations on this front. I can always run a board through a planer or hit it with a sander or scraper to perfect the surface.
As I described in part one of this review, my overall purchase experience was okay, but I felt that I needed to do quite a bit of my research and analysis using resources outside of the Grizzly web site. For example I did not receive much guidance from the web site to help me choose between their six different configurations for an 8″ jointer. No description of why I might want parallelogram beds or a spiral cutter head. No suggestions as to why I might choose Grizzly’s own spiral cutter head vs. the Byrd option that they also sell. I had to talk to fellow woodworkers and scour the internet to find some of the information that I desired. On the other hand, I am a research junky who likes doing homework, as it kind of makes these big tool purchases more of an adventure.
Upon receiving the jointer, I was disappointed with the vibration problem that I experienced, and I did not enjoy the hours spent troubleshooting the problem. But kudos to Grizzly for their world-class responsiveness and unwavering commitment to getting me up and running. Nobody likes hassles, but honestly I believe that this scenario allows me to give an even stronger endorsement to Grizzly than if I would have had a more common smooth setup experience. They demonstrated an unwavering commitment to their customer and stood behind their product through a problematic situation.
Now that it is up and running and I have seen what it can do, I love this tool and am delighted with the purchase overall. The setup hassles are quickly dissolving into history as I am now enjoying a precise, powerful, solid piece of machinery. The Grizzly 490X is well made and offers a solid set of features that make it a winner in the shop of any serious hobbyist or small professional shop. I also feel that this tool is a bargain at $1,250.
Photos by Author unless otherwise credited.
G490X, Grizzly 8″ Jointer with Parallelogram Beds and Spriral Cutterhad, $1,250 plus shipping
The Router Table as a Jointer