Purpose of a Jointer

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Forum topic by JK0702 posted 08-27-2012 07:31 PM 6361 views 1 time favorited 51 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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138 posts in 3469 days

08-27-2012 07:31 PM

I need some help. I’ve read a lot about the uses of a jointer but fail to see it’s proper value. Just to clarify, I put the onus on me not the tool. My understanding is that if a board is warped, twisted, or bowed, a jointer can remedy the problem (only to a degree in some cases). I have a planer that I think pretty much does some of the same things. Can you guys help me see what I’m missing. I had an opportunity to buy a Grizzly for $250 last year but I passed because I wasn’t sure how I’d use it. How do you use it to get a straight 90 degree edge on a board that is straight but not a 90 degree cut? Can’t you do that with a jig on a table saw? Thanks for your consideration.

-- John - Huntington Beach, CA --- Growth occurs when we get out of our comfort zone.

51 replies so far

View Rex B's profile

Rex B

320 posts in 3588 days

#1 posted 08-27-2012 07:36 PM

When face-jointing (on the large face of a board) a jointer references the same face as that being cut, whereas a planer references the opposite face from that which is being cut. Therefore a jointer is best when none of the faces are clean yet, and a planer is best to get the second face clean and parallel once the first face is clean.

When edge-jointing (on the edge of a board) you press the face of the board up against the jointer fence, which is (hopefully) perfectly square with the table, giving you a square edge. It can also give cleaner edges than a tablesaw in some cases, due to the nature of the cutting device.

-- Rex

View jmos's profile


918 posts in 3707 days

#2 posted 08-27-2012 07:39 PM

A jointer will make a single face of the board flat. It can also make an adjoining edge flat and square to the flattened face.

A planer will reduce the thickness of a board and make one face parallel to the other face.

So picture this, you have a board with a bow along the length, say 1/8” (lay it flat, with two ends touching, and the center is raised 1/8” off the table. If you put this board through a planer you will end up with a thinner board that still has a 1/8” bow. You can use a special sled, with a flat reference surface, to get the board flat, but the planer will not do it all by itself.

Typically you joint one face, to get it flat, then use the planer to get to the opposite face flat and parallel and the board to the desired thickness.

Two different tools with two different purposes.

-- John

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5556 days

#3 posted 08-27-2012 07:49 PM

As well stated above. To put it another way, if you put a twisted board into a planer, you’re just going to get a thinner twisted board.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View knotscott's profile


8437 posts in 4713 days

#4 posted 08-27-2012 07:55 PM

A planer is fine if the reference face is flat or if you use a planer sled as the reference face…. otherwise it mainly duplicates the deviations of the bottom face of the board. The jointer is best at creating that flat reference face. A planer is best at creating a uniform thickness.



-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View JK0702's profile


138 posts in 3469 days

#5 posted 08-27-2012 08:05 PM

I’m starting to get the picture. The more ways I hear it, the better I understand it.

knotscott: thanks for the illustrations!! I’m such a visual learner and the pictures help incredibly.

-- John - Huntington Beach, CA --- Growth occurs when we get out of our comfort zone.

View CplSteel's profile


143 posts in 3502 days

#6 posted 08-27-2012 08:10 PM

@JK0702 – I understand your confusion and it is hard to see the difference between a jointer and a planer. Basically, the jointer makes the bottom of the board just like the outfeed table, while the planner makes the top of the board similar to the bottom of the board. The preceding statement was not exactly true, but it is close enough for your needs. A jointer is very good at getting a flat surface on the bottom of the board. If you run a board through a thicknesser before you joint the bottom, depending on what is out of alignment on the board, it will take you many more passes, and it will take off a whole lot more material, to flatten the board on a thicknesser. It can be done because the thicknesseser will flatten the can’t give you an exact mirror of the bottom of the board, but a some problems, like a bow, cupped side up, would pass through a thicknesser almost unchanged.

As Jmos said, with a shimmed sled you can joint on a thickness planer, but it takes more work (unless the board is wider than your jointer, then it is probably less work) then just running the board across a jointer.

A jointer can also be used to make one side at a right angle to the bottom of the board, but so can a couple of other tools, like a tablesaw or tracksaw, so I think of that as more of a perk then a main purpose.

You can also joint one face with hand planes well enough to true it in a thicknesser.

Bottom line, You can get by without a jointer, and if you don’t have any problems thus far you can keep moving forward without problems. If you find that your lumber is not as square as you need it then a jointer would be at the top of the list of things to buy.

View tbone's profile


330 posts in 5022 days

#7 posted 08-27-2012 08:21 PM

Please don’t take this as a brag, but if you’ll look at my projects you will notice furniture pieces that are both simple as well as more complex.
I don’t have a jointer OR a planer and I can get by just fine.
A good wood supplier is imperative, as are the tips and techniques that you can glean from the web pages of your fellow Lumberjocks.

By the way, I don’t use a jointer or a shaper. But that’s only because I am not comfortable using them.

Good luck.

-- Kinky Friedman: "The first thing I'll do if I'm elected is demand a recount."

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

3892 posts in 4776 days

#8 posted 08-27-2012 08:32 PM

I purchase wood FAS and planed 3 sides. FAS means rough not planed. Even the planed stuff has been sitting around for awhile and it invariably has some bow to it. Unless I’m working with really short pieces of wood, under 2 ft long, I have to joint/cut/plane the wood or stuff just doesn’t fit or glue together nicely. It’s the start of every project. I call it, ‘straightening the wood’. After that I’ve got all my pieces an I can make something.

The only thing I’d mind doing by hand would be edge planing for edge gluing. Beyond that it would be a lot of work.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View Loren's profile


11371 posts in 4986 days

#9 posted 08-27-2012 08:35 PM

You don’t need a jointer for straightening boards anymore. The
jointer is an old style of machine and predates hand-held power
tools like routers and track saws that can be guided with a
straight edge to straighten an edge.

A small jointer is very nice to have in building furniture and
other modest scale stuff, but straightening longer edges is
a skill-driven activity even with larger jointers.

In terms of removing cup and twist, the jointer requires
skilled use there as well. Larger jointers and especially
planers used to be very costly in relation to how much
money middle class people earned, so until the 1980s
when imported pacific rim machinery became available,
lots of hobbiests would get by with a small jointer and
a table saw.

Later, the flood of inexpensive portable planers and
flattening jigs made jointers less necessary.

Anyway, a jointer is nice to have and a small 4” one is
very nice to have if you can’t have a larger one, but for
larger boards there are several modern options like
track saws and planer sleds that can substitute very well.

View knotscott's profile


8437 posts in 4713 days

#10 posted 08-27-2012 08:55 PM

Edge jointing can be done using various techniques/tools (TS, router, etc), but if the face isn’t flattened first, you won’t get a uniform 90° edge to the reference face. Norm, David Marks, and most main stream woodworking shows still use the jointer as the first step in dimensioning lumber, and no other work arounds are as efficient or as effective IMHO.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View pintodeluxe's profile


6519 posts in 4151 days

#11 posted 08-27-2012 09:02 PM

Planer = board goes in like a banana, board comes out like a banana. Really meant for planing to thickness, not straightening.

Jointer = will make one face dead flat. then make one edge dead flat, and square to first face.

Order of milling : Joint two adjoining sides, Plane rough face to thickness, Tablesaw to straighten final edge.

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

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 3842 days

#12 posted 08-27-2012 09:11 PM

JK, if you follow pintodeluxe’s order of milling and look at the below pic you’ll see how it all works together. A visual example of verbiage is always good. Anyway, for me it is.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

4835 posts in 3572 days

#13 posted 08-27-2012 10:32 PM

I’m with tbone and Loren on this one. I don’t own a jointer and have never seen the need for one in a small one person shop. I buy first quality stuff and store it carefully so it starts and stays flat. If a board twists, winds, and bows, then it is a candidate for shorter stuff or firewood. You can flatten a board, but it probably won’t stay flat. Why take the risk of using it in a project you’ve spent a lot of time on? Yes, there are good boards that need trimming, but saws and routers take care of this quickly and efficiently.

-- DanK All my life I've wanted to be someone. I see now I should have been more specific.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 4307 days

#14 posted 08-27-2012 10:32 PM

Good advice from all the above. One thing that always amazes me is the reliance on two machine from woodworkers on the left side of the pond – a jointer and a planer.
The European way is to have a combination machine – or planer thicknesser as it’s known.
Perhaps we have have smaller workshops, the two in one capability certainly frees up more space in my barely adequate workshop.
Put on the outfeed table, plane two square edges, take off the outfeed table, flip the chip collection attachment to the top and thickness plane away.

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

4835 posts in 3572 days

#15 posted 08-27-2012 10:33 PM

There’s another discussion about jointers at:
you may wish to read.

-- DanK All my life I've wanted to be someone. I see now I should have been more specific.

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