Woodworkers use jointers to smooth and flatten the rough face and edge of stock lumber, making it perfectly square. Think of a jointer as the power version of a hand planer, only instead of running the tool against the wood with a jointer, the wood runs against the tool.
A jointer consists of a long flat surface bisected by a cutting head with a cast-iron guide fence. As the wood runs through the planer, the cutting head’s blades remove a layer of the wood’s surface, creating a smooth and flat side that is perfectly square with its other sides, making the lumber suitable for finishing carpentry projects.
If you’re searching for the best jointer, keep reading to learn what characteristics you should consider when shopping for one of these powerful tools as well as recommendations.
- BEST OVERALL: PORTER-CABLE Benchtop Jointer (PC160JT)
- RUNNER-UP: Shop Fox W1829 Benchtop Jointer, 6-Inch
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: RIDGID 6 Amp Corded 6-1/8 in. Jointer/Planer
- BEST 6 INCHES: Craftsman Benchtop Jointer, 10-Amp (CMEW020)
- BEST 8 INCHES: Powermatic 1610086K Model 60HH 8-Inch 2 HP 1-Phase Jointer
- BEST 16 INCHES: JET – JJ-6HHDX 6-Inch Long Bed Helical Head Jointer
- BEST LARGE BENCHTOP: Wahuda Tools 50180cc-WHD (8 Inch) Bench Top Jointer
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Jointer
There are various factors to consider when shopping for a jointer, including power, blade width, table length, and portability.
You’ll typically have two different types of jointers to choose from: cabinet-style and benchtop. A cabinet-style jointer is a larger, stationary unit, while a benchtop jointer is smaller and is mounted to your work surface. A benchtop jointer is a popular option for home woodworkers who don’t need the industrial strength of the larger and more expensive cabinet-style jointers. Though they lack the power of a cabinet-style jointer, benchtop jointers are smaller and lighter, allowing for easy storage and portability.
Whether you choose a benchtop or cabinet-style model, the best jointers should include sturdy adjustable fences and guards that allow for precision cutting. These guards should also be made out of metal for making precise cuts. Keep in mind that the fences on a cabinet jointer will actually be more substantial than those on a benchtop jointer, since cabinet jointers can handle longer pieces of wood.
Power equates to how easily a jointer can cut through wood. A more powerful jointer will generally leave a smoother finish on the wood than a less powerful model. High-powered models also do a better job of cutting through hardwoods and handling broader cuts.
Most 6-inch jointers have a 1-horsepower motor, which is sufficient to handle most softwoods, hardwoods, and even many exotic woods. Jointers with 8-inch blades require motors with 2-horsepower engines. High-end commercial-grade jointers with blades up to 16 inches wide feature motors with as much as 3-horsepower.
While build quality is important for most power tools, it is critical with a jointer. The purpose of a jointer is to make wood stock perfectly smooth and square. That requires quality material that won’t bend or sag. Look for jointers with sturdy cast-iron feeder tables and guide fences that will stand up to long-term use.
Blades and Cutting Depth
Cutting depth determines how many times the user will have to run the wood through the jointer to make the wood smooth and flat. Cutting blade widths vary from 6 inches wide to as much as 16 inches wide. The wider the blade, the wider the wood stock the jointer can cut.
Cutting heads feature multiple blades. Smaller benchtop jointers will have two or three cutting blades while a larger cabinet-style jointer will have as many as four blades. Jointers with three or four blades make smoother cuts than those with fewer blades.
Most benchtop jointers can cut to a maximum depth of 1/8 of an inch while commercial jointers feature depths up to 1/2-inch. The greater the depth, the fewer the number of passes you need to make to flatten a warped or uneven board.
With their cast-iron construction, many jointers are quite heavy, making them difficult to transport to a job site. A benchtop planer offers the lightest option for a jointer, but even some of these can weigh upwards of 60 pounds. Though heavy, benchtop jointers are small enough to transport to a job site.
Once your cabinet-style jointer finds a home in your workshop, however, you won’t be able to move it easily. These massive power tools weigh between 250 and 500 pounds.
When shopping for jointers, you’ll notice that some models feature straight blades while others have helical or spiral cutting heads.
Straight blades use two or more rows of blades that run straight across the cutting head. Benchtop jointers typically use this style of cutting head. They create smooth cuts but tend to wear out quickly, requiring replacement or sharpening.
Some cutter heads use a helical or spiral shape blade arrangement, which creates a smoother finish on the wood’s surface. With a spiral or helical cutter head, the blades have a spiral formation around the cutting cylinder, not unlike a DNA strand.
With a spiral cutting head, each blade remains parallel to the axis of the cutting cylinder. With a helical blade, each blade is rotated 14 degrees off the cylinder’s axis. This has the effect of creating a very smooth finish.
Given that a jointer’s role is to remove significant amounts of wood to flatten and smooth boards, they create an enormous amount of sawdust. A dust collection system is vital to keeping your workshop clean and the air breathable.
Look for power jointers that include large ports for removing sawdust. Smaller benchtop jointers feature 2-inch dust collection ports, while large cabinet-style jointers will have dust collection ports as large as 4 inches in diameter.
While power jointers are one of the safer power tools you can use because the blades are covered by either the wood stock or a retractable guard during cutting, they offer additional safety features.
Some include push handles that allow you to guide the wood through the blade without using your bare hands. They also feature large off switches positioned in an easy-to-reach place, allowing you to shut off power to the blade quickly in the event of an accident.
Some jointers offer additional features that make them easier to use. These features can include large knobs that allow for quick and easy adjustment of the feeder table height and the guide fence angle.
Our Top Picks
The following list of jointers includes both cabinet-style and benchtop jointers with 6-inch and 8-inch cutter heads. These models feature powerful motors and durable steel and cast-iron construction from some of the top manufacturers in the market.
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.
Power is integral to a good, smooth cut, especially when cutting harder woods. The Shop Fox Benchtop jointer comes well-equipped to handle such jobs, thanks to a stout 1.5-horsepower motor that delivers 10,000 RPM and 20,000 cuts per minute. With its durable build—it features cast-iron construction—the jointer is a good option for home or professional workshops. Its 28.5-inch-long cutting surface and 6-inch wide blade can handle medium-sized lumber.
The Shop Fox allows you to fine-tune the cutting depth to a maximum of 1/8-inch and a guide fence that adjusts from 90 degrees to 45 degrees in either direction. An integrated vacuum system and sizeable 2.5-inch dust port enable maximum dust collection, keeping your workshop clean. This benchtop jointer offers portable capability. Just keep in mind that you’ll need help to move it to the truck, as it weighs 80 pounds.
If you lack room in your workshop—or your budget—for a jointer and a planer, then this model from Ridgid might be for you. This cabinet-style jointer offers planing options, making this an excellent choice for fulfilling two duties. It features a powerful 1-horsepower motor and blade supported by a durable steel cabinet that sits on a sturdy cast-iron base, ensuring this jointer will stand firm as you’re cutting. It includes a capable 6-inch blade for planing and jointing jobs. A built-in storage area includes a place to store accessories and blade alignment tools.
This jointer/planer can also handle longer pieces thanks to its 45-inch-long tabletop. A dual bevel fence includes stops at 45, 90, and 135 degrees, and a set of 4-inch dust ports help keep your work area clean. At 45.5 inches long by 31.25 inches height and 19 inches deep with a weight 208 pounds, this is a great option if you have space for it in your workshop.
There is much to like with this impressive benchtop jointer from Craftsman. It features a powerful 10-amp motor capable of making up to 22,000 cuts per minute, plenty of power for both softwoods and hardwoods. A variable speed range of 6,000 to 11,000 RPMs allows you to control the blade speed for optimum performance, while a large aluminum fence that can tilt up to 45 degrees provides plenty of support while cutting.
Transporting a jointer to a work site or even from a storage shelf to a workbench can be difficult, as some models weigh as much as 80 pounds. Craftsman’s benchtop jointer is a manageable weight at just 40 pounds. Despite its light weight, it can handle boards up to 6 inches wide and features a sturdy 30-inch-long work surface.
For pro-grade woodworking, you need a jointer that’s big enough to handle large pieces of lumber. With its 73-inch-long work surface and 8-inch wide blade, this jointer from Powermatic is a heavy-duty machine designed for commercial use. It features a powerful 2-horsepower motor and four-sided helical-shaped cutter head to handle broader cuts while still providing a smooth and even finish.
Controls make this jointer easy to manage with large adjustment levels for the infeed table, a knob for fine-tuning the blade depth, and an easy-to-operate handwheel that allows for adjustment of the fence tilt. A high-mount power switch with a large off-button adds safety and convenience. Just keep in mind that this 500-pound behemoth will take up a significant amount of space in your workshop with its long work table.
Cabinet-style jointers provide a higher level of performance than their benchtop cousins, making them suitable for professional workshops and serious woodworkers. This jointer from Jet is one of the toughest 6-inch models you can buy. It features a four-blade helical cutter that removes wood evenly while maintaining an ultra-smooth finish. It also offers a 56-inch-long work surface made of cast iron, allowing you to mill longer pieces of lumber with ease, and a 4-inch dust port keeps your workshop clean.
Large front-mounted adjustment wheels make raising and lowering the feed table and cutter head easy. Large push-button controls are conveniently placed above the workbench, allowing for quick starts and stops, and the two-way tilting fence is capable of up to 45 degrees of adjustment in either direction. This jointer weighs 260 pounds.
Most benchtop jointers feature a 6-inch two-sided cutting blade, which is adequate for most home woodworkers. Wahuda Tools takes it up a notch with this 8-inch helical-style four-sided blade. With its wider cutting edge and spiral shape, this blade removes wood more evenly and leaves a smoother edge than standard two-sided blade jointers.
An 8-inch blade doesn’t mean a whole lot if the worktable is too small to support those larger pieces of wood. Still, a longer benchtop takes away the portability that is a requirement of a benchtop jointers. Wahuda solves this dilemma with roll-out extensions that expand this jointer’s benchtop from 34 inches to 51 inches. Although this jointer comes in at just under 60 pounds, making it moveable for two people, it doesn’t cut quality along with the weight. Wahuda’s 8-inch jointer is made with all steel and cast-iron construction.
FAQs About Your New Jointer
Whether you’re unsure how to use a jointer or wondering how a jointer differs from a planer, read on for answers to these and other commonly asked jointer questions.
Q. How do you sharpen jointer blades?
While sending out your jointer blades to be professionally sharpened is an option, it can be costly and put your jointer out of commission for days or weeks. You also may not be happy with the results when you get them back.
If you want to sharpen the blades yourself, you can use a simple jig that will allow you to hold the cutter head in place, allowing you to sharpen the blades without even having to install them. While you can purchase such a jig, you can also create one using a small block of hardwood that fits in the gap between the table and cutter and a dowel that blocks the blade, preventing the cutter from turning. After creating or buying a blade jig for your jointer, you can sharpen the blades yourself:
- Cover the outfeed table’s edges with thick tape, so they aren’t damaged during the sharpening process.
- Once you’ve locked the blade in place with the jig, you’ll need to move the cutting head into the proper depth for sharpening. Place a scrap piece of wood on the cutting table, and lower the outfeed table until the blade just makes contact with the wood.
- Using a 600-grit diamond sharpening stone, begin sharpening the blade by placing the stone on the blade, then drawing it back in the direction of the outfeed table.
- Continue until you create a small bevel across the length of the blade. Use a magnifying glass to help you examine the blade.
- Switch to a 1200-grit stone and repeat the above process.
- Once you’ve sharpened the blade, remove the jig, rotate to the next blade, replace the jig, and repeat the process until you have sharpened all of the blades.
Q. How do you use a jointer?
Follow the directions below to properly operate a jointer:
- Begin by using a shop square to make sure the joint between the outfeed table and the guide fence is exactly 90 degrees. The point of a jointer is to make a perfectly square edge. If this joint isn’t 90 degrees, that won’t be possible.
- Adjust the depth dial to the desired setting.
- Position the wood stock on the infeed table with the crown side up, then turn on the jointer. Make sure to cut the face first, followed by the edges.
- Keeping the wood stock firmly against the fence, push the lumber through the cutter using push pads.
Next, cut the other face, followed by both edges.
- If done correctly, you should end up with a perfectly square piece of lumber with four smooth sides.
Q. What is the difference between a planer and a jointer?
Although a jointer and planer both remove wood from the sides of wood stock, a jointer is designed to take bowed or uneven lumber and make it straight and square. A planer removes larger amounts of wood, taking a thick board and planing it down to the desired thickness. To use a planer, one side of the board must already be flat.