A jointer is a woodworking machine that smooths and flattens the face and edge of stock lumber to make it perfectly square. Instead of running a tool against wood like one would do using a hand planer, the wood is pushed against the tool with a jointer.
A jointer has a long, flat surface bisected by a cutting head with a cast-iron guide fence. As the wood runs through the jointer, the cutting head’s blades remove a layer of the wood’s surface to create a perfect square. If you’re looking for a new jointer, keep reading to learn what things you should consider when shopping for one of these powerful tools.
- BEST OVERALL: Shop Fox 6 in. 1-1/2 HP Benchtop Jointer (W1829)
- BEST BUDGET: RIDGID 6 Amp Corded 6-1/8 in. Jointer/Planer
- BEST FOR BEGINNERS: WEN JT630H 10-Amp 6-Inch Spiral Benchtop Jointer
- BEST 6-INCH: Craftsman Benchtop Jointer, 10-Amp (CMEW020)
- BEST 8-INCH: WEN 10 Amp 8 in. Spiral Benchtop Jointer
- BEST CABINET-STYLE: JET – JJ-6HHDX 6-Inch Long Bed Helical Head Jointer
- BEST LARGE: Wahuda Tools Jointer – 8-inch (50180CC-WHD)
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Jointer
You should consider a number of things when you shop for a jointer, including power, blade width, table length, and portability.
You’ll typically have two different types of jointers to choose from: a larger, stationary cabinet-style unit and a smaller, mounted benchtop unit.
A benchtop jointer makes a popular choice for home woodworkers who don’t need the industrial strength of the larger and more expensive cabinet-style jointers. Smaller and lighter, they lack the power of a cabinet-style jointer, but they offer easy storage and portability.
Whether you choose a benchtop or a cabinet-style model, the best jointers should include sturdy adjustable fences and metal guards that allow for precision cutting. Cabinet jointers will include more substantial fences than those on a benchtop jointer, since cabinet jointers handle longer pieces of wood.
Power determines how easily a jointer cuts through wood. A more powerful jointer generally leaves 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.
A 6-inch jointer typically has a 1-horsepower motor—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.
Of course, build quality matters with most power tools, and it may matter most in a jointer. These tools make wood stock perfectly smooth and square, which requires the tool to be built from 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 have two or three cutting blades, while larger cabinet-style jointers have as many as four. The more blades, the smoother the cuts.
Most benchtop jointers can cut to a maximum depth of ⅛ inch, while commercial jointers feature depths up to ½ inch. The greater the depth, the fewer passes are needed to flatten a warped or an uneven board.
Cast-iron construction makes many jointers heavy and difficult to transport to a job site. Once your cabinet-style jointer finds a home in your workshop, you won’t be able to move it easily. These massive power tools weigh between 250 and 500 pounds.
A benchtop planer makes the lightest option for a jointer, but even some of these can weigh upwards of 60 pounds. Though heavy, benchtop jointers come small enough to transport to a job site.
When shopping for jointers, you’ll notice that some models feature straight blades, while others have a helical or spiral cutter head. 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 and require replacement or frequent sharpening.
Some cutter heads use a helical or spiral-shape blade arrangement, which creates a smoother finish on the wood’s surface. Spiral or helical cutter heads have a spiral formation around the cutting cylinder, not unlike the double helix of a DNA strand.
With a spiral cutting head, each blade remains parallel to the axis of the cutting cylinder. With a helical cutter head, each blade sits 14 degrees off the cylinder’s axis, which creates a very smooth finish.
Given that jointers remove significant amounts of wood to flatten and smooth boards, they create an enormous amount of sawdust. A dust collection system will keep 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 include dust collection ports as large as 4 inches in diameter.
While power jointers rank as one of the safer power tools because the wood stock or a retractable guard covers the blades while they cut, they also offer additional safety features.
Some include push handles that allow users to guide the wood through the blade without using their bare hands. They also feature large “off” switches positioned in an easy-to-reach place, which allows users to quickly shut off power to the blade when needed.
Some jointers offer additional features that make them easier to use, such as large knobs that allow for quick and easy adjustment of the feeder table height and the adjustable 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.
Power equates to a good, smooth cut, especially when it comes to harder woods. Shop Fox’s 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 cast-iron build, the jointer makes a good option for home or professional workshops. Its 28½-inch-long cutting surface and 6-inch-wide blade can handle medium-size lumber.
The Shop Fox allows users to fine-tune the cutting depth to a maximum of ⅛ inch and the angle on the adjustable fence from 90 to 45 degrees in either direction. An integrated vacuum system and sizable 2½-inch dust port enable maximum dust collection to help keep your workshop clean. This benchtop jointer will move from workshop to job site as long as there’s an extra set of hands to help move the 80-pound unit to the truck.
- Blade Width: 6 inches
- Maximum Speed: 10,000 rpms
- Table Length: 28 ½ inches
- Powerful 1.5-horspower motor
- Ample table length for larger pieces
- Integrated vacuum system to manage sawdust
- Shorter table length than other jointers
Get the Shop Fox benchtop jointer at The Home Depot.
For DIYers who don’t have room in the workshop—or the budget—for a jointer and a planer, Ridgid offers a great solution. The cabinet-style jointer offers planing options, too. 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 while 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 also handles longer pieces thanks to its 45-inch-long tabletop. A dual bevel adjustable fence includes stops at 45, 90, and 135 degrees. A set of 4-inch dust ports help keep your work area clean. At 208 pounds and 45½ inches long by 31¼ inches high and 19 inches deep, this makes a great option for those who have the space for it in their workshop.
- Blade Width: 6 inches
- Maximum Speed: 3,450 rpms
- Table Length: 45 ½ inches
- Ample table length
- Sturdy cabinet base with storage
- Dust ports for sawdust vacuum system
- Smaller 1-horsepower motor
Get the RIDGID jointer/planer on The Home Depot.
For those new to jointing or who only need one for a few projects a year, WEN offers a great choice that won’t break the bank. Similar to higher-end benchtop jointers, this model comes equipped with a 6-inch-wide blade that’s powered by an impressive 1.5-horsepower motor. The large easy-to-grip knobs adjust the blade depth from 0 to ⅛ inch.
WEN’s jointer includes an ample 30-inch table length that’s broad enough to provide a comfortable work space for newbies. The aluminum adjustable fence measures an ample 19¾ inches by 4¼ inches and can bevel up to 45 degrees. A spring-loaded blade guard and two push blocks make nice safety features to keep less experienced users’ hands safely away from the blade.
- Blade Width: 6 inches
- Maximum Speed: 10,000 rpms
- Table Length: 30 inches
- Ample 30-inch table length
- Comes equipped with a powerful 1.5-horsepower motor
- Includes safety features that are ideal for beginners
- Lower-quality build than other jointers
Get the WEN benchtop jointer on Amazon or at Lowe’s.
Craftsman gives users a lot to like about its impressive benchtop jointer. Its powerful 10-amp motor can make up to 22,000 cuts per minute, which is plenty of power for both softwoods and hardwoods. A variable speed range of 6,000 to 11,000 rpms allows users to control the blade speed for optimum performance. A large aluminum fence tilts up to 45 degrees to provide 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 up to 80 pounds. Craftsman’s benchtop jointer weighs in at a manageable 40 pounds. Despite its light weight, it can handle boards up to 6 inches wide and features a sturdy 32-inch-long work surface.
- Blade Width: 6 inches
- Maximum Speed: 11,000 rpms
- Table Length: 32 inches
- Portable total weight of just 40 pounds
- Good table length of 32 inches
- Variable speed range from 6,000 to 11,000 rpm
- Fence can be difficult to adjust
Get the CRAFTSMAN benchtop jointer on Amazon, Lowe’s, and Ace Hardware.
Most 8-inch jointers, which are typically designed for pro shops, cost thousands of dollars. But WEN’s 8-inch jointer comes in cheaper than many 6-inch jointers. While the 10-amp motor won’t rival those of industrial-grade jointers, it provides enough juice for most home woodworkers.
WEN employs a smart design with its jointer table. It measures 33 inches long but can reach 51 inches with the help of extenders, which allows DIYers to use bigger workpieces that demand an 8-inch blade. As with WEN’s 6-inch jointer, this model features a spring-loaded blade guard and push blocks for safety. The fence bevels up to 45 degrees. This jointer’s 4-inch ports help manage dust.
- Blade Width: 8 inches
- Maximum Speed: 12,000 rpms
- Table Length: 33 to 51 inches
- Affordable price for an 8-inch jointer
- Table is extendable up to 51 inches
- Includes ports for dust management systems
- Motor not as powerful as other 8-inch jointers
- Cheaper build quality than other routers
Get the WEN spiral benchtop jointer on Amazon, The Home Depot, and Lowe’s.
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.
- Blade width: 6 inches
- Maximum rpm: 6,000
- Table length: 56 inches
- Four-blade helical cutter
- Cast iron table surface
- 4-inch dust port
- Adjustment wheels built-in
- Large push-button controls
Get the Jet jointer on Amazon.
Most benchtop jointers feature a 6-inch two-sided cutting blade—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 alongside a small work table that can’t support larger pieces of wood. Still, a longer benchtop takes away the portability of a benchtop jointer. Wahuda solves this dilemma with roll-out extensions that expand this jointer’s benchtop from 34 inches to 51 inches. The jointer weighs in at a portable 60 pounds. But the all-steel and cast-iron jointer doesn’t skimp on quality.
- Blade Width: 8 inches
- Maximum Speed: 12,000 rpms
- Table Length: 34 to 51 inches
- Helical-style blade creates smoother cuts
- Table extends from 34 to 51 inches
- Light enough to be portable
- Wide 8-inch blade
- Motor not as powerful as other 8-inch models
Get the Wahuda jointer on Amazon.
For its cast-iron construction and powerful motor that produces smooth precise cuts, the Shop Fox benchtop jointer makes a worthy choice for any home workshop. Those looking for a good entry-level jointer should consider the affordably-priced WEN benchtop jointer, which features a user-friendly design.
How We Chose the Best Jointers
In researching more than a dozen different jointers, we considered a variety of factors. A good jointer should have a motor that spins the blade fast enough to make smooth cuts. With that in mind, we stuck with jointers that reach a max speed of at least 10,000 rpms. Jointers are typically used to plane larger pieces of wood, so table length is important. For that reason, we leaned toward tables that were long enough to support longer workpieces.
In addition to a long table, a good jointer should also have a fence that easily adjusts to cut at different angles. Finally, since jointers create precision cuts, it’s crucial that they be made from sturdy materials such as cast iron that won’t warp or bend over time.
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 two knife cutter heads in place and sharpen the blades without even having to uninstall 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 the cutter and a dowel that blocks the blade and prevents 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 draw 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.