A wood jointer flattens the face of a twisted, distorted, bent, or curved lumbered board. Once the board becomes flat, the jointer further helps to make the edges either square or straight. In this way, this power tool significantly boosts the lumber appearance as well as augments durability. As there are many types of jointers available, choosing the best jointer seems to be a difficult or confusing task, especially for the beginners. However, this guide along with some genuine jointer reviews can help you select the ideal one quite quickly as well as smoothly.
- 1 What are Wood Jointers
- 2 Jointer or Planer: Which One Should You Choose
- 3 How to Choose the Best Jointer
- 3.1 Factor 1: Types
- 3.2 Factor 2: Popular Brands
- 3.3 Factor 3: Size
- 3.4 Factor 4: Bed Width and Length
- 3.5 Factor 5: Cutting Depth
- 3.6 Factor 6: Fence
- 3.7 Factor 7: Table Flatness and Length
- 3.8 Factor 8: Height Adjuster
- 3.9 Factor 9: Power
- 3.10 Factor 10: Head
- 3.11 Factor 11: Dust Collection Ability
- 3.12 Factor 12: Mobility
- 3.13 Factor 13: Adjustment of Knives
- 4 5 Best Jointers of 2016 Reviewed
- 5 Conclusion
What are Wood Jointers
While a surface planer and a table saw are generally the tools used for cutting a piece to a certain thickness, they cannot do their job nicely until one edge is flat. To ensure this, you need to use a jointer. This tool extends beyond a rotating cutter head with two to three blades finely tuned and existing in-between the two flat tables namely, infeed and outfeed.
The lumber piece is passed across the infeed, which is the first table, and then to the cutting head and subsequently to the outfeed or second table. The height of the second table is similar to that of the top of cutting head. However, the height of the first table is adjusted to decide the quantity of material to be cut. There is also an adjustable fence, a flat and straight surface, equipped with the jointer for aligning the piece with tables, keeping the wood in place while moving across the blades or knives, and for obtaining a square edge.
Knives are usually set in a rotating cutterhead located between the two tables. While these tools can be heavy and big, they must be precise with parallel and coplanar (no twist) tables. Usually, there is also a means of lowering as well as raising the infeed table to fix the cut depth. Moreover, the jointer width and table length tend to vary along with the preference for blades or knives.
A jointer usually resides on a stand or base bolted to the floor for ensuring safety and durability, although there are models with a wide base feature, which you need not bolt. Related to these parts of a jointer, here are some technical terms for you to know, while buying a jointer.
- Straight Knives: Straight knives are straight and long, which run along the table’s width for surface cutting. Made up of hardened steel, such a knife has only one cutting edge and needs regular sharpening or else it leaves behind uneven marks on the lumber piece. It can also easily hang up on curly pieces to facilitate chunking in the wood surface. You should consider a straight knife for softer woods having grains that are straight. You can assemble these knives in an array of two to four, of which three blades are normally used. Talking about how long the edge’s sharpness last, it depends on how well you maintain the edge as well as how well you sharpen. While shaving, the knives form long spiral shavings, which may tend to clog a dust collector as well as accumulate on the cutting blades. This can lead to gouges, a con of using straight knives, but an experienced professional knows how to deal this issue easily. On the pro side, straight knives are more affordable than helical blades.
- Helical Head Blades/Knives: Running with a spiraling capacity, these knives have their heads spinning, while cutting the wood. As per the range and head values, you can choose from several blades. The carbide blades are sharpened on two to four of their edges. There is no need to sharpen a blade edge; you just have to pull it, turn it for facing to a new edge, and put it back. This is a plus point over straight knife, as it needs to be sharpened as well as carefully put back such that it lines up precisely. A helical head knife also delivers a different wood surface on your piece, as compared to straight knife shaving pattern mechanism. It is also quieter, but is costlier. Moreover, they leave behind smaller waste particles that a dust collector can remove easily.
- Parallelogram: This part refers to the parallel aspect of the table surfaces, which facilitates more stability for maintaining the wood surface parallel while cutting. While passing the lumber across the knives, the parallelogram quickly allows you to modify the cut depth. This aspect is found only in a few models, as it is not a common one.
Jointer or Planer: Which One Should You Choose
The craft of woodworking and producing a custom piece at home is a hobby of several homeowners nowadays. It is also a handy skill is well, but it is the set of right tools that make things not only easier but also awesome. Those who are serious consider having both a jointer and planer. Often, these two are interchangeably used, as they seem analogous to most starters. However, they both are different in terms of the functions they render.
A jointer creates flat surfaces along the faces and edges of a lumber piece. Most wood pieces are marketed as rectangular boards, which you can shave into a variety of thickness, widths, and lengths. When it comes to cutting big wood pieces, there are uneven surfaces, which a jointer smoothens from all sides. Still, the primary job of a jointer is to ensure that two wood pieces can be joined together easily.
On the other hand, a planer cuts a wood piece to the desired thickness or to its desired parallel face. While the original plane was a hand tool dating back to the medieval era, it is still used today. Nevertheless, the latest wood planer is a power tool working on electricity and is more efficient. Just like a jointer, a planer features a cutter head for leveling the wood’s surface. The piece goes in from the tool’s one end and passes through the cutter, escorted by a guide wheel.
Listed below are a few ways to identify whether you need a planer or a jointer.
- Type of Wood Finish: There are many sources from where you can collect wood, of which the easiest one is either a forest close to your home or a retail shop. Most pieces are sold with a label of ‘S4S’ and ‘S2S,’ which indicate the number of pre-surfaced or finished sides. For example, an S4S piece has all four sides finished. If there is no surfacing in any way, it is known as rough wood or rough lumber. Most beginners buy S4S wood, as it is easier to handle it without having the necessary tools. For such wood pieces, you do not need a planer or a jointer. However, for S2S pieces, the edges can be rough, although the faces are ready. This is where you will need a jointer to smooth those edges, particularly if you wish to join them to other pieces.
- Wood Surface and Edges: These two parts of a wood piece are such that you need to always check them before buying. If rough, you definitely have to put in much more effort. In case the surface has stains or bumps, or the edges are uneven, a jointer is required to smooth them out. Moreover, a few wood pieces might come with some imperfections usually visible on the surface. This is possible if you choose to buy a piece with imperfect grain, as the perfect grain one is costly although beautiful. So, if you afford to buy a discounted piece with a few imperfections such as holes or scratches, you will need a planer to remove them and a jointer to smoothen their faces.
- Wood Twisting: This is a term given to an action wherein the board’s two edges do not stay flat on a plane but twist away from one another. This twist is actually an imperfection that only a jointer can rectify. The degree of difficulty is dependent on the degree of twist. Usually, a shorter board is easier to fix, as it has a smaller degree of twist.
- Wood Bending: You can usually bend wood due to several reasons, ranging right from storage to air pressure. It is appealing to use a planer for flattening such a piece, but using a jointer first is a better option, as the planer only handles the wood surface passing through its curve. It is the jointer that makes the piece flatter.
- Wood Requirements: It is a wise sign to consider the lumber size requirements for planning out the project smartly. A few projects might need extra wide or longer pieces of wood, such as for custom sliding doors. For such projects, you shall need pieces that need to be joined together. This is where you will need a jointer so that the edges fit flawlessly together. Another measurement to consider is thickness. For cutting a piece up to the desired thickness, you will need a planer, not a jointer. Similarly, you also need to find out whether you require parallel surfaces or not. It is nice to have parallel surfaces for all wooden things, but it is not mandatory to have it. For instance, parallel surface may not be required in hidden items such as the undersides of bed frames but it is required for window frames, doors, and tables. So, for tasks demanding for two parallel surfaces on a side, you will need a planer.
A majority of jointers are also used together with planers; in a series of applications. Therefore, it is beneficial to select the right jointer or planer for the projected tasks. You can choose to buy a combination model that can act as both a jointer and planer, if there is such need.
How to Choose the Best Jointer
It is wise to choose the right jointer instead of selecting a popular one, as doing so gives considerable benefits. For that you need to consider the influencing buying factors, along with genuine customer reviews. The factors include length of knives, flatness and parallelism of tables, ease of operation, fence design, table length, and accuracy. Let’s consider all the influencing buying factors.
Factor 1: Types
Different types of jointers are available with similar uses, but each provides specific dimensions to a myriad of project tasks.
- Closed Stand Jointer: This kind of jointer comes with a completely enclosed base to defend the motor and cutter head components from dust and debris. This means that the parts of these jointers do not get damaged over time, and that the level of performance is exceptional. Many of these jointers have a sturdy base with different aspects ensuring not only safety, but also stability, noise reduction, and vibration control while cutting lumber pieces. Adding weight to the tool, such a base tends to differ in terms of height for different models. Closed stand models are the most common types and are available in four sizes: 6, 8, 12 and 16″.
- Open Stand Jointer: This type of jointer is among the affordable options and is easy to carry. This is something that a closed standard model cannot provide. Nevertheless, it is a bit noisier and less stable than the closed stand models, as the motor is exposed.
- Benchtop Jointer: Such a model is a small version of a tabletop jointer with a closed stand base. It is suitable for smaller projects as well as for smaller pieces. A benchtop jointer is not for cutting anything above six inches in width, as it falls short of adequate stability. Therefore, for larger boards, a benchtop model is not recommended.
- Tabletop Jointer: As the name indicates, such a jointer is meant for working on a table. It is a bit bigger than a benchtop model but lacks an outfeed table that is adjustable.
- Long Bed Jointer: This one comes with two narrow but long tables with a cutter head analogous to the one found n a planer. It is bigger than a benchtop model. The tables are parallel at a bit difference in height. The infeed table is adjustable, while the outfeed one is fixed at the highest level in the cutter head. The overall length varies between 6 to 12″ or longer in a few models. The fence’s surface is at a right angle to the tables for accomplishing a square edge. However, the angle can be a bit different in few models, for having a chamfered edge.
- Power Jointer or Hand Jointer: All the aforementioned types are categorized as per their physical makeup or look. However, function wise, you can split all the aforementioned jointers into hand or power jointer category. A power jointer is not really ideal for joining a piece that is longer than the tool’s base plate. However, this is not the case with a hand jointer. With a hand jointer, it is possible to begin in the middle of a board and remove a small quantity in a specific area, as the plane projects from a flat surface. In case of a power jointer having the tables slightly offset, you handle the entire board and it results in a bit tapered piece with flatness achieved on the side your joint. However, hand models come with a steep learning curve, although they perform without noise and with great speed. Hand models are fine for edge jointing and face jointing for appearance, while power jointers are for face jointing for structure, meaning squaring up the wood for starting the task quickly.
Factor 2: Popular Brands
Well, when it comes to jointer brands, you will come across many popular names such as DeWalt, Grizzly, Delta, Shop Fox, Jet, Powermatic, Ridgid, and Porter Cable. While Grizzly is famous for its improved quality models, Powermatic, Delta, Jet, and Shop Fox are top players. Shop Fox is known for its quite affordable options.
Despite very few differences, you will find the models from all these brands quite appealing. However, your decision should be based on budget and available space. If portability is on your priority list, that would be your third judging factor. However, to be a smart customer, you need to continue to consider the below factors. After all, popularity is not all that matters!
Factor 3: Size
It is vital to know the average measurements of the piece to be used in projects, as doing so will aid you in deciding the jointer’s length and width. It is obvious that wider tables shall facilitate a wider cutting base for lumber pieces that are wider. If there are longer tables and fence pieces, you are required to obtain more support to the piece, while at work.
The size of a jointer is determined by the length of their knives. This length identifies the widest possible board the tool can handle. Without any additional accessories or tools, a jointer is capable of handling a piece that is double in length of the bed. This means the blade and bed lengths both determine the piece’s size a jointer can handle.
- 6″ Jointer: This is the smallest size, but most useful to professionals as well as homeowners. It is less expensive ($300 to $750) and encompasses a variety of user-friendly options. These options range from spiral cutter heads to long tables and to mobile bases. Although for many customers a jointer is a luxury due to which they consider more expensive and bigger jointers, a 6-inch wide tool meets most woodworking needs. In case you use a piece that is over six inches in width, you will have to rip it down.
- 8″ Jointer: Such a tool features wider knives and a longer bed for handling longer and wider lumber pieces. It also weighs more than the aforementioned models, but that additional mass is required for smooth operation. These models are also expensive ranging up to several hundred dollars.
- 16″ Jointer: This is bigger, industrial-sized tool whose knives are such long. Their weight and cost make them a suitable fit for fewer woodshops (that can afford).
Factor 4: Bed Width and Length
This is a major factor to consider, as it affects the overall price as well as the operational results you will get from the tool. In terms of cost, a 6-inch bed width jointer is more affordable than an 8″ jointer, almost available at half the cost. Around six to eight inches of bed size is sufficient for maximum needs.
The cutting bed can be anywhere between 4 and 16 inches wide. As a general rule, the wider the bed, the costlier is the jointer. You also need to pay attention to the bed length. The majority of jointers can deal with a board that is double the length of each bed. If there is a need, you can even consider investing in bed extensions. Consider a jointer having a long bed, if you handle 6-inch or longer pieces in a spacious area of your shop. Doing so shall allow you to gain more accurate and safer outcomes with longer boards.
Factor 5: Cutting Depth
This factor allows deciding the number of passes required to make the piece fully straight. Usually, a depth of 1/2″ to 3/4″ is enough for efficient output. Each pass usually removes a bit more of the warped surface, which finally gives a truly straight and uniform piece. If you are a beginner, a board might need more than two passes for having a fully even and straight outcome.
For instance, a 5/8-inch cutting depth may not be sufficient enough to get the desired output in the first pass. Therefore, one or more extra passes are required to straighten the lumber surface fully.
Factor 6: Fence
It is essential to tilt the fence while keeping the tool in the precise position. A few pieces certainly need the fence support at tilted angles. This is possible to gain if the jointer has several, adjustable positive stops. Moreover, the design of fence tends to vary, but it must operate smoothly regardless of the design you choose.
A few fences are such that you can adjust them with just one hand, which is a plus point. The fence shall typically fine tune from 45 to 135 degrees, having stops at 45 and 90 degrees. Fence also needs to be sturdy as well as flat. It should be such that you cannot flex it under moderate pressure.
Factor 7: Table Flatness and Length
For creating flat surfaces on any wood, you should possess dead-flat tables, parallel from front to back with knives. Only such a jointer is designed to flatten the wood pieces.
You should also consider the length of the tables. Longer tables tend to deliver a straighter joint, even though the work size shall be the major deciding factor. It does not make sense in having a long fence for carving attractive boxes. Similarly, if there is a space issue, you have no option but to stick with the fitting table length.
Factor 8: Height Adjuster
It is important to consider the method by which the tables are adjusted. Most customers prefer wheels for more control. Many manufacturers these days are selling more number of wheel-adjusted jointers than those with the levers.
For adjusting the height of the outfeed table, consider having a handwheel. This is because it is able to deliver finer adjustments. When you set this table lower than that of the knives, you are likely to get a scooped cut on the last one or two inches of the piece. Similarly, wheels and levers perform equally well on the other table, for identifying the most suitable cut depth.
Both levers and wheels are good options for setting the infeed table’s height. Choosing one is just a matter of personal preference.
Factor 9: Power
Most jointers feature a motor power of 1 to 2 HorsePower (HP). Of all the power sizes available, 1.5 HP motor is enough for small jointers and does not result in bogging down, irrespective of the wood type in use. You can also rely upon a jointer featuring a 1 HP motor that offers sufficient power to smooth out even the exotic wood pieces effortlessly.
Jointers also differ in terms of HP and Volts used. Those jointers designed for home use need only the standard 120 or 220v electrical outlets. However, those industrial units will need an outlet of 440 volts, a dual phase aspect not required for a majority of home operations.
Factor 10: Head
A jointer with a spiral cutting head is the latest model, which uses four-sided cutters in a spiral shape. Such cutters shave off wood in a slicing manner with less power as well as noise than those straight knives. Such a head significantly lessens the amount of tooling marks that are left behind on pieces, which indicates less time for finishing as well.
However, you will still have marks for removal prior to finishing. Further, such a cutter head makes it simple to change the knives. You only need to rotate the individual cutter to get a new cutting surface. Now, you no longer have to experience those terrible knife set-ups! However, such models are costly.
Factor 11: Dust Collection Ability
It is common to have much debris and dust left behind after using a jointer. Therefore, it is wise to choose a model that comes with a built-in dust collector. The modern models come with dust collection ports that remove shavings and dust out of your way. This results in improved efficiency as well as overall work experience. Additionally, your site will remain cleaner as well as less susceptible to mishaps.
Factor 12: Mobility
If you are choosing an industry-sized or a highly professional jointer, chances are high for you to gain a bulky model. In that case, it makes sense to choose a model that has a built-in mobile base. Such a base makes it easy to move the bulky jointer quite easily. You can even replace the current base with a mobile one.
Factor 13: Adjustment of Knives
Majority of jointers have three knives, which you need to adjust in terms of height and alignment. You can choose to do so with jack screws or springs. Of the two, experts suggest springs, as they are easier.
5 Best Jointers of 2016 Reviewed
This one is the most affordable piece with a variable speed of 6000-11,000 RPMs to deal with the tough wood material. It comes with two-knife cutter head, head lock, and jackscrew knife leveling for easy management and replacement of knives. It also features flat, steel tables, dust collector, and fence for precise edge jointing.
Pete: “I highly recommend this jointer if you’re going to be working with anything 6″ or less. I’ve found cuts to be very consistent and always very smooth.”
This one comes with helical cutter or three knife head for quieter cutting and smoother finish, extra long tables on dovetailed ways for additional support, and lever for infeed table positioning and cut depth adjustment. It also has a handwheel for smooth fence tilting, 2 HP motor, non-mar fence insert to prevent scratches, and a magnetic base for quick storage on any metallic surface.
Arvay: “Very pleased with the build quality and setup, table alignment was spot on and I was jointing boards in no time. Dust collection with a dust collector works very well. Face jointing 8″ rock maple was a piece of cake.”
This one is for home use with 1 HP motor power, Quick-Set Knife mechanism for squaring the wood and replacing the blades, and extra-long table in cast iron for more precision and better control. Providing one of the longest working surfaces, this jointer also features 33-1/8-Inch long fence, industrial push button controls, 3 high-speed steel knives, and 4-inch dust ports.
Ron: “This machine is very good. Excellent power, gorgeous finished cut, quiet and extremely ACCURATE.”
With helical cutter head and 40 four-sided knife inserts, this one comes with a quieter operation and a superior finish than the traditional cutter heads. This heavy-duty model also features 1 Hp motor, adjustable infeed and outfeed tables offering more surface, center-mounted fence controls, and fine/quick adjustment lever.
Rattboy: “The helical head is amazing. Clean cuts, quiet and easy to set up with help.”
This one is a long bed helical head tool with staggered carbide inserts just like the aforementioned Powermatic model. However, this one is more affordable although it is a Chinese item. It features two-way tilting fence, heavy-duty cast iron tables with precision finish, and dual position on/off switch.
Curtis Morris: “I bought this jointer while it was on sale and I could not be happier with the purchase. It fits well in my garage shop and makes a perfectly straight edge or face on even the most gnarled lumber.”
So, have you found your best jointer? Well, if not, you go through some of the jointer reviews featured on our site, and let us know what you think.