A General Review of the new Linear Tables for the Jointmaker Pro (JMPv2 & JMP Upgrade Kit) from Bridge City Tools
I'll cut right to the point (perfect pun don't you think?): I have been a Jointermaker Pro user since its introduction and was more than curious as to whether it's worth the money to upgrade my Jointmaker Pro to the v2. Through this review you should be able to gain enough information to decide if the new JMP v2, the new JMP SW (single wing) or the upgrade kit is for you. I will not (at this time) bury you with details and insights to work methods, clamping set-ups (even if you see hints in the photos), nor will I repeat my review of the JMP from a year ago.
Note: Whenever I write JMP-v1, I am referring to the original JMP introduced about a year ago.
On the New Linear Rails . . .
Switching from the original dovetail system to the new ball bearing linear rails...
. . . is like the feeling you got from going uphill on a cruiser bike and then switching to a geared system bicycle.
. . . is like going cross-country skiing then switching to downhill skis.
. . . is like massage with oil as opposed to bare hands.
I think you get my point; they all get you to the same destination with less effort.
With that in mind it is important to note that the quality of the cuts between the two linear table systems is identical. Comparing a perfectly tuned JMP-v1 to the upgrade version you can't help but notice that the inertia and reduced effort of the new linear slides makes the cutting experience feel "breezy". There is an absence of drag with the linear slides that is inherent with the dovetail design. Especially when one travels the full length of the original ways - pushing through a cut, and then returning.
The new rails provide more momentum with less effort during the cut..
. . . . .
Cutting small stock or cutting shallow cuts on large stock, whether it be squiggle wood, cutting dovetails, joinery cuts or chamfer cuts - the inertia of the new rails makes this an easier operation. Where the new system really shines are lengthy sessions for all the above. There was not the same feeling of fatigue as with the dovetail system. That being said if you are just an occasional user and working with balsa like wood for architectural models I'm not quite convinced that you would need to upgrade.
I found for instance when I was cutting the ripped piece you see below it became a "breezy experience" - which on the dovetail system is usually a tedious process.
. . . . .
In the short time I've been using the upgrade I'm surprised at the robust quality of the linear rail system. There have been times in the past with the dovetail system where when you get a little ahead of yourself and you push the workpiece (trap clamped to the tables) into the blade; and the work piece and the blade become jammed. This then necessitates slowly backing the blade out and wiggling out the work piece, which sometimes leads to loosening the dovetail to table alignment - which then leads to having to recalibrate the tables. (An easy adjustment - but annoying interruption to one's workflow.) In the couple of times I got ahead of myself - that didn't happen with the upgrade rails. While I'm on that topic - if for some reason the table to rail alignment (bearing slop) does get out of whack there will be adjustment ports thru the bottom of the rail to adjust the screws that hold the table to the rails. On the prototype rails I have, only one rail has adjustment ports. Keep in mind that if you remove the factory installed linear bearing housing that is attached to the rails, (the sliders) all hell will break loose and you will probably void your warranty, as you will have acetyl ball bearings showering all around you.
While we are on the topic of linear bearings here's a brief animation with an x-ray view on how they work.
(I should note that the animation below is generic in form, and with no connection to BCTW's linear bearings - I'm just showing the similarity of motion.)
click on link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23G9b1imLHA
Keep in mind that the bearings in the JMP upgrade are acetyl (to reduce the noise level & the wear on the track) This system requires no lubrication and has no need for constant re-adjustment on the table / rails. The hydroscopic movement due to weather changes to the original dovetail sliders is no longer an issue. The noise level is definitely higher on the upgrade version, to where if you were multi-tasking while on the phone your caller would know that you were up to something. (Not so on the JMP-v1 - I know, I've done it many a time) Working at 2 am in the morning is possible however, unless your spouse is a very heavy sleeper you might want to set up in the room adjacent to the bedroom rather than the bedroom itself.
As a somewhat close re-enactment of the sound level - go to a drawer in your kitchen with full extension slides - older Accuride style slides are best - and slide it back and forth - putting some weight on the front drawer-face, its a little louder than that rolling sound, not including the sounds/clicks you hear at full and closed extensions. (This re-enactment does not work with Blum hardware!)
And one more little detail - Did I say - No lubrication required!
The Big Question . . .
Will I order the upgrade? Without a hesitation - yes.
Am I upset that there is a significant upgrade, just shy of a year from its original introduction? Actually, no and no. For the first no - I'm glad BCTW's was able to come up with a radical improvement on efficiency & ease of use on their next generation of JMP's and make the improvement available as an upgrade on an existing design.
For the second - "no", having the original JMP allows me with very little modification to have the ability to switch for an expanded use, inappropriate here, but I will soon share my thoughts on the Bridge City Tools Forum.
What I am more surprised at is that they have made such a dramatic change in the design of the JMP series without an escalation in price. In the days ahead I will go into more detail of using the new system as a single table user (simulating the JMP-sw), but with what I've done up till now is that for the majority of the cuts, a single slider is very efficient and effective. I tested the single table idea because the new JMP SW only has one sliding table.
The Down Side . . .
I have to say that I'm trying very hard here to list the negatives,
And the negatives a more annoyances to work around with!
The first - being the access slot on the outside edge of each table. (The ones directly over the new rails) Once the back fence is set up, in order to put through either the short bolt or longer bolt for the wood clamp one needs to pull the table all the way forward so the slot on the table extends to over the back plate - so you then feed the bolt thru at that point. (See photo) On the JMP-v1, one accesses the outside slots through the ways to feed the bolt.
This may be a matter of the "Prototype" version, but the access slot for the feeding of the short bolts in front outside slots of the table (to hold the back fence) when extending the table over the front plate - is a very tight feed-through. That would be remedied by making the table/slot just a little bit longer.
The sound, you'll get use to it - the JMP-v1 does have more of a Zen quality to it.
This is a surprise to me but using the JMP w/v2 upgrade rails, makes me want to use the tool more--resulting in one's disappearance from household activities, chores & family movie watching.
Now that can be a huge positive or a huge negative? I'll keep you posted!
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In the next few weeks I'll be fielding questions from both forum members and visitors while I have use of the upgrade prototypes. I will also be documenting different clamping procedures and techniques that I have come to use.
all the best,