Starting woodworking, investing in the proper tool for jointing/planing

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Forum topic by DrHorrible posted 12-02-2013 02:16 PM 3307 views 1 time favorited 29 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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8 posts in 1632 days

12-02-2013 02:16 PM

I went to my local woodcraft and unfortunately the selection of wood that was already fully planed was pretty limited. Most of the cut pieces were rough sawn, but they aren’t perfectly planed (not sure what the terminology is here, they were dimensional but not exact and the edges were all pretty rough).

I was hoping to get by without having to invest in jointing/planing tools and just buy the pieces of wood I need at the right thicknesses, but it looks like I may need to start looking around for some more tools.

So what’s the best route to go as a beginner? Should I get a bench/jack plane and make do with that for now, or will it be better to invest a bit more money upfront and get a jointer and a thickness planer? I would rather spend less upfront while I still learn my way around woodworking and figure out what I like doing, and I’m not sure I have all the room in the world for both a jointer and thickness planer. At the same time though, I’m worried that jointing and planing pieces of wood by hand is going to be very time consuming and tedious (I’m not pro power tools or anything, but sometimes I just like to get the job done :) ).

Just looking for some advice on where to proceed from here. I was hoping to make a cutting board as a beginner project. I bought a couple pieces of maple to practice cutting strips on my table saw and gluing them together. But I’m assuming that once they’re cut and I glue them back together, the resulting surface won’t be perfectly flat. I could probably get by with sanding in this case, though. The problem is more that I can’t find all the proper lumber I need in the first place without needing a jointer/planer.

I was also thinking about buying a router since they’re not too costly (and also importantly, they are easily stored), but perhaps if I go the plane route I could do chamfers and rounded edges with the plane itself. Not sure how difficult this will be in practice though.

Appreciate any and all advice!

29 replies so far

View jdmaher's profile


427 posts in 2574 days

#1 posted 12-02-2013 03:00 PM

Maybe Woodcraft is not that great a place to start looking for wood. You could go to big box stores and by wood surfaced on all four sides (S4S), but that gets pricey quickly. Local hardwood stores should have pretty good prices on stock that is surfaced on two sides (S2S). And for a minimal charge, they’ll run it thru a planer. Same with online sellers, but you have to buy enough to make it worth shipping; for me, that’s at least 100 board feet (bf). I’m usually able to buy wood S2S, but I DID get a planer to achieve consistency in thicknesses. Nowadays, I’m starting to want for a jointer for flattening faces that are a little rougher than I’d like (I DO find hand jointing faces tedious).

A router is endlessly useful, but might not be convenient for flattening. I have used a jig and shims and the planer to flatten badly glued-up panels, which worked great but was fussy to set up. I imagine flattening with a router would require a similar approach.

Me, I try to find S2S locally, where I can check face flatness in person. Used to have them thickness it, now I do it myself. I’ve avoided spending for a jointer, so far (20+ years) – but its getting to be time.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

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8 posts in 1632 days

#2 posted 12-02-2013 03:07 PM

Thanks for your quick response! I posted this yesterday, it just took a while to get approved. In the mean time I found a lumber yard here in Austin that I will check out and see what their prices are.

I got a little down when I realized my “simple” cutting board project was going to require me to potentially buy even more machinery! I was going to cut slices of maple on my table saw, glue the faces together, trim with a jig saw, round it with a router, and sand it smooth with a ROS. I thought it’d be a good project to get used to the power tools I have so far. However at Woodcraft, as you mentioned, their selection was minimal and they barely had any S4S maple. I found some rough sawn maple ambrosia for me to practice cuts on the table saw. It looks almost S4S but more rough around the edges and face. It wasn’t marked as S2S, S4S, or anything so I’m not actually sure how much it has been milled. I got a “friendly” warning from someone though to not try cutting rough sawn wood on the tablesaw, for fear of kickback. If the edge against the fence isn’t perfectly straight, he said I could get some kickback.

Given all that, I was thinking oh great, now I have to drop another grand on a jointer and planer! But perhaps I can get away with just a planer?

Question for you. If I get S2S wood, that means it has been planed and flattened on the faces right? I can be assured that at least the faces are good to go? How good are the edges? Would they be safe to run through a table saw? Or do I need to use a router and a jig to get at least one edge flat?

Appreciate all your help!

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7881 posts in 2145 days

#3 posted 12-02-2013 04:20 PM

You can get an old stanley handplane off of ebay or craigslist for $40-50, tune it up and use that to surface board faces. With a couple jigs you can easily joint the edges of boards on the table saw without fear of kickback.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View jdmaher's profile


427 posts in 2574 days

#4 posted 12-02-2013 04:26 PM

Surfaced two sides means that two adjacent sides are jointed – one edge and one face – and 90 degrees to each other.

Starting from rough lumber, that’s exactly what YOU would do with a jointer – one face and one edge – 90 degrees to each other. Then you would go to the thickness planer and mill all the boards to the same thickness. Then you would go to the tablesaw and rip the boards to required width. So, getting boards S2S means that they have done what you would do with a jointer – so you don’t need a jointer.

How good will they do the job? Should be plenty good enough, and that’s always been true for me – at my local hardwood suppliers. But that’s because I’m very picky to choose flat boards with no discernible bow, cup or twist. Online / mail-order pieces have sometimes arrived with less-than-perfect faces (hence my desire for a jointer).

Note that you CAN edge joint a board on the tablesaw, fairly easily – and safely. But let’s leave that for another discussion.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 2033 days

#5 posted 12-02-2013 04:28 PM

Like he said ↑
If you google “tablesaw jointing jig” you’ll find quite a few good examples. It might not be as fast as a jointer, or as zen-like as a handplane but it does thejob.

Edit: someone else was typing while I was. My up arrow was intended for jmartel’s comment.

As for S2S. Everywhere I’ve bought lumber it means two opposite sides (the faces) have been planed, not two adjacent. The lumber is run through an industrial planer but the sides aren’t ripped evenly.

-- This Ad Space For Sale! Your Ad Here! Reach a targeted audience! Affordable Rates, easy financing! Contact an ad represenative today at JustJoe's Advertising Consortium.

View DrHorrible's profile


8 posts in 1632 days

#6 posted 12-02-2013 04:30 PM

This is great information. It seems like it may be a good investment to get a benchtop planer, even though I was hoping to minimize my initial costs on getting into woodworking =)

The more I think about it, the more I think my first project needs to be making a suitable workbench to put the planer on!

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 2670 days

#7 posted 12-02-2013 04:31 PM

Why do I get the feeling you’re trying to get us to give you permission to buy a new tool?

Granted. Start with a Dewalt planer 399.00

you can joint edges up to 6” with it too with the help of a simple jig.

Forget using big fussy hand planes for now, buy S4S wood at the big box stores or find a local wood source.

You’re in Austin Texas? That’s where I grew up! Mid 70s. before it got weird, back in the days of Hippie Hollow, The Armadillo, Willie Nelson, jumpin off the cliffs, skinny dippin upstream from Zilker park….. Lone star beer!

Dazed and confused….that was me, man!

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Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2845 days

#8 posted 12-02-2013 04:31 PM

I have a couple of questions:

1. What space do you have for woodworking?

2. What is your dream? It might be artistic jewelry boxes and nothing larger, or perhaps to one day build your own kitchen. Your investment in tools will be money well spent if it consistently moves you toward improving your current skills and gaining new ones (without massive frustration) and helps you open doors to a rewarding hobby (which, for some of us, somehow turned into a career).



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View DrHorrible's profile


8 posts in 1632 days

#9 posted 12-02-2013 04:35 PM

reedwood, not necessarily permission but perhaps make me feel less bad for dishing out on a bunch of equipment up front =)

Lee, I have a 2 car garage where I’d like to keep both cars in. However, I have a solid 30” off on one side of the garage where I plan on putting a workbench, table saw, and store equipment such as a benchtop planer. When I want to do some woodworking, I’m going to pull my car out and move the equipment out into the driveway or inside the car’s spot in the garage.

Right now I’m interested in making items such as boxes, cutting boards, but also bigger things like outdoor furniture (patio table). I’ve noticed that the bigger items sometimes require less equipment than the small, fine woodworking items like cutting boards!

View pintodeluxe's profile


5654 posts in 2808 days

#10 posted 12-02-2013 04:40 PM

When I started woodworking a few years back, I quickly realized that a jointer and planer will save you money over the course of a few projects. Even if I only bought S4S finished lumber, I would still need a jointer and planer. Maybe the lumber comes in 3/4” thickness, and you need some 1/2” panels for doors. Or perhaps you noticed that one edge is no longer straight, so you trim it again at the jointer.

Start with what you can. Look into the used tool market.
A jointer and planer will open up a whole new world of woodworking for you.

I started with a used Jet 6” jointer and a Dewalt 13” planer. I have since upgraded to an 8” Delta jointer, but the Planer is still going strong.

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

View FellingStudio's profile


93 posts in 1677 days

#11 posted 12-02-2013 05:08 PM

A quick google search yielded me this shop sharing organization.

I highly recommend this type of situation for beginning woodworkers. (Along with classes at community colleges.) You get access to all of the tools that you really need to properly work wood without the necessary startup costs. This allows you to learn the how as well as the what you want to make.

A word about surfaced lumber … wood moves, so if a board has a tendency to bow, cup, or twist it will do so after it is surfaced. (This comes from the way the tree grows.) So, unless you are utilizing a jointing/planing service at the lumberyard, and then using your purchased lumber shortly thereafter, you will have issues with your lumber even if purchasing S4S wood. The movement is less than the movement that happens in a kiln, but it is there nonetheless.

-- Jesse Felling -

View shampeon's profile


1775 posts in 2178 days

#12 posted 12-02-2013 05:26 PM

Buy a couple hand planes (a smoother and a jointer), and maybe a decent lunchbox planer. Most good lumber places offer S4S for their rough sawn boards, but at an additional cost per board food. The amount of money you’ll spend for that service will quickly add up.

Even the S2S boards won’t necessarily be perfectly flat once you get them home.

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

View JonHitThingWithRock's profile


97 posts in 1717 days

#13 posted 12-02-2013 05:34 PM

i used to do all my “planing” with a cheap belt sander, edge “jointing” with a shop-made straight edge guide and a circular saw for one face, then the table saw for the opposing face, the jointing part works great, but planing with a belt sander takes forever and doesn’t get the best results. I’ve since bought a planer and the world is a brighter place, i get one side flat enough with my belt sander, skip plane the other side a couple times, then turn it over and plane the sanded side, I get “good enough” results, nowhere near perfect, sometimes massive clamping pressure is needed, but I’m overall happy with the results. I do own several hand planes, but there are several things in this world which entirely escape my comprehensional abilities, and one of them is hand-planing (also precision sawing by hand).

I got to this point over the course of 6 years, and a jointer is absolutely in my crosshairs as a future upgrade, but i can absolutely get by without one until I can afford the one I want (which is about a grand), the planer though is one of the best investments into this hobby that I’ve ever made. I made 6 cutting boards for xmas last year, each one took about 10 hours of sanding (not an exaggeration, hard maple deserves its name), this year I made two out of much rougher material, and they only took about 1/2 hour of sanding each, thanks to the planer.

View CharlesA's profile


3319 posts in 1792 days

#14 posted 12-02-2013 05:54 PM

I was told that a thickness planer was the only tool that would save you money. It has. Simple red oak at HD is $7bf. I buy cherry at local sawmill for $2.40bf. I do edge jointing with hand planes and then clean up with table saw. I just don’t have space/money for a jointer yet. most of the wood is flat enough that I just send through planer, but I will use planes to flatten a board if necessary.

I think a planer is a must.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View lightcs1776's profile


4200 posts in 1649 days

#15 posted 12-02-2013 05:54 PM

From another newbie, I recommend finding out if you have a woodworking club / association in your area. One of the guys here on LJ’s is in my area and pointed me to one here, as well as to a wood source. I’ve quickly found folks in woodworking to be extremely willing to help each other out in the journey of learning the craft. An association can help you learn more about different tools, from hand planes to thickness planers, and demonstrate how to safely use them.

-- Chris ** If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. — Tom Paine **

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