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Jointer Vs Planer : What Is Better & Differences Between Them

If you are a newbie in woodworking planning to set up a workshop, then this post might be helpful to you. But, if you are already into this business, then you definitely know the market demand for uniform, flat boards. Well, the rough wooden planks require all the four sides to be equally planned. This type of surfacing requirement is called Surfaced 4 Sides (S4S). 

This preparation helps to settle any dimensional defect/inconsistency and warp from the surface of the wood, ensuring that the project goes impeccably smooth. Now the real challenge that appears when you attempt to create an S4S board is whether to use a planer or a jointer. 

This reason behind this usual doubt is that both the devices appear the same with a little or no difference in their functionality. So, to many, it is a confusing fact, however, that's not the case, entirely. Though both the jointer and the planer follow similar operating principles, each has its unique function and both are required in woodworking, to achieve optimal output.

So, today we will check out everything about a jointer and a planer, and how both differ from one another. Plus,

Jointer

Jointer

A jointer is a woodworking device utilized to flatten, surface, and square all the faces of a lumber. In simpler words, this machine is used to cut out all the dimensional imperfections from the order surface, including twisting, bowing, and/or cupping of the workpiece, while surfacing its edges. After a couple of passes, the faces of the workpiece will be impeccably flat. After that the wood-piece can be repositioned using the jointer fence to square up any rough edge facing the spiral cutter.

What a Jointer Cannot Do?

Jointer

There is a myth about the jointer that it flips and mills on either side of the board to make it uniformly thick and symmetrical. But, the reality is something else. Though you get a flattened cum symmetrical board of wood, its thickness and length will differ from what they were before milling. To understand it, suppose a situation where you are given a pair of scissors and a piece of pair to cut it into a freehand square. You will notice that the square cut will not have the edges completely parallel to each other. So, how to ensure if a wood, when milled this way, will have both the sides parallel? For that you will need a planer.

Experts recommend to go for the spiral headhunter based benchtop jointer as you can:

  • efficiently flatten and surface the faces and edge of the wood truly straight
  • easily change knife of the jointer with a spiral cutterhead 
  • experience reduced noise level compared to the noise generated by a jointer with straight knife cutterhead
  • any obsolete or damaged individual inserts can be easily replaced

Note: The only setback is that unlike the straight blade cutterheads, replacement to any damaged part can be costly for all the knives of that machine(spiral cutterhead).

Planer

Planer

The planer is another significant, yet a simple machine used in woodworking. In short, its function is to flatten both flat sides of the wood (and hence named so; planer) so that the planks could be joined adjacently without a gap in between. Here is the working principle of a planer: a planer guides the wood piece, applying pressure to it through an array of spiral cutters which uniformly mills the wooden surface layers.

This is the secondary preparation after you are done jointing the wooden lumber which ensures that the wood is symmetrical and has an uniform width. Planning is more like fine tuning or adding more detail to the work done on the wood piece by the jointer. Remember the analogy of the paper and scissors mentioned above? Here the scissor is like a jointer, where the former makes cuts and angles. But to ensure whether the cuts are aligned or not, there should be some other device just like the planer in woodworking. 

What a Planer Cannot Do?

Planer

No doubt that a planer is the secondary machine to create the ultimate end result. However, there are tasks where a planer cannot serve the best. The primary purpose of using a planer is to turn thick boards into thin one. The board should be flat enough so that it can be positioned downwards on the planer bed for the machine to take off the upper layers effectively.

It applies pressure rollers on the board for pulling that wood piece, which will, otherwise, not function correctly if there is any warping, twists or cups on the board. Concerning the above warps and dimensional defects, a jointer is the best suited machine for such jobs. In simpler words, a planer cannot do anything beyond flattening and reducing the thickness of a board.

Both jointers and planers work in symbiotic association with one another to make accurate cuts on wood by experienced woodworking enthusiasts. The combination of these two machines allows you to work on a variety of woods which might not, otherwise, have been a choice prior to pre-milled plank from big box stores.

Why Would You Need a Jointer or Planer?

Well, if you will not require either of the above two machines if the wood is already pre-finished. Sometimes you get S4S lumber readily available on the market. In such cases, you do not need a jointer to play its part. Conversely, some lumber yards might need face and edge surfacing before you deliver the product to the market.

But maximum time, we prefer going to the local DIY store or lumberyard to get the raw, unfinished, rough wood, which is simply not usable for building purposes unless treated.

Note: At best, rough cut woods have greater chances of having uneven surfaces which makes jointing challenging. At worst, poor or improper storage conditions may greatly affect the wood leaving it twisted, cupped, or warped, which again makes it unusable.

This is the reason why most pro-grade woodworking professionals prefer keeping the combination of jointers and planers in their arsenal. While a good jointer removes twisting or warping, a planer smoothens rough surfaces and leaves the board impeccably ready to use.

Jointer-Planer Combo

Jointer-Planer Combo

If you are looking for a machine with the features of both jointer and planer, then go for the jointer-planer combo which utilizes a single cutterhead for jointing and flattening the boards. The jointer is, typically, placed at the top with the planer directly positioned underneath. This jointer-planer combo is a popular woodworking machine in Europe because of its compact size. Recently, it has grabbed attention of the US market as an alternative to save space in the small woodworking workshops .

Key Differences Between Jointers And Planers

  • A jointer is used to perfectly mill or square each edge and flatten each face of a wood board. A planer, on the other hand, is used to ensure and maintain consistency in the width, creating parallel surfaces.
  • Jointers maintain almost the same thickness of the board while giving a smooth finish to its rough surfaces. A planer ensures that the lumber has the same width throughout, with only a minor reduction in it.
  • The knives of the jointers are positioned on the table that cut the board from below. Planers cut the boards from above. 
  • A jointer removes cupping, bending, or warping from the lumber. A planer is used to uniformly flatten both side upper layers of the lumber.
  • Planers are a little costlier than the jointers. 

Verdict

Well, none is better than the other while considering the differences between a jointer and a planer. Both are equally significant in woodworking and their combined working delivers a finished, flawless wooden board which we often buy from the market as a finished good. If you are having a tight budget, then make sure to go for a cost effective planer as it is generally more expensive than a jointer. Or, if the space of installation is your primary issue, then go for the compact sized jointer-planer combo machine.

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