Which first, jointer or planer?
It's a tough question. Vic Tesolin argues that if you're armed with a jack plane, the answer is obvious.
Whether you are just starting out on a wonderful woodworking journey or perhaps looking to upgrade some equipment, deciding where to put your hard-earned cash can be stressful. A common question I get asked is which tool to buy first: a jointer or a thickness planer.
My advice is almost always to get a thickness planer first. I know at first blush this may seem like bad advice because when initially processing lumber, we should get one flat face and one true edge. This first step presumably requires a power jointer, but consider this…
A jointer’s first job is to flatten a board’s face. Then you can use that face to reference against the fence to get an edge 90° to that face. If you have a 6- or 8-in. jointer and are working with 6-in.- or 8-in.-wide boards, then this is totally achievable. But what about boards wider than your jointer’s width capacity? I often work with boards that are wider than 8 in., so to my mind, a 6- or 8-in. jointer won’t do the trick.
Most people have a budget for the amount they spend on tools. At the time of this writing, a mid-line 6-in. jointer will set you back between $500 and $1,000. Bump up to an 8-in. jointer and you can safely double the price to the $2,000 range. If you start looking at machines that are 12 in. and larger, you’ll be laying out $4,500 and up.
As far as electrics are concerned, most 6-in. jointers will run on 110-volt power, while 8-in. jointers often require a bump up to 220-volt power—a step that often requires some new wiring to be installed. Bigger machines often need 3-phase power. Things get serious at this point; trying to feed these machines requires phase converters or installing 3-phase power in your home shop.
Enter the trusty jack plane. This workhorse can easily flatten boards up to 500mm (20 in.) wide and can do it quickly. You aren’t trying to make a pristine surface when flattening a board with a plane, you’re simply trying to get it flat. Once flat, that surface can be used as a reference surface on the bed of a thickness planer. After that, you can flip the board for the last few passes on the planer to get rid of your jack plane marks. That same plane can be used to joint the edges of the board. With a little bit of practice, the jack plane can do a lot for a woodworker.
For many, including myself, there is little joy surrounding thicknessing boards by hand. For this reason, I choose to flatten my boards by hand and then stuff them into the thickness planer to bring them to final thickness. I didn’t own a power jointer for many years because I didn’t want to buy anything smaller than a 10-in. machine. I waited patiently and finally found my current jointer, a vintage Inca 570 that has a 260mm (10-1/4 in.) capacity, which suits my needs quite well.
Fortunately, combo machines are starting to become more common here in North America, so that is a great option for people interested in these machines. If you’re not interested in a combo machine, the jack plane could be a good solution for you.
In order to understand, you must do. – V
FEBRUARY 4, 2015