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Jointer Setup

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Blog entry by thewoodwhisperer posted 05-06-2010 04:11 PM 7241 reads 26 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I find that the jointer is one of the most complex tools to calibrate. But if you ever used one that was out of shape, you know exactly why calibration is critical to your success. I hear from so many woodworkers who think their jointing problems are due to technique, when in reality, its the jointer itself that’s presenting the issues.

Its a two-part process that starts with leveling the infeed and outfeed tables and making them coplanar. Next, you need to adjust the knives in the cutterhead so that they are in line with the outfeed table. Neither process is fast, but I’ll take you through it step by step.

Hidden inside this video is actually a bit of a product review. There are many jigs on the market that will help you set up your jointer knives. I wanted to try a few of them so that I could give you a recommendation one way or the other. Here are my biased and opinionated findings:

Jointer Pal - ($27-$84) This is the jig I’ve been using for years. Its perfect for folks who don’t want to fuss around with dial indicators since the magnet does all the work. And it is fast and easy to use (about 3 minutes per blade). But since jointer blades tend to raise up when you tighten them in place, you have no way of knowing if your blades truly are level with the outfeed table. Mine showed a variance of .001-.005 across the length of the blade. All in all, that’s not to bad considering the quick setup time. But its far from perfect. And in order to use this jig properly, you have to find the top dead center of the blade’s path, which is usually easier said than done.

MLCS 9397 Jointer Planer Knife Setting Jig ($79) – By far, my biggest disappointment in the test. Like the Jointer Pal, this system works using magnets, only this one bridges the infeed and outfeed tables. It also has a nice dial that you turn to raise and lower the center magnet, which allows you to micro-adjust the blade. But I found that the blades still move when they are tightened down and the magnets didn’t provide enough force to prevent this from happening. This pretty much defeats the purpose of the micro adjustments. Furthermore, I don’t see how this would be useful as a standalone jig. You still need a dial indicator to tell you what the height of the blade is relative to the outfeed table. Otherwise, you are pretty much flying blind. And unlike the Jointer Pal, there is no built-in reference point. So I am going to recommend skipping this product.

OneWay Multi-Gauge ($94) – Essentially this is just a variation of the classic dial indicator jig. But holy moly is this thing awesome! The jig is incredibly heavy and has a nice wide foot-print. The dial indicator features a wide flat foot that is critical for setting the knives. The standard tapered tip that comes with most dial indicators just won’t do. The dial indicator itself is mounted in such a way that it faces you, which is incredibly convenient when setting knives. This unit is absolutely rock solid. But in my shop, its use will most likely be limited to setting up the jointer, the planer, and the drum sander.

Deluxe A-Line-It ($145) – This is another variation of the dial indicator system, only this unit does a bunch of other things too. It truly is a jack of all trades setup jig and will help you calibrate everything from the tablesaw, to the drill press, to the bandsaw! The dial indicator comes with numerous tips, including a flat one. So how does it compare to the ONEWAY? Its lighter and less stable due to the 3/4” wide aluminum base. The foot on the dial indicator is not as wide as the ONEWAY, which is not a huge problem but that extra width is truly appreciated. And the dial on this unit faces the infeed table, instead of the user. Seems like a minor thing until you have to stand up to view the gauge head-on about 40-50 times.

So my final verdict? If you want cheap and simple with somewhat unpredictable results, go for the Jointer Pal. If you want a jack of all trades setup jig, go for the A-Line-It. And if you want the best jig for the job, get the ONEWAY. And if you don’t want to deal with any of this crap, get a helical head!

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com



18 comments so far

View Gerry's profile

Gerry

253 posts in 1995 days


#1 posted 05-06-2010 07:23 PM

Marc,

Thanks for the comprehensive review. I’ve been using the line and stick method to set my jointer blades, with seemingly acceptable results. As the type of woodworking projects have not been that demanding, it has been good enough to this point. I am delving into more exacting projects, so I now know I should check the jointer setup.

From your tool review, I’ve learned that I’ve been lucky so far. I will go back to the jointer and recheck all the adjustments you show here. I do have a magnetic base with an arm and a dial indicator that i will try to adapt to this application. I’ll let you know if that works or not. Thanks!

-- -Gerry, Hereford, AZ ” A really good woodworker knows how the hide his / her mistakes.”

View Greedo's profile

Greedo

468 posts in 1715 days


#2 posted 05-06-2010 07:47 PM

i noticed that on my planer (wich is a combination planer/thickness planer) the infeed table wich is cast iron, is not flat! the outer right edge is lower than the 3 other edges. wich is why i never have 100% flat results. usually there is a verry slight bend at the ends of the piece. any advice on that? i already set the tables to be the flat at the left edge, but wider pieces automatically come closer to the warped right side.

View tedth66's profile

tedth66

458 posts in 1944 days


#3 posted 05-06-2010 09:48 PM

Marc,
Have you ever used the Festool rail back (opposite of the cutter side) for a straight edge? Would that do in place of the 80 dollars Lee Valley straight edge?

Ted

-- Ted

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2698 posts in 2040 days


#4 posted 05-06-2010 11:47 PM

Nice video Marc. I don’t like to think about how many times I’ve set up jointers over the years. This should help a lot of people out there. The jointer typically is one of the most difficult tools to set up properly. You have hit it all well.

The jigs are interesting to me. Over time I have tried multiple jigs and finally went back to using a wooden set up block. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this method for most people, but for me, doing it by feel works. Every time I set up a jointer I can’t help but think about Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars when he hears let go, and “may the Force be with you” Yeah, I know, I’m weird. I think it’s something to do with spraying lacquer for years.

Thanks,
Kent

-- She thought I hung the moon--now she just thinks I did it wrong

View thewoodwhisperer's profile

thewoodwhisperer

601 posts in 2938 days


#5 posted 05-07-2010 12:34 AM

@tedth66 – No I haven’t tried that. Do they give specs for how “straight” the back edge is? I imagine it much be pretty good. If so, you can certainly use it for this. But you might have some issues when you are checking the far end of the infeed table. Might be tricky to secure to the outfeed table.

@greedo – That’s a tricky one. I would probably set the table up so that the three flat areas are coplanar with the infeed table and hope for the best on the 4th point. I suppose tables that are out of flat can be a real curve ball.

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com

View tedth66's profile

tedth66

458 posts in 1944 days


#6 posted 05-07-2010 05:40 AM

Marc,
No specs on the back edge but it seems to be the straightest thing in my shop. Just like you, I don’t trust my level as a straight edge. After getting through more of your video I can see what you’re saying about it being tricky to secure the Festool rail to the outfeed table. I have a new Jet jointer that is waiting to be tuned but I haven’t had the chance to yet. I’m still trying to setup my garage as a shop. I’ll definitely view your video again when it comes time to tune my jointer and it sounds like I better go spend 80 bucks on that straight edge. thanks again for yet another excellent informative video.

Ted

-- Ted

View OutPutter's profile

OutPutter

1198 posts in 2745 days


#7 posted 05-07-2010 05:44 AM

Hi Marc. Well done. Just a couple of questions. In the beginning, you raised your outfeed table to keep the straightedge from hitting the knives. Did you lower it again? Also, you didn’t seem to test for out of flat like greedo asked. Is that something you only have to do when you first get the tool? How much do you like to set the infeed table to take off in each pass? Is there any danger of adjusting the infeed table and losing the co-planer settings? Oh yeah, what about that top dead center thing?

Sorry, can’t count anyway,

-- Jim

View Gerry's profile

Gerry

253 posts in 1995 days


#8 posted 05-07-2010 08:26 AM

Hi Marc,

I did indeed spend the better part of 2 hours setting up my jointer with the dial indicator. I found the knives to be set quite consistently, at approx 10 Mils above the out feed table. I’ve reset them at about 2 mils above the table, and consistent from side to side and knife to knife within +/-1.5 mil. I figure this is good enough for my purposes. Will follow up in the AM with some cuts.

-- -Gerry, Hereford, AZ ” A really good woodworker knows how the hide his / her mistakes.”

View thewoodwhisperer's profile

thewoodwhisperer

601 posts in 2938 days


#9 posted 05-07-2010 08:48 AM

@OutPutter – I did indeed lower the table again, just a hair, although you really don’t have to. But I suppose after 3-4 calibrations, the outfeed is going to be at its max height if you always keep it up. So I would definitely recommend bringing it back down. And although cast iron can and will move over time, I basically test the tool when I first get it and hope it doesn’t change much. And although I test the bed at the four main points, I am also checking it in multiple places along the straight edge to make sure I am getting a good true representation of the bed overall.

As for cut depth, I take pretty light passes. Usually only about 1/16” at the most. As for adjustments affecting the calibration, good question. I could have sworn this is one of the things the parallelogram design is supposed to help with. Frankly, once mine is set I very rarely move it again. But I would imagine the more you move it, the sooner your tables will go out.

And concerning top dead center, I did my best estimation. Basically I place a ruler over the cutterhead and rotated the blade back and forth while viewing from the front. And did my best at placing a pencil mark at what seemed to be the top dead center. Probably not accurate enough but that has worked for me when using the Jointer Pal.

@Gerry – let me know how it turns out.

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com

View Walt M.'s profile

Walt M.

243 posts in 1764 days


#10 posted 05-07-2010 12:03 PM

Marc great video. I’ve worked on my jointer for hours on end trying to get the results that you got only to give up.
I see now that using dial indicator can be the best possible solution.

I have an old craftsman jointer I got at a garage sale for 80 bucks, had to clean it up a bit but for my first jointer wasn’t a bad deal. It has a fixed outfeed table which does mean i have to setup the knives a few thousands above the outfeed table.

I have wondered since getting it, why the newer and better jointers have adjustable outfeed tables, is that why or another advantage.

Thanks again for the video and to Nicole
Apologies if I spelled her name wrong

View CharlesNeil's profile

CharlesNeil

1172 posts in 2625 days


#11 posted 05-07-2010 08:52 PM

NICE job Marc, very nice indeed…

View Gerry's profile

Gerry

253 posts in 1995 days


#12 posted 05-07-2010 10:35 PM

Marc,

The adjustment has made a significant difference, and the jointer is working really well. I have discovered that the out-feed table needs some wax, but that’s a minor issue. Thanks again for the guidance and tool reviews.

The first board I flattened is wider than my jointer( 7 inches), so I used the “reverse rabbeting” technique of planing the board flat to the edge, then putting it on an MDF sled through the planer. The result is a smooth, flat piece of knotty alder, that I will turn into a table top for a pair of small tables I’m making for our den.

By the way, after spending 2 hours last night to true the blades using the tool i have, i agree with you that the OneWay tool is the best of the bunch, including mine.

Thanks again for the clarity!

-- -Gerry, Hereford, AZ ” A really good woodworker knows how the hide his / her mistakes.”

View thewoodwhisperer's profile

thewoodwhisperer

601 posts in 2938 days


#13 posted 05-08-2010 07:29 AM

@walt – good question. I rarely touch my outfeed table, other than to raise it above the blades to test for coplanarity (is that a word?) :). So honestly, if the outfeed table on my jointer seized up, I probably wouldn’t care.

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com

View cypresscutter's profile

cypresscutter

3 posts in 1693 days


#14 posted 05-10-2010 06:14 PM

Mark, this video is great. I have just purchased my first jointer and I think I have an adjustment to make to the out feed. I also have to acquire some tools to be certain: the one way, the straight edge.

Here is what is look like to me. The fence is square to the out feed. The out feed side of the out feed table appears to be 1/8” lower than the in feed side of the out feed table or “sagging” as your in feed was depicted. I know my eyes can be deceptive, for this reason I need the proper measuring tools. This is the Ridgid JP 0610.

Do you have any suggestions for this rookie?
Thank you

View thewoodwhisperer's profile

thewoodwhisperer

601 posts in 2938 days


#15 posted 05-10-2010 09:45 PM

Well at this point, the only suggestion I can give is to follow the steps in the video. Be sure that it truly is the outfeed table that is sagging. Depending on where you are referencing from, you might suspect the outfeed table when it is actually the infeed table that is the problem. With a 1/8” variance, you should be able to tell roughly by looking at where the fence meets the outfeed table. Is there a gap near the end of the fence? If so, you might be right and the outfeed table needs to come up.

If that’s the case, just make the appropriate adjustments to bring up the outfeed table and remove the sag. Don’t fuss over it too much because you are going to align the infeed table when you go through the process outlined in the video.

-- For free video tutorials and other cool woodworking stuff, check out http://www.TheWoodWhisperer.com

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