What Does A Wood Jointer Do?

September 18, 2022

The woodworking world is packed with countless tools and equipment, and, as a newbie, you will sometimes get confused as to which tools and equipment you should include in your workshop. For example, my friend—a beginner in woodworking—asked me a month ago whether he should buy a jointer or settle for a planer. I answered that both tools are handy in woodworking. Nevertheless, I suggested that he should get both of them. 

Of course, jointers have the primary tasks of making one face of a lumber or board and one adjacent edge perfectly square and flat, and a typical jointer comes with a cutter head, an infeed table, and an outfeed table. Moreover, you can use a jointer to flatten out cupped boards, prepare board edges for gluing, and remove twist. 

How Does a Jointer Work: Operation and Mechanism?

You can’t simply work on a board with warps and twists as a woodworker. You need to flatten its surface to allow for making excellent joints. So, you must use the jointer to achieve such a flat surface. To operate a jointer, you need to position the board you want to be jointed with its face flush against the fence, while the edge you will joint rests on the jointer’s infeed table. 

You will then feed the board onto the cutter head. The wood then comes out on the other end or outfeed table. The cutter head has knives. While the cutter head revolves, it removes material to flatten the board’s surface. 

The two tables along with the fence, keep the board firmly oriented to create that flat edge on the board. You can also use the jointer to create a flat surface on the board sans the use of the fence. This process is usually done before edge jointing to make a flat reference face on the board.

You can create a straight timber out of a bowed wood by temporarily swinging out of the guard’s way. You switch the jointer on and lower the timber onto the infeed table with its concave side facing down. then, you make a few cuts on the red section “A.” Afterward, you turn the timber over and repeat the same process in section “B.” 

You can repeat this procedure as needed until you achieve the necessary straightness. Once you see that the timber is near being straight, you can replace the guard and make the last cut. 

You can also follow the above procedure with twisted boards. You lay the timber on the infeed table and rock the timber from side to side to figure out the degree of twist. If the twist is about 10mm, you hold the board level and take 5mm off one end. Afterward, you can repeat this on the other end. 

You can also use the jointer to make rabbets in your finished timber. You set the fence to the rabbet’s width you would like to make and set the depth of the infeed table. You should also ensure that the outside blades of the jointer are sharpened and has a small clearance from its cutter head. 

However, you can’t use the jointer to create an evenly thick board along its length. You will need the help of a thickness planer for this job. So, if you have a jointer, it will be best to have a thickness planer likewise.

9 Uses and Applications of Wood Jointer

The thing is, you will not only work with flat and square lumbers when you engage in woodworking. There’ll be instances when you need to deal with rough lumber likewise. In such instances, you will need a jointer to prepare the rough lumber for your project. As a beginner in woodworking, therefore, you need to know what a jointer does:

1) Face Jointing

Face jointing is the primary step you will engage in when handling your timber. Yet, you should not quickly face-joint the whole piece before you divide it into manageable smaller workpieces. Contrariwise, it will be useful to first start with subdividing your board into manageable stock, featuring slightly oversized length. Moreover, it will be useful to rip cut the workpiece to rough width to straighten the wood before engaging in a jointing operation. 

However, if the length of your board is shorter than your infeed table, you should hook the push block onto your timber’s tail-end. Use your left hand to restrain the leading while you feed the timber piece into the cutter head. Then, make several passes until you get the desired smoothness and flatness. 

If you are working on twisted boards, you will need to exert extra effort balancing the workpieces to prevent rocking them onto the blades. However, suppose you have a high-end benchtop jointer, you can breeze through this process, considering that high-end models are usually designed for perfectly flattening, edging, and face jointing rough or twisted board.

2) Basic Edge Jointing

You can also use the jointer for basic edge jointing. Aside from straightening the edge, it also ensures that the edges are squared up relative to the board’s face. When engaging in basic edge jointing, you should set your jointer at 90 degrees. You should ensure that you orient or set the workpieces beforehand with all the crooks as well as the grain slope facing downward. 

You can come up with a square edge by keeping the board’s previously jointed face intimately in contact with the fence during the cutting process. Yet, you should bear in mind that you need to comply with the necessary safety precautions when working with the jointer, for the jointer’s cutter head comes with vicious and unforgiving blades. So, you need to ensure stable feeding even if you are using a small jointer.  

3) Tapering

If you don’t have a jointer, you can achieve tapering using drawing jigs that could make a consistent taper. In fact, the go-to tools were always the drawing jigs for this application in the past. Yet, nowadays, everything has been made easy by the availability of the jointer-planer combo. With the jointer-planer combo, you can create a tapered wood piece sans putting much effort. 

You only need a stop block, a working jointer, and basic math knowledge. To make a consistent taper, you can set the cutting depth to .5″ of the total taper. Then, you can use a scrap block to test this cutting depth setup. Afterward, mark the fence. 

Determine the .5″ taper length and position your stop block to that distance from the jointer’s cutter head. Then, run the blank set side over the jointer. Afterward, remove your block and run the block top over the jointer first while applying pressure to ensure that its pivots come in contact with the bed of the jointer.

4) Correct The Defects of Materials

You will not find perfect wood. You will often find imperfect wood with warps and twists, especially if the wood has been exposed to relative humidity. You can’t use this defective wood on your project without correcting its defects. To correct its flaws, you need to use a jointer.

5) Dress Boards

Buying raw or rough lumber is less expensive. You can mill or dress this raw lumber if you have a jointer. The jointer can surface one or two faces or sides of this raw lumber as preparation for planing. With the use of the jointer, you can also determine the grain direction by unraveling the underlayers of the rough timber or lumber.  

6) Square Stock

You can also use the jointer to square stock. Moreover, you can’t use rough and defective lumber for cabinetry and furniture making. You need to make the boards perfectly square. So, the jointer come in handy in perfecting the faces and edges of the wood. 

It can deliver a perfect 90-degree angle on the board’s edge, ensuring proper jointing afterward. You can also use the jointer in many other applications like tapering, rabbeting, chamfering, and beveling.

7) Edge-jointing Long Boards

You will indeed find edge-jointing longboards that are heavy and wide frustrating and challenging. The reason behind this is that the longboard tends to bend and arc over the table. Yet, if you have a longer jointer, you can easily handle this problem.

Another problem that crops up when you are handling a longboard is its width and weight. You can use additional feed supports, but even these can do little, considering that it will be difficult to precisely adjust the table’s level. Yet, with several practices, you can get the hang of it and learn how to maneuver the longboard over the jointer table.

You should begin forward feeding as you monitor whether there is intimate contact between the fence and the board. Moreover, when the board’s full weight is born by the table, you should move closer to the jointer center to gain better control. 

However, as you get near the end of the cut, you can increase the board’s tail-end pressure to avoid letting the leading end of the board from dropping. If you take extra precaution in doing this, you will gain better and consistent stability allowing the cut to conform well with the intersection between the fence and the table.

8) Rabbeting

You can also use the jointer to create rabbets for joining two wood pieces. You can start by outlining the exact groove size on the board’s front edge. Then, position the fence with the rabbet’s width away from the table edge. Lower by 1/32″ the infeed table and make continuous passes until you achieve the desired depth. Moreover, refrain from making one deep cut, but instead, try to make many shallow cuts. 

You should use a push block when engaging in any rabbeting operation. Moreover, you should follow the safety precautions when rabbeting. Don’t lean on the jointer, and don’t leave the jointer turned on whenever you make adjustments. Besides, you should ensure that the cutter head guard is in place after every rabbeting operation.   

9) Chamfering

You can also use the jointer to perform chamfering. To engage in chamfering using the jointer, you should first adjust the jointer fence according to your preferred angle, using a tilt gauge. It will be useful to keep the fence tilted towards yourself to achieve better accuracy and better safety. 

Once you’ve set the fence at an inclined position, secure the stock onto the outfeed table using a clamp to prevent it from sliding away from the jointer’s fence. Then, make shallow but consistent cuts until you achieve the desired depth. 

You should first make coarse grain cuts when you engage in chamfering on all four edges. If your material is not more than 3 inches wide, you can use a push block while applying pressure towards the fence.

Other Tasks You Can Do with a Wood Jointer

Aside from the abovementioned basic operations that you can achieve using a jointer, you can also use the jointer to engage in the following tasks:

Straighten Bowed Board

You will need to employ a slight adjustment to your technique when straightening a bowed piece of wood. It is easier to work on the edge of the bowed stock if the bowed part faces upward right at the board’s center. Moreover, attempting to joint stock when it rocks when you feed on the table is challenging. 

When working on a stock with a bowed center that faces downward, you need to focus the pressure more as much as possible on the infeed table. In doing this, you can avoid repeating the rocking action as you pass the stock along the cutter. You can straighten up the board after several passes.

Square Up a Second Edge

If you need a wood piece with four square edges, you need to square up a second edge using a jointer. You can do this by checking first if the fence is squared relative to the infeed and outfeed tables. You can verify if the fence is at 90 degrees using the bevel. 

Once you’ve confirmed that it is at 90 degrees, you can square up the second edge relative to the table. You should apply consistent pressure to the fence because it will be your primary basis in squaring the second edge. Moreover, you should position the previously jointed edge firmly against the fence. 

Then, move the stock over the cutter head. Ensure that your hand is safe from being hit by the blades. Next, make many passes until you get the second edge perfectly flat and square to the previously jointed face. Once you have already squared two perpendicular edges, you can trim the other edges to square them perfectly.

Trim Doors to Size

The jointer can quickly straighten an edge and flatten a face. However, you can still expand the applications of the jointer. For example, you can make tapered legs for your desks and tables using your jointer. For example, you can taper the whole leg of a table or do a straight section on the legs. 

To do this, you can feed the board onto the jointer using push blocks. Position the top corner of the stock over the outfeed table. Lower it until you see its top and bottom edge touching the infeed table. Repeat the feeding process until you get the preferred taper.

Is a Jointer Necessary for Your Woodworking Projects?

The answer to this question depends on the type of woodworking you engage in. If you usually buy dressed lumber, you will not need a jointer. Besides, if you are new to woodworking, you won’t necessarily need a jointer at the start. 

But if you are a professional woodworker, you will need a jointer to ensure that you got quality lumber to use for your projects. As mentioned above, not all woods are perfectly shaped. Some are warped and twisted. 

To correct these defects, you need a jointer. Furthermore, if you want to save money, you can buy rough lumber and work on making them straight and correctly angled. Remember that the quality of your woodworking works hinges on the precise dimensions of the wood you will use. 

Of course, if you’re a beginner, you will not want to invest in an expensive jointer. Besides, a jointer will never be on your priority list of tools you will buy. 

You might settle first for a table saw or a planer. Additionally, you can do away using other hand tools when preparing lumber for your projects. Yet, this approach is prone to inaccuracy. If you want to raise your level of woodworking a notch higher, buying a jointer will surely help.


When cutting a stock piece to a specific thickness, your primary tools of choice are the planer and table saw. However, the planers and the table saw are useless if the jointer has not yet smoothened the stock’s face or edge. Thus, the jointer is essential when dealing with rough lumber. Once the lumber can lie flat against the fence or the surface, the table saw, and the planer can do their works. 

Regarding whether you need a jointer in your woodworking projects, the answer depends on the type of projects you are doing. If you’re a beginner who is just dabbling in woodworking, I think you won’t be needing a jointer, for you can buy already-milled timber for your project. However, once you begin tinkering with rough lumber, then you should invest in a jointer.

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