Rants #1: Jointers

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Blog entry by Ottacat posted 01-19-2014 04:59 PM 1528 reads 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Rants series Part 2: The hobby woodworker dilemma »

Many of the woodworking tools available to both hobby and professional woodworkers are beautifully engineered and well designed. Ever seen an exploded diagram of a cordless drill or impact driver? The mechanical and electrical engineering is quite impressive.

In terms of more stationary tools, the DeWalt 735 planer is an excellent machine. Snipe is minimal and easily sands out, dual speeds, beautiful finish and easily changed knives make this an awesome planer for a hobby woodworker. Another beautifully engineered piece of equipment are the SawStop tablesaws. Way beyond the safety brake system everything else is well designed and thought out. The blade lifts effortlessly and yet stays rock solid in place. The blade guard and riving knives change quickly and are beautifully designed. The dust collection is awesome. The manual is extensive outline every possible setup and adjustment option.

At the other end of the spectrum are jointers. Todays jointer is no different than one made 50 or 100 years ago. The are truly awful. First, the means to keep the two tables coplanar are terrible. Dovetail adjustments are unbelievably useless where you have to make and insert metal shims. Parallelogram models are only slightly better but the adjustment cams are hard to turn (for many, you use a hammer and screwdriver or other tool), in poor locations and a complete exercise in frustration to get set.

The use of extensive amounts of steel in the bed is unnecessary. The beds mostly need just to stay flat and many other materials can stay flat without weighing hundreds of pounds. The default cutterhead uses difficult to adjust knives. When they need sharpening you are better of to buy a Tersa cutterhead, ESTA knives or a full helical cutterhead. The motor is crudely mounted, alignment is difficult, the belt is poorly designed and often knocks against the belt guard. The fence is overly heavy and can be slightly warped. The alignment mechanisms are rough and the ‘positive’ stops are useless requiring resetting with a mechanics square frequently.

You can of course get a decent jointer if jump up to European jointer / planers but the cost jump is more than double of stand-alone machines and you have to switch setups.

Why oh why can’t some company design and build rethought jointer?

5 comments so far

View Woodknack's profile


13522 posts in 3297 days

#1 posted 01-20-2014 05:11 AM

Well woodworking machine manufacturers are kind of a lazy lot, unless someone like Gass comes along and really stirs the pot they obviously don’t put much money into R&D and even then are reluctant.

-- Rick M,

View dschlic1's profile


491 posts in 2887 days

#2 posted 01-20-2014 05:50 PM

Use a thickness planner and a planner sled. For edge jointing, use a straight cut jig on the table saw. Sell your jointer for scrap!

View Ottacat's profile


532 posts in 2768 days

#3 posted 01-20-2014 09:13 PM

I do have a jointer and after plenty of frustration it is setup and running. The point was that there is a big opportunity for a good vendor to design a good one.

I’d love to see SawStop build one but they’d want to put in their brake technology which would drive up the engineering costs probably beyond what they ever recoup given annual jointer sales are way below tablesaws.

I just think that some company that does some internal engineering like Jet, Powermatic, Steel City could design and build a much better jointer at a reasonable cost.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6231 posts in 3730 days

#4 posted 01-20-2014 09:27 PM

What models of jointers have you had? I guess I agree that the dovetail way machines are harder to adjust, and do require occasional tuning. Since I bought a parallelogram jointer I have been completely satisfied. I have the Delta DJ-20 and the 76” bed length makes all the difference for jointing long lumber. True, the three straight knives take 45 minutes to change out, but the knives themselves are dirt cheap. The knives last much longer than the replaceable planer knives too.

I don’t reset my fence frequently, or suffer from a warped fence. I don’t mind that the machine is heavy, because for me that gives it a feeling of stability. Would a spiral head make it a better machine? Probably.

Take a second look at parallelogram machines. They are pretty solid.

Now the knives on the 735 planer… those need to be redesigned.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View ScottStewart's profile


120 posts in 3049 days

#5 posted 01-25-2014 06:03 PM

I completely agree with everything you said. I spent nearly $200 for set up tools for my jointer and lost a summer trying to get it to get it to work. I eventually did, but it shouldn’t have been that hard.

That jointer more than anything else in the world drove me to hand tools.

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