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Do I need a Jointer for Dimensional Lumber?

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Forum topic by Lislewood posted 07-05-2020 05:30 AM 567 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Lislewood

14 posts in 122 days


07-05-2020 05:30 AM

Hi All,

Just to clarify, I intend to build a bench with 4×4s and I only have a thickness planer currently.

If the dimensional lumber is always a set thickness, if the planer rollers will press the wood down flat as it goes through, I can get two opposing sides to be flat and parallel to each other.
I can then glue those sides together with parallel clamps and run them through the planer again.

After final glue-up, my electric hand planer can take care of the rest.

Are there any potential pitfalls in the plan?


17 replies so far

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

3374 posts in 2303 days


#1 posted 07-05-2020 08:29 AM

No you do not need a jointer.
But
Will need to joint the boards with an alternate method to get them flat, square, and maybe parallel.

It takes straight lumber to build straight projects.

Warped, twisted, or bowed lumber can occasionally be clamped flat; but you will build in stress that eventually is released during moisture changes in wood. IME, ALWAYS need to prepare your lumber with flat edges/faces to enable a flat/straight glue up. Only way to avoid jointing lumber in shop is buying specially prepared s4s lumber from a local supplier, and ensure the lumber is stored properly to avoid movement before use.

If your ‘dimensional lumber’ reference above means 4×4 sticks from big box store;
they are NEVER flat, square, or parallel. :(
The softwood construction timbers even have rounded edges that will interfere with making a flat table top. You will find they are maximum of ~3.25” sq when you make them flat & square. Furthermore, 4×4 lumber tends to have softer center pith in it, which moves more than heartwood. It is best to avoid using pith wood in any structural elements of a project. If 4×4 has pith in it, generally better to use 2×4 or 2×6 lumber, hand selected for grain direction and no pith.

There are a ton of online references that explain why/how flat/square is needed and how to accomplish it.
Here is one reference to get you started:
https://www.woodmagazine.com/no-fail-routines-for-jointing-and-planing

There are also many threads with folks asking ‘do I need jointer’, or ‘how to work without a jointer’ here on LumberJocks, you can search for; that will save your friends at LJ retyping all the information here again.

Best Luck!

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Firewood's profile

Firewood

1252 posts in 2443 days


#2 posted 07-05-2020 10:49 AM

+1. CaptK is spot on. One thing you mentioned:

if the planer rollers will press the wood down flat as it goes through, I can get two opposing sides to be flat and parallel to each other.

It’s true they will be parallel BUT not always true they will be flat. Facing the firsts face on the jointer is intended to be done without forcing the board out of it’s relaxed state. THEN you feeed it through the planer to make the opposite face parallel.

There are ways to accomplish this with just a planer. It just takes more time and effort

Since you are using dimensional lumber which is relatively cheap compared to hardwood lumber, what some people propose is to look through 2×10 or better yet 2×12 framing lumber for the least knotty ones you can find, cut them to rough length, pick best sections on either side of the pith and rip them apart. That’ll give you the most stable wood out of the board. I believe Wood Magazine posted an article on this as well.

-- Mike - Waukesha, WI

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Sylvain

1053 posts in 3308 days


#3 posted 07-05-2020 12:59 PM

Paul Sellers shows the construction with 2 X 4.
https://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-workbench-plans/
One has to choose in the pile the best ones.
However they don’t need to be perfect.
look at this 2012 video:
https://paulsellers.com/2012/06/how-to-build-a-workbench-video-with-paul-sellers-part-1/
The boards used are not perfectly straight but flexible enough to laminate them together.
Start clamping in the middle; it is then easier to avoid a twisted top.
4 X 4 are probably less flexible.

The rounded corners are only an aesthetic annoyance. Don’t remove them before flattening the bench-top.
You don’t need to get completely rid of them the first time you flatten your bench-top.
The remaining shallow grooves, if any, it will not pose any problem during workbench use.
Anyway, you might want to re-flatten/clean your bench-top after one or two years. The remaining grooves will then probably disappear completely.
You certainly don’t need to suppress totally the rounded corners on the underside. This doesn’t mean the underside may be left completely rough. One need to get it twist free, at least where it will sit on the undercarriage. (don’t ask…)

Using warped boards is possible but,
if you don’t want to loose too much material straightening them, you have to cut them in shorter length and assemble them like a kitchen counter top. What i mean:
https://www.ikea.com/us/en/p/karlby-countertop-for-kitchen-island-walnut-veneer-30297641/
That is what I did because I wanted to recycle free ones which had been drying at least 20 years in an attic.

I used hand tools only.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

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clin

1114 posts in 1805 days


#4 posted 07-05-2020 01:55 PM

I agree with the previous comments. You don’t need a jointer, but you need to joint the wood. Since you have a thickness planer, you can joint wood by using a planer sled. A planer sled is ultimately just a flat reference surface temporarily attached to the wood.

The only requirement for the sled is that it be flat WHEN YOU ATTACH THE BOARD TO IT. A simple sled can be just a melamine or particle board shelf. The sled does not need to be rigid, though some people make rigid sleds for other reasons.

You need a flat surface to work on. Your floor is NOT flat enough. Your table saw top might be flat enough. Lay the “sled” on the flat working surface, lay your wood on the sled. If you have a choice, try to put the side of the wood down that puts the gaps between the wood and sled at the edges of the board. For example, a cupped board would curve up towards the edges. This allows you to slip shims under the edges of the board to support it.

4×4 aren’t really going to have cup as much as twist and bowing, but you get the idea. You want the gaps where you can get shims under them so the planer can’t push the wood down.

Use as many shims as needed to keep the planer from pushing the board flat as it goes through the planer. Do not try to push the board flat. You are trying to support the board so it passes through the planer in it’s relaxed state, as mentioned above.

Hot melt glue is a way to hold the shims to the sled and the board. You don’t need glue between the shim and sled or board. Just beads of glue in the corners formed where the shim meets the sled and board being planed. Even masking tape can be enough to hold the shims to the sled. When going through the planer the forces are mostly pushing down on the board. Also, you want to be able to pop things loose when you’re done.

You’ll often see sleds with a raised edge at one end (a cleat). The idea being the board is up against the cleat to prevent the board from sliding off the sled. This is not needed as you’ll see many people feed the sled in backwards when using a cleat. For the cleat to work, the cleat needs to be the first thing into the planer. The sled does not pull the wood through, it’s the other way around. The wood pulls the sled through. At least for typical planners where the rollers are on top of the wood.

Also, cut your wood to rough length first. No reason to try to joint an 8 foot long board when you plan to cut it into two 4 foot lengths.

-- Clin

View Aj2's profile

Aj2

3187 posts in 2607 days


#5 posted 07-05-2020 03:26 PM

I say yes to a jointer.
The reason is sometimes woodworkers including myself get this crazy idea to buy rough lumber.
Not because it saves money or a small table looks nice made from the same tree.
For me it’s how I like spending my time in my shop. Building silly fixtures and jigs isn’t one of them.
Good Luck

-- Aj

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

5872 posts in 3118 days


#6 posted 07-05-2020 04:05 PM

Do you need one….....well if you want to fiddle f… around wasting time making all sorts of jigs and work arounds or hand planes then NO you don’t Need a jointer.

If you want to do stock prep quickly, efficiently, accurately including the important face jointing (Some think you only need to joint the edges) then YES you need a jointer.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View CWWoodworking's profile

CWWoodworking

887 posts in 988 days


#7 posted 07-05-2020 04:21 PM

The great woodworking debate continues.

No you don’t need one. But it’s a good tool that does specific things well.

I don’t have one and I do just fine. I don’t buy rough lumber though.

View sansoo22's profile

sansoo22

1025 posts in 463 days


#8 posted 07-05-2020 04:49 PM

I don’t have a jointer unless you count 2 stanley #7s and a #8. I built my current workbench out of hand selected 2×8 and 2×10 doug fir. Ripped the pith out and proceeded to hand plane the hell out of every surface. I didn’t even have a planer at the time.

That being said I now have a lunchbox planer and a jointer will be my next tool purchase. I enjoy my hand tools and knowing I have the skills to use them but sometimes you just want to get milling out of the way as quick and efficiently as possible so you can get to the building phase.

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

5963 posts in 1383 days


#9 posted 07-05-2020 06:06 PM

I’m confused guys. I own 2 jointers, and I love making jigs, fixtures and stuff to help me be able to do dead on work.

-- Think safe, be safe

View therealSteveN's profile

therealSteveN

5963 posts in 1383 days


#10 posted 07-05-2020 06:18 PM


You don t need a jointer, but you need to joint the wood.
- clin

Priceless nugget here.

-- Think safe, be safe

View JackDuren's profile

JackDuren

1260 posts in 1768 days


#11 posted 07-05-2020 06:29 PM


The great woodworking debate continues.

No you don’t need one. But it’s a good tool that does specific things well.

I don’t have one and I do just fine. I don’t buy rough lumber though.

- CWWoodworking

100%.......

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

5872 posts in 3118 days


#12 posted 07-05-2020 06:30 PM



I m confused guys. I own 2 jointers, and I love making jigs, fixtures and stuff to help me be able to do dead on work.

- therealSteveN

You are proof that one size doesn’t fit all. Of course I make jigs/buy (think Greg Jig) from time to time. But I don’t have to make jigs to flatten, straighten or square up lumber.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View controlfreak's profile

controlfreak

960 posts in 410 days


#13 posted 07-05-2020 07:38 PM

I have been doing some reading on flattening boards the way is was done before machines. Straight edge, winding sticks, sharp planes and some know how. Even so I would probably get one side flat and then run it through the lunch box. I was able to pick up a old Craftsman 6 1/8’ jointer for $150 some TLC and a fresh set of blades it would be perfect for you. Assuming you have the room for it.

View controlfreak's profile

controlfreak

960 posts in 410 days


#14 posted 07-05-2020 07:45 PM


I m confused guys. I own 2 jointers, and I love making jigs, fixtures and stuff to help me be able to do dead on work.

- therealSteveN
You are proof that one size doesn t fit all. Of course I make jigs/buy (think Greg Jig) from time to time. But I don t have to make jigs to flatten, straighten or square up lumber.

- AlaskaGuy


A planer sled and attempting to customise each little shim to give the board support under the planer roller to me sounds like a fools errand. I think I could do it faster with hand planes. I must add that I am still new to hand planes and have yet to attempt or be successful at flattening a large piece. At this point I can only say I have read the book on how and bought lots of planes, all I lack is finishing.

View Lislewood's profile

Lislewood

14 posts in 122 days


#15 posted 07-06-2020 03:22 AM

Thanks for the advice guys. Time to scour CL for a jointer!

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