Anyone experienced in woodworking understands the importance of flat, uniform boards. Rough cut lumber needs four of its sides to be planed; a requirement known as surfaced 4 sides (S4S). This preparation removes any warping and dimensional inconsistency from the wood to ensure your project goes smoothly. To create an S4S board, the question often arises whether to use a jointer or planer. This might be confusing because both pieces of equipment appear to have the same function. This is not entirely the case. Although they operate on similar principals, each have their unique role, and both are needed to get optimal results.

What is a Jointer?

A jointer is used to square edges and flatten single faces of wood. Cutech’s jointers accomplish this by using spiral cutters that mill the board from the bottom. In short, this machine is used to straighten out any imperfections in the wood such as bowing, twisting, and/or cupping of wood while shaping its edges. After a few passes, a surface will be perfectly flat. Once this is done, the wood can be reoriented with the jointer fence to square up whichever edge is facing the spiral cutters.

What a Jointer Can't Do

A common misconception is that a board can be flipped over and milled on the other side to achieve symmetry and uniform thickness. This, however, is not the case. While you will get two flat surfaces on either side of the board, the thickness of the board will not be consistent lengthwise. To use an analogy, picture yourself cutting a piece of paper into a square freehand with a pair of scissors. While your cuts will be straight, the edges themselves may not be completely parallel with opposing edges creating a lopsided square. So how do we ensure that both sides of the wood are parallel? This requires a planer.

Learn more about CUTECH’s benchtop jointer with spiral cutterhead.

What is a Planer?

The role of a planer is a simple but important one. In short, its primary function is to create two flat plane surfaces (hence the
name “planer”) in wood so that they could be joined. The working mechanism behind a planer is as follows. Rollers apply pressure and guide wood through an array of spiral cutters that mill the surface layers of wood. This is a secondary process to jointing that ensures uniform thickness and symmetry. We can think of planing as “fine tuning” the work done by a jointer. Back to the analogy of cutting paper, once you have cut out your square, you want to ensure that all opposing sides are parallel and cut to a desired thickness. While using scissors can create straight lines and descent angles, i.e., the jointer, you would want a device that is able to ensure that the paper forms a perfectly symmetrical square, i.e., the planer. A planer is all about precision and symmetry and the Cutech product line can be programmed to achieve any desired thickness within very tight tolerances.

What a Planer Can't Do

Although planers serve a very useful purpose, there are some tasks that are best left to other equipment. A planer's primary function is to take thick boards and make them thinner. The board must already have a flat surface so that it can be placed downwards on the bed in order for the planer to take off the top layers. A planer is also not ideal for woodworking which may involve cutting angled edges. Also, planers use pressure rollers to pull boards which will not function correctly if the boards are cupped, warped, or twisted. Addressing both of these issues is a job best suited for a jointer. In short, anything beyond thicknessing a board is not an ideal application for a planer.

Learn more about CUTECH’s benchtop planer with spiral cutterhead.

Jointers and planers work symbiotically to create the precise cuts of wood required by serious woodworking hobbyists. This allows a greater variety of wood to be used that may not have been an option before with pre milled lumber from big box stores.

Jointer-Planer Combo

A jointer/planer combination machine uses a single cutterhead to joint and plane boards. Typically the jointer is mounted on top with a planer directly underneath. The combination jointer/planer is a popular machine in Europe due to its small footprint. In recent
years, it has gained the attention of US woodworkers as a way to save space in small workshops.

Comparison Between Jointer, Planer & Jointer-Planer Combo

jointer vs planer
Jointer Planer
planer
Planer
jointer
Jointer-Planer Combo
1. Flattening single surfaces
2. Edge jointing
3. Chamfering
1. Even Thicknessing
2. Unifying boards in thickness
Saves on floor space

BT

Keep Reading

Maybe you’re ready to buy your first jointer or planer, or perhaps you’re thinking of upgrading to a newer one. If so, you may be wondering if you should purchase one that has a spiral cutterhead or a straight-blade cutterhead. Well, we’ll help you decide by looking at some of the details that set them apart.   

What is a straight-blade cutterhead?

Briefly, a straight-blade cutterhead consists of two or more blades (often called knives) spaced apart on a rotating steel head.  Spiral cutterheads consist of small square cutters placed close together in a spiral pattern on a rotating steel head. Both straight-blade and spiral cutterheads remove surface wood when a board passes over the rotating head. 

Straight-blade cutters have been around longer on DIY machines but spiral cutters are  growing in popularity. More manufacturers are starting to offer both blade and spiral cutterheads. Even so, not all manufacturer's straight-blade and spiral cutterheads are the same.

What is a spiral cutterhead and what makes it popular?

One thing that makes spiral cutters popular is the extended use you get from not having to replace the cutters as often as you do with blades. For instance, when a blade becomes nicked, you have to replace the entire blade. However, if a cutter insert becomes nicked, you replace only the nicked insert, and not the undamaged ones.   

When the need comes to replace a cutter, simply remove one screw, put on a new cutter, replace the screw, and you’re ready to go. It’s that easy. There is no need to calibrate the cutter height as you do after replacing blades. It’s one of the maintenance advantages of spiral cutters. 

The smaller cutting heads on the spiral cutter work in smaller sections to remove large quantities of surface wood. This results in a smoother wood finish than you’d get with blade cutters, reducing the need for additional sanding or finishing. The smaller cutting width also produces smaller woodchips, making it less likely you’ll clog the dust collection system. 

CUTECH’s Spiral Cutterhead Planer

It’s worth noting that CUTECH spiral cutters are engineered with a unique design. The special design allows our exclusive inserts to make contact with the wood at different intervals. This reduces motor burden, extending motor life and reducing energy consumption. Both of which can save you money. 

Conclusion: Spiral Cutter vs Straight Blade Cutter

So, does all this mean spiral cutters are better than straight blade cutters? Not necessarily. While it’s true spiral cutters have some maintenance and operational advantages, you can’t ignore the price advantage of straight blade cutters. With that in mind, for the novice woodworker or someone on a budget, straight-blade cutters can be the perfect solution. 

Check out the full line of CUTECH Jointers and Planers online. 

-Dave

Wood Working Tools Related Articles

We’ve all done it at least once, we’ve used a substitute tool in place of the right one for the job. For instance, using a screwdriver in place of a chisel, or using pliers when the job calls for a wrench.

While using a close-enough tool might be convenient, it can make the job more difficult, more time consuming, and even unsafe in the long run.

Using the right tool for the job can mean the difference between a professional-looking project and an unsatisfactory outcome.

If your woodworking project involves removing layers of wood, here’s a simple guide for deciding when to use a sander and when to use a planer.

Sanders: The Finishing Tools

If you’ve used a sander before it’s tempting to think of it as a thickness planer. After all, both machines are effective a removing surface wood.

But in reality, sanders are finishing tools, and using a sander to remove layers of wood can prove to be expensive and time consuming.

Compared to planers, sanders are very slow, removing minute amounts of wood with each pass. The need to make multiple passes often results in enormous heat buildup, resulting in burnt sandpaper, blown fuses, and damaged wood.

As a thicknesser, sanders can be expensive to use because you’re constantly replacing worn out sandpaper. So when you think of a sander, best to think of it as a finishing tool best used for fine woodworking.

Thickness Planers: Produce Boards of Even Thickness

Whereas sanders are used to alter the finish of wood, a wood planer is used to even out wood to an exact thickness.

Planers produce boards of even thickness. With a planer you can take several irregular pieces of wood and level them all to the same even thickness.

As uneven wood stock travels through the planer, the rotating cutter heads remove a preset amount of wood from each board. Thus, you can buy wood of any thickness and as long as it is of good quality, you can plane it to produce the thickness you want.

With a planer you can smooth rough lumber, clean up sawn edges and give new life to old wood. Each planed piece of wood can be used by itself or glued to other planed pieces for a thicker board or block.

Common projects from planed wood include cutting boards, woodcarvings, custom-planed spindles, and other craft items.  In fact, anyone considering furniture making will find the planer indispensable.

Nothing beats owning a wood planer when you need to smooth boards and mill them to an exact thickness. You’re limited only by your imagination.

Check out the line of CUTECH planers to find the one that’s right for you.

So remember, using the proper tool for the job not only saves you time and money, but it can keep you safe from injury and ensure a professional-looking finish as well.

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XZB

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