What Does A Wood Jointer Do?

(Last Updated On: March 31, 2021)

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. 

What Can a Jointer Do?

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:

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.

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.  

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.

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.   

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.

Conclusion

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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