JET’s JBM-5 mortiser has been around for a long while without many changes over the years. It’s still a no-nonsense machine with some good features. I like the ratcheting handles that control the depth stop rod and fence positions.
Chuck access is decent on either side of the headstock, through two spring-loaded doors. The motor moves smoothly on its rack-and-pinion column. Stroke travel is 4-3⁄4″, which matches Delta’s without its riser and is just shy of Steel City’s. JET includes three chisels and a bushing for 3/4″ shanks, but no tool rack.
Still, given its competition, I’d like to see a few updates. The MDF table is smaller than others, and so is the cast base, considering these are top-heavy machines. Be sure to bolt it down to avoid tipping. A taller fence would be a plus, too; 11-1⁄16″ isn’t much vertical support, but you can improve that by screwing a taller facing to it. I’m not a fan of the brass screw that locks the chisel in the headstock bushing: it’s flat-blade style and soft. A steel screw or lever would prevent stripping this fitting.
In testing, the JET stalled once when the chisel clogged with pine chips. Otherwise, mortising was on par with the other 1/2hp tools when I applied moderate feed pressure. All in all, this JET isn’t a steal at $299.99 (in 2010) for me, but a few simple shop tweaks will help this machine carry out its tasks quite well.