Thickness Planer or Joiner?

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Forum topic by patcollins posted 10-01-2010 09:37 PM 4928 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1687 posts in 3037 days

10-01-2010 09:37 PM

How interchangeable are these two machines? I see joiners referred to as planers often but I have never seen anyone mention using a thickness planer as a joiner, I don’t see why you couldn’t stand boards on end and use it to get a nice flat edge to join to.

Lastly if you could only have one which one would it be? I have been getting some fairly nice straight edges using my table saw. Right now I have an older contractor table saw, router table, bench top band saw, miter saw, and drill press and think one of these two machines is my next logical step but cant decide which one would be more useful.

15 replies so far

View brtech's profile


1047 posts in 3094 days

#1 posted 10-01-2010 09:46 PM

A jointer makes a flat face where there wasn’t one, and doesn’t reference off any other face to do so
A jointer can also make a flat face exactly 90 degrees to another flat face, but it can’t make a flat face parallel to another flat face

A table saw can be used to make a flat face parallel to another flat face as long as there are two flat faces at 90 degrees on the board already (using the fence and the table saw surface against the reference), within the limits of the diameter of the blade and safety for the tool. It can also make a flat face 90 degrees to another flat face (using the table saw surface against the reference), again within limits.

A thickness planner can make a flat face parallel to another flat face, but it needs that first flat face to work.

To get a rectangular board with 90 degree faces, you start with a jointer to get one flat face (bottom), rotate it to get another flat face (side) 90 degrees to that. Then you go to a planer to make the top flat, and parallel to the bottom. You then typically use a table saw to make the other side. You could do that with a planer or a jointer, but usually it makes more sense to do it with a table saw

You can’t start with the planer or the table saw, because they need a flat reference.

That tells you that your first tool is a jointer, but actually, using a table saw to get the top parallel to the bottom only works for roughly square boards less than 3-5”, so you really need both.

You can start with a planer, but you then have to get boards with at least one face surfaced.

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Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3994 days

#2 posted 10-01-2010 10:12 PM

Pat, this has been discussed several times and the consensus is that, while both are tools that should be in a shop, if you have to choose the planer should come first. You can use a planer, as you describe to “joint” the edge of a board, and with a planer sled you can use it to flatten the face as well. With a sled you can face joint boards up to the width of your planer whereas a jointer can only joint boards that are as wide as the jointer.

Here is a video that was posted in Fine Woodworking showing how to use a sled to face joint wide boards.

As far as jointing goes there are alternative techniques to edge jointing boards- router, drill press, table saw- in addition to using a planer that will effectively prepare the boards for glue up. And, of course, there are traditional methods using hand planes to prepare rough lumber for thicknessing with a planer that could also be used to offset the need for a jointer.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View chocked's profile


37 posts in 2209 days

#3 posted 12-29-2012 04:45 PM

If you run through thickness planer take flat side on jointer fence it will make what ever degree the fence is set at.

-- chocked Tn.

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717 posts in 2470 days

#4 posted 12-29-2012 05:16 PM

I made it with the planer first for years but had to fight the bowmonster now I have a jointer but no time for woodworking go figure

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View Biff's profile


126 posts in 2186 days

#5 posted 12-29-2012 05:25 PM

I would vote for planer first. I have survived with just a planer and a TS for years. Now I have a jointer but it doesn’t see much use in my woodworking.

-- Interested in Oregon property? Visit me at

View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 2805 days

#6 posted 12-29-2012 11:51 PM

I got my Porter-Cable lunchbox planer and Delta 37-190 jointer for $100 each.
Why not have both?

But if I had to pick just one, it’d be the planer.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 3095 days

#7 posted 12-30-2012 12:04 AM

I had both. Sold my jointer since it sat for 2 years and I didn’t use it. I manage with TS,Planer and Router(Incra ls system)

-- Life is good.

View knotscott's profile


8137 posts in 3547 days

#8 posted 12-30-2012 12:48 AM

They have some overlap but also distinctly different capabilities. It’s best to use both in tandem. The jointer is step one in flattening a reference face... everything else stems from that. The planer’s job is to make the opposite face parallel to the reference face at a uniform thickness, and it needs that reference face created by the jointer to do it.

If you can only get one to start with, I’d start with the planer, because with the help of a planer sled, the planer can be coaxed into creating a flat reference face. Then you can substitute a TS or router to do edge jointing. Inversely, it’s very difficult to get a jointer to do the primary tasks of a planer.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View HorizontalMike's profile


7770 posts in 3086 days

#9 posted 12-30-2012 01:33 AM

What @knotscott says, however notice that word “coaxed”. That means that it is a PITA to do things that way.

For me, if I had to choose between EITHER a planer or a jointer, then I would choose to build with dimensional lumber,as poor a choice as that is. You truly need both.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View MJCD's profile


567 posts in 2543 days

#10 posted 12-30-2012 01:59 AM

I second HorizontalMike’s comments. You may choose to buy one before the other (Fiscal Cliff allowing); but in the end you will need both. The machines may overlap in some marginal way; though, to me they are mutually exclusive and fully-complementary.

New TS blades can come close to providing a near-finished edge; however, for precisely fine-tuning a board width, for 1st-face milling of a rough board, and removing a TS burn mark the jointer is the go-to machine. Personally, I would bypass the 6” variety (though, I know many woodworkers are strong advocates of this size), and get an 8” if the finances can handle it.

View Grandpa's profile


3261 posts in 2847 days

#11 posted 12-30-2012 03:10 AM

I agree with Mike and MJCD….completely. I have both and love them. They do slightly differently tasks and both are needed in a well equiped shop.

View shampeon's profile


1857 posts in 2355 days

#12 posted 12-30-2012 06:04 AM

If space is the biggest issue, get a lunchbox planer, a #7 hand plane, and a combination square for jointing the first two faces.

If cost is the biggest issue, well, get a #7 hand plane, a marking gauge, and a combo square (total < $100) and work on your upper body strength.

If time is the biggest issue, you’ll need both a jointer and a planer.

FWIW, I don’t know anybody who tried using their planer as a jointer via a sled that was happy with the results.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View Straightbowed's profile


717 posts in 2470 days

#13 posted 12-30-2012 07:54 AM

I now enjoy working with staightwood since I got my jointer a few weeks ago and it’s great! have battled the bowmaster for years

-- Stevo, work in tha city woodshop in the country

View pintodeluxe's profile


5783 posts in 2985 days

#14 posted 12-30-2012 10:09 AM

They are fundamentally different machines. On a jointer for instance, the infeed table is set slightly lower than the outfeed table. While a jointer is a one trick pony, making rough lumber flat is a pretty good trick.
A thickness planer is great for reducing stock to finish thickness, and even cleaning up the edges of lumber. However, if you put a warped / twisted / bowed board into a thickness planer it will only make it a thinner warped board. “In like a banana, out like a banana.”

A planer also cannot make stock square, which a jointer excells at.
To further complicate things…In Europe, a jointer is called a planer. But hey, those guys have been woodworking longer than Americans so maybe we have it wrong.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Holbs's profile


1981 posts in 2201 days

#15 posted 12-30-2012 01:58 PM

Pint hit the difference on the head. Some months ago, I too was searching for the difference between a planer and a jointer; there was not much sense as to the separating ways between the two. A jointer has the ability of the infeed table that can be lowered in small increments (1/16, 1/8, etc) from the outfeed table with the cutter blades on the bottom making a flat bottom; a planer does not. In addition, the jointer has a 90degree fence; the planer does not. End result is the jointer can quickly give you a perfect 90degree angle between the bottom of the board and it’s side. This would be your reference point for the next step, the planer since it has a fixed co-planar infeed and outfeed table or others use table saw / router. Since the bottom of the board is perfectly flat, the planer with the cutter heads on top cut into the wood equi-distant from the bottom of the board.

It mostly made sense to me but i was still a little hazed at the difference. So, I just went out and bought a planer first. I was going to use a router or table saw instead of a jointer. but a week after buying a planer, a sweet little jointer came up on an auction so now i have both.

Jointer and Planer should be a sticky at top of forums as it seems which to buy first, how to use router/table saw instead of jointer… seems nearly the first question someone asks.

of course, the original poster posted this 820days ago :) wonder which route he went.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

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