Updated: Oct 12, 2016
- What is a wood jointer?
- Benefits of using a jointer
- How much do jointers cost? Which should I buy?
If you have a woodworking shop in your garage then odds are you will need a jointer. A wood jointer will take all those curves and ragged pieces of wood and give them a flat and straight edge or surface. Once one side of the wood is done, then you can run it through a planer to get the other side to match. There are 2 types of jointers - the stationary jointers and the benchtop jointers.
The stationary models have two varieties to choose from - closed stand and open stand. The top selling sizes are the 6 inch and 8 inch jointers - some professional woodworkers own 12" and 16" jointers which are priced in the $1000's. The design of a jointer is one that has 2 arms extending out from the base. The arms are also referred to as the outfeed table and infeed tables. The cutter head sits between the two tables and that is where the wood is cut.
Most jointers have 2 to 3 cutting knives and they will need to be sharpened periodically. For safety purposes, the blade guard sits over the cutter head. When operating the jointer, you push the wood from the in-feed table over the cutter head that spins the blades and over to the out-feed table. As it passes over the cutting knives, a small section of the wood is shaved off the board. It may take a few passes but you will end up with a nice, flat edge.
The video below shows a comparison between 8 inch jointers:
What to look for in a jointer?
Buying Guide - The most powerful and efficient jointers are the closed stand jointers. They are usually heavier and more stable than the open stand and benchtop models. By having the base enclosed the motor on the jointer will be protected from excess dust. Also, you get less vibration and noise from closed stand jointers compared to open-stand models.
The advantage that open stand jointers have over the closed stand ones are that they are easier to move around a workshop. These models are also less expensive than the stationary closed stand jointers. One thing you will give up with open stand jointers is noise - they can be louder than the cabinet base units. The benchtop jointers are perfect for those working in smaller places and they perform just fine with smaller boards. Their drawbacks are their inability to work with cutting anything beyond 6" in width and their lack of stability. Lastly, you will find jointer/planer combo machines, although the experts we talked with said it's best to buy jointers and planers as separate units.
Important Features - Cutting capacity is very important as most jointers will have a depth capacity from 1/2" to 3/4". The cutting bed will go from 4" - 16" and the general rule of thumb is that the wider the bed the more expensive the jointer. In terms of cutting power, these machines are rated in horsepower. The larger jointers have 1 HP motors while the benchtop models are equipped with 10 to 13 amp motors. The stronger the power, the smoother the cut.
Bed length is crucial as well - most jointers will be able to handle a board that is twice as long as the length of each bed. Buying bed extensions is always a possibility. The fence on the jointer will usually adjust from 45 degrees to 135 degrees with stops at 45 and 90 degrees. When it comes to the cutting knives on the jointer, being able to adjust them easily is a huge feature. Some are adjusted with jackscrews while others have springs. Springs, say experts, are the easier of the two. You will find that jointers come with either knobs, levers, or wheels to adjust the table.
Jointer Reviews - we found plenty online at websites like Americanwoodworker.com, Taunton.com, Woodworking.com, Sawmillcreek.com, and Sawsndust.com. Perhaps the best comparison between top rated jointers was done by American Woodworker where they tested twelve 6 inch jointers that sell for under $600. The 8" jointers go for $700 to $2000, but they did not get into those sizes. Amazon.com is another excellent source of power tool reviews as they list dozens of the top selling brands like Jet, Delta, Grizzly, Powermatic, Laguna, Shop Fox, Oliver Machinery, and General. You can browse the most popular jointers online here.
Best Stationary Jointer:
BEST - In countless reviews we found the Powermatic 54A Deluxe 6-Inch Jointer with Quick-Set Knives to be the overall winner. Although a bit pricier than other models with 6" cutting capacity, the Powermatic rates well in almost all features we have listed above. With a 1 HP motor, cast iron center mount fence, a large 66" x 7 1/4" table surface, and positive stops at 90 and 45 degrees. The 1/2" rabbeting capacity is what owners appreciate - just use the adjustment lever on the infeed table to determine your depth of cut.
The non slip V-belt is durable and the 4" dust port lets you easily connect to dust collection systems. Owners say the assembly is not too bad and a few had to change the wiring to 230 volts to accommodate floor outlets that already existed. Comments include things like "makes edge jointing long boards a breeze" and "machine works like a dream". The full review from Howard Ruttan on the Powermatic 54A can be found at Inthewoodshop.org.
ALSO RECOMMENDED - Jet has a well recognized name in the power tool industry and their JET 708457DXK JJ-6CSDX 6-Inch 1 HP Jointer is top rated as well. The jointer offers a 1/2 inch rabbeting capacity, a 1 HP motor, 3 high speed steel knives, a 33 1/8 inch long fence with 45 and 90 degrees stops, and an extra long cast iron table giving the user improved accuracy and more control. The 5 year warranty is a huge plus.
To check out how to use a jointer in your woodshop - click the image below to go to video.
8 Inch Jointer:
RECOMMENDED - When it comes to 8" jointers, the Grizzly G0490X 8" Jointer w/ Spiral Cutterhead is one to consider. We know that 6" jointers are probably fine for most woodworkers with a workshop at home, but the 8 inch model from Grizzly is quite popular amongst the professional woodworkers and many wood hobbyists. Get accurate cuts on your stock with the extra long 76 3/8" table and the tall fence. The built-in mobile base is what owners with tight spaces really like. Just move it out from a corner to do your work and then slide it back for storage.
Talk about durable, the welded steel cabinet keeps the platform stable and the jointer steady. The end results are straight, smooth and flat boards. Owner comments include "plenty of power and no problems with full red oak" and "the spiral cutter head performs flawlessly". We found plenty of positive comments on the Sawmillcreek.org forums - several owners of Grizzly jointers say they are a better purchase than the Powermatics. Other mention that you should look at the Grizzly G0490 8" Jointer with Parallelogram Beds. From reviews it sounds like both are impressive 8 inch jointers that will deliver quality and long term reliability.
Benchtop Jointer/Planer Combo:
If you are looking for a jointer/planer combination machine, then most reviews will point you towards the Jet JJP-8BT 8-Inch Bench Top Jointer/Planer The combo benchtop jointer and planer helps cut down on having 2 machines in your workshop and still provides full functionality when needing to joint or plane a piece of lumber. The 13 amp motor on the Jet will produce 18,000 cuts per minute and the feed speed is 19 1/2 feet per minute.
The cuts are precise and smooth with the 2 steel knives. Angle the fence up to 45 degrees. Owners do mention that the assembly manual is not adequate although most struggled through it to piece together the jointer/planer. The planer features a scale and pointer that will indicate the distance between the cutter head and the planer table. The two push blocks included with the Jet jointer/planer combo come in handy.
More videos and resources are here on our Jointer Resource Page.
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