A planer is a jointer turned upside down and both tools help you make the most of rough lumber. Both tools are essentials in a woodworking shop but they serve different vital functions. The jointer and planer are pricy and many woodworkers can’t buy both at once. So, which of the two tools do you buy first?
When you are on a budget, is the jointer the first tool to buy or a planer? In this article, we provide a jointer vs. planer comparison that examines the differences and the pros and cons of both tools. At the end of this piece, you should be able to choose the tool that will provide the highest value for your workshop between the jointer and the planer. Now, let’s look at the difference between a jointer and a planer.
Differences Between Jointer and Planer
While the jointer and the planer help ready lumber for woodworking projects, they are not the same tools. Here are the main differences between the tools.
The jointer and planer operate in different ways. In a jointer, you feed the board over the cutter head with your left hand on the lumber to exert pressure. With a planer, you hold the lumber for a while until the pressure rollers grip the board and roll it through the machine.
The distance between the infeed table and the cutter head determine the amount of material shaved off in a jointer. Conversely, the distance between the bed and the cutter head determines the amount of material the planer removes. Further, instead of infeed and outfeed tables in a jointer, a planer features a bed with infeed and outfeed rollers that grip the board. This ensures that it moves smoothly through the machine.
The jointer is the ideal tool to make a board perfectly flat and square. A planer cannot make your board flat and square but it can make the edges and faces parallel. The jointer removes deformities such as warps, twists, cups, and curves on the surface of a board. Unfortunately, a planer cannot do these things.
The jointer can help straighten a crooked board, but a planer can make the lumber’s faces parallel but not straight. So you need to straighten a board with a jointer before passing it through as the latter removes no deformities in the board’s surface. The planer is the ideal tool for thickening boards. Regardless of the size and shape of your board, the planer will help you achieve a consistent thickness on all your lumber. So you can move on to the next stage in your project.
The jointer is less versatile compared to the planer. At best, the jointer can make the face of lumber flat and square. It can also straighten lumber and trim doors among others. The planer can make edges and faces parallel. It can also change the thickness of lumber and also do some things you can do with a jointer. However, you may need to use a circular saw or bandsaw to get jointer-like results when using a planer.
Also, the jointer is more difficult to use. While the setup of the jointer is simpler, you must get the depth of cut right and apply the correct amount of pressure on the wood to get the best results. With a planer, you don’t have to use your hands as the rollers grip the board with the ideal pressure. However, you still need to set the distance between the bed and the cutter head to achieve your goals.
A jointer is a motorized hand plane. The tool fine-tunes rough sawn lumber so you can use it for anything you like in the workshop. You need a jointer to square and perfect the edge of twisted and curved board stock in less time and with reduced effort compared to the hand plane. It has a cutter head with knives that shave material off the board. It also comes with an infeed and outfeed table and a fence that ensures the board sits perfectly on the table as you pass it through the machine.
A jointer allows you to buy lumber from millers in the rough state. That way, you can get your materials at affordable rates and buy from a wide range of sources and quality level. When you are working with unmilled lumber, the jointer gives you a perfectly flat face and one perfectly square edge. Your jointer will help remove any surface crookedness so you can join the boards together for excellent results.
Uses of the Jointer in Woodworking
Why is the jointer so important for woodwork? The tool is a vital feature of every woodwork shop because it prepares your lumber for other tools. Whether you want to use the planer, bandsaw, jigsaw and other power tools, you can’t get the ideal results if your lumber has rough edges.
The jointer helps to perfect the edge of the board so you can feed it into other tools. It is like a primer that makes sure you can get work done quickly and efficiently. A jointer does the work of a hand plane without the time and effort it takes to use the latter.
So whether you are looking at rough lumber, twisted boards, facial deformities and everything in between, one or two passes through the jointer can help straighten your board.
Here are things you can do with a jointer:
- Flattening and Straightening
The jointer is the best tool for flattening and straightening one face of a board relative to another. This is vital when you have cups and twists on the surface of a board. With accurate markings on the crooked spots, pass the board through the jointer to remove the excess or curved spots, and you have a straight and flat stock. This makes it easier to feed the board into the planer which is a thickening tool.
- Square Edges
A jointer helps square one edge of a board to another surface. You only need to place the flattened surface against the fence.
- Tapered Legs
You can also make tapered legs with a jointer. With enough skill and patience, you can use a jointer to make tapered legs for your chairs and tables and other furniture pieces. Mark the lumber correctly and apply the right pressure on the materials with each pass through the tool.
- Trim Doors
A jointer can also help you trim doors to size. Remember how you use the hand plane to remove excess material on a door that catches? The jointer can also do that job, but you must make use of precise markings to prevent tear outs.
- Bevel Cuts
A jointer can make bevel cuts and mitered butt joints.
Using a jointer is not as easy as it sounds. You must be able to read the grain direction of the lumber, gauge the cut depth accurately and apply the correct pressure as you feed the wood into the machine. While you cannot always buy milled lumber with exceptional straightness and square faces, the jointer ensures your boards are square, perfect and ready for joinery works and more.
The following are benefits of a jointer.
Perfect for Flattening Edges
A jointer is the best tool for making rough lumber ready for woodworking. Whether you have twisted, warped or cupped boards, the jointer helps you achieve perfectly flat and square surfaces that will give your projects a professional quality.
Besides making lumber flat and square, the jointer is the go-to power tool in the wood workshop when you need straight and perpendicular boards. Considering that rough lumber can have multiple surface deformities, a jointer can help you maximize the value of your boards regardless of their quality.
Unlike a planer, a jointer has an adjustable fence that allows you to change the angle of cut. With this feature, you can make 90-degree and 45-degree cuts, bevel cuts, and even miter cuts among others. Despite its limitations, this function allows the jointer to excel at joinery projects.
Here are the main disadvantages of a jointer:
The jointer can remove surface defects such as twists and cups and give you a flat and square surface, but the board will still require some finessing. So, you need to use something like a circular saw to finish the board surface before it can be ready for your woodworking projects.
The jointer can make one face flat and one edge square, but it can’t make opposite faces parallel. For that, you need a planer.
Cannot Change Thickness
A jointer excels at creating flat faces and square edges on lumber, but it cannot get the board to the ideal thickness for your projects.
A jointer is extremely limited in capability. Besides straightening lumber, squaring edges and flattening board surfaces, you will need a lot of creativity to get more out of the equipment.
A planer is the tool that completes the readiness of your rough lumber after passing it through the jointer. While a jointer ensures your board has flat and square faces and edges, it does nothing about the thickness and does not make the edges parallel. The planer makes the faces and edges of your board parallel and gives you the ideal thickness for your projects.
The planer is like a jointer turned upside down. It comprises a cutter head between an infeed and outfeed roller. You pass the board into the planer from the infeed rollers which take it past the rotating knives of the cutter head. The cutter head removes material from the lumber and pass it out through the outfeed rollers. The planer has a flatbed over which the board rides. Besides, the input and output rollers control the speed of the material, creating a smoother and more refined finish than the results of a jointer.
Uses of the Planer in Woodworking
A planer excels at two things which a jointer cannot do, including:
- Determining Board Thickness
The planer is used to determine the thickness of a board. Regardless of the size of lumber before passing through the planer, they will all come out with the same thickness so long as you don’t change the tool’s settings. A jointer can thin boards to the same thickness, but it is often difficult for the tool to replicate the precision of the planer.
- Making Parallel Faces
Thanks to the overhead cutter head parallel to the planer’s bed and the overhead rollers that hold the material flat, the planer can create exactly parallel faces and edges on a board. However, a jointer lacks rollers and relies on you to exert pressure on the board with your hands as it moves over the cutter head.
- Ideal for Bevel Edges
A planer can also be used to bevel at the edge of a board for projects that need two edges to be joined. But for this, you need to install an adjustable fence on the machine.
So if you need both faces and edges of your lumber parallel to one another and at the right thickness, the planer is the right tool for the job. The distance between the cutter head and the table of the planer determines the thickness of the lumber that comes out of the machine. However, there is a limit to the amount of material you can remove at a go on a planer.
Thus, you often need to make multiple passes through the planer to make your lumber co-planar, i.e., with faces and edges parallel to one another.
A planer is more versatile than a jointer. If you are creative and skilled, a planer can do several tasks, but your lumber must already be milled somehow. Provided your board has some level of straightness, you can pass it through the planer multiple times until you get the exact thickness you want and the faces and edges are square and parallel. Then use a circular or table saw to make the edges square.
The following are advantages of using the planer.
- Perfect for Rougher Lumber
The planer handles rough lumber better than the jointer. So long as the boards are reasonably straight, a few passes through the planer will produce acceptably clean surfaces that are parallel and flat.
- Parallel Surfaces
While the jointer can make your boards flat and square, it leaves the faces and edges unparalleled to one another. The planer provides parallel faces and edges with a few passes. You only need to get your settings right and the machine does the rest.
The planer is also the ideal tool for getting the desired thickness for your boards. Regardless of how number or size of lumber you feed the planer, every board comes out with a uniform thickness. However, you must set the distance between the cutter head and the board to get the right thickness.
The planer might be a versatile tool, but it has limitations. Here are some disadvantages of the planer.
- It’s not a Substitute for a Jointer
Regardless of your skill level or the make of your planer, it can’t replace a jointer. A planer cannot handle jobs that require making an edge on a board, except you are using extremely thin boards. The reason for this is that planers do not come with a fence which is necessary if you want to hold the board perpendicular to the cutter head or the bed.
- Does not Remove Surface Defects
A planer can make the face and edges of lumber parallel. However, it can’t remove surface defects such as warping, curves, twists, and cupping. While the pressure rollers force the board through the planer, they make the lumber flat and prevent the machine from removing any deformities on the surface.
The result is a thinner board with duplicate defects. It is advisable to pass your lumber through the jointer first to remove lumps and dips on the surface before adjusting the thickness with a planer.
- More Passes
The design of a planer limits the amount of material you can remove at once. This means you need multiple passes to flatten the board. However, a jointer can remove large amounts of material on lumber provided you get the settings right and apply the correct pressure as the board glides over the tables.
Many woodworkers and DIYers need the jointer and planer, but most people find they can do more with a planer compared to a jointer. But both tools are vital to your projects, particularly if you are not proficient with a hand plane.
Choosing between a jointer and planer is a common dilemma among woodworkers and DIYers. Both tools are heavy, expensive and occupy a large space in the workshop. Hence, many people buy one before the other but choosing the first tool is the big problem. A jointer performs the important role of readying rough lumber for the planer and other functions. The planer provides parallel edges and faces and helps you achieve the exact thickness on your boards for the best woodworking experience.
You don’t need both tools if you are an expert hand planer. But many people don’t have the time and energy to use the hand plane or the dexterity to achieve excellent results with the manual tool.
If you prefer to use rough lumber with twisted and warped or cupped surfaces, the jointer is a must. It will help remove deformities and straighten your lumber for the planer to produce excellent results. It can also cut bevels and trim doors and more.
A planer is the ideal tool if your boards come with some level of milling. If your lumber has at least a straight edge and minimal surface deformities, a planer can be a valuable tool for your woodworking activities. Depending on your needs, buying a jointer vs. planer should be an easy decision. For rough sawn lumber, get a jointer. If you use more refined boards, a planer will make a great addition to your workshop.