Top-of-the-line, pro-level tool that earns our DIY expert's praise.
Has a single-hand wheel design that allows users to hold a piece of wood steady without having to force it through. An 82-inch work table makes it easy to have precision cuts on longer pieces of wood. The HP motor cuts well while remaining fairly quiet while in use.
May require some slight adjustments to start.
An all-steel design; our expert recommends this as a great introductory tool.
The helical cutter head is fairly precise. Everything on this piece is easily adjustable. Made completely from steel which helps durability for commercial or hobby use. The 10-amp motor produces quite a bit of power for cutting through harder woods.
The fence isn't as sturdy as those of higher-end models.
A solid frame and a decent motor make this great for any amateur.
The extendable work table allows this to be small and easy to put away when not in use. Easy to adjust cutting wheel. The motor is 10 amps, allowing for the cutter head to get up to 12,000 rotations per minute. The dust port makes it fairly easy to clean up.
The 2-sided helix blades don't provide as precise of a cut.
A solid piece with basic features that earn it our expert's approval.
The variable speed option goes from 6,000 to 11,000 RPMs and is very easy to adjust while in use. Everything is center-mounted to allow for precise cuts all the way throughout a piece of wood. The back fence is easy to adjust. Has a high-quality feel throughout.
Commercial use will push this piece beyond its limit.
Wider and deeper cuts make this worth a look.
Can cut up to 6 inches in both hard and softer woods. The spiral-type cutter heads allow each cut to be precise without having to constantly adjust them. The knob adjustment is fairly easy to use and dial in. Doesn't weigh a ton, making it easy to move if needed.
It lists carbide blades but buyers have said it comes with HSS steel blades.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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!
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 face of a piece of lumber using a cutterheard that evens out the surface of the wood. 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 boards, 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.
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?
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.
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.
Size and capacity are important elements when choosing a jointer, but there are other considerations that will have an equal impact.
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 that 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."
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.