What Are Jointers Used For​

What do jointers and planers do?

So let’s step back from the specific terms for a moment, and first describe the tools in terms of functionality (using the US names).


The jointer is used to create a perfectly flat surface on one side of a rough board. It can also be used to create a second perfectly flat edge at 90 degrees to the first flat surface. 

Creating a flat surface with this Powermatic joint
Creating a flat surface with this Powermatic jointer.


The planer on the other hand is used to create a second surface that is parallel to the first one. It brings boards to a specific thickness. What it cannot do is put a guaranteed flat surface on any side of the board. The planer simply copies the opposite side’s surface. If the other side is flat, then the planer will create a perfectly flat surface as well. If the other side is wavy, the side planed by the planer will also be wavy.

Bringing a board to a specific thickness using a J
Bringing a board to a specific thickness using a Jet stationary planer.

By using both machines together (first the jointer, then the planer), you can create perfectly flat and square boards with a specific thickness. But neither of the two machines can do this alone.



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Mortise and Tenon Joint

 Wikimedia Commons

The mortise and tenon is a classic wood joinery method. These joints have been used since the early times of woodworking, and are still among the strongest and most elegant methods for joining wood. Learn methods for creating tight, beautiful mortise and tenon joints.

Mitered Butt Joint

Chris Baylor

A mitered butt joint is nearly the same as a basic butt joint, except that the two boards are joined at an angle (instead of square to one another). The advantage is that the mitered butt joint will not show any end grain, and as such is a bit more aesthetically pleasing. However, the mitered butt joint isn’t all that strong. 

Do you really need both?

Both planers and jointers are expensive pieces of

Both planers and jointers are expensive pieces of equipment. They take a up a lot of room too. So do you really need both?

Well, the truth is, you might not need either! It’s possible to buy your timber pre-surfaced, in neat squared off boards. And you can choose the thickness you want too.

It will be more expensive than rough timber. But you’ll have to buy a lot of wood before it would have been cheaper to get the power tools.

What you won’t get with this approach, though, is the satisfaction that comes with finishing the wood yourself.

And if you have to choose one or the other?

We’d go for the planer. If you’re prepared to put in the work to make a jig, it can be a more versatile tool. But it will never give you the square edge of a jointer.

Jointer types

The jointer has two types: manual and electric.

Hand jointer

This is a metal or wooden tool, the design of which includes:

  • housing;
  • pen holder;
  • blade (knife).

The block length is 90 cm and the width of the blades is 8 cm. For mini-models, half-shirts, the sole length does not exceed 50 cm. This is convenient for processing large parts.

Strength is required to trim the workpiece. Professionals often use an electric jointer. Electric jointers have the following advantages:

  1. Larger mass and downforce.
  2. More precisely processes the workpiece.
  3. Work is much faster.
  4. The tool has a set of interchangeable nozzles.

A feature of using an electric jointer is the possibility of attaching it to a workbench . It turns out a machine replacing special stationary equipment. It is convenient for home or in a small workshop .

Most of the work can be done using a manual jointer. This can be attributed to the following points:

  1. The device is easy to use.
  2. It is possible to carry out the processing of various surfaces.
  3. The tool is inexpensive.

The desktop version can have a very different device, the choice is made by a specialist, depending on what work should be done.

Electric joiner tool

Today the stationary jointer can be made in the electric version. Professional devices are characterized by the following features:

  1. Quite a lot of weight and downforce.
  1. When working, you can achieve high accuracy.
  1. Increased labor productivity.
  1. Often in the design provides the ability to quickly change knives.
  1. The electric jointer is used in industry and everyday life, the product is characterized by high performance characteristics. 
  1. The only drawback in most cases is the high cost, as well as the significant cost of electricity.

Types of Universal Joint

There are two types of universal joints, defined by their number of bending joints:

  • Single joint: has only one bending aspect and is capable of operating at up to a 45-degree angle.
  • Double joint: utilizes two bending joints, the double u-joint can operate at angles up to 90 degrees. Additionally, it also accommodate parallel offset between 2 shafts with an operating angle of the central section from 0 to 45 degrees.

Universal joints vary based on their material composition, hub type, and the applications for which they are designed.

Steel is the most common material used, either in stainless form; or alloyed with other metals to handle greater torque and temperature.

Plastics and thermoplastics are often used in constructing universal joints, as this lends greater rust and corrosion resistance, as well as electrical and magnetic insulation in applications where this is required.

Hub Styles

U-joints are available with two hub styles:

  • Solid: solid hub universal joints are solid and have not been machined, and as a result, do not have a hole.
  • Bored: bored styles of u-joints generally derive their name from the shape of the hole in their hub, as with round, hex or square styles.

The two bored styles that deviate from the convention of round, hex, or square styles are:

  • Splined: has longitudinal grooves inside of the bore.
  • Keyed: has keyways to prevent rotation of the u-joint on the corresponding shaft.

Operation and characteristics of a jointer

For neophytes, a jointer works like a fixed and inverted planer to equalize a wood, that is to say that the blades which are used to remove the material are located under the wood and not on it.

The other difference with the planer is that while this one acts freely on the wood while leaving possible all the errors of wrought, the jointer has a perfectly flat table which is used as template in order to obtain a face of wood perfectly straight.

A jointer is therefore a workshop machine which consists of a frame on which are maintained:

  • An entry table on which the wood to be planed is slid towards the cutting head.
  • A cutting head, usually a rotating head with irons (blades). The rotation of the irons nibbles the roughness of the wood as it advances.
  • A guard or bridge which supports the wood on the cutting head.
  • An output table which is the main table, the template on which the wood to be planed must be supported when it passes over the cutting head.
  • A lateral guide perfectly perpendicular to the exit table which supports the edge. Some guides are adjustable in order to plan with an adjustable angle between the facing and the edge.
  • An electric motor used to drive the cutting head in rotation. This motor is supplied either with single-phase 220 V current for standard machines, or with three-phase 380 V for industrial joiners.

Parts of a Jointer

A jointer looks like one long table with a thin wall along the back edge. At first glance the table looks like one flat surface, but when you inspect it closely you will see that there are two separate tables, offset by just a little bit.

  • Infeed Table – the lower level table, usually to the right of the cutting area, where the wood starts. This table is often adjustable in order to change the depth of the cut.
  • Outfeed Table – this is the table on the higher side, where the wood is moved toward. Some advanced models allow you to adjust this table as well, but in most cases it should be left alone.
  • Fence – the back wall of the jointer. Coming from the factory, this is set at 90 degrees. By supporting an already jointed flat side against the fence, you can achieve a 90 degree angle from flat to edge. Always start by jointing the wide surfaces first.
  • Cutter Head – the cutting mechanism of the jointer. This is commonly made up of a series of knives attached along a spinning cylinder.

There are 4 main types of jointers available:

  1. Benchtop: a blend of open and closed stand, the best benchtop jointers are probably the most popular option.
  2. Tabletop: able to be set on a table in your shop, this is a heavier duty option compared to a benchtop.
  3. Closed Stand: most robust and durable with the most accurate cutting.
  4. Open Stand: smaller and more portable than a closed stand, these are perfect for a jobsite.

What is a Planer?

The role of a planer is a simple but important one. In short, its primary function is to create two flat plane surfaces (hence thename “planer”) in wood so that they could be joined. The working mechanism behind a planer is as follows. Rollers apply pressure and guide wood through an array of spiral cutters that mill the surface layers of wood. This is a secondary process to jointing that ensures uniform thickness and symmetry. We can think of planing as “fine tuning” the work done by a jointer. Back to the analogy of cutting paper, once you have cut out your square, you want to ensure that all opposing sides are parallel and cut to a desired thickness. While using scissors can create straight lines and descent angles, i.e., the jointer, you would want a device that is able to ensure that the paper forms a perfectly symmetrical square, i.e., the planer. A planer is all about precision and symmetry and the Cutech product line can be programmed to achieve any desired thickness within very tight tolerances.

Can You Use A Jointer On Both Sides?

Technically, yes you can. Is it recommended? No.

At first glance, it’s easy to assume that one could use a jointer to square and flatten all four sides of a board. In theory, it is possible, but there are better procedures to accomplish the same goal.

What we should focus on is that you can make all 4 sides of a board flat with a jointer, and two perpendicular sides square to each other, but you can’t make opposing sides parallel to each other.

If your jointer beds are not 100% on the same plane, either one being higher or lower, or one being twisted in comparison to the other, all you’ll accomplish by jointing an opposing face of the board is the creation of a wedged shape.

In other words, you’ll end up with a board that has two faces that are perfectly flat, but not of a consistent thickness and most likely not parallel to each other.

That’s why a planer is the perfect complement to a jointer.

Planer Overview

A planer is the tool that completes the readiness of your rough lumber after passing it through the jointer. While a jointer ensures your board has flat and square faces and edges, it does nothing about the thickness and does not make the edges parallel. The planer makes the faces and edges of your board parallel and gives you the ideal thickness for your projects.

The planer is like a jointer turned upside down. It comprises a cutter head between an infeed and outfeed roller. You pass the board into the planer from the infeed rollers which take it past the rotating knives of the cutter head. The cutter head removes material from the lumber and pass it out through the outfeed rollers. The planer has a flatbed over which the board rides. Besides, the input and output rollers control the speed of the material, creating a smoother and more refined finish than the results of a jointer.

Do I Need A Jointer?

That will depend a lot on the type of woodworking you do and how often you’re in the shop. If you’re just getting started, dabbling, or getting your feet wet with woodworking my suggestion would probably be to not invest in a jointer. Simply purchase your lumber already milled in S3S or S4S form (surfaced on three sides or surfaced on 4 sides).

If you’re at a point in your woodworking where you’re starting to use rough sawn lumber, say from a lumber mill or your local sawyer, then a jointer is absolutely essential to your shop workflow.

Other Ways to Flatten Wood Surfaces

A jointer is essential in a woodworking shop, but it can be an expensive purchase for a home furniture hobbyist. Here are some other tools and methods to flatten wood surfaces that use the same concept as a jointer: removing excess wood.

  • Hand plane – Specifically a jointer plane, a larger, longer version of the standard hand plane. The original jointer before machinery came around, the long base helps even out warping and other deformities in wood.
  • Router sled – This is a DIY option that straddles the line between “this is brilliant” and “I may as well buy a jointer.” There are plenty of plans to build a sled online. The sled acts as a mount for a router, which you slide back and forth across the lumber, all down the length of the edge you are flattening.
  • Planer Jig – A DIY option that is worth looking into if you already have a planer. Mount the lumber you want flattened to another piece of wood, with blocks holding it in place, and shims leveling it. The planer will not bend the wood like it is designed to do, and you will get a decent jointer action out of it.
  • Belt Sander – Not the most accurate of methods, but with a T-ruler or metal straightedge you can approximate a decently flat surface.

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