My father in law is a master woodworker and I have tried bouncing ideas off of him for building my shop, but he doesnt grasp budget. He is adamant that I should not buy anything but the best or I will be disappointed. I am wanting a jointer for my shop and I am looking at the Delta JT160 which is about $220 at Home Depot. He says that it is too light and I should keep saving and get the DJ20 ($2000). I am a father of a one year old and young. I love woodworking and having the right tools, but even if I had $2000 sitting around for tools, I would buy more than just a jointer. Is this benchtop jointer good for the money or is there a better one? I am a VERY novice woodworker and am starting out remodeling my kitchen by just putting new cabinet doors on (hopefully).
My next purchase will be a better table saw but jointer first.
Like you, I am a newcomer, and like you I have better things to do with my money (like buy food) than spend two grand for a jointer.
While most here decry the JT160 as junk, it is not as bad as some say, provided you are willing to work within its limitations. For one thing, in stock form this 30-inch jointer will not decently work with boards longer than about two feet, with three feet being a stretch, making it a small-project jointer and not something one would use for boards six to ten feet long. For another, out of the box the infeed and outfeed tables may not be parallel with each other.
I solved the parallelism problem by simply removing the two tables (remove the screws on top) and carefully filing down some of the mounting points to where the tables were truely parallel and sitting flat. You could also use very thin washer shims to build up mounting points that were not high enough. You have to be careful doing this, because you could also get parallel tables that were slightly twisted. However, the job is doable with the help of a good, steel straightedge. If you file away a fair amount you will also probably have to re-seat the blades, which will then be sticking up too high.
I solved the short-table problem by cutting some 1.25-inch thick, very smooth and flat oak boards to fit over and wrap around the ends of the two tables. Careful drilling allowed me to then attach them so that they were flush with either table end. This extended the length of the full span to 52 inches. I also installed the unit to a mobile base that allows me to easily roll it through the door and down a short ramp onto the workdeck outside of my shop. Try that with a 500-pound jointer.
The result was, for under $200, a decent table that can do work that, although not perfectly precise, will be more than good enough for amateur-grade projects.
One nice thing about this unit is that it does have variable speed (for use with stuff like plastics), and it also has a adjustment gauge that is physically large enough to allow for fairly workable depth-of-cut calibrations. Some bigger and more expensive units have compressed scales that make this type of work tricky. Replacement blades are cheap, and supposedly not sharpenable, but I have discovered that with a bit of care then can be honed back to like-new status several times.
If you are still balking at getting the JT160, consider the Ridgid floor-standing unit. It has a 45-inch span and cast-iron set of tables and costs $350-$400, depending upon its sales status at the time. Anybody who spends two grand on a super jointer and is not in the business of selling most of the stuff they make is wealthier than I am.