General 6" Bench-Top Jointer with Helical Cutter Head Review

A great alternative to a stationary jointer for the small shop.

General 6" Bench-Top Jointer with Helical Cutter Head

General 6" Bench-Top Jointer with Helical Cutter Head



I work in a small shop where space is at a premium. Over the past year I've been looking at ways to maximize my use of the shop space. One obvious solution is to reduce the number, and size of stationary equipment that I use. To this end, I recently decided to try a General bench top jointer, the 80-025HC, which features a helical cutterhead.

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Minimal assembly required

There isn't much to assemble with the 80-025HC. All you need to do is bolt on the fence mounting bracket and assembly, attach the fence to the assembly, and then attach the dust outlet – only if you plan to connect a dust collector or dust extractor to the jointer. Otherwise you can let the chips fall into a waste container positioned just in front of the the outfeed table. Assembly time is about 10 minutes.

The 80-025HC comes with a set of push blocks. I found that the surface of the push blocks were much too smooth, reducing their ability to grip wood surfaces. You're better off tossing them into the recycle bin, and using a shop made push block.

The power cord is only 5' long - I would have liked a longer cord, as I tend to move my machines around the shop – one of the hassles of working in a small shop.

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Study fence mount assembly

The swivel locking handles used to adjust the fence are fairly typical for machines at this price range. I found it quick and easy to adjust the lateral position of the fence, as well as the bevel position. The fence flexes just a little when pushing stock tight up against it during jointing operations. However, I don't find that this compromises the jointing process – the important thing is that the fence typically remains 90-degrees to the table. I've jointed around 40 board feet on the 80-025HC and a couple of times noticed the fence slightly out of alignment. Nothing serious, but it's still worth checking the fence on a regular basis. 

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Easy fence alignment

After installing the fence you need to carefully check that it's square to the table. Set screws enable you to make any necessary adjustment. There is also a set screw to fine tune the 45-degree fence stop if needed. I found it necessary to make both adjustments, and happily the process only took a few minutes to complete.

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Sturdy aluminum fence

The 4” x 19 5/8” fence is an ample size, and it can be adjusted between 45° and 90°. Still, it's good practice to check the angle with a square or sliding bevel every time you adjust it. I like the ribbed face of the fence, as it reduces drag when edge jointing tall stock.

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Milling marks make for less than perfectly smooth tables

Most planer and jointer tables that I'm familiar with have smooth polished surfaces. The infeed and outfeed tables on the 80-025HC have visible milling marks, similar to what you commonly find on bandsaw tables. I find that this produces a bit more drag on stock. I've sprayed both tables with Bostik's 'GlideCote' lubricant and it does help to reduce friction. Additionally, it provides some corrosion protection. I've been using this product for quite a few years on my table saw and bandsaw tables.

The 80-025HC is about as compact a jointer as you're likely to find. Overall table length is 30" compared to a common 46" length for a stationary jointer, making it 35% shorter. However, I could still easily joint 4' stock, and with a roller stand on the outfeed side, I can joint a 7' board. This works well for me, because I don't make large scale furniture, and I precut my stock to about 6" longer than finished dimensions before milling the stock. It takes a bit longer to prepare stock, and I probably end up with more waste. But, it means I can use smaller machines in my shop, leaving more floor space for assembly.

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No dipping here

On the plus side, the infeed and outfeed tables are coplanar and near to perfectly flat. I couldn't discern any dipping in the surfaces along the length or width of either tables.

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Easy belt access (cover removed)

The 80-025HC uses a ribbed drive belt, which provides more efficient power transfer between the motor and cutterhead. General Internatiional recommends you inspect the belt about every 100 hours or so for wear. An easily removable cover makes accessing and replacing the belt straightforward. 

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Large knobs make infeed table adjustment easy

Knobs for adjusting the cutting depth, and locking the position of the infeed table, are a decent size. I do find the depth of cut scale too small and the reference marks hard to distinguish. However, I only use the scale as a general reference guide. Typically I set the table to cut at approximately 1/16" or so for initial stock preparation, and just below the 0 mark for finish cuts. I prefer taking a few 'kissing cuts' rather than risk taking off to much material at any one time.

The table adjustment knob (at the far right in the photo above) is very precise, while the locking knob securely holds the infeed table in place. When turning the adjustment knob the table advances (and retracts) smoothly, and stays in place when I release the knob.

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Carbon brush is easily accessed

General International recommends that the carbon brush on the motor be replaced at around 150 hours of operation. The brush is accessed underneath the jointer, by flipping the machine on its side. You can then back out the brush cover with a flat head screwdriver.

The 80-025HC is equipped with a 1 HP, 10 Amp motor, rated for a maximum 1/8" depth of cut. While I found that it could easily remove the full 1/8" in a single pass, I typically keep my cuts to about 1/32". It places less strain on the motor, and the results are better. I like that the jointer only draws 10 amps, as I can have it plugged into a shared circuit, without worrying that the circuit breaker will trip. 

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Standard 2-1/2" dust port

There are three options for dealing with waste chips. You can connect to a dust extractor (aka shop vacuum), a dust collector (you'll need to purchase a 2-1/2" to 4" adapter), or simply let the chips fall into a waste container. Because I work in such a small shop I use a dust extractor. While the canister on my Bosch VAC140A fills up rapidly it's quick to empty.

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The jointer easily bolts to any surface

I was quite surprised at how little vibration there is with this jointer. Rubber feet help dampen vibration, and keep the jointer from moving about a bench top. However, it's a good idea to bolt the jointer in place. 1/4" T-bolts work perfectly for this as the bolt head is long enough to butt up against the side of the jointer, making it a cinch to tighten the nut underneath the table top.

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12 double-edged HSS inserts provide a superior finish

What really distinguishes the 80-025HC is it's use of a helical cutterhead rather than a traditional triple knife blade cutterhead. This cutterhead has 12 high speed steel inserts – each with two cutting edges. Once a cutting edge become dull you simply loosen the holding screws, and rotate the inserts to expose the fresh edge. As you can see in the photo of the cutterhead, the inserts are staggered so that they provide a continuous cutting surface across the width of the cutterhead. The inserts are aligned perpendicular to the cutterhead rather than at an angle, as seen on some helical cutterheads.

If you have a jointer that uses jack screws to adjust the straight blades, you'll know what a pain blade set-up can be. Installing (or rotating a fresh cutting edge) on a helical cutterhead is a piece of cake in comparison. I removed and then reinstalled all 12 inserts in a leisurely 10 minutes or so. No fiddling, no fine tuning.

I found that the insert knives hold an edge that’s comparable to high quality conventional straight knives. After running some 40 board feet of beech on this jointer the cutting edges remain in pristine condition.

A set of ten HSS inserts (#30-007) are priced at $80, or $40 per set of cutting edges. An equivalent set of CMT or Dimar 6" jointer blades cost about $35, or $70 for two sets. Not an appreciable price difference for the convenience that an insert cutterhead provides. You can also purchase a set of ten carbide inserts (#30-006) for $104.

I don't have a noise meter, so couldn't measure the decibel level of the 
80-025HC in use. While it doesn't sound quite as high pitched as my stationary jointer, you'll still need to use hearing protection.

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Stellar jointing on as

In the end, what really matters is how well the 80-025HC performs, and I'm happy to report that the results are stellar. Surfaces are wonderfully smooth, with very little discernible milling marks. Granted, most of the wood I've jointed so far is straight grained beech. However, I did joint some walnut, ash, and sapele – the results were great. I'm anxious to see how the jointer handles really weird grain - unfortunately I don't have any on hand at this time. As soon as I do get some I'll update this review.

While a stationary jointer does have its benefits, there is no reason to shy away from this benchtop helical jointer, especially if you work primarily with short stock, and in a small workshop. You'll save precious floor space, but won't sacrifice surface quality.

KEY FEATURES:

  • Motor: 1 HP, 120 V, 10 A
  • Table Size: 6-1/8" x 29-7/8"
  • Table Height: 8-1/4"
  • Maximum Cutting Depth: 1/8"
  • Fence Size: 4-1/4" x 19-5/8"
  • Cutter Head Speed: 11,000 RPM
  • Number of Inserts: 12
  • Insert Type: HSS
  • Dust Outlet: 2-1/2"
  • Power Cord: 5'
  • Spring-loaded cutter head guard
  • Weight: 37.5 lbs
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Includes: 2 safety push blocks, operating guide

COMPANY:General International
MODEL:80-025HC
PRICE:$429.95
MADE IN:China
SOURCE:Dealer List

Hot off the Jointer:
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May 2015
 
Author: 
Carl Duguay
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