Woodworking can be an incredibly satisfying hobby or career. A perfect joint or fit between two boards often creates a near-tangible feeling of accomplishment. But it can also be incredibly frustrating. Bowed boards and uneven edges can take your whole project sideways. Wonky surfaces can be hard to mill, route, cut, or glue.
Instead of throwing your next project in the scrap bin, you should equip your workshop with a jointer―or, more specifically, one of the best benchtop jointers. These power tools mill completely flat and square edges on your boards, allowing you to make perfect cuts and joinery. If you’re serious about woodworking, one of the best benchtop jointers will help take your work to the next level.
- BEST OVERALL: PORTER-CABLE Benchtop Jointer (PC160JT)
- RUNNER UP: WEN JT6561 10-Amp 6-Inch Corded Benchtop Jointer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: CRAFTSMAN Benchtop Jointer, 10-Amp (CMEW020)
- BEST CAPACITY: Wahuda Tools Bench Top Spiral Cutterhead Jointer
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Benchtop Jointer
Before you strike out to find the best benchtop jointer for your shop, you should learn a bit about what to look for. The following section will point out the most important considerations to keep in mind while you’re on the hunt for the best benchtop jointer. Keep all these points in mind as you compare models.
Power and Amps
Woodworkers use jointers to flatten boards, removing wide swathes of wood at a time until the resulting surface is an ideal plane ripe for woodworking projects. Between woodworkers’ and DIYers’ affinity for hardwoods and the amount of wood a jointer removes at one time, jointers need sturdy, powerful motors to get the job done.
While it might seem important to know how much horsepower your motor has, speed and amperage are actually more important. The motor has to fight the friction and stress created by the blade against the wood’s surface, and that can wear an inferior motor down quickly. Jointers with 10-amp (or more) motors are ideal. They have tougher components that can handle the stress and cool themselves to prevent overheating while doing heavy-duty jointing. They can also run faster, producing up to 20,000 or more cuts per minute.
A jointer’s cutter head is the spinning drum with blades attached that removes the wood. Jointers come with one of two types of cutter heads: helical (or spiral) and straight-blade cutter heads. They both serve the same purpose, but their designs are very different.
Straight-blade cutter heads usually have three blades that span the drum’s entire width. They shave a piece of wood off the entire width of the board with each pass. Straight blades are easy to resharpen when they become dull, but they can be loud and choppy. Also, if the blades hit a nail or rock embedded in the wood, they could all become garbage.
Helical cutter heads have several smaller blades positioned in a spiral pattern around the drum of the cutter head. Jointers with helical heads are usually more expensive, but they’re smoother-running and a bit quieter. Also, you can replace two or three smaller blades if you hit a rock, as opposed to throwing out an entire straight blade.
Bed Width and Cutting Depth
Your jointer’s bed width will determine how large of a board it can handle. This measurement is one of the most important considerations to keep in mind. A 6-inch benchtop jointer can handle boards up to 6 inches wide, which is enough for most small woodworking projects. Most benchtop jointers fit this measurement, but you can find 8-inch models and the occasional 10-inch model. If you consistently work with larger boards, you might have to upgrade to a floor-standing jointer, which will be much more expensive.
The cutting depth also matters. The cutting depth determines how much of the board the jointer can remove at a time. The activity of milling perfect stock is often about patience and precision, but it doesn’t have to take all day. An aggressive depth of cut (⅛ inch) allows you to work quickly to remove the bulk of the waste.
While the bed is arguably the most important component of a jointer, the fence comes in a close second. Its obvious use is as a consistent base to register your board against as you plane it to a flat surface. But the fence’s role doesn’t stop there.
Once you mill a board perfectly flat, you can turn the board on its side and register the flat surface against the fence and pass the board over the jointer. This action can create a perfectly square (or adjustable) edge, which is something boards from home centers seldom have. This step is critical for high-end woodworking projects, so it’s important to have a solid fence to tackle the projects you’re likely to work on.
If you’re not considering dust collection, it’s only because you’ve never seen a jointer in action. Even benchtop jointers can create piles and piles of sawdust. These machines rip tiny slivers of wood off of a board and throw them at high-speed. The result can be a tan-tinged blizzard on your shop floor.
Look for a benchtop jointer with a dust-collection port that you can attach to your system or shop vac. Generally speaking, these ports should accept 4-inch or 2½-inch hoses. These are the most common sizes and will allow your vacuum or dust collection system to remove a large volume of chips at a time and avoid clogs.
There are some additional features to look for when shopping for the best benchtop jointer. Many of these features are safety-related, which is always important when it comes to power tools. A quality spring-loaded blade guard is an important feature in a benchtop jointer, so be sure to choose a model that is equipped with one.
You can find models that come with plastic push paddles that keep your hand away from the spinning blade. These paddles won’t damage the blades if they should accidentally come into contact with them.
Also, oversize stop buttons help to make shutting these machines down in an emergency much easier. The switches often include removable keys as well, preventing anyone from turning the machine on accidentally.
One additional feature that might make a model the best benchtop jointer for your shop is extendable wings. These wings allow you to pass longer boards through a benchtop jointer, which can be a real benefit.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know what to look out for, you’re ready to start shopping for the best benchtop jointer for your workshop. Below is a list of some of the best benchtop jointers on the market. Be sure to keep the important considerations above in mind when comparing these models.
With its table size, variable speed options, and dual cutting head, Porter-Cable’s benchtop jointer is one of the top models on the market. Its powerful 1-horsepower motor allows for speed adjustments between 6,000 and 11,000 RPM with a cutter head speed of between 12,000 and 22,000 cuts per minute, allowing you to optimize the saw for the size and the species of wood.
Its ample table, which is just over 32 inches long and 6 inches wide, can handle longer pieces of wood stock. A cast-iron guide fence provides plenty of support while ensuring the cutting head produces perfect 90-degree edges. The cutting head features two knives, which are easily changeable via a jack screw lock. A large exhaust port hooks into a dust collection system, keeping the work area debris free.
If you’re searching for a quality jointer with all cast-iron construction, be sure to check out WEN’s JT6561 Benchtop Jointer. This jointer has a 10-amp motor that produces cutting speeds up to 20,000 cuts per minute. The cutter head has two straight 6½-inch blades with a maximum cut depth of ⅛ inch. The cast-iron bed measures 28½ inches long and 6¼ inches wide, providing plenty of work space.
The entire body, bed, and fence are cast iron, providing stability while you’re milling and also remaining completely flat. The 20¾-by-4½-inch cast-iron fence bevels up to 45 degrees both front and back, providing a bit of extra flexibility. The JT6561 also comes with a push stick, a push block, a 2½-inch dust port, a keyed stop button, and a filter bag for catching sawdust.
Craftsman’s CMEW020 Benchtop Jointer is certainly worth a look if you’re hunting for a benchtop jointer with plenty of speed. The CMEW020 has an adjustable speed control, adjusting the 10-amp motor between 6,000 and 11,000 RPMs. The top speed turns the two-blade cutter head to create up to 22,000 cuts each minute.
This jointer has some other attractive features as well. The center-mounted aluminum fence offers plenty of support for edge-jointing and squaring boards. It has an oversize stop switch and spring-loaded blade guard, as well as a 2½-inch dust port for tying into your dust collection system. The built-in cutter-head lock will hold the cutter head in place, making blade changes safe and easy.
If your woodworking projects frequently call for wide boards, you might want to check into the Wahuda Tools Bench Top Spiral Cutterhead Jointer. This 12-amp heavy-duty benchtop jointer is capable of milling boards up to 10 inches wide—much wider than most benchtop jointers. It has a 33½-inch-long cast-iron bed with two pullout extensions that provide up to 51 inches of total length. The helical-style cutter head features 20 blades, producing a smooth and relatively quiet cut.
The Wahuda offers some other attractive features, including a 4-inch dust port with a 2½-inch reducer, ensuring you can tie into most dust collection systems. It has a 24-inch fence that bevels up to 45 degrees for milling angles on your workpieces. For safety, it has a spring-loaded blade guard and an oversize stop switch with a removable key.
Safety Tips for Using a Benchtop Jointer
Because jointers don’t cut all the way through a workpiece, it can be hard to tell where the blade is while you’re using one. For that reason, it’s important to keep your palms and fingers away from the end of the board you’re milling. The blade can sneak up on you quickly, causing serious injury. To reduce the risk even more, use push paddles and a push stick.
The blade guard might seem like an inconvenience, but it’s absolutely key for workshop safety. Running thin pieces over a jointer can expose your hands to several inches of spinning blades. The blade guard helps reduce this risk, so be sure that it’s operating properly, and don’t remove it.
Personal protective equipment is essential. Jointers cut with incredible speed and have the potential to send tiny knots or chips flying, so be sure to wear safety glasses. Also, even the quietest helical jointers are very loud. Be sure to wear ear protection while you’re milling your stock.
- Use push paddles and push sticks to keep your fingers and hands away from the spinning blade.
- Be sure that your blade guard is working properly.
- Wear eye and ear protection.
FAQs About Benchtop Jointers
Benchtop jointers are one-trick ponies, so it may seem that only serious woodworkers and DIYers would own one. It would be understandable if you had some questions about how they work or what they do. These tools don’t have to be so intimidating if you have the right information. Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions about benchtop jointers.
Q. What is a benchtop jointer?
A benchtop jointer is a scaled-down version of a floor-standing jointer. These tools sit on your workbench and allow you to mill warps, twists, and bows out of your lumber or hardwood by removing material until it’s completely flat.
Q. How big of a jointer do I need?
For most home shops, a 6-inch benchtop jointer will work quite well. It’s large enough to pass most DIY project-related boards through but small enough that you can remove it from your bench when you’re not using it.
Q. How do you use a benchtop jointer?
Jointing is a labor of love, and it takes a bit of patience. To start, ensure that the infeed side of the table is just slightly lower than the outfeed side with the height adjustment knob. Turn the machine on and feed the board over the spinning cutter head using the paddles and push sticks that your jointer came with. Continue making several passes, checking the board between with a straight edge.