Shortest piece on jointer

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Forum topic by D_Allen posted 09-02-2012 02:48 AM 10860 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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495 posts in 3864 days

09-02-2012 02:48 AM

Sometimes the simple things don’t register in my brain right away.
Recently I have been shopping for a disc sander to square pen blanks before drilling. It is much better if they are square rather than rectangular. Most of the sanders I see run too fast in my opinion. I have one set up on the lathe using a 6” faceplate and at 650 RPM it is plenty fast.
Running that short of a piece in the planer is a big no-no but it occurred to me that I may be able to use my jointer. I have a vintage 4” that works very well for everything I have used it for. I had a yellowheart blank that was rectangle and decided to throw caution to the wind and try it. It worked great. The thing I realized is that the space between the tables on this 4” is only 1.25”. Using light cuts and going slow it did the job just fine.
I was looking over the manual on a Ridgid 6” and they say not to joint any stock that is less than 12” long. I know that is overkill on their part for their protection, but really, how short could you go and still be somewhat safe?
I have decided now that I do not need a better disc sander anytime soon.

-- Website is finally up and

14 replies so far

View jumbojack's profile


1691 posts in 3704 days

#1 posted 09-02-2012 03:00 AM

with stuff that short I’ll use a plane. I respect my jointer, probably more than any other machine in the shop.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View dnick's profile


986 posts in 3462 days

#2 posted 09-02-2012 03:50 AM

I’d really never joint a short piece , gives me the chills. Like jumbojack said.I’d probably use a block plane.

-- dnick, North Hollywood, Ca.

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 3268 days

#3 posted 09-02-2012 03:59 AM

Hard to say what the “absolute minimum” is, but it’s not worth investigating, as 1) it is heading for an accident and 2) the jointer will do a poor job of it anyway as the gap for the knives will make it hard to keep the board from wobbling. 12” on a 6” jointer certainly should be no problem.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 4131 days

#4 posted 09-02-2012 07:07 AM

Some limits just don’t need exploring. 12” is pretty safe. Anything shorter is just asking for trouble. Like Jumbo and Dnick, I respect my tools and the idea of running short, small stock over or through a power tool scares me. Use a hand plane. There may be only 1.25” between tables, but your fingers are awfully close to those blades.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View D_Allen's profile


495 posts in 3864 days

#5 posted 09-02-2012 11:48 AM

I wouldn’t try anything shorter then 5” and it would be much more dangerous on a larger jointer as the spacing of the tables is probably much greater. At the midway mark there is still nearly 2” of wood flat on each table.
As for wobble, if the tables are set properly there is no opportunity for wobble. And I’d never ever think of running such a small piece through without push blocks to keep the fingers away.
Thanks all for your insight but I will continue the use with caution.

-- Website is finally up and

View ChuckV's profile


3382 posts in 4607 days

#6 posted 09-02-2012 12:10 PM

I think the minimum on my 8” jointer is 10”. I don’t go below 12”. If I know I will have some short pieces, I try to get the milling finished before they are cut that short. If I have to deal with a short piece, I use a hand plane.

My jointer manual gives minimum dimensions for length, width, and thickness. I made a piece of wood with those dimensions and have it hanging next to the jointer. This is an easy and quick way to check.

-- "Join the chorus if you can. It'll make of you an honest man." - I. Anderson

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4841 days

#7 posted 09-02-2012 12:18 PM

Others above have given great advise. The jointer can cause gruesome injuries.

That said, the disk sander and the belt sander on my Shopsmith has all the variable speed I need for sanding small stock.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4543 posts in 4189 days

#8 posted 09-02-2012 12:36 PM

I wouldn’t go less than a foot. When I was in wood shop in summer school as a HS junior, one of the kids (going into the 7th grade) decided to run his plywood sanding block (~4”X3”X3/4”) through the jointer. Didn’t ask permission (required for the jointer). Also ignored the markings the shop teacher made with a marker- 12” long, 6” wide, 1” thick minimum right on the bed. The kid lost most of his fingers off both hands. One other boy (a senior) and I were the only ones allowed to use it after that. Believe me, I was extra-respectful of the thing after that.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View Gumnut's profile


95 posts in 3237 days

#9 posted 09-02-2012 01:12 PM

Here is a lesson learned!
Very sadly I fell for the trap of trying to run a short length through my jointer and at the same time I was distracted by someone coming in the shop “BANG” and in a split second three fingers were dragged into the blades with the piece of wood flying into orbit!
I automatically clenched my fist and grabbed a rag to hide the blood from the war office. She said show me and I said hospital then I laid on the grass outside because I was about to black out.
At the hospital a nice doctor shoved needles into the base of the fingers and a few moments later I was happy watching a craftsman at work stitching back on the pads of my fingers (such a talent at sewing).
I highly recommend that you only use the jointer for long pieces and keep the blades sharp!
Hand planes give such a lovely shaving off when you learn the correct use of them.

-- Peter, member of the Fine Woodwork Association

View Gene Howe's profile (online now)

Gene Howe

12325 posts in 4508 days

#10 posted 09-02-2012 02:14 PM

Same thing happened to me. Luckily is was just my thumb. I now have a right thumb that’s about 1/2 the thickness of the left.
NEVER joint anything shorter than 12” and then, use a pusher/hold down.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View 69BBNova's profile


341 posts in 3296 days

#11 posted 09-02-2012 03:14 PM

I wouldent joint a 6” piece, I’d always prefer to do a board as long as possable before sizeing it for a project…

I’ve worked with wood (as a hobbiest) for 40yrs or so, and one of the first things I’ve always done is figure out how a power tool can “ATTACK” me by doing something that may not be a good idea…

Over the years everybody hears stories of a moments distraction and then its to late…

I know I havent said much but my respect for what tools can do, good or bad is immense.

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 4371 days

#12 posted 09-02-2012 03:22 PM

I’ve run short, and thin, pieces through a planer after sticking them to a larger piece of MDF with some 2-sided tape. Works really well. There is some potential for damaging thin pieces when you try to pull them free of the tape/carrier board, but it beats jointing your fingers.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 3764 days

#13 posted 09-03-2012 12:26 AM

to all above…these jointer stories had me in the fetal position under my desk…

there is a forum on this site that says “safety in the workshop” or something like that…maybe we can get a new one that says “stoopid things I have done”...I’m not being critical of anybody and will offer to start it with stoopid things I have done.

View Loren's profile


11191 posts in 4728 days

#14 posted 09-03-2012 12:42 AM

Don’t run anything shorter than 10” over a jointer. You can
make a table saw jig easily to straighten the edges of
short boards.

In a pinch a short board can be jointed on a handplane inverted
in a vise.

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