Time comes, let's face it, when most of us must swab the drool off that photo of Delta's long- bed-parallel-adjust jointer and turn to the back pages of the magazine, to the Taiwanese knockoffs. But with the choice of twenty distributors, each pandering machines looking suspiciously like the others, where do you drop your dough? I chose to drop it on the Sunhill CT-60L 6" jointer, and this note is by way of a qualified plug.
About $425 delivered gets you one heavy blue machine in two boxes. The stand occupies one; a neatly welded cabinet with a (non-magnetic) switch requiring a certain degree of electrical confidence. Motor is 1hp, 115/230v wired 115v though without much guidance in changing it over. It hangs easily and runs with surprising quietude.
The Sunhill's edge is its bed length: 52" on a 6" jointer is extraordinary, and if your pigeon is long narrow boards, this could be the beast for you. Sunhill accomplishes this feat via bolt-on cast bed extensions; the longer tables may even help a novice like me run long or very twisted stock with less dependence on technique. Plan to spend some time getting the wings dead level. Then never fret again. A little 400 grit sandpaper makes boffo shims. Table finish is top notch, but the paint job (especially around the rabbeting ledge) can get sloppy.
The infeed and outfeed tables on my jointer were a tad out of parallel; it took some fiddling with brass shims to bring them into line -- part of the package with a bargain jointer. And the table- locking gib screws are way around back and small, making them hard to tighten faithfully. Also tetchy is the fence setup: it is center-mounted and tilts in- and out-board, but that means three stops to adjust. But it is a darn solid fence. I put some self-stick HDPE on the fence bottom before setting stops to spare the outfeed table any scratches. The cutterhead guard is a menace, as thinner stock tends to slip underneath it and get pinned between the guard and the knives. Handwheel adjustment on both tables is smooth and more accurate than levers.
The final test of a jointer is this: can it produce one flat face and one true edge? The Sunhill, properly tuned, has repeatedly edge-jointed 14' hardwood boards with less than 1/32" runout over their entire length. Betwixt the face and edge is a 90 degree corner sharp enough to (slurp) cut your thumb (slurp) open. Even with slow feed and a light cut, though, the finish is slightly rippled; more rpm's might help. And my knives have notched a bit already and required shifting. Replacement sets run about $22 and are common; carbide knives may be worth a look if you run hard, knotty woods. Sunhill throws in a knife gauge and all pertinent wrenches; but without jackscrews, knife setting remains a mystic art.
Overall, I have been very pleased with the machine and its distributor. If you are willing to spend some time tweaking it, the Sunhill CT-60L should give you many years of flat, true wood at a remarkable price. So wipe that spittle off your chin and consider this, the long-bed jointer for the proletariat. You can reach Sunhill at 1-800-929-4321.
Robert McGovern 8/18/97