Discreet and discrete, jam and jelly, Bill Paxton and Bill Pullman. There are some things that seem like they’ll eternally get confused for one another. In the woodworking world, two pieces of machinery that can cause confusion are jointers and planers. Since this equipment can cost well over a thousand dollars apiece, it’s worth knowing which is which. But, if you’re trying to choose between the two, the bad news is that these two expensive woodworking tools are often used in conjunction with each other. If you have a planer, you’ll probably want a jointer. The same goes for the other way. But it’s worth first running down the basics of what these machines do.
In very basic terms, a jointer is used to flatten and smooth a piece of wood. A planer is used to make surfaces thinner and parallel to each other. When you look at a piece of wood from the side, it may be a different thickness at different points of the wood. Even if you’ve smoothed it and removed deformities with a jointer, you’ll still need the planer to get each side of the wood to be completely parallel. A jointer and a planer, when used together, will get you pieces of wood that are parallel and have properly aligned corners. While expensive in the short run, surfacing your own wood can save you money in the long run. When you buy pre-milled wood, you’re paying a premium and may not even get ideal results.
If you feed a piece of wood through a planer without first using a jointer, you may still have some deformities, such as a bow (wood that has a curvature to it). Of course, it all depends on what your applications are and what kind of wood you’re buying. But in many cases, you’ll want both a jointer and a planer.
If you’re just getting into woodworking or you’re looking to upgrade the jointer you have, we’ve picked out some of our favorite jointers. Some of these are full-size options that will suit a large woodworking shop, and others are compact enough to fit on the counter in your garage. Best of all, several of these options are affordable enough to ensure you have money left over for all the other equipment you might need. These are the jointers to get.
1. PORTER-CABLE PC160JT Variable Speed 6″ Jointer
This compact jointer from Porter-Cable is a good option for benchtops, and it’s fairly affordable. That said, it’s still powerful enough and packed with features that will help make woodworking projects easier. The speed range varies between 6,000 and 11,000 RPM, allowing for more precise control and flexibility when using different types of woods. The cutter head has two knives, including a jack screw knife. The table is large enough to support pieces of wood that are up to 6″ wide.
Pros: Portable and powerful machine with a variable speed range between 6,000 and 11,000 RPM, allowing for customization depending on the size and hardness of the wood.
Cons: The fence could be sturdier.
2. JET 6-Inch 1 HP Jointer
When it comes to woodworking tools, JET is one of the names that will consistently come up in terms of great quality and reasonable pricing. The brand has been around since 1958, and this jointer is made from high-quality components. It’s not a benchtop jointer, so it’s best suited for larger garages or workshops. Its 1-horsepower motor makes it powerful enough for most jobs, and the cutterhead features three knives with two cutting edges to extend the life of the blades. The fan-cooled motor is encased to protect it from dust from the wood. The infeed and outfeed tables have front-mounted handwheels to make easy adjustments, and the table is made out of cast iron.
Pros: Powerful 1-horsepower motor. Cutterhead features three knives with two cutting edges, which helps extend the lifespan of the blades. Cast-iron fence and table. Relatively straightforward assembly with clear instructions. Despite strong motor, machine is not too loud.
Cons: Some may want to upgrade to a helical blade, which this machine does not have.
3. Powermatic 6-Inch Jointer with Quick-Set Knives
This large jointer from Powermatic boasts a 1-horsepower motor, and it’s made from heavy-duty materials. The stand is steel and the fence and table are made out of cast iron. The cutterhead utilizes a three-blade system, each of which is secured in a way that makes them easy to replace. The table is 66″ inches long, which is generous enough for longer pieces of wood. The table height can be adjusted using a handwheel below the table.
Pros: Powerful, easy to make adjustments. Extra-long bed adds comfort and convenience. Runs fairly quietly and creates smooth and even cuts. Easy to change quick set knives.
Cons: While assembly isn’t especially difficult, the very heavy weight of the unit will require two people.
4. Powermatic 54HH 6-Inch Jointer with helical cutterhead
There are some helical cutterheads that cost as much — if not more — than this jointer. That’s what makes this jointer such a great value. It costs about as much as many of the options with knives, but instead utilizes a helical cutterhead. Helical cutterheads are a relatively new innovation that offer various benefits. Among their benefits are smoother cuts, easier dust management, longer blade life, and reduced noise. The helical blades on this jointer have specially machined carbide inserts in a spiral orientation. The jointer is from Powermatic, and it offers a 1-horsepower motor, a long 66″ inch table, and a cast-iron fence system.
Pros: Powerful motor, long table, cast-iron fence system. Utilizes a helical cutterhead, which offers various benefits compared with regular knives. Runs smoothly.
Cons: Very heavy, will likely require at least two people to lift components.
5. Powermatic Model 60HH Jointer
Another great option from Powermatic is this powerful jointer. Like the 54A and 54HH, it has a long 66″ table and centrally-placed cast-iron construction. Also like the 54HH, it has a helical cutterhead, which has numerous benefits including smoother cuts, longer blade life, and reduced noise. A few key factors set this apart from the others. For one, this unit has a 2-horsepower motor, which is double what the others offer. Also, the jointer is 8″, compared with the other unit’s 6″ jointers. That means it can accommodate larger pieces of wood.
Pros: 2-horsepower motor is more powerful than other offerings on this list. Larger 8″ jointer can accommodate bigger pieces of wood. Utilizes a helical blade.
Cons: Expensive. Weighs almost 500 pounds, so assembly will definitely require help.
6. JET 6-Inch Long Bed Helical Head Jointer
Another pick from Jet that’s definitely worth considering is this pick, which utilizes a helical cutterhead. The indexable carbide inserts help ensure a cleaner cut and quieter operation. There are a variety of features that Jet utilizes that are designed for optimum convenience and ease of use. The handwheels used to adjust the infeed and outfeed are located on the front of the table making for easier access. The push-button controls make it easier to start and stop as needed. The fence tilts at 45 and 90 degrees for beveling. Plus, the tables are made out of cast iron.
Pros: Helical cutterhead for smoother and quieter operation. Convenient features like front-mounted handwheels for making easy adjustments to the outfeed and infeed. Cast iron tables.
Cons: Free delivery is not offered for this particular jointer.