Should You Use a Planer or a Jointer First?


Getting started on your latest woodworking project can be both exhilarating and full of decisions. For example, if you are trying to get flat, even sides on your lumber, how do you combine the use of a planer and a jointer, or should you at all?

If you are using both a planer and a jointer on the same project, you should use the jointer first. The jointer will provide a flat edge and a square end. The planer can then provide you with a perfectly parallel flat side on the wood’s opposing face and edge.

Being unfamiliar with a planer and a jointer, you might think that they do the same thing. After all, they both help to create evenness in the wood that you are using for your woodworking project. So, how different could they be? Interestingly, while they accomplish a similar task, their approach is far different, resulting in the need for using a jointer first or not at all. Continue reading to learn the ins and outs of using planers and jointers for your next woodworking project.

What is the Difference Between a Planer and a Jointer?

Before we can dive into why you should use a jointer before a planer, we should cover the basics of what these two devices can do for your lumber. From here, you will have an increased understanding of how they work and can more fully comprehend why one should be used before the other.

While a planer and a jointer both work to provide a flat surface on a piece of wood, a planer can provide a parallel flat surface while a jointer flattens one side and one edge. Thus, if you want an entirely flat piece of wood, you should either use a jointer first and run the planer parallel to this surface, or you should run only the planer.

If you choose to flatten both sides of your wood using a jointer, you might find that the two sides are flat but are not parallel. This is because the device is not designed to provide parallel edges- instead, it is designed to flatten one side. Now, a jointer can provide an impeccably flat edge with a perfectly square end, but it does not flatten both sides simultaneously or use the other side for reference.

To make both sides perfectly parallel, you will need to run the piece of wood through a bandsaw or table saw with the flat side you made with the jointer against the fence of the table or band saw.

Contrarily, the planer will flatten both sides of a piece of wood in respect to the other side resulting in an entirely flat and even piece of wood. If you are only aiming to flatten one side, you can use a jointer on your wood. However, if you would like to have both sides flat and even, you should use a jointer first (to provide a flat edge and a square end), and then a planer to smooth out the opposing side.

You will find that both woodworking tools can provide a high-quality evenness on the sides intended to smooth out. In fact, when working with a planer or jointer, you will be pleased with the ability of both devices to cut through the uneven lumps and bumps that come with the natural wood grain on your beautiful piece of lumber.

Still, if you are trying to distinguish between a planer and a jointer, you can remember that a planer is often referred to as a thickness planer. It will allow your piece of wood to be evened on both sides down. Always buy wood that is thicker than the final product you desire due to this.

Why Should You Use a Jointer Before a Planer?

So, now that you know the difference between a planer and a jointer, you should be able to fully understand why you should use a jointer before a planer. But, just in case you are unaware or not on board just yet, we will run through the specifics.

You should first use a jointer before using a planer because it will provide you with the first flat edge and perfectly square end. The planer can then use this surface to smooth out the opposing side at the thickness indicated to the machine. Using a jointer second could result in an unparalleled or uneven piece of wood.

What could happen if you were to use a jointer after a planer is that the planer would essentially do the work on both sides that the jointer would have done. This is why many people opt to use a planer in the first place- even though it is not quite as phenomenal at the square ends. Still, using a jointer after a planer would be relatively pointless.

Along those same lines, if you were trying to smooth out both sides of your lumber to have two completely flattened and parallel edges, you might find that the jointer alone would not be able to ensure the same guarantee of a standard thickness level throughout the entire piece of wood. Instead, it could become uneven wherever the jointer has to move in the natural wood grain direction.

So, if you plan on using both a jointer and a planer, the jointer should definitely come first. Even with this in mind, however, you can also opt to use a planer- although this obviously ruins some of the fun of being able to bring home yet another tool for your woodworking workshop.

Should You Buy a Planer or a Jointer First?

Ok, so you know the difference between a planer and a jointer enough to be able to determine that you would use a jointer before using a planer, but is there an order that you should buy the two pieces of equipment? After all, most people find that their woodworking budgets are only so large, and being able to spend frivolously on such hefty and expensive pieces of equipment can be unrealistic. So, which should you buy first?

Buying a jointer first will allow you to build the foundational toolset of your workshop. However, many people argue that you can get by just fine by buying a planer first and using it without a jointer until you can invest in the jointer itself. Ultimately, this comes down to what the projects you intend on working on require.

This might be a little frustrating to hear that it comes back to your personal needs, but understanding your woodworking projects’ intentions can really help clarify your vision for the tools that you will need to increase your woodworking skills and continue building beautiful woodworking projects.

Still, it can seem conflicting that some people say you should buy a planer first while others say that you would buy a jointer first. However, if you are planning on doing more simple, standard projects and would prefer a tool that can provide you with a guaranteed thickness leveler, then you should go with a planer first and invest in a jointer once you have built your woodworking budget back up.

However, if you are planning on doing multiple projects and will be attempting to gain a flat and even surface on wood in a variety of projects, then it is suggested to buy a jointer before buying a planer. After all, if you have both tools, you will be using the jointer first before using the planer on your woodworking piece, anyway.

Still, this is not entirely convincing for some who prefer to use their planer or attempt to get by with as little as possible in their woodworking shop. But, let’s be real, who doesn’t want to invest in more high-quality tools for their woodworking shop? Surely, this can be the incentive that you need to do more “investing.”

Can You Use a Planer as a Jointer?

If you are working on a lower budget or are choosing to invest your money into other portions of your woodworking business or hobby, you might be looking for a few shortcuts to take along the way. And, since a planer and a jointer both work to provide a flat surface, can you use the planer as a jointer instead of having to use both tools?

While a planer is not designed to provide the perfectly squared end of a piece of wood, it can still flatten two opposing edges of wood evenly. Thus, you can use a planer as a jointer by ensuring that one edge is entirely flat and squared up before sliding the piece of wood through your planer.

The result can be pretty impressive, really. What your planer will do is use the guide that you provide to flatten out both the top and the bottom (or the two opposing sides, depending on how you look at it) of your piece of wood. As you slide the piece of wood through the planer, you will want to ensure that the edge is held square.

Since the jointer would not have provided this square edge for you, you can either attempt to cut on the lumber’s edge using another tool that you have in your woodworking shop, or you can worry about this later on. Either way, your planer should have an edge to press the piece of wood upon as you slide it through the thickness planing edges.

So, if you are working with a larger budget and can use both a planer and a jointer, you should use the jointer first and then use the planer to provide a parallel and flat edge. However, if you are working on a smaller budget and can only afford one of these tools, opt for the planer first and use the jointer once you can invest more in your woodworking shop.

I’d begin researching what brand and type would fit your needs. This Porter-Cable Jointer has many good reviews on Amazon and might be a good first choice: PORTER-CABLE Benchtop Jointer, Variable Speed, 6-Inch (PC160JT)Opens in a new tab.. This Dewalt Planer would make a good addition to my shop(eventually): DEWALT 13-Inch Thickness Planer – Three Knife, Two speed, DW735X model.

Either way, you should be satisfied with your wood’s overall outcome, and you can begin to craft the woodworking piece of your dreams. A planer or a jointer first? Examine your needs and use the information above to decide how to make your woodworking dreams a reality.

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