Woodworking is not everyone’s cup of coffee and in the case where you do not have adequate exposure to this activity; your tasks can become such a pain. And being exposed to new tools can generate even more confusion.
However, if you are determined to fully venture into woodworking, a jointer is among the tools that you ought to master its operations. A jointer is used to produce a flawlessly squared edge on a piece of wood. Although there are several procedures that can be applied in developing a squared edge, having the best jointer on your side assures you a more accurate and effective means of completing the task.
But we have to emphasize on the fact that the secret to attaining the full potential of this machine is to follow the correct operation procedure. Perform it correctly, and you will be rewarded with better joints. On the other hand, glossing over these techniques can lead to frustration in your projects.
Below are some of the steps you should follow when using a jointer
1. Acquaint Yourself with the Jointer
It is essential to habituate yourself to the jointer if you wish to achieve optimum productivity from its operations. This includes reading the manual to identify the various features and controls of the machine.
The manual will also help you learn how to fine-tune certain properties, including the fence, the cutterhead, and the cut depth, among other features. Aside from ensuring that a jointer hits optimum performance, familiarizing with the machine ensures secure usage.
2. Ensure that the Infeed and the Outfeed Tables are Coplanar
A well-tuned jointer plays a significant role in ensuring that your final piece is of the desired quality.
Therefore, you should ensure that the infeed bed and the outfeed bed are coplanar. A straight edge is often used to ensure the coplanar condition is achieved. A user manual will guide you through the entire process.
3. Square up the Fence
A machine without a squared-up fence is basically useless.
Therefore, before you consider putting the machine into use, you must calibrate the fence to achieve a square position with the aid of either an engineer’s square or a digital angle gauge.
4. Understand Your Board Stock Limitations
It is always advisable to look at your owner’s manual to determine the wood size that can be used with your model. Ideally, the ability of your machine is limited to the bed size.
You are required to assign a lower size limit for the piece that you intend to process using your machine. In many instances, the minimum wood size is usually ½ ×2×12 inches in thickness, width, and length, respectively.
You may also be required to set the upper limit that you anticipate your machine will handle. This parameter is important because it impacts on the quality of your final piece.
The upper limit length of your wood should not go beyond double the span of the infeed section. However, some of the best jointer planer combo models may provide you with adjustment options that will allow you to work with longer boards.
For high-quality outcomes, ensure that your configurations for the workpieces lie within the limit boundaries of your machine.
5. Set the Depth of Cut
The primary objective of conducting this calibration is ensuring that you make significant headway on the piece per pass without straining the motor excessively. It is always advisable to go for a cautious approach in calibrating this specific property.
For instance, a 1/32 inch will enable you to attain a squared edge with two passes. Thus, you should avoid aggressive rates to prevent damage to the jointer. Besides, a moderate technique to calibrating the depth of cut will guarantee superior outcome at a relatively minimal time.
6. Study How to Read the Grain
Learn to identify the orientation of the wood fibers since it may impact the quality of the final surface. This might not be very important for edge jointing since the final surface will not be seen in the final workpiece.
But having an idea of the orientation of the wood fibers for other surfaces will come in handy since when jointing, you should always strive to ensure that the fiber direction points towards the wood’s tail end when being passed through the machine.
It will guarantee that you avoid chatter or tear outs during the operation. Other factors that may affect the quality of the final piece include the type of wood, feed rate, knife sharpness, and the depth of cut.
7. Always Start by Face Jointing
At no time should edge jointing precede face jointing. Face flattening ensures that your piece of wood achieves a level surface to place against the fence. Thus, if you cannot achieve a level face to be used as a reference against the jointer’s fence, the standard of your board and your well-being are under jeopardy.
Sometimes, boards may be excessively curved, which means that you need to first identify the allowable bent. If you intend to joint a single edge, the concave edge should always be down onto the jointer’s table for a quick benchmark surface. Nonetheless, when an edge is exceptionally crooked, you will have to perform a manual adjustment to the piece first.
First, draw a straight reference line on the inside of the crook. With the aid of a perfectly straight edge, draw a line that will guide you through removing the excess stock. You can then cut the drawn line using a band saw. Then, you can pass it through a jointer.
But if you have one of the best Benchtop jointers, this should not be an issue since most of them come with adjustable fences (90-135 degrees) which enables you to flatten your board at different angles.
8. Proper Feeding Procedure
First, position your piece against the fence, with the desired face on the table. It is essential that the fence and the table remain perpendicular unless you want to chamfer or taper your surface.
Using your left hand on the top edge almost at the front of the piece, apply a steady downward pressure towards the fence. The primary objective is to ensure that you control your board as it goes through the cutterhead. Thus, do not apply a lot of pressure or with aggression because you might distort the board.
As you transition from the infeed to the outfeed table, you should also change your reference surface. Once your left-hand passes though the cutterhead, lock the hand in position a distance past the cutterhead. Upon the transition, ensure that your hand remains in place throughout the cut, maintaining steady pressure downward and toward the fence. The right-hand will then take-over in maintaining steady pressure on the infeed table. The feed rate should be constant.
For visual explanation of the above steps, you can check a beginner guide on how to use a wood jointer.
We hope that the above simple steps will help you operate your jointer without the experience being too tedious. It might take some time and a bit of practice to fully master the machine, but if you follow the right procedure, you will quickly get to a point where you can consistently produce quality results.
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Jointer Tips and Techniques
Getting flat-out performance
Learn to square up stock with a jointer, planer, and tablesaw.
On a jointer, infeed and outfeed tables flank a rotating cutterhead [Drawing, above]. The infeed table sits just below the highest arc of the cutterhead, and the outfeed table rests parallel to the infeed table and at the highest point of the arc of the cutterhead.
Tip: Retrieve or download your jointer’s owner's manual. This provides the information specific to your jointer.
For a jointer to work efficiently, it must be properly set up. First, set the outfeed table even with the cutterhead height to prevent snipe at the trailing edge [Photo A, above]. To make that adjustment, lower the outfeed table slightly and set the infeed table to take a light cut. Joint a couple inches of the edge of a piece of scrap [Photo B, below]. Hold the scrap in place and turn off the jointer. Raise the outfeed table until it just kisses the newly jointed edge. Lock the outfeed table at that height. Run the test piece another few inches to ensure the jointed edge remains fully supported.
Next, using a square, check that the fence rests exactly 90° to both the infeed and outfeed tables [Photo C, below]. This ensures that boards glued edge to edge will rest flat.
Coating the table and fence faces with a bit of paste wax (nothing with silicone, as that causes finishing problems later) allows boards to glide easily while being jointed.
Proper jointing technique
For boards longer than the infeed table, and bowed end to end, place the concave face up and joint from the middle toward the ends.
The first step in preparing a rough board is reading the grain direction on the edge. Feeding stock with the grain running “downhill” results in a smooth surface with little, if any, tear-out [Drawing, top]. I mark that direction on the board. If the board face is cupped, or bowed from end to end, place the concave side down to keep the outside edges or ends in contact with the tables [Photo D, below].
Get a free jointer pushstick plan.
Turn on the jointer and, using push pads or a pushstick—never your hands—apply light downward pressure against the infeed table as the leading edge of your stock crosses the cutterhead. Transfer downward pressure to the outfeed table only after about 6-8" of the piece passes the cutterhead [Opening photo]. This prevents rocking the leading and trailing edges, which would ruin a smooth, flat face. Take care not to press the board flat as you work; it will only spring back after completing the cut. To know when you’ve completely flattened a face, run a squiggly pencil mark on its surface. Make passes until the pencil mark disappears [Photo E, below].
Twisted stock requires a patient approach. Often, you must press on diagonally opposite corners and prevent the board from rocking during the cut. With each pass, you create more flat surface along each corner, creating a more stable “platform.” Continue nibbling away these corners, working closer and closer to the center of the board. Exceptionally cupped, bowed, or twisted stock requires many passes to flatten, reducing the overall thickness of the stock, which may make it too thin for its intended use.
To joint an edge square to its now-flat face, place the freshly jointed face firmly against the fence [Photo F, above]. Use the same downward pressure technique as you did when jointing the face. Make enough passes to remove a pencil line marked on that edge.Watch your feed speed—it affects the final result [Photo G, below].
Same jointer, more tricks
There are a few more operations that the jointer does well. For example, you can chamfer an edge at any angle by tilting the fence [Photos H, I, below]. Each pass removes little material, so it takes multiple passes.
Never joint end grain. It tears out excessively.
Many jointers allow for cutting rabbets far smoother than those done with a dado blade in a tablesaw. To cut a rabbet, remove the blade guard, and adjust the fence so the distance between its face and the edge of the blades equals the depth of the rabbet [Photo J, below]. (You’ll stand the workpiece on edge so the fence steadies it.) Now lower the infeed table to take no more than a 1⁄8 "-deep cut. Make a pass, lower the table, and repeat until you reach the desired width.
Face-jointing is the first step in thicknessing stock. But don’t make the mistake of face-jointing an entire board before crosscutting it into your smaller project pieces. If you do that, by the time the entire bow is removed, the board may be too thin at its ends to suit your purposes. Instead, first crosscut your project pieces a couple of inches oversized in length, as shown in Figure 3. Similarly, ripping cupped stock to rough width can help flatten stock before face-jointing.
Next, orient each piece as discussed earlier–with the concave face down and the grain sloping in the direction of the cut. (If necessary to read the edge grain, take a quick pass or two off the edge.) If cup and bow are on opposite faces, lay each face of the piece on the table in turn, rock it to see which orientation is more stable, and go with that orientation.
When setting your depth of cut, err on the shallow side for starters. Then take a test cut. If desirable, increase the depth of cut for efficiency. Again, the maximum cut will depend on the width and density of the workpiece, but I generally don’t remove more than about 1⁄8" at a time.
For pieces that aren’t much longer than your infeed table, hook your heeled pushblock onto the trailing end of the board. Hold down the leading end of the board with your left hand (or use a non-heeled pushblock for stock thinner than about 3⁄4"); then feed the board across the cutterhead. Repeat as necessary until the face is flat.
Top Jointer Technique
Putting a square edge on a board is the first thing most woodworkers think of when using a jointer. But there’s another job it does that I think is even more important — flattening the face of a board. Actually, it’s the first thing I do with lumber that comes into my shop. The process I use isn’t complicated and only takes a few minutes. But by following these steps, you’ll establish a flat reference face for cutting parts to size, getting square edges, and cutting accurate joinery.
First, you want to pay attention to the grain direction of the board. To prevent tearout, the grain on the edge of the board should run up and away from the jointer table. You can see this in detail ‘a.’ A second way to avoid tearout is to take light cuts (about 1/32" - 1/16").
Then, as you move the board across the cutterhead, you want to concentrate pressure on the outfeed table with your left hand. Your right hand only serves to push the workpiece forward.
As you look over a board before jointing, you’re likely to see one or more problems. The board might be cupped, bowed, or twisted.
A cupped board is the simplest problem to take care of. Joint the workpiece with the cup facing down. The edges give the board a solid stance. Then, as you joint the face, apply just enough pressure to keep the board moving. Too much pressure can press the cup flat. When you let go, it will spring back and you’ll still have a cupped board.
If a wide board has a lot of cup in it, you could spend a bit of time — and waste a lot of wood — trying to flatten the face. To save both time and material, it’s a better idea to rip the board into narrower pieces so you can almost eliminate the curve. And you’ll end up with thicker stock, too.
Another common problem you’ll find is a board that’s curved along its length. This is called bow. Like a cupped board, you want to work with the hollow side down. But getting a flat face here requires a slightly different approach.
The idea is to remove material only at the ends where the board is touching the jointer. It’s even easier in this situation to press the board flat as you move it across the jointer. So it’s important to only apply pressure on the ends.
Twist is another problem you may find with lumber. And it seems like the most challenging to deal with since only two corners of the workpiece are in contact with the jointer tables at the start of the cut. The key here is applying pressure only at the corners. Steady progress will bring the other corners and more surface area into contact with the jointer. At this point, I usually find that the board is either cupped or bowed as well. So you’ll need to take the steps I mentioned earlier.
The ultimate reward for your efforts is a smooth, flat face. But even more importantly, it puts you on the right path to projects that fit and look better.
Published: June, 23 2016
6 Jointer Pointers
Steps 1, 2 & 3
These simple techniques will ensure that your jointer really earns its keep. You'll not only appreciate this workshop workhorse more, you'll get better results and great production, too.
1. Always joint downhill. When edge-jointing, you have to read the grain for the correct direction to feed the stock to avoid tear-out. As shown in Drawing A, feeding stock with the grain running "downhill" from the outfeed table and away from the knive's rotation produces the best results. If grain runs in several directions, position the board so that most of it runs in that direction. End grain generally should not be jointed because the knives will shatter any unsupported portion of it.
2. A quick adjust for outfeed. A misaligned outfeed table results in less than perfect cuts. Set too high, you get a concave surface. Too low, and the cut will be heavier at the back end of the stock. But it doesn't take much effort to set the outfeed table to match the height of the knives for a perfect cut.
As shown in Drawing B, first lower the outfeed table slightly, next turn on the jointer. Set the infeed table for a light cut, then slowly feed a piece of scrapstock on edge across the knives. Cut into the stock a few inches until about 1" projects over the outfeed table. Now, shut off the machine. Raise the outfeed table until it touches the bottom of the stock's jointed portion, then lock it in place. To check the new setting, finish jointing the edge and make a second pass, pausing 2" into the cut to see if the outfeed table now fully supports the wood.
3. Joint the face first. To get a jointed edge that's square to the face of a board, you should joint the face first. Then, with the newly jointed face against the fence (with the grain running downhill), joint one edge square with it. This gives you one flat surface as a base for further milling and a true edge for ripping.
Steps 4, 5 & 6
4. Edge-join perfectly. To edge join boards without minute gaps in the glue lines caused by a slightly out-of-square fence, try this. Select the good face of each board. Then edge joint one board with its good face away from the fence. Run the next board through with its good face against the fence. The two edges of the joint will mate perfectly, even if the fence was not perfectly square with the jointer table. Glue-up, then repeat for more width.
5. Flatten the cup. Take at least half of the cup out of warped boards on your jointer. To do it, first flatten the concave side by face-jointing. Then remove the convex side of the warp by running it through your planer with the new flat side down. As shown in Drawing C, a shop-altered pushblock helps get the job done safely.
6. Rabbets work, too. For precision rabbets, you can choose a tablesaw with a dado set, or a router and rabbeting bit. But do you ever think of rabbeting with your jointer? Of course, your machine has to have a rabbeting ledge on the outfeed side. And you must remove the guard. Do so, and you'll get smooth-surfaced rabbets with minimal set-up time. The width of the rabbet will be limited to the length of the cutterhead and its depth by your machine's maximum cut.
Make an initial cut to the width and depth of the rabbet at the tablesaw. Then set the jointer fence to the rabbet's width, and start plowing away in shallow passes, as shown in Drawing D.
As with most woodworking power tools, a jointer can bite if you're not careful. To avoid an accident, always keep the following important safety tips in mind.
- Wear safety glasses and adequate ear protection.
- Be sure the knives are sharp.
- Tightly secure the fence and table-adjustment locks before using the machine. And check them occasionally during operation, with the jointer off.
- Never make adjustments when the jointer is running.
- Don't try "freehand" manipulations that do not require use of the fence.
- Avoid heavy cuts that might jam the cutterhead. Take off no more than 1⁄16 " per pass on softwoods and even less on hardwood stock.
- Never joint workpieces less than 3⁄4 " wide or 1⁄4 " thick. Use pushblocks or hold-downs on wood narrower than 3".
- When surfacing stock, keep both hands on top of the workpiece, and use pushblocks.
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