While there are 4″ and 6″ table top jointers, these are light duty machines that are really only suitable for craft work. They use loud universal motors, and can’t deliver solid, vibration-free performance. For furniture building, a 6″ floor model (stationary) jointer will better suit your needs. Optimally, it should weigh over 200 lbs., and have a 2 ½” diameter 3-knife cutterhead.
Owning a jointer and thickness planer frees you from buying pre-milled lumber with fixed dimensions. You might want to build a project with ⅞” thick stock when only ¾” is readily available.
More importantly, pre-milled stock is not accurately dimensioned. It is never flat enough for fine work. Often, pre-milled lumber will have slight cupping, bowing, crooks and twists. Usually it is inconsistent in thickness and width. Tear-out is also a problem with commercially milled lumber. With such mass production, there is no way of determining the proper grain direction of each board that would minimize tear-out.
You’ll soon find that milling your own rough lumber is actually done more for accuracy than cost savings. While you do save money buying rough lumber, it takes many hours of careful jointing and planning to transform it into finished sizes. However, the accuracy required for fine craftsmanship demands that you mill your own stock. Flat surfaces and 90º corners are essential. The success of all your efforts, including joinery, greatly depends on accurate milling.
An 8″ jointer will obviously mill wider boards than a 6″ jointer. But the best reason to buy an 8″ jointer is increased bed length. It allows you to mill longer boards to a higher tolerance. But 8″ jointers are a lot more expensive and use precious floor space. They may not suit your needs in a smaller workshop. Mobile bases won’t be of much benefit if you have barely a couple hundred square feet of floor space.
I often hear that one can mill boards about twice the bed length of your jointer. I’d say that is a slight exaggeration. Yes, you can joint an 8′ board on a 6″ jointer with a 46″ bed length, but not easily. You’ll need roller stands set exactly on the same plane as the infeed and outfeed beds. And this only works once the boards are already fairly flat. Boards are usually jointed concave side down, so their ends will dip below the level of your roller stands and push them away for those initial passes.
A jointer can easily mill boards twice the length of the outfeed bed without roller stands. Most 6″ jointers have an outfeed bed around 22″ long, so you can easily joint boards around 4′ long. While 5′ is still possible without roller stands, you’ll need a stand if your boards are any longer. Luckily, most furniture parts are 5′ long or less, with the exception of large table tops, bed rails and a few other examples.
Don’t shy away from a 6″ jointer if you’ll only mill a few longer boards each year.
You’ll work to flatten the longer ones, but you will be fine the majority of the time.
Bed length is probably the better reason to buy an 8″ jointer than bed width. Look for something called a “long-bed” 6″ jointer. Several brands now offer them. Standard bed length is around 46″, but long-bed jointers might have an extra 8″ or even 12″ in length.
When buying a long-bed jointer, pick one that is truly longer, not one that provides extensions at the ends of the beds. Some models have rollers that slide out of the ends of the beds, while others use small cast iron extensions. These “add-ons” are useful if they are perfectly level to the rest of the bed, but they’re useless when not adjusted exactly true (within a couple of thousandths of an inch). Given the choice, select a longer bed over extensions and rollers.
Having said that, I’d rather own a good quality, accurately machined jointer with a 46″ bed than a lower quality, no-name jointer with a 56″ length. If machine accuracy is just not there, you can’t joint lumber to high tolerances. For best results, stick to name brands with a good track record and solid warranty service.
Some jointers have hand-wheels to raise and lower both infeed and outfeed beds. Others use levers. A few models use a lever for the infeed bed and a hand-wheel on the outfeed side. Proponents for handwheels claim they allow more accurate fine-tune adjustment. While that is true, think about where you really need fine adjustments.
You need fine outfeed bed adjustments to set it correctly relative to the arc of the knives. As the knives wear, or you switch from super hard species to softer woods, the outfeed bed will need tiny adjustments for optimum performance, so having a hand-wheel on the outfeed bed makes sense. If you have a lever instead, a good upper and lower stop system to limit bed movement works beautifully.
On the infeed side, I need to change bed height quickly for light and heavier passes. Nothing beats a lever for quick changes. I change the depth of cut at least every other pass and sometimes more, so quick changes are important. Some argue that a hand-wheel could dial in 1/128th of an inch, as opposed to 1/64th of an inch, but for me that is irrelevant. The jointer makes my lumber flat, not correctly thicknessed. For correct thickness, use a thickness planer (which does have a hand-wheel).
Fence Accuracy and Size
I’ve never cared whether a jointer fence uses a rack-and-pinion gear or just slides back and forth. On a jointer, you don’t move the fence nearly as often as on a table saw, or as often as you would change the infeed bed height.
More importantly, look for a generous fence size and one that is accurate. A 5″ tall fence makes it easier to hold boards accurately on edge than a 4″ fence. Also, check whether the fence is flat across its length and width using a straightedge. Most jointer fences show slight twist from corner to corner. Such twist can be dealt with by putting hand pressure against the fence within a small distance on either side of the cutterhead.
In recent years, enclosed bases have become common for 6″ jointers. They look more substantial than an open stand but offer little benefit other than keeping a bit of dust off the motor. Dust collection works well either way, as the dust chute is not really an integral part of an enclosed base. If you can save $200 by buying the exact same model with an open stand instead of an enclosed base, go for it.
Most, if not all, 6″ jointers use off-shore (i.e. imported) motors, so there’s no use holding out for an American-made motor. Use the stock motor for as long as it lasts (which should be well over a decade) and then replace it with a better quality motor if you wish.
Motor size is also something to consider. The 6″ jointer I used to own had a ¾ horsepower motor. I never had any problems with it, nor did the motor bog down with hardwoods. 1 HP has become more common now, but make sure it’s a true 1 HP, not an exaggerated 1 HP (see motor ratings section in my Contractor Saw article, issue #39). In any event, if you can buy a 6″ jointer with 1 HP or more, then more power to you. If you find a good used one with a ¾ HP motor, it would be more than ample. I don’t see any great advantage of the extra ¼ HP, unless you are going to be milling dense exotics all day long.
If your jointer bogs down regularly, you might want to take less than 1/8″ off in a single pass. My “regular” pass depth is about 3/64″, with every board getting a finishing pass of just 1/128th or so (barely above the ‘0’ mark on the scale). You’ll soon learn to appreciate the accuracy this machine is capable of. Used in conjunction with your table or band saw and planer, it will enable you to produce perfectly dimensioned lumber. Begin by cutting your stock to rough dimension on the table or band saw. Then flatten one side and one edge on the jointer. Run the opposite side through your thickness planer to achieve the final thickness you require. Cut the board to its final width on the table saw. A few light passes with a hand plane or careful hand sanding will remove any milling marks left by the blades of your jointer or planer.
1. For boards with edge defects or that are severely crooked, straighten the edges before jointing. Use a straight edge or chalk line and draw a line along the edge. Then, bandsaw the waste.
2. Apply moderate to light pressure, as you are jointing the board, especially for boards that are bowed. Otherwise you will simply be pressing the bow out of the board by hand.
3. Orient the board so that the grain runs towards the infeed table (the direction in which the cutter head knives turn).
4. When feeding a board, concentrate hand pressure on the outfeed table as soon as enough of the board is on the outfeed side to make it stable.
5. Feed the board at a constant rate.
6. Once you have one face jointed, turn the board on edge, with the jointed side against the fence. Push the board tight up against fence while jointing the edge, otherwise the edge will not be square to the face.
7. Take light cuts, less than ⅛”. It’s safer and easier.
8. While you can safely feed the edge of a board by hand, always use a push stick when jointing the face side of a board over the cutterhead.
||General International 80-075LM1
||King Canada KC-150C