Why would someone want a jointer planer combo, rather than just buying one or the other?
Well, one of the big problems with most home workshops is a lack of space. Unlike commercial woodworking shops which have an income to support their costs, home workshops are usually a hobby, supported out of a family’s budget. So they end up stuck in the back of the garage or a corner of the basement, always lacking enough space.
Buying a jointer planer combo frees up workshop space for other things, while providing two important tools, essential for fine woodworking.
You can’t really build a hardwood tabletop without both and by buying a combination unit, you can save both space and money. Not only that, but planers are almost exclusively benchtop units, while a combination planer jointer is usually a free-standing tool, freeing up that valuable benchtop real estate for working on.
Combination jointer planers make maximum use of the cutting head, using the top side of the head for jointing operations and the bottom side for planning. Since both need essentially the same sort of cutting head, drive train and motor, combining the units together makes for a considerable cost savings.
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Let’s Talk Jointers and Planers
Before going any farther, let’s make sure we know what we’re talking about.
Many people see jointers and planers as essentially the same tool, just with different configurations. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The two have quite different purposes and are incapable of doing what the other does.
Of course, since we’re talking jointer planer combinations, these tools will be able to do both functions. But even then, you can’t plane effectively in jointer mode and you can’t joint at all in planer mode.
Jointers are predominantly used for working the edges of boards.
Their name reflects their primary purpose, that of preparing the edges of boards to be joined together. If you are making a solid wood tabletop or other large wood panel, such as for the carcass of a dresser, the edges have to be exactly perpendicular to the surface. Otherwise, the boards cannot be joined together without any gaps.
There are two characteristics that make doing this extremely well possible. First of all, it has a split table, allowing the front portion of the table (the part before the cutter head) to be raised and lowered in comparison to the cutter. The rear portion of the table is fixed and is at exactly the height of the knives on the cutter head. What this does, is provide even support to the board, throughout its length, while cutting.
Secondly, it has a fence, allowing the workpiece to be held exactly perpendicular to the cutting head. This is critical for that tabletop, as one of the things which causes those gaps is when the edge of the board is not perpendicular to its surface. The other problem that can cause is for the tabletop to end up slightly cupped.
This brings us to another important part of what these tools are used for: squaring up rough-cut lumber. While most lumber we buy today is S4S (sanded four sides), some fine hardwoods are only S2S; and, of course, if you have your own sawmill or are buying direct from a sawmill, you will need the capability of squaring up your boards.
This squaring capability does something else important for you, it also provides the means of making twisted lumber usable. Unless you are going to do this with a handheld jointer plane, this is the only power tool with this capability. It can be done with boards of any length, although it is easier to do so with short boards, than with long ones.
Jointers can be used for the flat side of the board too; but you can’t set an exact thickness and expect to achieve it. If all you need is to make a board thinner, that’s fine; but if you are joining several together, such as in our tabletop, you’re not going to get the boards the same thickness.
While the jointer is predominantly used for the edges of the board, the planer’s purpose is to work the face side and back of the board. Due to their design, they can’t even be used for working the edge of the board; so if you’re going to do that, you have to have a jointer.
The key design characteristic, which makes it different, is that it is designed to provide a precise cutting distance between the bed and the cutter head. The cutter head is overhead in this case, with rollers holding the board flat onto the bed of the planer. This combination of features ensures that the final thickness of the cut board is exact.
Using it, the boards to be joined together to make a tabletop of the side of a carcass will all be cut to the same thickness, reducing the amount of work that has to be done on them after laminating the pieces together. Assuming there are no errors in the laminating process, both the top and bottom of the laminated piece should be smooth, needing only to have excess glue scraped off and to be sanded before assembly and finishing.
This cutting process also guarantees the ability of the planer to make the surfaces of the workpiece perfectly parallel, should that be necessary to the project. At times, this is important to ensure that pieces fit together properly. With this tool, ensuring parallel surfaces is easy, no matter how thin or thick the board.
Finally, although it is not common, they have the ability to have the knives on the cutting head replace with molding knives, allowing them to be used for milling architectural moldings. The trick here is finding knives to install in the planer, allowing it to be sued in this way. However, there are some custom shops which will grind a set of knives to order. This is very useful for people who are trying to match the moldings on older buildings for restoration work.
You can also grind your own knives out of tool steel, if you have a bench grinder and the means of tempering them after grinding. They have to be tempered, or they won’t last and your molding will be inconsistent. But tempering metal isn’t really all that hard to do.
How the Same Tool Can Do Both
What makes the jointer/planer unique is that it can do the jobs of both tools. It is able to do this because both use essentially the same sort of cutting head. The former cuts the bottom side of the board, running it across the top of the cutting head and the latter cuts the top side of the board, running it under the bottom of the cutting head.
This means that the combo has two beds, the jointer bed and the planer bed, each made essentially how it would be made for stand-alone tools. The jointer bed is wider than that found on most stand-alone jointers, because the cutting head needs to be wide enough to serve the planer as well.
To switch from one mode to the other, all that has to be done is to move the dust collector from below the jointer bed to above it, for planer mode. That’s it; it’s ready to be used as a planer.
While moving the dust collection hood back and forth can be a bit of a hassle, if you’re going back and forth between both operations, compared to other multi-tool combinations, it’s actually quite easy, reducing the amount of time to an absolute minimum.
Choosing the Best Joiner/Planer
Since the idea behind these tools is to provide you with the most capability in the least amount of space, that’s an important consideration. There are a few jointer/planer combinations on the market, which have the jointer placed to the side of the planer, rather than over it. This kind of defeats the purpose of making a combination unit, as it is considerably larger and more complex
As with any power tool, the overall power the tool provides is an important consideration. A jointer/planer which is underpowered will catch the wood, rather than cutting it cleanly and could cause breakage, splintering and divots in the surface, especially with slightly dull knives.
Quality units will have sufficient power, as well as solidly built tables and fences, to ensure accurate cutting. Large control knobs are a great convenience, making the tool more ergonomic.
However, the biggest concern with these tools, as in the case of any combination tool, is the ease of conversion from one mode to the other. The units we’ve chosen are known for ease of conversion. A tool which is difficult to convert will not be used, making it nothing more than a heavy paper-weight, sitting in your workshop.
Grizzly G0675, 10-inch
Grizzly is an industrial tool manufacturer, which makes quality tools for use in professional workshops. However, their prices are considerably more reasonable than most, making these professional-grade tools reachable for the home workshop. Grizzly tools will last virtually forever in a home workshop, making them a good deal by any measure.
Grizzly’s G0675, 10 inch combination jointer/planer is the best unit on the market, and has been recognized as such by Fine Woodworking magazine. The 10-inch blades are wide enough to work all but the widest boards, making the tool extremely versatile. Conversion from jointer to planer on this unit is extremely easy, requiring merely raising the outfeed table and flipping over the dust collector. This makes it one of the fastest conversions on the market.
This unit comes with a 2 – ½ HP motor, which runs off of single-phase 220 volt. So if your shop is not equipped with 220 volt outlets, you might have to run a line; but it’s worth the effort. It can provide 1/8” depth of cut in joiner mode and 3/16” depth of cut in planer mode. The automatic feed for the planer runs at 16 feet per minute, making for fast, yet still smooth cuts. Rubber feed rollers, rather than steel, prevent marring of the workpiece. The finely serrated cast-iron tables provide a smooth, even surface and the cat aluminum fence for the jointer is rock steady.
This is a very versatile tool, with a fence that can adjust from 45 to 90 degrees, allowing you to put a chamfer on the edge of a board or miter the edge of a board for making a corner. V-belt power transmission ensures smooth operation and a 4” dust port helps with quick, efficient dust collection.
Best Combo for the Money
Jet JJP-8BT 8"
For those who don’t have the budget or space for the Grizzly, Jet makes an eight-inch unit which is much more compact, lightweight and is even portable. This benchtop unit is designed to be taken where you need it, even to the point of having a cord wrap for the power cord built in.
Jet is another industrial tool manufacturer who has entered the consumer marketplace. This is made obvious by this unit, which is clearly designed for use in home workshops and by finish carpenters who need something they can take on a jobsite. Running off of 115 volts AC, it can easily work in any home or off of a generator.
The 13 amp motor in this unit provides plenty of power for its eight inch wide blades. While not as wide as the Grizzly unit, there are few projects where planning boards wider than eight inches would be necessary. The two knives are attached to a cutter head that is moving at 9,000 RPM, slightly faster than the Grizzly unit. This helps provide am extremely smooth finish, especially when a slow feed rate is used, as the scallops from the cuts are smaller.
This unit has been designed to be ergonomic to use, with oversized knobs for the controls. While the infeed table is cast and machined, the outfeed table (which is not as critical) is sheet metal, helping to reduce weight. As with the Grizzly, the fence is cast and machined aluminum, adjustable from 0 to 45 degrees.
Buying a combination tool is an excellent choice for the home workshop, saving space and money. Anyone who is planning on building furniture in their workshop will eventually need both, so why not buy a unit that provides the capability of both operations?
Today’s combination units have come a long way, providing convenient conversion from one mode to the other and reducing the downtime previously required for this changeover. This increases work time, making the tools much more useful.
The tools we have selected are considered the best around, not just by us, but are seen that way by many others. Both companies have an excellent reputation for quality products, which will provide years of service. Investing in these tools will provide you with an excellent resource for years to come.