I recently purchased the Bridgewood BW6R 6"quot; jointer from Wilke Machinery in York, PA. I looked at several jointers before deciding on the Bridgewood. I reconciled my decision as follows:
I ordered the saw on a Thursday and Wilke Machinery sent it out by freight company on Friday. On Monday, the freight company scheduled delivery for 9:00am Tuesday (actual delivery was made at 6:45pm!). The jointer arrived in two boxes - one containing the stand and motor, the second containing the jointer body, fence, and miscellaneous small parts. A third box contained the HTC mobile base I purchased for the machine.
Packing was excellent. The three boxes were banded to a pallet, which kept them from being thrown around. The stand was packed in styrofoam at top and bottom. The jointer body/parts were wrapped in plastic and completely encased in styrofoam.Cleaning and Assembly
The jointer was in excellent condition after unpacking. Not a scratch or ding to be found. Wilke Machinery cleans, assembles, and tests every machine they sell before shipment to their customers, so the jointer only had a very light coat of protective oil on the unpainted metal. (Wilke should really highlight this more than they do, since it saves a lot of hassle for the customer, and probably weeds out most of the "fit andfinish"-problem machines before shipment.)
Before I assemble anything, I want to be sure I have all the parts.The problem was, Bridgewood doesn't include a packing parts list. The only parts reference was the 5 page parts list at the back of the manual, which is the parts list/schematic diagram I would have used if I were working on the Bridgewood assembly line. A parts/packing list for final assembly would have been be very useful.
The jointer's wiring had been completed before leaving York, PA, (for testing by Wilke), so the first step after unpacking was to fit the jointer body to the stand. The instructions recommend that this is a two-person job, since the "machine body weighs about 125 pounds." This is definitely a job for two people, as the jointer body is probably closer to 175 pounds.(If the machine ways 235 pounds, consists of 2 major parts, AND one part the stand can be picked up one-handed, the body had to weigh more than 125 pounds!) The jointer body attaches to the stand with 3 bolts. After that, the drive belt went on and was checked for alignment.
The instructions for aligning the belts is a little confusing. They specify that when everything is aligned correctly, "the belt should be vertical." Since the motor and cutter head pulleys are of different diameters, the belt cannot be vertical. (I have read that Wilke will replace the Taiwanese motors with American-made motors before shipment. I don't know if they do this with all Bridgewood machines, but this may be the reason for the difference in pulley size). Instead of making the belt vertical, the centers of the two pulleys were aligned until they were vertical. Vertical was achieved by moving the jointer body about 1/16" on the stand and the bolts were tightened.
Instructions for setting the fence angle stops at 45 and 90 were somewhat confusing. The instructions were not very clear and the accompanying photos were grainy. I ended up discarding the instructions for this, and relying on trial-and-error until I got the stops set correctly.
Knife setting/adjustment, table tweaking, etc., were fine out of the box (possibly another perk from Wilke's pre-shipment testing?).Some points to make about the assembly instructions and manual
It is strange that the owner's manual would place the safety instructions at the end of the manual, after the operation instructions, instead of on the first page. The belt guard is the same slate blue as the rest of the machine, not orange as indicated in the directions Don't forget to install the stand cover plate, since the directions don't mention it. I had two bags of screws and washers. The larger screws go to the "orange" belt guard. The smaller screws (I assume) go to the cover plate (again, a good reason for a packing list). The cover plate is scored, but not pre-drilled for the smaller screws. They aren't necessary though, since the knob screw and form a seal along the edges keep the plate snug without rattling. Also the fence handle and hand wheels need installation without prompting from the assembly instructions.
After completing assembly, I was pleased to find that there were no missing pieces, all holes aligned, not a single scratch or ding, table was flat, no machining marks, and highly polished. There were no burrs or sharp edges that needed filing. Not a single casting, machining, or finishing flaw could be found!Operation
Since I didn't have any projects going that needed the immediate attention of the jointer, I "broke the machine in" with some 2X4s. I set the first cut at 1/16". Table height adjustment was smooth, but still a little stiff using the hand wheel. I suspect this will improve with use and additional lubrication. The machine operates quietly with zero vibration, despite being on the HTC mobile base which I figured would cause the jointer to vibrate some. Shavings exit from the dust chute below the outfield table (aside from a shop vacuum and a push broom, my shop presently lacks a dust collection system, so I can't offer comments on how well the two work together). After passing 4 sides of the 2X4s through and finding there were no machine marks, I set depth at 1/8". Again, stockfeeding/cutting was smooth, like cutting through butter, and zero vibration.
Next, I ran through some cherry stock. Just like the pine 2X4s, the cutter zipped right through, zero vibration, and no tear out or cuttermarks.
Since the only other jointer I have used was a 12" Bridgewood model at a cabinet shop, I can't compare this jointer to any previous, however, I am thoroughly pleased with the operation thus far.Summary
I am very pleased with this purchase and certainly happy I didn't allow brand recognition sway my decision. Although I have not clocked a lot of time on the machine, I am confident that this machine will handle all the projects I will undertake. Packing was excellent. So called "fit and finish" are well beyond my expectations. Overall quality is as good as any other jointer I have looked at. Only minor flaws were with the assembly and operation instructions and accompanying photographs, but these are really minor gripes.
If anyone is uncertain about Bridgewood, contact Wilke Machinery and talk to them about their machines. They genuinely want the customer to be happy with the purchase they make. Furthermore, they have a great reputation for customer service, which is obvious when you call and wait less than 30 seconds on hold to talk to someone who can give you expert advice.
Wilke includes a letter from the general manager at the beginning of the manual. It states that, "Our business has been built on the trust of our customers. We pay attention to detail - We understand what we sell and we stand behind it." From what I have seen so far, this is an dead on accurate!