Hot New Tools: Issue 93

Quick-change cutters and cleaner, quieter cuts

Jet 13" Helical-style Benchtop Planer (JPW-13BT)

Helical-head planers and jointers tend to cut cleaner than straight-knife machines. Unfortunately, the cost of even an aftermarket helical cutterhead upgrade kit exceeds the price of a brand-new benchtop planer. Jet’s new JPW-13BT benchtop planer offers small-shop woodworkers an economical alternative. While the segmented cutter head isn’t a true helical configuration, the manufacturer claims that the alternating arrangement of the 26 two-sided high-speed steel (HSS) cutters produces a cut that approaches the quality of premium-priced helical-head machines.

I tested the Jet for a few weeks alongside my faithful benchtop planer outfitted with fresh full-length knives. The immediate difference between the two was noise; the Jet operated about 5 dB quieter than my old planer, and the difference increased as the full-length knives began to dull. As for cut quality, the planers were neck-and-neck at the beginning, but by the end of the week the Jet had taken a noticeable lead. According to the manufacturer, the cleaner cut is a result of the cutting angle. Thanks to the shearing action of the cutters, they enjoy a longer edge-life than full-length knives.

The moment I nicked a cutter edge, the Jet left my old planer in the dust. Before, I might have accepted a less-than-perfect cut rather than trash a set of my disposable knives. But thanks to the rotatable two-sided cutters on the Jet, nixing the nick was a 5-minute fix. 

The 13BT sports two feed speeds (18- and 26-fpm) and an adjustable thickness stop that automatically registers the cutter head at 1/4"-, 1/2"-, 3/4",- and 1"-thick settings. A 4"-diameter dust port matches standard dust-collection systems. The 2-hp motor can be run from a 120-volt circuit. Another plus: the planer is backed by Jet’s 3-year Assurance Warranty.


  • Segmented head planer, $799.99
  • 26 double-sided HSS inserts
  • Max. thickness-6"; Max. width-13"
  • 2 feed speeds (8 and 26 FPM)
  • Adjustable depth stop for repetitive cuts 
  • 2 HP, 15-amp motor
  • 74.8 lbs.

—Tester, Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk

Kensai stones are keepers

Kensai 1000/6000 Water Stone

If you don’t already have an established sharpening system, Woodcraft’s new house-brand of water stones may be just the thing you need to start or augment your arsenal of honing stones. These Kensai stones are available in a range of grits from 400 to 8000, of which I tested the 1000/6000 combination stone.

The first and most obvious attribute is the stone’s size. At 8 inches long by 3 inches wide, it provides enough real estate for sharpening wide blades or partnering with larger-bodied sharpening jigs, such as the Veritas M2.

I was nicely surprised by the quality of the finished edge the 6000-grit side produced; it matched what I expect from higher-grit stones. According to the manufacturer, the abrasive particles fracture to essentially create a finer grit as you work. This attribute saves the user from having to purchase an additional polishing stone.

Some softer-bond water stones cut faster by releasing abrasive more readily, but this can cause the surface to quickly dish. Kensai has found the sweet spot between cutting speed and durability. Sharpening hard A2 steel plane irons revealed the Kensai to be harder than similarly priced stones and only slightly softer than my premium ceramic stones.

This two-sided stone outperformed my go-to budget stone, and held its own against a set of premium stones that cost three times as much.

—Tester, Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk

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