Table Saw as Jointer: How to Use and When?
You’d think that high-end retailers would sell lumber that’s ready to use. After all, you’re spending an outrageous amount of cash on pampered pieces of wood. Unfortunately, the truth is that their stock of lumber usually reaches the shelves before they’ve fully dried so by the time you’ve paid, brought it home, and left it to sit for a few days, the boards are warped. Frustrating, we know…
Many projects are dependent on wooden boards being perfectly straight without any cups or twists. When dealing with warped boards, the go-to tool would be a jointer. These tools produce perfectly flat faces and edges with only a couple of passes over the cutterhead.
So why not get a Jointer?
Why not, indeed? Well, assuming you have space and the funds, feel free to purchase your very own jointer. Unfortunately, most woodworking shops, especially those set up in garages, don’t have space for a large jointer.
You could take a look at benchtop jointers which flatten surfaces and square edges as well as their floor-model counterparts, but their biggest drawback is their lack of support. The “easy” fix is constructing your own work table extensions on the infeed and outfeed sides of the benchtop jointer, but then we’re back at square one: a lack of clearance space in small-scale workshops.
How to build a Table Saw Jointer Jig
Fortunately, you don’t have to put an end to your woodworking hobby if you don’t have a jointer. Turning your table saw into a jointer is simple. It doesn’t require modifying the components of your table saw in any way. In fact, all you need to do is construct a jointer jig which pushes your lumber close enough to the saw’s blade to shave off slivers, giving it beautifully flat and squared edges.
As long as you have a table saw – the heart of any woodshop – then you can get by. In this article, we’ll show you our version of a jointer jig.
What You’ll Need
• Melamine, scrap MDF or plywood
• Screws and/or wood glue
• Table saw (obviously)
Step 1: Measure the Length and Width of Jointer Jig
Since we’re going to use this jointer jig on a table saw, we need to ensure that we construct a jig that first perfectly on our saw. Take some time to carefully measure the length of the saw’s rip fence, and the clearance width starting from the edge of the saw all the way to the end of the table towards the direction of the blade. The jointer jig doesn’t need to be tremendously wide, but it also shouldn’t be so short that we risk injuring our fingers or the board when attempting to flatten and square rough lumber. The height of the jig shouldn’t surpass the height of the table saw’s rip fence unless you have large enough clamps.
Step 2: Creating the Fence
Now that we have our table saw measured, it’s time to assemble the fence. Using whatever piece of scrap plywood or MDF on hand, create an “L” with a perfect 90° between the two boards. Use whatever type of fastener you prefer. We personally used both screws and wood glue to ensure that neither of the boards will move in the slightest. Even a minor change in angle can ruin the jig, thus wrecking the lumber you want to flatten and square.
Step 4: Attaching the Jointer Jig to the Rip Fence
After the jig is fully assembled, now it’s time to clamp it onto the saw’s rip fence. Use as many clamps as you’d like – the more, the sturdier the jig will be. While doing this, make sure that the table saw is unplugged to avoid the unwanted. Our hands are hovering above the blade at this point, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Step 5: Making a Relief Cut
While the jointer jig is still clamped to the rip fence, and the table saw is unplugged, pull the rip fence closer to the saw blade until the jig is touching the blade. Using a pencil, draw a mark on the jointer at the approximate back of the saw blade. After doing so, unclamp the jointer jig and realign the rip fence, leaving the jointer jig flush against the fence.
Now is the tricky part. Using your finger, align the fence and jig so that the outside face of the blade is perfectly even with the edge of the fence. When that’s done, lock the fence in place, turn on the machine, and push the jointer jig into the blade. Stop until you’ve reached the pencil mark you left earlier. After making the cut, turn off the table saw and unplug the cord. Test the outside edge of the jig with your finger; it should be flush against the outer edge of the blade. If not, complete the cut until the end of the jig and repeat the setup and relief cutting processes once again.
The purpose of this cut is to produce infeed and outfeed sides of the jointer jig. The infeed section needs to be a width of the blade short while the outfeed side is perfectly even with the blade. When the jig is done and clamped onto the rip fence, as you push a piece of rough lumber against the jig and into the blade, the blade will cut only as much as the blade’s kerf.
Voila! You now have an inexpensive jointer that takes no additional space in your workshop. If you were to try to make your own jointer jig, we highly recommend using a thin-kerf, 40-tooth alterative top bevel blade. It’ll produce the best jointed edges and corners while removing as little material as possible. There are several ways to construct a jointer jig for your table saw, but in our experience, this is the one that produces perfect results with minimal prep and construction work. Remember to clamp the jig securely against the rip fence, position the rip fence so that the saw blade is touching the jig, and when pushing your workpieces through the saw blade to keep it pressed against the jig.