Discreet and discrete, jam and jelly, Yosemite and Yellowstone. 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 be expensive, 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.
What to Consider Before Buying a Jointer
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.
How We Chose the Best Jointers
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. Plus, some of our favorite options have variable speed control, so you can work at the right pace to get the job done. 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 jackscrew 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.
PORTER-CABLE PC160JT Variable Speed 6
2. CRAFTSMAN Benchtop Jointer
If you’re looking for an economical benchtop jointer, this option from Craftsman is a solid option. The 10 amp motor will allow you to get the job done, while the variable speed range allows you to set the RPM between 6,000 to 11,000. It’s designed to work with hard and soft woods, and the compact size makes it a versatile option, no matter how small your workshop is. The cutter heads are designed to be easy to replace.
Pros: Name brand quality at an economical price. Variable speed control. Easy knife replacement.
Cons: Fence might need adjustment out of the box.
CRAFTSMAN Benchtop Jointer
3. 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.
Cons: Some may want to upgrade to a helical blade, which this machine does not have.
JET 6-Inch 1 HP Jointer
4. Wahuda Tools Jointer
The Wahuda tools jointer is a versatile option that can work for a variety of workshops and DIY needs. You can choose between multiple sizes — there are 6″, 8″ and 10″ options. The jointer operates at 12,000 RPM to make quick work of a variety of projects. You can adjust the jointer, too — the tables are expandable, while the fence can be tilted as well.
Pros: Multiple table sizes. Economical option. Light enough to move.
Cons: Not variable speed. Tables may need to be aligned out of the box. May not be as reliable as top brands.