So you’re thinking of becoming a carpenter. Good for you, the world needs more people who know how to use their hands to create beautiful wood-based art. Take some time to ask the pros which woodworking tools are the most necessary to have, and a jointer probably won’t be high on the list. However, if you’re not a beginner woodworker and are looking to reclaim old stock from lumber yards or from felling trees, then a jointer is definitely an essential tool to have.
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What does a jointer do?
A jointer is a machine used to make flatten the surface of wooden boards. After lumberjacks cut down trees, they don’t get nice, clean 2x4s by splitting open the bark and harvesting the tree’s innards. Instead, they chop the trunk using various cutting tools then flatten each of the boards’ surfaces with a jointer.
The purpose of a jointer is to flatten the surfaces of boards and square its edges. If you want your boards to be immaculate without blemishes or bumps, run each of the faces over a jointer’s cutterhead. The best results come from running the board multiple times over the cutterhead; about two or three times will be fine, depending on how damaged the lumber is.
Types of jointers
There are basically two types of jointers – floor jointers and bench top jointers. You can find the descriptions of each type of jointer below.
Floor jointers are the larger type of machine which takes up quite a bit of floor space. However, its size allows it to house more powerful motors for flattening the surfaces of long, wide wood boards of any density. Most commercial woodshops will need an industrial jointer to make their jobs go quicker. Keep in mind that for additional power and speed, you’ll have to have a thicker wallet. If you’re working on a budget and/or don’t have floor space to dedicate to a floor jointer, then consider investing in a bench top model.
Bench top jointer
As the name suggests, a benchtop jointer is a jointer that gets mounted onto your work surface. You screw the machine down by its base into your worktable to give it extra stability and prevent excessive vibrations. These models are considerably smaller than floor jointers but also cost considerably less. Furthermore, for most woodworkers, both amateur and professional, a bench top jointer can provide sufficient power to flatten the surface of any board on hand.
How is it different from a planer?
One of the most commonly asked questions is whether there’s a difference between jointers and planers. This is a fairly understandable question since both machines aim to flatten the surface of boards by shaving off very thin layers of the wood per pass. However, the main thing that separates a jointer from a planer is the purpose of shaving away material from your stock.
A jointer aims to flatten the surfaces of your stock and square up the edges, whereas a planer is used to adjust the thickness of boards and make the two opposite faces parallel to one another. Think of a jointer as a way to get the boards ready for dimensioning and a planer as a tool used to get the boards to the right dimension.
Which should I get: a benchtop jointer or a planer?
Another commonly asked question by aspiring carpenters or people just asking for the heck of it is whether they should get a bench top jointer or a planer. If you’re building up your workshop piece by piece and are looking to invest in one tool or the other, then it ultimately depends on what kind of stock you’re working with.
Oftentimes, amateur woodworkers will get their lumber from large retailers who have already flattened, squared, and dimensioned the boards for you. This increases the cost per board, but it’s beneficial for people who don’t have jointers and planers. In this case, you might only need a planer to help in dimensioning your boards if necessary to complete your task.
If you’re allergic to the pampered boards that retailers sell and you want to prepare your own, then you’ll ultimately need both tools. However, if you had to choose one before the other, we’d advise that you get a planer first. There’s absolutely no point in worrying about the flatness of a board if you can’t get it to the right dimension.
Even though in the milling process you need to joint first then plane, a planer is ultimately the better tool to have in the beginning. Additionally, with a hand planer, you can shave away thin layers of your board to get it to the right flatness. Cutting tools like saws – circular or hand saws – can do square up the edges just fine. It’ll take a while, but it’s easier to flatten a board by hand than it is to plane it.
Are jointer planer combos any good?
If you haven’t decided whether you want a jointer or a planer, then how about considering a jointer planer comboThis combo tool can be beneficial to some people since it doesn’t take much space but offers two important woodworking functions.
However, if you’re a professional woodworker where downtime is something that you’re trying to avoid, then perhaps a combo tool isn’t the best option since it can be quite difficult to change the settings from jointer mode to planer mode. Unfortunately, this is a disease found in every jointer planer combo tool we’ve ever seen.
The main purpose of a jointer is to flatten the surfaces of a board and square its edges. Although jointers aren’t necessarily an essential tool to keep the flow of woodworking going, it’s actually an investment. Instead of heading over to your lumber retailer and purchasing their outrageously overpriced boards, you can restore and prepare lumber from lumber yards or fallen trees with a jointer.
Jointers and planers are two different tools that often get confused for one another; a jointer flattens the faces of a board and tidies up the edges, whereas a planer makes a board’s faces parallel to the opposite face. If you do plan on preparing your own boards for furniture-building projects, you may need both of these machines. However, a planer is generally considered the better investment choice since you can use hand tools to flatten and square boards from rough lumber.