The Frank Clement Co of Rochester, New York was a leading innovator in wood working machines. The longest lasting of their designs is the “Perfection” jointer. Wedgebeds and three legged. Simple, solid, accurate.


Mine dates from the early merger days, shortly after 1897. It has been adapted from flat belt drive to Coupled Motor Drive. A 3 HP Fairbanks-Morse three phase motor has been perfectly adequate for this 12″ machine. The model comes in additional widths. I have also a 20″ and a 36″ machine.


In this picture we can see the single front foot. This keeps the base from being racked on uneven surfaces. Also, the front bed incline is visible. Unlike many jointers, particularly those with four corners of table support, this machine can be moved without it going out of adjustment.

The rabbeting shelf gives extra support when rabbeting a wide face. The fence shown here is actually off a later model of the same machine. It is quicker to adjust than the original (which I now wish I had retained – oh well).

The babbitts have performed super well, giving a fine finish no problem. I have adjusted them a paper thickness twice in 25 years of daily use. They are reservoir fed only. There is no cap inlet. The motor is on it’s second set of sealed ball bearings.

One note. If you have one of these be damn sure to check the lateral table locks. The knobs can loosen over the years allowing the table to move. I heard a noise once and it was a knob that had vibrated loose hitting the floor.

Also, the location of the table lips proximity to the knife arc greatly affects the noise. Mine are back about a quarter inch which works for me.

I have put pattern knives in this machine. For curved casings and plinth blocks. It works but it is not my favorite use of the machine.

The small hand wheel adjusts the height of the rear table. I find this very useful from time to time. Usually when going between surfacing rough or surfaced material, lessening drag with super dense material, etc.. Things I can’t explain to anyone who hasn’t spent as many hours a day at the jointer as I have.

The little lock and lever is the spring adjustment. Useful for specialized activities. Mostly misunderstood.

This easy hand wheel adjusts the depth of cut. It is a precise and fast acting control. Just what you want when working irregular material out of wind and to grade. The little hand knob is one of the table locks for throat adjustment. It will widen out for profile knives if necessary.

This is the later American fence. It is taller, slightly quicker to set than the older style, and it has a scale.

Patent for new style jointer fence

The mount for the motor is also shown here, with coupler. 3600 rpm works fine for me.

This dramatized view shows the rabbeting ledge and shelf. The fence securing hand knobs are old style, the newer American products use knurled hand knobs.

Surfacing acute bevels.


This is my  second Clement. Thanks to a great friend. It is the same age as my 12″ but the castings are a little different. For one, there is a cast chute underneath. For two, it is shorter in height and length.

This is in real nice shape. Much hand finish intact on the tables and on the fence. I will  cast duplicate fences for the other machine and for guys needing fences. Babbitt, of course, three knife round head (“Safety Head”). This one is running at 5000 which I do not want so I will be tuning it down. I have the parts laying around to put to a countershaft but I don’t know yet. Really don’t like the motor on the heel.

Kind plump looking. Hello flat wide panels!

This is the cam that lowers the outfeed table end for making spring joints. It was rusted and froze on this machine so I pulled it out and cleaned it up. This is the elevated position, handle to the right when installed. This is a very precisely fitted part. Has lobes on both sides.

These are the wedge gibs or retainers. There is a flat babbitt bearing in these. That’s what the little holes are for oiling. Such a great design. Truly Frank Clement intended his machines to last forever.

Clements have their tables planed. It’s about a half inch pattern. The 444 planer is the same way. But the hand “flaking”(?) just visible X pattern on the left seems to have been dropped on later product.

This is the classic Clement fence. I refer to it as the “old style” fence. Super simple. I am considering using this as a casting model to make a duplicate for the other jointer.

This shows the links and lock. The 90 degree stop, adjustable of course, is that bright spot under the clamp rod. Old style knobs.

For the geeks amongst us, here is a comparison of two Clement fences. The one on the right is a little older I think. Both old style.


The 20″ uses 12 and 8 inch gibs. They are in numbered sets. I find no indication of numbers on the head so I figure the numbers are to keep the pairs together as balanced. Fortunately, all the special set screws are in good shape in spite of having been, in my estimation, over tight. Removing the knives and cleaning the gibs and head is a first step with a new old jointer.

The tables separate nicely on the Clements. In part, to run patterned knives. But it also makes it easy lift the cylinder which is heavy in the case of the 20″. With the belts off, lift the cylinder up and down, then side to side checking for motion on both ends. In my case, I had no motion at the outside bearing, good, but about 3/64th” up and down at the pulley side, bad. The belts had been run too tight.

On this machine, the outside thrust bracket bearing is missing, as with many of these. On my 12″, the motor coupling performs the function of reducing end play. A little end play is ok, some say desirable, but I have too much here. So I will be installing a bronze bushing. Maybe two. Or, I may find or make a thrust bracket. I thought about coupler driving this machine as well but it makes the footprint too large. Still thinking about it though.

Using a knife as a straight edge you can see how far the cylinder was drifting into the rabbeting ledge. I want it behind the ledge or even with it as I let the knives project with their clearance grind for rabbeting.

At the larger cap you can see the fine dust that found it’s way into the bearing as the shaft made room melting and “skidding” the babbitt in the lower half of the bearing. This is not good. But before I get all in twit about it, I am going get out the Prussian Blue and check things out.

Here you can see what running babbitt bearings with too much belt tension and speed can do. A small flange of metal is working it’s way around. Fortunately, the journals are ok.

This is the outside bearing. It’s pretty good. This is the classic Clement arrangement I have seen on my other Clement machines. A large 1/2 wool wick. Oil return ring channels and drains to the reservoir.

Here’s the side that was pulled on by the tight belts. A film of melted metal has almost completely closed off the wick and grooves. Quite amazing. When I first saw it I just figured it was a newer pour of a different style.

I fully expected the metal to be ruined. But after working it a bit with the scraper I find no evidence of brittle or burn or the powdering I have seen elsewhere in toasted bearings. So I will see if I can scrape them back into shape.

The journals are blued and ready to go into the boxes for a tell tale spin. It tells where to scrape but I also check the journal for concentric contact. It it comes away on a side it’s sprung and there is no sense scraping to it.

Well the journals are not sprung and that is a pretty good placement to start scraping.

Hey there’s a wick in there after all! An old man gave me this forged scraper years ago. I am still discovering the utility of it’s various cutting edges.

This edge sliced off nice with the chisel. I expected this to be brittle but it wasn’t.

After a few cycles of scraping a little progress is being made. After getting it as good as possible with  the shim space I had I cleaned up the gibs and head and put things back together. The cylinder was low one side so I unlocked the yoke and used the set screws to make it true to the tables. Easy.

I am adding a bronze bushing on either side of the head to reduce the end play. When I pour new bearings I will either let the pour create a flange as I have seen on several of my other machines, or, I will have the outside journal channeled when turned, or, I will do as originally intended and use a bracket and a dowel at the outside bearing. Meanwhile, I will run it until it’s time to pour. Which could be quite a while. The outside cap will need the pour.

It’s making a mess now. The fence is at the foundry. A pattern for more fences.

I decided to use the old motor mount. But I used a smaller pulley to get the speed down to 3600 rpm.

This is what original flat belt pulleys for these jointers are like. A bearing surface rides against the inside bearing box. A pin pushes the end of the spindle from the other side. I do not yet have one to show here. Darn.

This is a Clement counter shaft for the jointers. It needs to be behind the cutterhead spindle – above or below – in order to pull right. This one is set up for the ceiling.

Taking a big bite with the 20″.


After some time I have decided to deal with the heating problem with this machine. After an hour the larger bearing is too warm for my taste.

The first thig i did was repour the bearing cap. I had run out of shims while sraping and I was not yet getting the good clearance all around that I wanted. The pour went well.


The yoke was set up vertically. I used paper to add clearance to the mandrel size. The wood spacers confine the metal and create space for the shims.


There are keys in the cap casting to help keep the metal tight in the cap. To retain the molten metal below I have a collar against the housing seales additionally with babbittrite.


It was a warm day. I only slightly warmed the cap.


But after running for several months the bearing was still warming.

So then i took it to a large machine shop and asked then to true up the journals. Recall the belt side had been so hot the surface was slightly rippled. It measured .001″ runout on one end. So I was now thinking that was the problem.

It came back from the shop worse. They had mentioned using emery to true it which made me suspicious. I returned it and they sent me to a grinding and chroming shop. One thing I learned about machinists it that they will do anything to avoid installing the tool post grinder on their lathes.

Going to a grinding specialist was the ticket. He understood well what I was needing having been grinding for 57 years.  What he did was grind the entire journals, cylinder body and pulley seat to truth. Then the journals and the seat were chromed and then the ground back to spec. The seat for the flat belt pulley and the journals to .005″ over what I brought in. I then scraped them in.

It runs like silk now. Rather unbelieable. I was half expecting to need to get it balanced.

Babbitted cylinders and spindles can be super sensitive to distorted journals. Often they are good to start, frequently I can scrape them into fairly nice running. But sometimes the whole thing just needs to be made good again. After a hundred years and some abusive owners this one needed a more involved effort to get back to being a sweet runner.


The 36″ has arrived. I decided to set it as a companion to the 30″ surfacer. Prudent, or “Little White”, approves and is satisfied enough to take a nap.

Now I need to re arrange the shop some. And I will try not to let it become a bench.

Still three points of contact. This is the front infeed end.

This is the outfeed end. There are significant differences in the ribbing underneath the beds. The cutting circle is larger than the smaller machines. I will think about speeding this at 3200 rpm on account the large diameter head.

The fence knobs were missing on the 36″ so I had these cast from the others. I soon found out why they were missing. The holes in the outfeed table had been retapped to a larger size. So the threads bound in the slots in the fence base.

So I had to take about 1/16″ of iron off each side. After fooling around with the angle grinder I decided to old school it and use the file. Then I made a great for me discovery: do not file flat. What a huge difference it makes to use a corner of the file! So with long diagonal strokes with file rotated the chips flew and I was done in no time.

Fits good now.

This is my next problem. Two right, one wrong, one forge repaired not well. Plus, all wrong screws.

This is what the correct screws look like. I am dressing these with a file to keep the crown higher than the slot in the head into which they fit. And to keep the wrench faces true. My 12″ has softer screws that the 20″.

So while the machinist is making new gibs and screws, it’s time to look at the bearings.

This is a rather astounding to me cylinder.  It rings like a bell. The belt side bearing has been run too tight but not for as long as the 20″. The pour looks like it is fairly recent. But they didn’t get back to it to adjust the shims after some run it time is what it looks like. And they didn’t, or I don’t understand their thinking, do the wicks right. I’ll be studying it all more closely when I start the scrape.

Here if you look close you can see that the wicks are narrow. maybe he was thinking it would let the oil back to the reservoir. Well yes, but what about after it has migrated across the bearing rather than before. And you can see the repaired infeed table lip. Aren’t you glad you weren’t in the plant when that wreck happened?

Well an update on the behemoth. It runs out of balance. So it’s time to save some money up for a serious visit to a well equipped machine shop.

So meanwhile, a bench. I swore this wouldn’t happen to this machine, but alas, until it runs right it makes a mighty fine bench.

Some time has passed. After having good luck with the grinding and chroming of the 20″ cylinder I have decided to do the same for the 36″ machine. I figure it’s worthless except as a desk or table until it works worth a damn.

Prior to the grind to true up the journals, I had the gouges from the “wreck” welded at a tool welding shop that specializes in micro welding. I figured that since I was going to invest in grinding and hard chroming, I needed to fix the teeth. the outside of the weld repairs comes off with the grinding. In the knife slot, I will be doing some hand work.


Back from the doctor. This poor cylinder was worked on before after the wreck. But not real well. It’s better now. the taper in the body is gone, the pulley end is no longer out .003, the journals are true and built up .002 over size.

Without much scraping, I did fit it up to run just to see if the solution had adressed the vibration. It is running far better than before.


Now I need to go through the scraping regimen again. The big bearing runs pretty nice but the outside now needs attention.


Next I need to figure out how to take the weld inside the gullet nice and even.

A day with a fine file fixed the weld inside the knife slot.

The new gibs and screws were balanced on the proportional scale. The baby drill helped.


Finding the lightest of the four in static balance.


Bringing all four into proportional balance with the first.


Even with closest machining one side can weigh more than the other.


Good to go now. These will be the permanent pairs.


Checking the proportional balance of the knives.


New gibs and screws installed.


Closed up and ready for work.


Dresser tops. The fresh milled faces are turned up to look at the nice knife finish.

Running good now!


Meanwhile, at the foundry a new fence awaits being poured. Having a model is nice because now I can get the parts I need to put an original fence on the other jointer, or at least have one in stock. Have also been making parts for other guys missing parts, mostly the fence knobs.

And later on a new fence part! A little shorter as you can see. Came out real nice. Flat. Eventually I’ll find someone with a metal planer to face it. A long term project.

Two new fences. It is interesting to me how each casting comes out different.


Withe the face and the base milled, the parts are set up for locating the pin locations.


Creative drilling. One does what he can with what he has available.


More creative drilling.


Hand filing relief for the knives. You really don’t want the knives to make this clearance.


Relief for the table at 45 degrees. Angle grinding dressed later by file.


Surface ground face, 90 degree stop adjusted and a new fence.

After all that I would say one needs to expect some expense.

On a lark, I decided to have the former fence I had on the 12″ machine surface ground. It worked out better than expected since it had already been milled after repair.

Eventually I will run across a jointer without a fence to join it.



This is the babbitting mandrel for the cutterhead and journals in this machine.

A cutterhead with journals is a very precious piece of work. Using a mandrel to pour the bearings is the safe way to go.

Even the slightest distortion to a journal will make it run bad, heat up and wear quick.



  1. Joseph Poisson Says:

    I recently cleaned up an eight inch jointer by Crescent (ca. 1915?) but it has a square two knife head. Is there someone you like to use for replacement shafts/cutter heads? I would like to put a round three knife head on it.
    Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance,

  2. Says:

    I just acquired a pre American Frank H Clement 12″ Jointer and I am missing the fence knobs. You mentioned that you have made some. Can I buy a set from you? Thanks for the info either way. Very helpful.

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