Jointer vs Planer. What is the Difference and Which One Do You Need First?

If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between a jointer and a planer, you’re not alone.
Maybe you’ve even debated buying one or the other, but you’re not sure which one to get. If you’re not sure, don’t worry. We’re here to help you out. Read on to find out how to choose between a jointer and a planer.

Jump to: Planer vs Jointer Comparison Chart

Essentially, a jointer will create a flat reference face while the planer will produce a board with parallel surfaces with uniform thickness.

What Is a Jointer?

A jointer is used to perfectly flatten one face of a board, and square an adjacent edge. Additionally, jointers can also be used to flatten cupped boards, remove twists, and prepare boards for wood joinery to use as one large piece.
The jointer has infeed and outfeed tables set precisely parallel to each other with a rotating blade between them. You will pass the rough lumber over the blade which shaves the uneven surface to make it flat.

The outfeed table of the jointer is slightly higher than the infeed table to accommodate the depth of cut. Once you have a flat reference face, you can square the edges as well. To do this, place the flat side of the lumber against the fence and move edges across the cutter head.
Jointer from Powermatic
You can repeat the process on the other side to get straight square edges. However, the edges of the piece of wood created by a jointer may not be parallel to each other.

Consider acquiring a jointer if you intend to work with rough-cut lumber for your woodworking projects.

A power jointer can be operated electrically and mechanically. It performs the same function as a hand plane, except you move the wood across it instead of moving it across the wood. Although it is generally used only on one side of the lumber, a jointer is great for flattening the wood surface, fix bows, and warps.

What Is a Planer?

A wood planer is a tool that is used to alter boards so that they are both flat on all sides and uniformly thick. There are two distinct categories:

  1. Handheld
  2. Thickness Planer

Benchtop Thickness Planer
WEN Benchtop Thcikness Planer – Click to See Details

Handheld planers are most useful when the board is immobile due to one of the reasons such as its weight or unusual shape. Wood that is too large to fit through a thickness planer is planned using these planers. Though a thickness planer is preferable when mobility is available and boards are usually thicker or wider, it is commonly used on thinner or narrower boards.

Thickness Planer

An electric thickness planer reduces the thickness of the lumber parallel to the bottom face to get uniform thickness throughout the cross-section. The machine has infeed and outfeed pressure rollers that will feed the wood through at constant speed. As the wood passes through the planer, a pair of blades (sometimes 3 blades) that rotates above it, mill through the thickness of the wood.

Two Speed Thickness Planer
Above: Dewalt 13-inch Planer – Click to See Price

The electric planers are available in small benchtop planer to large shopfloor models.

Thickness Planer Uses

  • A thickness planer takes in wood pieces with one flat side and makes the opposite side parallel to it.
  • It also used to reduce the thickness of the board precisely.
  • You can pass multiple boards through to mill all the lumber to equal thickness.

Differences Between Jointer vs. Planer

The main difference between a jointer and a planer is that a jointer is used to flatten the uneven wood surface to remove warp, cupping, and twists. Whereas an electric planer is used to make the board flat, parallel with uniform thickness. On a jointer, the blade is below the workpiece, while in a planer the cutter head is above the work.

Jointer Planer
Creates flat surfaces and reference edges Makes boards with uniform thickness
Two opposite surfaces may not be parallel Planer creates parallel surfaces.
Blade is below the table The blade is above the workpiece.
Removes warping, cupping, and twist Reduces thickness.
The tool has no mechanism to ensure same dimension across multiple pieces of wood. Good dimensional stability. You can get exact same thickness on all boards.

Benchtop Jointer
PORTER-CABLE Benchtop Jointer, Variable Speed, 6-Inch (PC160JT)
Click to See the Price

Dewalt Benchtop Planer
DEWALT Thickness Planer, Two Speed, 13-Inch (DW735X)
Click to See the Price

For most woodworkers, the terms jointer and planer are well known, but not everyone may be quite clear about the precise difference between the two. It’s common to hear individuals refer to the equipment as a jointer/planer. However, this is inaccurate. They are two separate and entirely different tools. While they both make boards, these power tools are most suitable for various tasks.

Which Is Better? Jointer or Planer?

Difference between Jointer vs Planer
For a user whose job is mostly to flatten one face and square up one edge, a jointer is the best option. While some, with constant work on two flat and parallel faces, will choose a planer as the best option and an ideal alternative.

Regardless of the amount of work you have, you will need a planer, jointer, or both. But it’s ultimately a decision you’ll make for yourself, depending on your skill level and how often you’re in the workshop.

Try to invest in a planner if you are just starting, or planning to increase your workforce. To reach this goal, you will need to buy lumber in the S3S or S4S lumber form, so you will not require a jointer.

It is normal that most people may only be able to afford one tool at a time. Deciding between them, you must take into consideration the fundamental functionality of each product, not only its looks. The planner, in my opinion, should be purchased first. It will also make things easier for you while you wait for the jointer.

Do You Need Both a Jointer and a Planer?

Whether you’re an experienced carpenter, a professional craftsman, or simply want to hunker down for your DIY projects, you’ll need one. There’s nothing more perfect in the world than a power jointer and a planer.

If you’re a regular DIYer, you might not need these tools. You’ll probably buy the lumber you need from retail shops, and you won’t make any changes to the board. On the other hand, a jointer and planer are required if you’re a perfectionist or a craftsman who wants more control over the lumber used and your market.

Right now! Which one do you need? Your answer could be influenced by several additional factors, such as:

  • Your budget
  • Knowledge of hand tools
  • Your level of energy. 
  • And these kinds of projects are frequently observed. Choose rightly. 

Can You Use a Planer as a Jointer?

Yes! A planer can be used as a jointer by following a few woodworking techniques.

The trick is to create a jig or sled with a stopped at the end which will hold your board. Make sure that the stopper is not above the final thickness of the wood. Place the lumber on the sled and place shims at the gaps below to keep it stable. Next, glue the shims and the lumber using a glue gun to keep it steady during the milling.

Once you remove the high points and get the face flat, remove the wood board from the sled and pass it normally through the thickness planer to finish the other side.

Here is a video that explains the whole process.

If you don’t have a jointer in your workshop or your wood piece is too large to fit through, you can flatten both pieces of wood with your planer. However, you cannot use this technique to square the edges of a wide board.

Can You Use a Table Saw as a Jointer?

Yes, indeed! You can edge a joint on your table saw with the addition of a simple shop-made fence.