How to Use a Router as a Jointer

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A jointer is a perfect tool when looking to square pieces of lumber for cabinet doors and other panels. However, it isn’t the only tool. A router works just as well in most situations, only that it makes the process easier. This article will show you how to use a router as a jointer. 

How to Use a Router as a Jointer

When joining panels edge to edge, the sides must be perfectly square. If not, you may end up with gaps in the joint and boards that do not look skillfully done. Most boards that you buy are likely to have twisted or uneven edges. That is why you need a tool to straighten them.

A jointer is your first option when you have rough or twisted edges to smooth out. Many woodworkers do not own one, though, while others find it too big and cumbersome to use. If you’re one of them, do not worry. This guide will help you use a router instead. 

When Should You Use a Router? 

A router is primarily used to hollow out or shape wood. On the other hand, a jointer helps you square the edges of boards when fitting strips of lumber to form a wider board. The tool straightens edges so that boards produce a seamless joint.

Router

So, when should you use a router in place of a jointer for your jointing needs? There are several reasons why you may need to square your strips of wood using the tool. We would recommend using the tool when faced with the following situations.

  • When you do not have a jointer around 
  • If you’re looking to save time (routers are easier to joint with)
  • If you do not have enough space for a jointer in your workshop
  • When looking to straighten long pieces but own a short-bed jointer

Steps to Use a Router as a Jointer

Using a router to straighten lumber requires you to understand the process to ensure everything comes out as you expect. If you’re wondering how to go about it, read on to find out. We will explain the process using a step-by-step method. Let’s get started. 

What You Need 

  • A bench router
  • Clamps to secure the router fence (if it lacks one)
  • A 1/2″ router bit or straight carbide cutting
  • Two 1/2″ laminate board or MDF
  • Steel rule to align the fence
  • The pieces to joint

Step 1: Set up the Router

For starters, your router is most likely not set to joint lumber. You need to prep it using these steps.

Person using a jointer
  1. Unplug the router from the outlet
  2. Mount the cutting bit into the router
  3. Raise the bit above the router table and just high enough to cut the entire depth of the piece that you plan to joint. 
  4. Clamp a straight piece of plastic laminate on the router’s out-feed table (or left side)
  5. Using the steel rule, align the laminate board so that it lines up with the bit’s cutting edge and fence hole
  6. Clamp another piece to the in-feed table to make the in-feed fence

Step 2: Joint the First Board

The router is now ready to use as a jointer, with the bit and guide boards (fence) in place. Here is how to do it.

  1. Place the piece that you want to be jointed on the router
  2. Feed it into the router just as you would when using a jointer
  3. Avoid using too much pressure to push the board

Step 3: Joint the Second Board

The aim of jointing is to square two edges and allow them to fit together without leaving spaces. The next step involves straightening the other piece.

  1. Take the second piece and use the same procedure to joint it as the first
  2. Align the two pieces to see if they produce a seamless joint
  3. If they do, your router is set correctly to straighten lumber, and you can now use it to smooth additional pieces

Safety Tips When Using a Router as a Jointer 

A router is a power tool that uses spinning parts and runs off the outlet. The tool is also not specifically meant for jointing and requires a proper setup. These precautionary rules and tips will help ensure its correct use while also making the process safer and successful. 

Using a router as a jointer
  • Always unplug the router from the outlet when preparing to use it, especially when changing the cutting bit. You do not want it spinning unexpectedly and injuring you.
  • Ensure that the router is connected to the dust extractor before starting it. 
  • Be sure to have the router firmly secured to the table before commencing any work. This is to avoid it sliding dangerously in the middle of the jointing process 
  • As is the case with any other woodworking process, have your protective gear on when using the router. These include goggles and ear mufflers.
  • When jointing wood on your router, avoid exerting too much pressure. Gently press the piece against the bit, ensuring uniformity of the pressure.
  • In the event that the router pulls away from the straight edge, we suggest that you feed the pieces from the other end. You’re likely to be feeding the pieces backward. 
  • Your router may have come with a fence. If it did, be sure to use the right shims or washers. The right shims will help ensure the cutting bit only removes the desired amount of material. 
  • If your boards are longer than the router table length, consider using scrap plywood to extend the fence.

Setting up your router for jointing work may seem like a time-consuming process. However, that’s the only hard part when preparing the router, plus it shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes when you understand exactly what you need to do. So, be patient if doing it for the first time. 

Conclusion

Many woodworkers own a router instead of a  jointer which is normally too expensive. A jointer is also larger and takes up a lot of space in your workshop. If you’re a beginner, you are more likely to have a router around instead. In that case, you can easily use it to do the work of a jointer.

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.