Doing a comparison of a jointer vs. planer is a great way to figure out which of these tools you need in your shop. Though experts will tell you that you really need both, there may come a time when you have limited cash to spend and want to know which one to invest in first.
We want to help you make the right decision regarding which tools to spend money on, which is why we created a helpful guide to help you learn about the differences between these tools.
What’s the Difference?
What Does a Wood Planer Do?
A wood planer, also called a thickness planer, is a tool designed to remove rough spots from the surface of a piece of wood and to leave behind a smoother and more level finish. These tools are great for using on rougher types of wood and for smoothing out plywood and other types of wood sheets. The width of the cutter area tells you the size of the wood that you can use with the tool.
When working with larger pieces that do not fit inside, you can invest in a surface planer, which is a type of hand-held device. It allows you to move the tool from one end or side of the board to the next without worrying about leaving behind dips or any uneven spots. With a surface planer, you’ll need to place the tool right next to the pass you just made, move it across the wood and repeat this step to smooth out the surface.
Thickness planers are generally more popular with enthusiasts because these tools make projects easier to complete. These tools have roller heads that hold and support the board as it moves through the interior and across the cutting head. You can make fast adjustments to get the wood down to the thickness that you desire.
What Does a Jointer Do?
A jointer is a tool that removes knots and other rough spots from a piece of wood in the same way that a planer does. The main difference between jointer and planer tools is that a jointer will also straighten out the edges and give you the square shape that you need for most projects. One of these tools can work on a piece of twisted wood or a piece with multiple imperfections.
Jointers and planers are fairly similar in terms of design because each has tables and rollers that hold the wood and keep it moving smoothly through the tool. Each one also has a cutter head with multiple knives that can remove a section from the surface of the wood down to the smallest of measurements. You can easily adjust the settings to remove more or less wood per use.
One difference between jointer and planer tools is that most jointer products come with a fence that lets you change the angle at which you cut. This gives you the option of making 45-degree or 90-degree angled cuts as well as smaller cuts, which is helpful when making molding pieces. The fence secures the board and keeps it from moving too.
What is a Planer Jointer Combo?
If you think that your workshop could benefit from the use of both tools but have limited money to spend, you might consider a planer jointer combo. It’s important to keep in mind that these tools do not work as effectively as the two tools would separately, but these combos give you the chance to make angled cuts, square up your boards and reduce the thickness of the boards.
JET, Grizzly and WEN are just a few of the companies that make these combo tools. Before you spend money on one of these tools, you should take a look at some of the most important features to look for before placing an order.
While brand name may not seem very important to you in the grand scheme of things, many have a preference as to which company they buy from based on factors like the reputation the company has and the warranty that the manufacturer offers on its products. Porter Cable and Rikon both make combo tools that get average to high reviews and ratings from customers. WEN, Grizzly and JET have good reputations too.
Checking out the overall design of the tool gives you an idea of how sturdy it is and whether it can handle the types of wood that you use in your projects. A benchtop model is one that does not come with any type of table, but the design of the tool allows you to place it right on your own table or use it with a cabinet. Some manufacturers sell tables and cabinets separately that you can use with these tools.
Other products come with a type of metal table that supports the weight of the tool as well as your boards. These tools are lighter and best suited for shops that do less work. There is a risk that the legs may collapse or come apart when you try to plane heavier or larger boards.
Those that come with a cabinet are the top choices among professionals. These products come with a venting system that both pulls in the sawdust and debris that comes off the wood and pushes it out an exhaust vent on the back or side. This keeps the debris from getting in your way.
Maximum Cutting Width
Do not assume that the width of the tool itself will tell you the width of the boards that you can cut down with the tool. You actually need to look at the maximum width of the cutter head, which is what actually touches the board as it moves through the inside. The standard cutting width is eight inches, but you’ll find larger widths too.
Both Grizzly and JET make planer jointer combos that can cut boards of up to 10-inches wide. WEN makes an affordable model with a cutting width of more than 12 inches. Those that have a larger cutter head will still work with smaller boards.
Maximum Cutting Depth
You also need to consider how deeply the tool can cut into a board. Some projects will require that you remove just a thin sliver from the top surface, but other jobs may require that you remove a larger amount. The maximum cutting depth tells you how much the tool can remove from that board.
With combo tools, you need to consider the maximum cutting depth of both components. You can usually remove more with the planer tool than the jointer, but both should have a maximum depth of down to 1/8 of an inch. This gives you an idea of how many times you will need to push your board through the tool to get down to the depth that you need.
Cuts Per Minute
When using a combo tool, you don’t want to stand nearby and wait as minutes tick by before you see the wood come out the opposite side. That is why it’s so important that you look at the total cuts per minute that the tool can do. This varies based on the size of the motor as well as the number of knives.
The standard cuts per minute rating is 18,000, which occurs because of the rapid speed at which the knives move and because there are more knives inside. Some of the cheaper and less expensive models have a lower cutting speed of 10,00 cuts per minute or less. Those tools will increase the length of time it takes to finish jobs.
While most of these tools come with an induction motor that lasts significantly longer than a universal motor can, the horsepower produced varies across models from different manufacturers. Its horsepower lets you know how quickly it can run and how much power it produces. Some of the models designed for professional use have up to three horsepower motors, but others may come with a one or 1.5 horsepower motor.
If you ever used a jointer or a planer before, you likely felt the machine shaking as you used it. It’s normal to feel some vibrations because of how quickly the motor and cutter head moves. Manufacturers now design these tools with new drive belts to reduce those vibrations.
One of the best drive belts is a J belt, which absorbs some of those vibrations to keep the shaking from interfering with your work. Models that come with a cast-iron base will also produce fewer vibrations because the base absorbs that shaking.
Knowing the difference between jointer and planer tools lets you know exactly what each tool does and shows you which one you will use more often in your workshop. When you want to save some money and still have access to both types of tools, you can pick up a combo tool. Use our list of the top features to look for to find a planer jointer combo that fits the needs of you and your shop.