The Jointer and Planer Are a Team
Armed with both, you can flatten boards to any thickness
Synopsis: Which should you buy first, a planer or a jointer? Well, it’s not a trick question, but this author says you should buy both. He details the history and uses of both machines and tells how to mill boards to thickness properly on the jointer and how to handle cupped or bowed wood on the planer.
My beginning students often ask me, “Which machine should I buy first, a planer or a jointer?” The answer is both. That’s one reason why this Tools & Shops issue contains reviews of each machine. With a jointer alone, you can’t get boards of consistent thickness. And with only a planer, you’ll get consistent thickness, but your boards still can come out twisted or bowed.
Perhaps because of these machines’ confusing names, many woodworkers don’t grasp the separate functions they serve. The European names for these tools—planer (for jointer) and thicknesser (for planer)—are more accurate. The jointer planes a level surface, and the planer simply creates uniform thickness. Because of its American name, some woodworkers think the jointer is only for milling the edges of boards before glue-up.
Together, the two machines form the gateway to serious woodworking, allowing you to mill your own lumber to custom thicknesses instead of being stuck with the surfaced hardwoods available at the local home center. They also allow you to work with rough lumber, which is much less expensive than S2S (surfaced two sides) or S4S stock. Add a bandsaw or tablesaw, and you have the ability to dimension lumber to any width, thickness and length.
Thicknessing starts on the jointer
A jointer works like a handplane turned upside down, with its reference surfaces in line with its cutter knives. Use this tool for flattening one face of a board. If you flip over the board and joint the other side, there is no guarantee the faces will be parallel. On the jointer, each face is cut without referencing the other.
Start by roughing stock to size
Before jointing the first face, get your material roughed out to length and width. If a long or wide board is badly cupped or bowed, running it over a jointer until it’s flat will waste a lot of wood.
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