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Last Dec. I was also in the market for a new joiner and did a lot of research. You are correct that they are pretty basic pieces of equipment and the bigger (longer) the better. I only use mine for staightning & squaring up lumber for glue up's so I settled for a 6". Besides wider ones cost a lot more and take up a lot more room. I ended up buying a Ridged from Home Depot as I felt it was the best value. After using it for 4 + months now, I still love it.
If you are going to use it as a planer also you would want something with a wider cut, say 8" or more if you can afford it.
As far as dust colection is concerned I built a whole shop cyclone from information from Bill Pentz's site. Again I highly recommend the cyclone type of collector. I ran 6" ducts everywhere to blast gates and then went down to 4" or what ever the tool needed. Check out Bill's site at
Hope this helps
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