Powermatic 1610086K 60HH Jointer with Helical Cutterhead
Best helical jointer
An 8-inch helical cutterhead tackles bigger jobs and gives a smooth, nice finish to your professional projects.
1 Powermatic 1610086K Review
If you’re in the market looking for a powerful and highly reliable jointer, check out the Powermatic 1610086K. Thanks to its 8-inch helical carbide blades, making butt joints or wooden panels has never been easier.
It’s powered by a 2-horsepower, single phase motor that runs on 240V, and comes with a 73-inch long table that provides extended support.
A worm gear system will let you tilt the fence, while an infeed table lever and rotating handle help you make even the finest adjustments of cut depth.
But the true star of this unit is the helical cutterhead with four-sided knife inserts. You won’t have to stop working to sharpen a dull blade. All it takes is to rotate it 90° to have access to a new, sharp edge.
We also like the on/off switch, mounted for easy reach, and the magnetic base of the push blocks you can store on any metallic base for instant access. Sure, you’ll have to pay for all these features. But no doubt, this jointer is worth every dime if you’re an avid amateur or professional woodworker.
JET 708457DXK JJ-6CSDX 1-HP Jointer
Best for home workshops
A dual phase 1-horsepower motor and three high speeds deliver consistent performance to the hobbyists.
2 JET 708457DXK Review
A tad less powerful than our top pick but no doubt extremely versatile, the JET 708457DXK is the best jointer for a home shop. It offers one of the longest cutting surfaces in its class and features an exclusive auto-set knife system for a quick change of any dull blades.
An all-enclosed steel base cabinet adds stability on most surfaces; however, the machine produces more vibrations than you would expect. Despite this slight drawback, this unit is exceptional. It produces wonderful, silky-smooth cuts and even comes with a 1/8-inch positive lock for the cut depth, a feature designed to keep inexperienced woodworkers from cutting too deep.
Consistent 6,000 RPM also provides an excellent balance between speed and material removal, improving results.
Whether you want to build doors, tabletops, or furniture, this user-friendly yet powerful jointer will help you achieve perfect results, and it’s also greatly priced for its performance.
Powermatic 1791317K 54HH 6-Inch Jointer
Also outstanding but more expensive
Helical cutterheads deliver effective and relatively quiet performance for hobby and professional projects alike.
3 Powermatic 1791317K Review
From the same brand as our best-in-class, the Powermatic 1791317K impresses with similar performance. It’s powered by a 1-horsepower single phase motor that comes pre-wired for 115 volts, but that can be converted to use on higher voltage circuits.
A helical cutterhead with 40 four-sided carbide knife inserts will help you finish your wood-straightening tasks quickly and accurately.
Precision is also ensured by the fine adjustment lever mounted on the infeed table. Other features we like are the tilting fence and adjustable stops, as well as the center-mounted controls.
It may be a bit noisy, and it could be a bit tricky to make blade cover adjustments, but despite these small annoyances, this machine comes as a great alternative to our best-value if you want a helical cutterhead and don’t mind a heftier price.
PORTER-CABLE PC160JT Variable Speed 6-Inch Jointer
Best benchtop jointer
Compact design and an attractive price point make this jointer an excellent choice for amateurs.
4 PORTER-CABLE PC160JT Review
The PORTER-CABLE PC160JT doesn’t deliver professional performance; nevertheless, it’s perfect for a home shop and fits seamlessly even in a tighter space.
It has a benchtop design, yet an extra-large table that provides work support to surfacing stock of up to 6 inches wide. A center-mounted fence also ensures reliable support for achieving accurate edge jointing on your workpieces.
The main difference between this jointer and the others on this list, besides the obvious style, is the two-knife cutterhead. It still provides smooth cuts, but not as smooth as the three-knife or helical heads.
A nice feature though, is the variable speed control with a range that goes from 6,000 to 11,000 RPM. Suitable to cut materials of various densities and sizes, inexpensive, and compact, this is no doubt the best jointer for the amateurs on a budget.
Best Jointer 2021 Buying Guide
What is a jointer?
Most inexperienced woodworkers know they need a jointer in their workshop, but many don’t really know what’s the purpose of this machine.
The truth is that the jointer is one of the first power tools to have in your arsenal, alongside a table saw. It is used to create a flat surface on your wooden board’s faces and edges. Whether you have a bowed, warped, or twisted board, you need a jointer to make its faces flat and edges straight.
What does a jointer do?
As we already mentioned, the jointer flattens the faces and edges of a wooden board. The machine has two tables, an infeed and an outfeed. The infeed table is adjustable so you can decide how much stock you want to remove.
A cutter head mounted flush with the outfeed table is responsible for cutting excess stock and flattening the face or side of the board, while the outfeed table provides support to your flatten workpiece.
Jointer vs. planer
Because a planer is also used to remove stock, many beginners may find it hard to understand what’s the actual difference between the two tools.
Simply put, a planer is used to cut a wooden board at equal thickness after it has been jointed. A planer is simpler to use than a jointer, and some manufacturers even produce hand planers, which are a great alternative to the powered ones if you have little space in your workshop.
Which one do I need?
Whether you need a jointer or a planer depends on what type of lumber you decide to work with. If it’s rough sawn wood, you need a jointer. If you decide to buy S2S or S4S lumber from your supplier, a planer could be a better choice.
Considering though that it’s hard to find perfectly flattened or straightened wood, it’s always a great idea to buy a jointer first and planer after, especially if you want to achieve professional results.
Types of jointers
The first thing to decide before buying a jointer is the type you need. You can pick from two different styles, and some manufacturers even make jointer and planer combo machines.
- Cabinet jointer: It is the most powerful – but also the most expensive – type. Just like cabinet table saws, they are powered by strong motors capable to output up to 2 horsepower. These units can have various types of cutter heads that will ultimately determine their performance, but most cabinet jointers can meet the needs of professional woodworkers.
- Benchtop jointer: Much smaller than the cabinet, and also cheaper, the benchtop jointer is more suitable for the amateurs. It mounts on your benchtop, and some models are also compatible with a miter saw stand. Although they are not as powerful nor as accurate as cabinet jointers, they fit perfectly in a smaller workshop; some higher-end models are even performing enough to satisfy professionals.
- Jointer planer combo: This combination power tool blends the benefits of a jointer with those of a planer. It could be a more budget-friendly solution if you need both types of equipment but can’t afford two machines; however, the performance for either function is only average.
The power of your jointer determines what type of wood you can cut, but also the maximum cut depth your machine can handle without losing performance.
Commercial grade jointers can usually output 2 horsepower or over, and can handle soft and hardwood alike. Most cabinet home shop jointers come with 1 horsepower motors; these models can handle softwood beautifully, but they may struggle with hardwood.
Benchtop jointers are usually the least powerful. Their motors are typically rated below 1 horsepower. They are ideal for amateurs, but will unlikely live to the expectations of a professional.
Jointer cutter heads and blades
What type of cutter head your jointer uses will determine the accuracy and precision of the results.
Most jointers come with either two or three-blade straight cutter heads or helical cutter heads, but the performance is ultimately determined by the type of blade.
- Disposable straight blades: Are the simplest and cheapest model. They’re usually made of high-speed steel and produce great results on softwood. However, they tend to lose sharpness quite quickly, and finding the right alignment when changing them can be time-consuming.
- Reusable straight blades: Similar to the disposable kind, they are also usually made from high-speed steel, but you can sharpen them when needed. Depending on the type of jointer and sharpener, you may or may not have to disassemble them for sharpening; if you do, they might be just as hard to realign as the disposable ones.
- Square-cut carbide insert blades: Used with helical cutter heads, they have a cutting edge square to the stock. These blades are ideal for cutting all types of wood, stay sharp for longer, and when they get dull, you can simply rotate the cutter to get access to a new sharp edge.
- Angle-cut carbide insert blades: Are similar to the square-cut type and are also used on the helical heads. The main difference between the two is the contact angle between the blade and the stock, with these producing a more precise result.
Other features to consider
Besides the above, there are also a few other things you should consider before buying.
- Adjustable cutting depth: Almost all jointers will allow you to adjust the cutting depth, but there are exceptions. This is an essential feature to look after. Otherwise, you won’t be able to decide how much stock to remove in one cut.
- Dust collection: Like all woodworking power tools, jointers can be quite messy. A machine with an integrated dust management system will keep your workshop cleaner as you’re working.
- Adjustable fences: Another essential feature to look after is adjustable fences; they let you keep the stock aligned while being pushed, so you can flatten the wood at the desired angle.
How to use a jointer
Using a jointer is not complicated. All you have to do is push the wood board through the spinning blades to remove rough stock and flatten the surface. However, there are a few things you should know before starting if you want to achieve good results.
- The key to perfect flattening is to adjust the outfeed table flush with the blades. In this way, the board will glide smoothly onto the table once it’s flattened.
- Never cut more than 1/16 inches of stock, even if your infeed table can be adjusted for deeper cuts.
- Run the wood over the jointer with the grain of the wood running uphill for less wear and tear of the blades.
- Apply pressure on the infeed table until your stock has passed halfway through the cutter head, then transition the pressure on the outfeed table.
- Use push pads or sticks to keep your hands away from the cutter head, especially when flattening the faces of your board.
How to sharpen jointer blades
If your jointer comes with removable blades, you can sharpen them either with a manual or rotating sharpening stone. Here is how to do it:
- Inspect the blades and assess their dullness. Because they are quite difficult to align once you’ve taken them off the cutter head , it is recommended only to sharpen them when you no longer achieve the desired results.
- Disassemble the blades. Most jointers have simple systems that allow you to take the blades off for maintenance; consult your user manual to see how to do it.
- Wipe each blade with a dry cloth to remove any debris, then place the sharpening stone on a flat surface and dampen it with water or oil, as instructed by the manufacturer.
- Place the flat edge of the blade on the stone, apply pressure on it with your hands, and rub the blade against the stone in a back and forth motion for about ten times. Turn the blade on its bevel edge, positioning it in such way that the entire edge comes in contact with the stone and use a back and forth motion to hone it.
- Test the sharpened blade on a piece of paper to see if it’s sharp enough, and repeat the process if needed. If you’re happy with the sharpness, mount the blade back into the cutter head as shown in your jointer’s manual. That’s it! You can now use your jointer again to flatten the wood stock.