Jointer – Why do I need a wood jointer? This question has been asked by many new woodworkers and probably the best way to answer it is with the question many salted woodworkers have asked themselves “Why DID’NT I buy a jointer?” This question is usually asked just before they took the plunge and got themselves one. The short is that a wood jointer makes your life as a woodworker a lot easier, and I mean it a LOT EASIER.
Jointer with Mathew Cremona
Why do I need a wood jointer?
So you are new to woodworking and to date have been using the expensive pre-dressed wood chances are that you may have been lucky and were able to create some wood art without difficulty. If that is the case I can assure you that you have been very lucky. My experience is that very few pieces of pre-dressed wood I bought did not have any form of twist or cup in it which made it very hard to join two pieces of wood together, to get two parts to sit flush on each other, or to create a flat surface without the use of an army of clamps or backbreaking finishing work to get the parts to align or to look respectable.
Adding to that, as you get more experience and you do more woodwork, you will very likely start to use more and more exotic and expensive woods, or you will start to source you own raw wood. As a general rule, most of these types of wood have not been dressed and can only be found as raw cuts, often not been allowed to dry properly. Wet wood will need to be allowed to dry (a specialty topic to be discussed in a future post) which will cause it to bow, cup, and twist. Before you can use the dried raw cut wood the wood needs to go through some sort of process to make it usable. Old-school woodworkers are very good at using hand planers to do this. Doing it by hand is, time-consuming, backbreaking, and requires some sort of mastery. The modern way of doing it is with a wood jointer.It quick, relative easy, and very accurate.
Definitions: (my version, if you can word it better let me know)
- Bow – wood bend along the length of the wood (like a bow in a bow and arrow)
- Cup – wood bend along the width of the piece of wood
- Twist – wood bend with a twist in it from end to end
A wood jointer’s task is to prepare your wood to create perfect flat surfaces with a 90 degree (or any other angle you like) side/s to the wood which will allow you to easily and with great precision and accuracy join pieces of wood together. If you do use raw wood your wood jointer will be the first stop for any piece of wood which enters your woodworking workshop.
Why can’t I use a planer to flatten wood?
The main function of planers is to create two parallel surfaces and not to remove bends and twists out of the wood. Planers press down on the wood which artificially removes the bulk of the bends and twists out of the wood before the wood is being planed. As soon as the wood exist the planer the wood regains its old shape which means all the bends and twists re-appear.
There are methods which can be used to flatten wood with using planners e.g. the use of planer sleds. If you can’t afford a jointer these will work but be prepared to deal with a couple of headaches to make the process work. In my view, it is the wrong tool for the job and if possible get yourself a wood jointer.