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Space, space, space. That’s the small shop owner’s comeback to the real estate motto, “Location, location, location.”
Most woodworking shops are tight for space. In today’s economy, buying, building or renting more space is probably not a fantastic idea, but getting the most of your currently available space is. Can you replace a planer and jointer with a true planer/jointer? Is it possible to move from separate planers and molders to a planer/molder that will actually do both jobs well? Can a jointer/shaper/molder be joined at the hip?
There’s a solid array of such machines available now, with distributors moving well beyond the traditional, and still available, Felder and Laguna centers. Grizzly is in the fray, as are Woodworkers Supply and Shop Fox. The array of European machines from Laguna and Felder is large enough to be confusing, while most U.S. distributors have stuck with the tried-and-true jointer/planer combos.
These are not the long-available Shopsmith multi-tool, which is still sold and very useful for some hobbyists. The Shopsmith and its imitators all had single motors and were much better at some jobs than others. I always found that the drill press was excellent, the lathe very good and the rest, in my opinion, was marginal. The table saw, in particular, is limited because it uses a tilting table instead of a tilting blade. Caused by the lathe configuration, the saw table is also quite high, giving me an uncomfortable working position.
Pro-style multi-tools don’t offer a configuration with a lathe and a drill press. The only ones that operate with a single motor are the jointer/planers and the planer/molders. You can find a planer, a jointer, a table saw, a molding machine and, occasionally, other tools in a compact, easily changeable setup that is sometimes moderately mobile. Those machines most often have three motors, from three horses each and up. Some combo machines are enough for a start-up woodshop, though, for production work of any kind, the need to break down one tool setup to use another is always a bottleneck.
Generally, manufacturers design the machines so feed paths are similar. Planer/molders, for instance, and planer/jointers feed from the same end. That means easy lining up, no switching ends or sides.
The Grizzly 12" jointer/planer is a prime example. With a 5-hp motor (25 ampere), this single-phase, 230-volt machine (model G0633) uses a three-knife cutterhead (model G0634 offers a spiral cutterhead) to plane, with the wood passing over a planer table supported by a thick, cast-iron column. The jointer table flips up to allow planing action, while the planer hood is also a flip-up style from its under-the-table position for the jointer action. The table size is 12" x 59-7/8", so this machine serves all jointer duties (unless you’re building long doors or similar constructs), while easily covering many planer jobs. At 741 lbs. (shipping weight), it is a massive tool, with enough cast-iron mass to help absorb vibration.
Jet has a nifty tool in this category, too. Its JJP-12 is a 12" jointer and 12" planer, with the customary flip-up table. The cutterhead has three knives. The jointer fence is very large. The table length is 55", while the fence is 43" x 6". The 3-hp motor is a 12-1/2 amp, 230-volt, single-phase power source. The 400 lb. weight makes this a stable tool with low vibration. The dust port is 4" in diameter, while output needs a 400 CFM dust-collector capacity. The stand is one piece steel, the handwheel is large, and the table uses a parallelogram design that keeps the cutterhead close to the table for less nicking and chipping.