When do you say "no" to your jointer?

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Blog entry by oscorner posted 02-27-2007 11:34 AM 1221 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

With a forecast of fowl weather this weekend, I didn’t plan to begin any new projects this weekend. I decided to get back to work on turning my air dried lumber into usable lumber, so I changed out the drum sander on my WoodMaster and put the planer head back on. This meant that I needed to remove my bandsaw on the SuperShop and replace it with my 6” jointer. Well, I spent many hours jointing and planing lumber into usable pieces. Of course, with rivened wood the wood is split along the grain of the log, so if the log grew with a twist or bow, then the job is to staighten the piece or cut out the bow. In comes my tablesaw with a make shift sled to allow me to straighten the pieces that are bowed. This worked fairly well, but proved that I need to take the time to make a dedicated sled for this purpose and to consider one for my planer. With a wedged shape piece of wood attached to one piece I was able to get one side flat so I could flip it over and plane the other to match. This will not work for all of the many problems one encounters when converting logs to lumber everytime.

With a jointer turning at 5200 rpms and a 5hp planer chewing wood there is a lot of noise and dust, even with these connected to a dust collector and separator. You’d think that I would be able to finish my task with such equipment, wouldn’t you.

Well, now for the explanation of the title of this blog. Sunday, I had some time so I went into my shop to try and joint out the twist in a piece of white oak that I had begun working on the day before. After marking it with a swiggly pencil line down the length of the board, so I could see the progress of my jointer, I made several passes taking 1/16th of an inch at a time. As I checked my progress I could see that only half of the board was making contact with the jointer knives. I made to mistake of running the board from the opposite end through the jointer. This caused the jointer knives to shave the board in a different plane, thus not improving on the reduction of the twist. Well, I decided that this was taking too long and not accomplishing my objective. I decided to do the unheard of. I reached for my jointer plane. I clamped the board to the top of my tablesaw table ( I haven’t built my workbench, yet) and made the same swiggly line on the length of the board. Armed with my hand plane and a square I began shaving the twist out of the board. In less than fifteen minutes I accomplished with my hand plane that with which I could not do with my jointer. I had one side of the board perfectly flat. I could now run it through my planer to finish the process.

Was is the fact that I’m not skilled enough in the technique of using a jointer, maybe? I’ve jointed other boards before without any problems. Maybe it was the twist that lended itself easier to be corrected with a finely tuned had plane than by making multiple passes on a jointer? In any event, the first thought that came to mind was…that sure was easy and it took less time…I’d been working on this since the day before. My next thought was how enjoyable it was to hear only the sound of the wisp of thin curls of wood being removed, instead of the high pitched wine of steel spinning at high rpms. My neighbors were probably rejoicing at the quiet, too.

So, next time you’re faced with a simular challenge don’t pass on that hand plane that you may have stored or tucked away, because you’ve purchased that top of the line jointer. You may find as I did that there are times when you should say, ”NO” to your jointer and return to those days of old, when a hand plane was that new tech tool that entered the shop. And enjoy the peace and quiet that it can bring to your woodworking experience, as I did.

-- Jesus is Lord!

9 comments so far

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 4141 days

#1 posted 02-27-2007 02:02 PM

Watch out for the dark-side, my friend, it will get you yet!

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4125 days

#2 posted 02-27-2007 02:33 PM

makes me want to try it just to enjoy the experience!!!

isn’t it interesting that, more and more, in our lives, (or in my life – I should speak for myself) that the “old ways” are coming back and the techno stuff is disappearing.
Perhaps that is just an age thing??

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2008 posts in 4370 days

#3 posted 02-27-2007 02:50 PM

Hey Mark:
I’m not wanting to start a debate, just wondering a couple of things. I respect anyone that uses a hand tool for anything, so I don’t intend to make you think I am arguing, just curious.

What type of jointer are you using in your shop? I used to have problems such as those you described before I had my big jointer. Now, I don’t ever even sharpen my hand plane knife, and only use it for photo opportunities.

Back in the day when I borrowed a 4” wide Craftsman jointer with a 48” long table I had so many problems, I just gave up after a couple of years and loaded it back up and took it back to it’s owner and worked without a jointer for several years. That was until I got the big Grizzly jointer as a gift from a friend/customer.

The Refined Rustic China Hutch (
I built last Spring had knotty and burled wood on all of the door & drawer panels and back panels.

The rough wood was horrible looking, twisted, splitting, bowed, etc. I started out with 5/4 boards, and for most of them, by the time I flattened one face on the jointer, and flattened the other face on the planer, the finished flat panel board was about 3/16” to 1/4” thick, which was perfect for the floating panels I needed. There was that much hump, or twist in each of them.

When I am jointing a board like that, I balance the twist so that when the first pass is made on the jointer, it runs across with the twist balanced between both edges. This first pass makes a small flat through the board, that the next pass makes wider, and then wider, and after several passes, it is flat on one face.

Since I was jointing burls and knots on each of these situations, there were times I had to quit and use CA glue to seal loose knots, or cracks, or splits and wait a day to finish up.

I also took light passes so that my pressure to push the board through the jointer was light. The more I cut out on a pass, the harder I had to push, and so for safety reasons I tried to keep them light passes.

All of that work made the time making all of those panels a lot longer than I had planned, and the customer was also quite surprised how quickly the cost climbed because of it.

It was the customer’s idea to use the knotty/burls boards, and it is a striking, rich look when it is done, but I didn’t give them an accurate idea of what it would take to do it. I ended up “eating” quite a bit of the time, as they just wouldn’t accept the cost with all of the hours in the bill. I’m a better woodworker than a business man, for sure.

I am interested to hear more about your Woodmaster also. If you get time, I would love to see your review of that tool.

thanks for your blog,

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4365 days

#4 posted 02-27-2007 04:05 PM

I’m sure that you are both aware of this technique. I cut the board to oversize of it’s final size and then take the cup, twist etc. out of a smaller piece.

I remember trying to take a cup out of a 12” piece of oak and I ended up with a piece of plywood. 1/4” thick where if I had cut the board into 3” strips and jointed and surfaced each piece and then glued them back together I’d probably have a 3/4” thick piece that had almost full grain match of the original.

There is less twist and cup in smaller pieces.

I’ve got one board in the shop that if I hold the lower left corner to the bench the upper right edge is probably 3” off the bench. But, this board is so beautiful I’ve not yet figured out what to make with it.

Frank would say “Make it for what it is, a beautiful piece of wood!”

It’s a piece of popular that is black, orange, brown and with robin egg blue specks in places.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View jpw1995's profile


376 posts in 4263 days

#5 posted 02-27-2007 06:43 PM

Wow, Mark. That jointer is one heck of a gift!

-- JP, Louisville, KY

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4275 days

#6 posted 02-28-2007 02:58 AM

Mark, my jointer is one that is sold by, SuperShop. It is a 6” by 4’ jointer. I agree with your advise to take light passes for safety’s sake. I was jointing a 4’ long board that was 3” wide. The jointer would, I guess, have done the job eventually,but like Karson said it would have been 1/4” thick by then. Now if I had your friends or money and could swing a, $3000.+ jointer, I would. That beauty better do a great job. I find that I tend to enjoy using my drawknife and hand plane a lot. I feel more connected with the wood and find that these tools can be very effiecient.

Karson, thanks for your input. I understand that if I would have cut the board in shorter pieces that there would have been less warpage to take out, but I wasn’t thinking of or wanting to have to glue up several pieces to make a 4’ board. Maybe I need to rethink my thinking on this? I have a piece or two that have a small bow in them and was thinking how nice they would do on a table apron. I wouldn’t have to cut them at all.


-- Jesus is Lord!

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4291 days

#7 posted 02-28-2007 03:48 AM

I’ve read, as has been suggested, to cut the problem board into smaller pieces, less you end up making paper.

But I have been known to resort to hand tools for any and all reasons. After we bought our old house, I got such an education watching my Grandfather fit boards to work as trim, etc… I was really impressed by what you could do with a block plane, and especially how quickly.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4365 days

#8 posted 02-28-2007 04:28 AM

I have the Grizzly 8” jointer with carbide insert blades and I don’t know if they are all set up this way but mine when I do a pass across the cutter head and its sitting on the outfeed table, you can hardly pick it up.

The suction of having no air under the board creates a vacuum that you have to overcome. It’s actually easier to slide the board to the edge to pick it up.

That is a new experience for me. It means that the cuter head is perfectly inline with the outfeed table.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4275 days

#9 posted 03-03-2007 10:01 PM

I must make a correction. I measured my jointer and the total top surface is 32”, not 4’ as I thought it was. Sorry for the misinformation.

-- Jesus is Lord!

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