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Best Jointers

Updated September 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 71 Models Considered
  • 31 Hours Researched
  • 2 Experts Interviewed
  • 232 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best jointers

    Last Updated September 2018

    There are many reasons to buy a jointer. Rough cut lumber is far cheaper than milled, and with a jointer you can clean it up yourself. Pre-milled stock is rarely accurate to the dimensions stated. Additionally, it may not be flat or square. With a good jointer you can rectify these problems in minutes.

    The question is, which jointer should you purchase?

    The good news is, you have plenty of choices. The not-so-good news is that with over two hundred machines to choose from, finding the right one becomes something of a challenge!

    Our comprehensive jointer review found that the five machines above provided best-in-class performance and value. They satisfy the needs of a wide range of woodworkers.

    For those who would like more detail on what to look for from a jointer, we've prepared the following report.

    Jointers can be very useful for turning low quality lumber, like pallets, into useable material. Be careful, though. Hidden nails or staples will ruin jointer knives.

    Jointers vs. planers

    What's the difference between a planer and a jointer? It's a question that comes up often. Given that they do similar jobs, it's no surprise there's confusion.

    In the past, the only tool woodworkers had for shaping wood was the hand plane. Whether you wanted to flatten or square a piece of wood, or shave the thickness, a hand plane was the tool you used.

    It's common to see electrical versions of this tool, and they're fine for general woodworking. However, when it comes to squaring, they have no real advantage over the manual tool. In fact, some feel that electric planers are too aggressive.

    That's when you turn to a planer (rather than a plane), or a jointer.

    Jointer planer combos do exist, and might seem like an ideal solution. However, there are drawbacks. First, they're all large, floor-standing machines, requiring plenty of space. Second, the process of changing between the functions is frequently criticized for being too fiddly and time consuming.

    The difference is:

    • A planer (sometimes called a thickness planer) cuts the top and bottom of a piece of lumber at the same time, as the lumber passes between two sets of cutters. The planer is best at cutting a piece of wood to the desired thickness quickly and accurately. What it won't do is flatten a warped board. Nor can it square up the edges.

    • A jointer has one set of cutters, with tables to either side (referred to as the infeed and outfeed). These are adjusted to guide the desired amount of material removal as the stock is run over the cutters. A jointer is best at cleaning up and flattening a board, taking out any twist. It can also square the edges or, in some cases, cut a bevel on the edge. It only cuts one side of the material at a time, so it's not recommended for thicknessing.
       

    Which tool is better? Technically, there is no “better,” because a planer does one job, a jointer does another. Professional woodshops will always have both. So will most enthusiastic amateurs.

    If your budget is really tight, it is possible to use a jointer to dimension lumber, but it’s not recommended.

    Like a Hot Knife Through Lumber

    The Powermatic 8-Inch Floor-Standing Jointer is a serious workhorse that will remove an impressive 1/2" in a single pass. A powerful, 2 hp motor, combined with the four-knife helical cutterhead option, delivers up to 28,000 cuts per minute — and will do so all day, every day. Long, cast-iron tables give excellent support, as well as the rigidity needed for high precision. The fence is operated by a direct worm gear, so it goes exactly where you want it, and stays there. This is a high-performance package that will satisfy the most demanding professional.

    What size jointer?

    There are two main types of jointer: benchtop and floor-standing.

    Benchtop jointers invariably offer a width of 6 inches. Many popular floor-standing models are also 6 inches, but there are also 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch options. If you work with wide boards, a benchtop jointer will not give you the capacity you need.

    Many woodworkers — professionals included — never use boards wider than 6", but that still leaves a choice of benchtop or floor-standing machines. So what are the other considerations?

    Dimensions and portability

    The main dimension of a jointer is obviously the combined length of the tables. When estimating the space the machine will take up, you also need to consider height and depth.

    There are variations, of course, but benchtop models are around 12 inches high and 12 inches deep. Floor-standing models vary considerably. Plan for a height of around 40 to 44 inches and a depth of at least 24 inches, though you'll need to check each model individually.

    There's also a question of weight. A benchtop jointer will weigh anywhere from 40 to 80 pounds. That's going to be a big consideration for those who are short of space, and need to move it frequently.

    Floor-standing jointers start around 250 pounds for a 6-inch model. Wheel kits are available to make them movable, though moving a tool that heavy isn’t something you would want to do often.

    High-end jointers can easily exceed 500 pounds, so they need a permanent site.

    In summary, there's clearly a big step from benchtop to floor-standing jointer.

    • If space is a factor, a benchtop jointer may be the only practical solution. That shouldn't be taken as a negative. The 6-inch capacity is as much as many woodworkers ever need. Properly fixed to the bench, these jointers are capable of producing first-class work.

    • If you regularly mill wide boards, or long pieces of lumber, a floor-standing jointer will give you the required capacity and, potentially, much higher levels of productivity.

    Table sizes

    The longer the length of the infeed and outfeed tables, the more stability you have for your workpiece.

    This is particularly important with long boards. If it rocks, you'll get inaccuracies and an uneven surface finish.

    Benchtop jointers have combined table length in the 26- to 35-inch range. Floor-standing jointers start around 70 inches, but professional woodshop machines can exceed 80 inches.

    Perfect for the Home Shop

    The Rikon Power Tools 6-Inch Benchtop Jointer provides an ideal introduction to jointing, particularly for woodworkers without much space. At just 36 pounds, it can be lifted into position or stored away with ease. The low weight doesn't mean it's flimsy. The table may be aluminum, but it's thick and rigid, giving you the stable surface you need for accurate work. Quality is further supported by a helical cutterhead — unusual on a budget jointer. Add a five year guarantee, and you've got a superb blend of performance and value.

    Jointer features

    Size and capacity are important elements when choosing a jointer, but there are other considerations that will have equal impact.

    Cutterhead

    Actual material removal is done by a  rotating cutterhead (also called a cutter block), fitted with a number of knives. The more knives you have, the more cuts are made each time the block rotates — in theory, giving you a smoother finish.

    Benchtop jointers tend to have two or three knives. Floor-standing models generally have three or four.

    Knife blades can be high speed steel (HSS) or carbide-tipped. Both take a good edge, but the latter is superior, and lasts up to ten times as long. They are also considerably more expensive.

    Knives are mounted in the cutterhead in one of two ways, either straight or helically.

    A straight blade is usually the same length as the cutterhead. The whole length of the blade contacts the material at the same time. Then there's a momentary pause (a fraction of a second) until the next blade cuts.

    In a helical cutter block, a number of smaller blades are set in a curved row. The shearing motion is more or less constant. If the knives are sharp and properly set, this gives a smoother finish, and is also quieter.

    Helical cutter blocks are more expensive. It's also more expensive to change the knife sets. For this reason, budget jointers usually have straight knives. Higher-quality machines may offer one or the other at the time of purchase. There are also several companies who offer helical cutterheads, if you want to upgrade later.

    The final part of this equation is cutterhead speed. If you have a two-knife cutterhead rotating at 10,000 rpm, you get 20,000 cuts per minute, but high speed isn't everything. A four-knife cutterhead rotating at 7,500 rpm gives you 30,000 cuts per minute, and therefore, a smoother finish. It also puts less stress on the motor and will likely be quieter — though that's somewhat relative. No jointer could really be described as "quiet."

    Construction

    The best tables are cast iron, giving high levels of flatness and long-term durability. However, benchtop jointers, where weight is a factor, often used machined aluminum. It's perfectly adequate, given the smaller material sizes being used.

    The same is true with fences. Cast iron is preferred, but alloy has sufficient rigidity for modest demands.

    Dovetail ways (the joint between table and base) are preferred by many. They give greater precision and rigidity.

    Stands are usually steel, of varying thickness. You need as much stability as possible, so a heavy stand is a definite benefit.

    EXPERT TIP

    If the motor sounds like it's straining, reduce the depth of cut.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Adjustability

    Fences can usually be angled at 45° for cutting bevels, sometimes outwards as well as inwards (thus providing a range of 135°). Stops at 45° and 90° make setting a quick process.

    Maximum depth of cut is seldom quoted, because it's not really important. Some machines will take ¼" off in a single pass, though it's usually recommended to take several thin cuts rather than one large one.

    What is important is being able to adjust tables quickly and accurately — particularly the infeed table, as this is how you set depth of cut. Good machines offer fine-feed for additional precision.

    Power

    Manufacturers make much of the power available from their jointer motors, and it is vital that the motor can drive the cutterhead at the appropriate speed.

    In practice, however, cheap bench models frequently have a 1 horsepower motor, and that's more than enough for a 6-inch, floor-standing jointer. Bigger machines will probably have 1½  or 2 hp motors.

    The biggest machine we looked at, a monster 12-inch jointer, had a 3 hp motor.

    Safety

    Jointers are noisy, so you should wear ear protection. You will also need protective eyewear.

    There is a guard over the cutterhead, usually spring-loaded. It's pushed out of the way as you advance the workpiece, then springs back after. Never operate the machine without it in place.

    One or more push blocks should also be supplied. Use them. They keep your hands well clear of any danger.

    Dust and chip extraction

    Jointers can create a lot of waste, very quickly. Dust extraction ports are a must. There are two standard sizes, 2½" and 4". Some benchtop jointers also come with a collection bag, but these can fill very quickly. A good workshop vacuum is highly recommended.

    Some push blocks have magnetic bases, allowing you to conveniently store the block on the side of the machine.

    What does a good jointer cost?

    This is one of those occasions when you pretty much get what you pay for. These are robust, powerful machines, and none are cheap.  Entry-level benchtop models will cost $300 or more. The best of these jointers cost around $450.

    A good, 6-inch, floor-standing jointer will be priced around $1,000. It's a lot more than the same width benchtop model, but you'll get much longer tables, and a far more rigid machine. It's a big step up in productivity.

    The price of an 8-inch jointer will certainly exceed $2,000, and prices rise rapidly depending on table length, cutterhead type, and other features. It's a serious amount of money, but you're buying a lifetime of high performance, so it's almost certainly a one-off investment.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Amos
      Amos
      Director of Photography
    • Bob
      Bob
      Writer
    • Branson
      Branson
      Videographer
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jeff
      Jeff
      Editor
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

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