Simply put, a jointer is a machine that planes the face of a board. Let’s say you have a bowed, cupped or twisted board that you need to cut to width on a table saw. You can run the workpiece through the jointer first to ensure that it has a straighter and smoother face. You can also use this tool to straighten the edges of two workpieces before gluing them together.
Jointers are amazingly versatile. They can be used to remove flaws and marks made by a table saw on the workpiece. You can use it to cut chamfers and rabbets, as well as taper a workpiece. Keep in mind, however, that solid wood is the only material you can cut on a jointer. Particleboard, plywood, and other materials should never be cut on a jointer.
There are two types of jointers: stationary and benchtop jointers. If you’re going to do much of the cutting in the workshop and you want a powerful machine that can take on the toughest hardwoods, then invest in a stationary jointer. But if you want something you can bring from one jobsite to another or if you have a smaller workshop, then you might want to try a benchtop jointer.
Benchtop jointers are equipped with universal motors, so you might find them a bit louder than stationary jointers that come with induction motors. Stationary jointers, however, have an edge when it comes to longevity. But despite their shorter infeed and outfeed tables, benchtop models are still the top choice for woodworkers who want a portable and budget-friendly machine.
Benchtop Jointer Buyers’ Guide
Here are some of the things you should consider when buying a benchtop jointer.
Infeed and Outfeed Tables, and Width of Cut
When choosing the best benchtop jointer, one of the first aspects you should consider is the length of the tool’s infeed and outfeed table, as well as its width of cut.
The infeed table is located on the right side of the jointer. As the name suggests, this is where you feed the workpiece into the jointer’s cutter head. The material passes into the outfeed table once it goes through the cutter head.
In contrast to stationary jointers, benchtop models generally have shorter infeed and outfeed tables because of their smaller size. If you often cut shorter boards, then the length of the infeed and outfeed tables shouldn’t be much of a big deal. But if you’re planning to cut longer boards, then it’s more sensible to choose a benchtop jointer with longer infeed and outfeed tables. Or you can always go for a stationary model.
The same goes for its width of cut. Benchtop models generally have a width of cut that ranges from 4″ to 6″. Larger and more powerful jointers, on the other hand, have a width of cut that ranges anywhere between 8″ to 16″.
There are three different styles of jointer cutter heads. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each cutter head style.
The first cutter head style is the helical or spiral cutter head. In this type of cutter head, rows of square carbide inserts are arranged in a neat spiral or helical pattern on a steelhead. Helical cutter heads produce better cuts on figure grain stocks. Although they are pricier than straight knife cutter heads, helical cutter heads are more cost-effective in the long run because you don’t need to replace them as often. You only have to turn the carbide inserts to a fresh edge the moment an edge becomes dull. Moreover, this type of cutter head stays sharper longer.
Other jointers have straight knife cutter heads. If you often cut normal stocks and you want to produce smooth cuts, then use straight knife cutter heads. They are cheaper than helical cutter heads, but they’re going to lose their sharpness faster than carbide inserts. Plus, installing and aligning new knives can be a challenge if you’re not an experienced woodworker.
Another important aspect of a jointer is its fence. It guides the stock as it passes through the cutter head so you can make perfectly straight cuts. You can also tilt the fence at an angle to produce bevel and chamfer cuts, as well as taper a piece of stock. Check out this video to learn how to bevel, chamfer, or taper a workpiece.
Always choose a benchtop jointer with the higher fence. It needs to be perfectly straight, as well as flat across the width. Check the machine’s fence with a steel square before you buy it.