What Size Jointer Do I Need?

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Deciding what size jointer do I need requires consideration of three factors; the width of the cutting surface, the length of the tables, and the weight of the base.

How Does Size Affect Jointer Performance?

If you’re considering adding a jointer to your woodshop footprint, make an informed decision by reviewing how size affects jointer performance.

A guy working with jointer
  • Jointers come in the following cutting widths: 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16 inches.
  • A jointer is capable of face or edge jointing wood that is no wider than the cutterhead.
  • To joint boards up to twice as wide as your cutting head, you can make a jig.
  • Four and six-inch jointers are intended for home workshop use. They often have an angled dovetail base, which wears out a bit more quickly but costs 20-25% less than the higher-end parallelogram-based jointers.
  • Professional grade jointers intended for heavy-duty use generally have a cutting width of at least eight inches.

Read our jointer reviews to learn which one is best for your needs.

How to Pick the Right Jointer Size

With limited space, most woodworking enthusiasts need to think carefully about any tool they add to their workshop footprint, and jointers are no different. Here are some things to consider:

  • Infeed table accessibility. To start flattening or planing wood, you’ll need to introduce it to the cutterhead via the infeed table. If you’re jointing long boards, this will require quite a bit of free space on the infeed table side of the jointer.
  • Outfeed table length. When jointing large boards, the weight of the finished product hanging off the outfeed table can cause the board to tilt. This produces a jointing defect known as ‘snipe’, where the end of the board has a noticeably different thickness than the rest of the plank.

You can avoid this by choosing a jointer with longer tables, or you can plan to extend the outfeed table as needed. High performance sawhorses or extension rollers placed at the correct height next to the outfeed table will adequately support your work.

A guy putting wood on jointer
  • Mobility. Jointers are massive, heavy machines that take at least two people to move, and many jointers take awhile to set up. Some larger units require mechanical assistance to lift. Consider putting a mobile base on your jointer.

Jointer Cutting Width

When most people talk about jointer size, they’re talking about the size of the cutterhead.

  • Jointer blades are mounted on a rotating cylinder called a cutterhead. As stock passes over the cutterhead, it transfers from one table to another. The blades shave off excess material, flattening your wood stock.
  • Cutterhead width is expressed in inches and indicates the maximum width of wood they are equipped to handle.
  • The smallest benchtop jointers available have a four-inch cutterhead and are typically used by hobbyists in home workshops. The largest jointers available can cut boards up to 16 inches wide.
  • Jointers below eight inches are generally considered small, while medium-sized jointers measure between eight and 12 inches. Anything above 12 inches is considered a larger or industrial-setting jointer.

Jointer Table Size

The size of the jointer table matters for two reasons. First, you only have so much space in your shop. Second, longer tables offer better support to your stock, minimizing uneven cutting patterns such as snipe.

The smallest jointers have tables about 60 inches long. If you’re jointing long boards, you’ll need to figure out how to support them as they come off the table, with extension rollers or sawhorses. Most jointers have a table length of around 80 inches.

Larger jointers tend to have longer tables, as well, providing better support for the stock you’re milling. If you’re working with limited space, you may want to consider a jointer with a shorter table length.

A guy trying to work on jointer

Jointer Base Size and Weight

The final factor in evaluating jointer size is considering the size and weight of the base. If you have limited space in your workshop, you may want to be able to roll the jointer out of the way to support a different configuration, but these machines weigh hundreds of pounds. Add-on mobile bases make it possible for you to reposition the jointer – as long as you can get it rolling.

Jointers with lighter and smaller bases are easier to move than jointers with large, heavy bases.

Conclusion

Jointer size can be evaluated based on the cutting width, table length, or base size and weight. Larger jointers can handle larger stock. A jointer can cut stock that is as wide as its cutting head.

With a jig, you can joint wood up to twice the size of the cutterhead.

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.