Last month I had the pleasure of attending the Walter Meier Manufacturing Press Event in Nashville, Tennessee. Walter Meier Manufacturing is a Swiss Company, headquartered in Stäfa, Switzerland, that owns both Jet and Powermatic (so really it was the Jet Tools and Powermatic press event). The event was held at Fort Houston, which is an old manufacturing plant that has been rehabbed into shared studio space with a common woodshop, photography and print studio and a bike repair shop. The woodshop is underwritten by Jet.
Members of the press were broken into teams. Each team progressed in round-robin fashion to be briefed on the latest Jet and Powermatic tools and products. In addition we also spent some time with a handful of Fort Houston’s most talented denizens.
Joan Duvall, Director of Product Management, Wood, told us about Powermatic’s new 120-volt table saw, the PM 1000. This product was not so much new as a PM 2000 light. While the 2000 requires 230-volts, the 1000 runs on 120V, so should be a great hit with the home shop crowd. It also does not have the 2000’s nifty casters, which are deployed by a series of jackscrews connected to the tilt handle. Pushing the handle inward tilts the blade. Pulling it out operates the casters. I have used a PM 2000 in my own shop for some time now. My impression of the PM 1000 was that fit and finish were excellent. Eliminating the casters and going to a 120-volt motor gives this machine a more attainable street price of about $2,000.
The hit with the press was Jet’s new 14” Steel Frame Bandsaw. (Well, 13½” actually but who is measuring?) With a street price of $1899, this machines offers a lot for the money. You get a welded steel frame weighing in at 356 pounds, a 1¾ HP motor, tool-less blade adjustment, a quality throat plate with leveling screws, a solid fence, dual dust extraction ports, and a tension release—all features that really impressed members of the press.
Jet also unveiled a new Woodworking Bench Grinder with Pedestal. Again, this was not a groundbreaking new product but a hybridization of existing Jet grinders. For some time I have been highly critical of current bench grinders in my articles and demonstrations. I would say that Jet has done a good job of listening to what woodturners want because there were several features that pleased me:
- Norton wheels come as standard with an 80 grit high performance left side wheel and a 100 grit aluminum oxide right wheel.
- The quality tool rests are sized to a woodworker’s or woodturner’s needs with precise angle readings that show through a window in the rest.
- Slow 1725 RPM speed.
- Base that is high enough to mount an Oneway Wolverine Jig underneath.
- A solid, well made, pedestal with a cast iron quench tank and parts shelf.
- Sadly the viewing shields were the standard plastic variety. (Viewing shields are not an OSHA requirement, but grinders of the past had good viewing guards with metal frames and often lighting as well.)
The last product was Jet’s latest Model 1015 Mini Lathe. This translates to a 10” swing and 15” between centers. It is offered with a standard motor with belt and pulley speed adjustment or as the VS, which has a variable speed motor. While there isn’t anything particularly new here, it’s still a good quality mini lathe in a crowded marketplace.
Barry Schwaiger, the force behind Powermatic and Jet’s product development, presented a interesting session. Both brands are looking very closely at cosmetics, down to minute details. For the Jet line, an industrial designer has been brought in to bring a common look to all future machines. The talk on the bus back to the airport was that “the look” was a somewhat early 20th Century Streamliner / Art Deco. As much as possible, bolts, nuts and screws are hidden which gives the tools a smooth flowing look. Knobs and levers are also being custom made when off the shelf parts look cheap and tinny.
My general feel about the event is that both the Jet Tools and the Powermatic brands are alive and well and we can look for good things to come—both now and in the future.