Saturday, February 8, 2014

V5.6 - Introducing: The Jointer

Here’s a new one for you. There is this woodworking machine that is one of the ‘Top Five’ in any serious woodshop. It makes wavy boards flat, and squares up the fat side with the skinny side and lets you make dimensioned lumber out of goofy wood. What machine is this? The Jointer.

At its most basic, a jointer is two flat tables, with a rotating cutterhead between them. The cutterhead has 3 or 4 very sharp knives in it and they do an excellent job of cutting/shaving whatever is passed over them…hardwood, softwood, plastics, flesh- whatEVER. Those blades will not stop for anything.

That is one way of saying- BE CAREFUL when using your jointer.

Jointers come in a wide variety of sizes. I have seen everything from a 4-inch up to 16-inch. The size is related to the maximum width of wood that can be surfaced on the machine. (“Surfaced” simply means laying the board flat on the table and passing it over the cutterhead as many times as it takes to make that wide side smooth and flat.) Many 4-inch, and some 6-inch,  jointers are called “motorized jointers” or table-top jointers. This is because they are very small and their motor has brushes inside it. Once the size gets to an 8-inch, the motor is an induction motor, which is better suited for heavy-duty use.

Jointers are essential for performing most of the operations that are required to ‘square-up’ a piece of wood. Here’s what I mean: Let’s say that you have an old piece of wood and you now want to use it in a project. For our example, let’s say it’s a 2 by 4. Doesn’t matter how long. Step 1 is to lay the board with the 4” side on the infeed table of the jointer and proceed to pass the board over the cutterhead as many times as it takes to make that side flat and smooth. Step 2 is to place that ‘surfaced face’ against the jointer’s fence, over the infeed table, and pass it over the cutterhead as many times as it takes to make one edge of the board flat and smooth. Once these two operations have been done, the board will have a flat ‘face’ (the wide side) and a flat edge…AND they will be ‘square’ (90 degrees) to each other.

A that point, the board can be sent thru the planer and planed to the desired thickness, ripped on the table saw to the proper width and then crosscut sawn to the correct length. All because the jointer was available to give it a flat surface and a squared-up edge.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you. 

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