The Powermatic 54A jointer is a slightly cheaper alternative to the 54HH jointer and uses a three knife cutterhead instead of the helical cutterhead The 54A is an excellent jointer even without the helical cutterhead. Let’s take a closer look.
Cutting Power & Motor
The Powermatic 54A jointer uses a 1hp, 1 phase motor that uses 115v of power. It can also be converted to use 230v power for added flexibility. The motor powers the helical cutter head with a belt drive.
The motor sits inside the steel cabinet base and is mounted in a way that provides adjustable tension on the belt. The belt is easy to reach and replace for maintenance purposes and the belt coverings on the cabinet are easy to remove for maintenance access.
This jointer has plenty of power to cut smooth surfaces with it’s knived cutterhead, and woodworkers find that this version without the helical cutterhead still works great and creates excellent results.
A big strength for this jointer is the large size of it’s cutting table. The cutting table is made from cast iron, is guaranteed to be flat and feels extremely solid. It has a very smooth finish and will stay in good shape long into the life of the machine. The dimensions of the table are 7-1/4 inches wide by 66 inches long. The table top is about 32-1/2 inches in height from the floor. Along the edge of the table is a 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch rabbeting channel, which is a handy feature as well.
Both the infeed and outfeed table height can be adjusted. The outfeed table height uses a simple hand wheel that is located right underneath the table. There is a screw used to lock the position in place. The infeed table height is adjusted with a handle located underneath the table. After loosening a hand wheel, the handle can be moved up or down for coarse adjusteents and turned for fine tuned adjustments, which really helps to dial in precision measurements.
The table sections slide along dovetailed ways during height adjustment and the action feels very smooth. They tighten into place cleanly after adjustments are made. Powermatic also includes a gib screw adjuster that can be used to reduce play in the dovetailed ways if they start to loosen after years of use. Features like that show that Powermatic wants this tool to be mainstay in your shop for a long time.
The fence on this jointer is as high quality as the table, made with the same cast iron material and precision machined for flatness. The fence is 4 inches tall and 38 inches long. The fence and it’s mechanisms are made with solid cast iron pieces to ensure accuracy. The fence sits at 90 degrees at it’s normal setting and can be tilted 45 degrees towards or away from the table. There are adjustable stops at 90 and both 45 degree positions for quick adjustment changes.
The fence can also slide across the table and be locked into any position all the way across. These sliding fence adjustments are smooth and the parts that slide and move are all made from machined cast iron for long term reliability and accuracy.
HSS Knife Cutterhead
The major difference between the 54A, which we are looking at here, and the 54HH is that the 54A uses a HSS three-knife cutterhead, which is a more traditional cutterhead type for a jointer. This affects the overall cost of the jointer, and if you don’t want to spend the extra for the helical cutterhead option this one will work great as well at a lesser cost.
The knife cutterhead is made from high speed steel and provides excellent cutting action. It makes a little more noise than the helical cutterhead when it’s in action but it still produces very smooth and clean surfaces on your lumber.
This jointer has a dust collection port located on the bottom right side of the cabinet. It is a 4 inch dust port and you may or may not need an adapter depending on what type of dust collection system you use.
The dust collection works very well on this jointer and generally keeps the cutting table clear of buildup when used with a vacuum type of system. It still works ok when no vacuum system is used, but for best results consider using some sort of vacuum based collection system.
This is a safe jointer to use and it has the typical safety features. The blade cover does a good job of keeping the cutter head from being accessible when the machine is not in use. The guard even can be calibrated for optimal pressure on the materials you are moving through it. The power switch can be locked as well. Push blocks are included for moving larger pieces of lumber over the table.
The knife cutterhead is very sharp and just about as dangerous to handle as the helical version, so it’s always good to proceed carefully when maintaining anything with the cutterhead. However, you won’t need to worry about adjusting individual inserts with this cutterhead type and generally should find yourself spending less time tinkering with it, which should help with safety.
The overall build quality is one of the major strengths of this jointer. It’s very heavy and made from steel and cast iron. It weighs in at about 317 lbs!
The table and fence are precision machined and extremely flat. Fit and finish overall on with all of the parts and mechanisms is excellent. It’s hard to find anything to complain about in terms of quality.
The only weak points on this are some of the plastic knobs, but those can be replaced if they break and they aren’t really known for breakage issues. The parts that you need to last for a long time will last. This is the type of tool that will stick around for many years if you find good use for it in your shop.
This is a very heavy tool and should be considered to mostly be stationary. It’s not something you’ll want to move from site to site.
However, Powermatic does make a rolling mobile base that makes it a little easier to move this jointer around the floor of your shop. The mobile base is part number 2042374 and can be purchased from places that sell this jointer. Feedback is a little mixed on the quality of the base and it’s wheels, but it’s still a good option to consider if you think you’ll need to move this jointer around your shop.
There aren’t a whole lot of accessories immediately available for this jointer. This jointer comes with the fence, guard, cabinet, dust chute, push blocks, handles and assembly hardware. The rolling base is optional but is available. You may need to find an adapter for the dust port depending on your collection system. You won’t need to get any other Powermatic-specific accessories to get the most out of this jointer.
Setup & Assembly
This jointer is fairly easy to setup but there is a little assembly to do. It will be shipped to you in a couple large boxes if you order it shipped. You should expect to need help putting the table onto the cabinet stand since it’s very heavy and large. The assembly instructions are easy to follow and calibration is easy. Here’s a quick video directly from Powermatic that shows the general setup and assembly, it’s for the 54HH but setup is the same as the 54A.
Powermatic offers a warranty that will cover defects in materials and workmanship. This warranty period is 2 years for machinery used for industrial or commercial purposes or 5 years for all other purposes. They will also cover parts and consumable items for 90 days.
- HSS three-knife cutterhead produces smooth results
- Large table and fence
- Easy adjustability
- Extremely well made
- Long term durability
- Not portable
- Rolling base costs extra
The Powermatic 54A jointer is a great alternative to the 54HH due to it’s similar capability and lower price. The 54A uses a knife cutterhead rather than the more expensive helical cutterhead so it’s price is lower than the 54HH, otherwise all other features are the same. This is a very high quality machine that will last a long time and handle years of workload and general use. It is a great option for woodworkers who want to be able to have the power of a jointer available in their shops and would still prefer a solid cabinet style machine.