How to perfectly tune, set, square and use your jointer

Planing

 

What's a jointer and what is it used for?

A jointer is a critical piece of planing equipment you'd use in the milling process if you're milling any sort of rough sawn timber.

As we all know, when we go out and buy a piece of timber it's not always square, it's not always straight and you'd always need a piece of equipment like a solid jointer planing machine in conjunction with the thickness to make it nice and square.

So if you've got a bow or a twist in your timber, you'd put it through a jointer. They get at least two edges that are ninety degrees to one another and then you can move on to the next step.

What to consider when buying a Jointer?

So when you're looking to buy a jointer there are a lot of things you've got to take into consideration.

Number one, how much money you got to spend.

Number two, the space you've got in your workshop.

If you've got a massive workshop sky's the limit but in my case I have the small six inch jointer because my space is relatively limited. It sits on my bench and does everything I need to do, only because I don't have the space for something in a standalone size.

If I did, however, a cabinet jointer would be pride of place. The improvements in stability in buying a cabinet jointer are numerous. The other things you're taking the consideration is how often you're going to use the jointer.

I mean if you're making cabinets once in a little while, then you don't need one of these cabinet jointers, but if you're doing a lot of fine furniture, one of these would be critical in your workshop. You would really, really need one of these in the workshop and you'd also want to look atsome of the features that jointers have:

Look, when it comes to the jointers on the market these days, they're all pretty much the same but they have their little things that make them a little bit better than the next one.

For example, helical heads: they're all the rage at the moment and they cut beautifully and given how easy they are to set up, it’s really no wonder.

How to set up and tune your jointer

All right, so you've gone ahead and you’ve bought yourself a jointer and you've got at home - what do you do next?

Well if you could take it straight out of the box and use it that'd be great but unfortunately we've got to tune them first. Now, before you start mucking around with any of that, most importantly unplug the machine.

Setting the feed table and cutterhead height on a jointer

So the first thing I'm going to do is adjust the outfeeed table so what I like to do is get myself a nice straight edge, pop it down on the feed table and move the guard out of the way.

I bring my straight edge across until it's over the top of the cutters and all the while, I'm spinning those cutters until it's just barely touching the blade, which means it's just sitting a little bit too high or the output table is sitting a little bit too low.

So now I'm going to be adjusting it until there's no movement in that straight edge. What makes it easy on these Sherwood models is these wheels at the front makes the job a lot easier.

Setting and squaring the fence on a jointer

There we are, that's where we were sitting - so now that the feed table is set so that the top of the cut is lined up with the top of the feed table, the next thing I'm going to do is sit the fence.

To do that, I'll use an engineer's square because I know that it's dead 90 degrees straight, so if you don't have an engineer square, you can always use a carpenter's square. This depends on the level of accuracy that you're after, naturally.

Anyway I've got an engineer’s and I'm going to use that, so all I do is now put it up against my fence just to see how far out it is and in this case it's a mile!

I check both ends of the fence and just to make sure that it's not the fence itself that’s warped or bent or anything like that. Okay so having done all that, I now reach behind here and undo all the locking knobs and they just move it around slowly until I get it nice and square.

What I'm looking for is the engineer square touching the fence so that there's no light shining through. So I've got it right there and now I'll check it again at both ends just to make sure that I've got it set nice. In these cases there is little to correct and it doesn't take very long to do it, but it is one of those critical jobs that is absolutely 100% perfect and critical.

Testing your jointer

Right now, we're good to go so my jointer is all set up it's all tuned up ready to go, so of course the next thing I'm going to do just put a piece of timber through it.

I like to set my depth of cut so you know what you want to do. You want to take off as little material as possible, because we all know the timber isn't cheap and if you take it off you can't put it back on again.

So I'm going to make my passes as shallow as I possibly can, while still achieving a nice square edge. Looking at the Sherwood one here, these handles are always a bonus.

All I'm doing there is I'm just setting the depth of cut to as little as possible, I don't want to take off two at once purely because you don’t want the Machine working too hard cutting timber.

We're ready to go, so I keep my cut nice and easy and smooth. I'm going to be walking the piece of wood through the jointer and the good thing about this Sherwood jointer is I can follow these handles every way so I don't get hung up on anything.

Here's a nice piece of board now, so I know that it's not squared because it's rough sawn and I'm first I'm going to run that through the joint and do my research first.

I continue that and soon, that is a square as square and absolutely perfect: 100% perfect. That’s the milling process done, so let me just tell you why the cut on this is so smooth.

The advantages of a helical spiral head on a jointer

This particular jointer is fitted with the helical cutter head. Now the difference between this one and a standard one is you've got about 48 blades here as opposed to 23 in the standard jointer and it just makes so much difference. It's a lot quieter to use, the cut comes out a lot smoother and it's just a joy to work with.

So that's how to set up and use a new jointer! If you need any more information about this particular jointer, the links are down below…

 

Sherwood 6in Benchtop Jointer

Sherwood 6in Cabinet Jointer

Sherwood’s 8inch Jointer