If you’re looking to get into the woodworking game, then you have to know what tools do what and which you need. The best thing to do would be the read up on what the different tools are designed for since that guy at your hardware store probably knows as much as you at this point.
There are two tools that cause a lot of confusion, even among experienced woodworkers. These are jointers and planers. They are both used to re-dimension boards and restore old, misshapen wood. So if they’re used in the milling process, what exactly sets them apartAnd furthermore, which, if any, do you need?
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What is a Power Jointer?
Newly purchased boards rarely ever sit flat on a table. Any imperfections in your lumber needs to be straightened out before further processing. If your boards are twisted, bowed, or has dull corners, then a jointer will fix them right up.
How does a Power Jointer work?
A jointer is a tool used in the milling process to cut thin layers off of the surface of your workpiece to allow it to sit flat. The cutter head sits between the tool’s infeed and outfeed tables and protrudes slightly past the tables to shave away fractions of an inch of material during each pass.
The infeed table of a jointer moves up and down, depending on how much or how little material you wish to remove. The cut portion of the board, after passing over the cutter, is supported by the outfeed table. There is also an adjustable fence (typically tilts between 45 add 135 degrees) that supports your workpiece during the entire jointing process.
Types of Jointers
Jointers can be either floor models or benchtop models. The former comes with a larger motor and wider cutterhead. These models are usually used in professional woodshops that work huge slabs of every type of wood.
There are also portable benchtop jointers that are a great alternative if you need to take a jointer with you to the job site. Their cutterheads are typically 6 inches wide, so they’re only good for smaller pieces of rough lumber. Furthermore, their motors aren’t nearly as powerful as floor models so hardwoods like oak could prove too much for the tool to handle.
What is a Benchtop Planer?
A benchtop planer can also be used to bring life to old, worn pieces of wood. However, they’re very different from jointers in terms of what it does and how it operates.
Benchtop planers are used to modify the thickness of a board by shaving thin layers off of one surface. They also make the cut-side of the board parallel to the underside to eliminate tapered ends.
How does a Benchtop Planer work?
A benchtop planer can be mounted to a workbench, table, or even placed on the floor. The unit can come with infeed and outfeed tables which support your boards as they pass through the machine and under the cutterhead.
The cutterhead is equipped with knives that move up and down rapidly to produce thousands of cuts every minute, leaving a super-smooth finish to your board. As you push your board through the machine, automated rollers grasp onto the piece and send it from the infeed table to the outfeed table. The depth of the cut can be adjusted by a knob or lever, and each pass will remove fractions of an inch off the top-facing panel of the board.
The end product is a board with one smooth surface that’s perfectly parallel to the underside of the board. Keep in mind that you’re passing a bowed board through the machine, the newly cut edge will be smooth but will mimic the bow on the other side. Essentially, after flattening and squaring the edge of your board, then it can pass through a planer for perfect results.
Types of Planers
Like jointers, there are two types of planers – floor models and benchtop. Floor models are larger, can support super-long and super-wide boards made of any type of wood, and can cost a small fortune to purchase. Benchtop planers are the more popular choice for DIY and even professional woodworkers since they can be used to plane most wood types at varying thicknesses.
Power Jointer or Benchtop Planer – Which should I get?
Ideally, if you plan on milling your own lumber, you should get both a jointer and a planer, even if they’re both benchtop models. However, if you’re building up your woodworking tools and only have room/funds for one, we recommend starting off with a jointer.
Planers are great, but their purposes are limited. Jointers are used to both flatten surfaces and square edges, and only after these two steps are done can your boards pass through a planer. Without a benchtop planer, you can make do with a simple hand-operated planer and a keen eye.