In woodworking, nothing is as frustrating as wasting money on a tool and later realizing that it includes useless features that you’ve only used once in an entire year.
Specialty items, like a jointer, are an example of tools that can improve your enjoyment of woodworking or become a source of frustration.
Let’s take a look at what makes the best jointer and see which products might be ideal for your shop.
Top-rated jointers compared:
What Is A Jointer And What Is It For?
Jointer uses include:
- Flattening an edge;
- Flattening a face;
This power tool creates a flat surface along the edge of a piece of lumber. Edges with flat surfaces allow butt joints to fit together without gaps. That becomes crucial for making panels for boxes and furniture projects.
Another job that the jointer performs well is flattening a board face. You can remove bows, crooks, cups, and twists on your lumber. This cleanup straightens wood, allowing you to use it on your projects.
Making a bevel cut is also possible on a jointer. You adjust the fence to an angle before running the wood across the cutting head.
You will find other uses for a jointer as your woodworking skill increases. I have seen woodworkers cut rabbets with their jointers. You could also cut chamfers or tapers with a jointer.
Who Needs A Jointer?
Woodworkers find jointers helpful to:
- Clean and dimension rough sawn lumber;
- Clean and dimension crooked pre-dimensioned wood;
- Prepare boards for panel glue-ups.
Once you start to move beyond using pre-dimensioned lumber, you will find a jointer to be a valuable addition to your woodworking shop.
Rough sawn lumber is a good source for woods that you may not have worked with before. With rough lumber, you will first want to square one or more sides of the board with a jointer and then finish off squaring the wood with a thickness planer.
Many woodworkers will also use a jointer to fix pre-dimensioned lumber that is out of shape. Stores will often sell these pieces at a discount due to the cups and twists in them.
This power tool will also make fitting boards for panel glue-ups much easier.
You can create a flat face for reference as you dimension the stock. Use this to square the rest of the sides of the board. Jointers also produce straight sides to use for butt joints.
Who Doesn’t Need A Jointer?
Woodworkers who may hold off on getting a jointer will:
- Always buy pre-dimensioned lumber for projects;
- Have little shop time and cannot justify purchasing such a power tool;
- Use other tools to dimension stock
I recall my first two years of woodworking. During that time, I used pre-dimensioned construction lumber for woodshop jigs and building projects. This material is a popular choice for many woodworkers, and it does not require a jointer in many instances.
The jointer is an investment. Even smaller benchtop models can cost several hundred dollars. It could hard for you to justify this size of purchase if you only occasionally visit your woodshop.
Some woodworkers prefer to use hand tools for building. Others have come up with ways to use other power tools in place of a jointer. Two popular alternatives include:
My late grandfather dimensioned all of his wood by hand. I inherited his collection of Bailey-style hand planes.
A hand plane comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, each of which excels at specific tasks. A small block plane can fit in your palm and will clean up end grain with ease. Jointer hand planes require two hands to operate and flatten board surfaces.
Jointer jigs for a table saw or router
Many woodworkers, including myself, enjoy making jigs to use with their tools. If you like making jigs and you own a table saw or router, you can make a jointer jig if you are not ready yet for a power jointer.
These jigs position the lumber and the cutter so that you can clean-up the wood’s surface in a similar manner as a jointer would.
Jointer Features To ConsiderStand design – jointers come as benchtop models, open stands, or with closed cabinets. The more material used, the higher the price.
Cutter design and width – the cutter size determines the width of lumber it will accept. You also have a choice between two types of cutters: straight knife vs helical cutter heads. Helical blades are quieter, last longer, and provide a smoother finish, but cost more.
Fence – consider how big is the fence on the jointer of your choice as it serves as a support for your lumber as you feed it through the blade. Also, fence micro-adjustments and positive stops are handy features to have.
Power – best jointers should have at least one horse-power to reduce bogging down. More power makes easier cuts with less overall wear.
Dust collection – even the best wood jointers generate lots of debris. Select a jointer that works with your shop’s collection system.
Warranty – finally, once you select the best possible jointer for your shop, familiarize yourself with the warranty terms. You will be paying $300 dollars at the least so make sure your purchase includes the best possible warranty.
The best Jointers Reviewed
PORTER-CABLE PC160JT – Best Budget Jointer under $500
- Variable 6, 000 to 11, 000 RPM speed range allows the user to select the right speed for the size and hardness of material being cut
- Two knife cutter head with jack screw knife leveling arrangement for easy replacement and adjustment of knives
- Built-in cutter head lock facilitates knife replacement and adjustment
This product is a benchtop design. It weighs approximately 35 pounds, allowing a single person to move it easily. That may be important in a garage or small shop where tools need to be stored when not in use.
This model has five different speed settings. You can adjust the RPMsfrom 6,000 to 11,000. You can address your timber with a speed setting that provides less possible damage during the cut.
Porter-Cable provides a two knife cutting head with this jointer. The straight blades generate 12,000 to 22,000 cuts per minute, depending upon the speed setting.
Those looking to purchase this product may want to buy it sooner than later. Porter-Cable is moving to phase out this design, meaning that it will become harder to find.
- It provides variable speed settings. That improves performance based on the wood used;
- Lighter housing materials keep weight down. Lightweight tools are easier to move;
- A two horsepower electric motor. That provides plenty of cutting power.
- It can be more difficult to calibrate. This can take extra time to set up;
- This design is becoming harder to find. The model may sell out.
- 10 amp benchtop Jointer features a variable speed range of 6, 000 to 11, 000 RPM and cutter head speed of 12, 000 to 22, 000 cuts per minute, allowing selection correct speed for material's size and...
- Variable speed: range of 6, 000 to 11, 000 RPM allows the user to select the right speed for the size and hardness of material
- Easy replacement and knife adjustments: two-knife cutter head with jackscrew knife leveling arrangement allows for easy replacement and adjustment of knives
Craftsman represents Stanley Black & Deckers budget power tool line. This model comes at a low price point. It is ideal for limited budgets and woodworkers who are not sure if they want to spend a lot of a specialized power tool.
Most of the control knobs are found at the front of the machine housing. The plastic knobs are easy to turn but could become damaged more quickly than metal designs.
You can adjust the speed on this machine, allowing the two-knife design to make between 12,000 and 22,000 CPI. This range should provide clean surfaces on both hardwoods as well as softwoods.
The jointer is compact. It has dimensions of 32-inches x 12.5-inches x 11.5-inches. That footprint should fit most woodworking workbenches.
- This is a budget-friendly option. That can make a difference when deciding on a specialized tool;
- Minimal controls for easy use. The design is straight forward;
- Debris exhaust located under the outfeed table. Hose connections will not be in the way.
- It uses a center-mounted connection for the fence. That can introduce some flex during use;
- This is an entry-level product. That means lower quality materials and less quality-control in manufacturing.
Powermatic 1791317K 54HH – Best 6-inch Jointer Overall
- 40 FOUR-SIDED CARBIDE INSERTS: Provides smoother, quieter cutting and finer finish than conventional systems.
- 66" ADJUSTABLE INFEED AND OUTFEED TABLE: More working surface.
- FINE/QUICK ADJUSTMENT LEVER: For precision cuts.
The steel cabinet and cast iron table provide good stability when working on this jointer. Your five-year limited warranty covers the full cabinet as well as the adjustable fence.
A helical cutter head offers smooth cuts and a lower level of decibels when cutting into the wood. Center-mounted controls make it easier to micro-adjust as you work, helping to maintain workflow and save time.
A lockable power switch improves safety by preventing accidental power-ups. The base is extra wide and provides more stability with this footprint.
Overall, this is the best 6-inch jointer you can get for your money if you can afford it.
- Comes with a spiral cutter head. These perform better than traditional knives;
- The fence tilts up to 45-degrees. It provides an angle as well as secure settings when locked;
- It provides 38-inches of fence length. That is a good amount of support on both sides of the blade.
- You need at least 450 CFM on your dust collection. That might be an issue if your system lacks that intensity;
- Its cutter is only six-inches in width. This is only an issue due to the higher price you pay for it.
JET JJ-6HHDX Jointer
- HELICAL CUTTERHEAD WITH 27 INDEXABLE CARBIDE INSERTS
- TWO-WAY TILTING FENCE: Positive stops at 45° and 90° to handle bevel operations.
- FRONT-MOUNTED ADJUSTMENT HANDWHEELS: Make quick, easy, and accurate corrections.
This version of JET’s six-inch jointer uses a helical cutter instead of the three-knife set. That will provide a better operating experience with less noise. It does increase the overall cost, however.
Each table wing is mounted with the industry-standard dovetail system. This system provides plenty of stability, but it can also wear out more quickly than the parallelogram base.
JET includes a dual-position mountable switch. That will allow you to place it either above or below the table surface.
The fence tilts in both directions. It has positive stops at nine-degrees as well as 45-degrees. These features will save you time during setup for dimensioning.
- Longer lasting cutter. The helical design will last longer than the knives can;
- Blades are easy to replace. This set up can be changed out quickly;
- Handwheel placement. The wheels for moving the infeed and outfeed are positioned for quick adjustments while working.
- A higher price point than the previous JET model. Its helical cutting head increases the cost;
- It provides little improvements over the JET quick knife change design. The cutter is a major difference here.
Delta 37-071 Jointer
- Durable cast iron construction increases weight providing stability and reducing vibration
- Precision-machining of the table and fence ensures long term accuracy
- Heavy duty, cast iron fence support system for accurate jointing
This benchtop design offers a solid build in a six-inch configuration. A solid metal housing and cast iron tabletop provide a rigid platform that stays true during operations.
Delta uses a fence that is precision machined for accuracy. It has positive stops at 45-degrees and 90-degrees, the two most used settings. This provides a quicker adjustment as you set the jointer up.
Delta includes a dust blower that provides extra circulation at the dust shoot. This will combine with your dust collection and should eliminate the chances of a clogged dust port.
- It includes a cast iron table. That provides a rigid platform during use;
- The table is properly squared to the fence. The precision machining makes this accurate;
- Jackscrew adjustment on knives. This makes it quick and simple to adjust.
- This model has a higher price point. It is expensive for a benchtop design;
- It is heavier than most benchtop models. The 76 pounds comes from the cast iron table and metal housing.
JET 708457DXK JJ-6CSDX Jointer
- COMFORT: Fully-adjustable infeed and outfeed tables let you set the height to your requirements.
- VERSATILITY: Built-in rabbeting ledge.
- CONVENIENCE: Center-positioned fence controls and front-mounted table adjustment handwheels.
This jointer uses a six-inch-wide cutting head. The product is designed to use three knives and not a helical cutting design. This feature brings the cost down on this full-sized model.
It is a full-sized cabinet base, making it suitable for shops with a dedicated space for the tool.
Most controls are placed on the face you will work from, with the dust exhaust positioned under the outfeed table. This will allow you to keep it along a wall in your shop, taking up less room.
It is available at a smaller price point when compared to other full-sized cabinet jointers. That could make a difference for those looking to buy a one HP jointer that will see a lot of action in the shop.
- The knives are designed as quick-change. That equates to faster maintenance;
- A five-year limited warranty. This is a good range, especially if the jointer is used a lot;
- All hardware for assembly is included. You shouldn’t have to buy extra components.
- This product design lacks spiral cutter heads. An option for an upgrade would have been nice here;
- Some buyers have reported that the fence may have some twist. That can be a large issue at this price point.
Which Jointer Edged Out The Others?
In this wood jointer review, we have taken a look at a variety of models that provide different benefits and features for woodworkers. I feel that the PORTER-CABLE PC160JT Jointer does stand out as the best jointer for the money, however.
To begin with, it is a benchtop model. Larger products are great for big shops. The benchtop designs can also accommodate smaller shops as well as roomy work areas. It is also easier to move between locations, should your cabinetry work take you out of the shop environment.
A six-inch cutter width provides plenty of room for most woodworkers. That covers building timber as well as common board sizes used for panel glue-ups.
This product also includes a two horsepower electric motor. That is more than enough power for your woodworking needs.
Finally, Porter-Cable offers a 90-day money-back guarantee as well as one year of free service on the jointer. It is also covered by a three-year limited warranty.