Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Barry Gray
Benchtop and stationary jointers are important tools for creating a flat surface on rough lumber. Benchtop jointers may have less power, but they make up for it with their portability, usability, and lower price.
Still, the accuracy, reliability, and power of stationary jointers (also known as cabinet jointers) make them hard to beat. Here are the most important factors to consider when you’re choosing between a benchtop jointer and a stationary jointer.
Power is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing between a benchtop jointer and a stationary jointer. The power of your jointer will determine how quickly you can do your work, and whether you can work with especially large amounts of wood or particularly hard woods.
Stationary jointers have more power and can handle tougher cuts. They’re also known as cabinet jointers because they take up as much space as a cabinet with their large motor and need a lot of stabilization. That power lets them make deeper cuts than less powerful tools, which means you can flatten out even the most uneven wood surfaces.
Benchtop jointers may offer less power, but they’re still able to take on just about any project an amateur, hobbyist, or beginner would need them to. It’s worth considering your needs: do you plan on using the volume or type of wood that would require the more powerful stationary jointer? If not, the reduced power of a benchtop jointer may not be a dealbreaker.
Accuracy is another important consideration. The accuracy of a jointer is mostly influenced by its stability and ability to cut through wood quickly. It’s also important that you be able to adjust it precisely, but that has more to do with the quality of the specific jointer than which kind of jointer it is.
Stationary jointers are more accurate than benchtop jointers, but they’re also more expensive. If you need to make precise cuts, a stationary jointer is the way to go. The added stability from its larger frame and the ease with which it cuts through most wood make it much easier to make accurate cuts with a stationary jointer.
Stationary jointers also have longer beds, which improves their accuracy as well. These longer beds make it easy to handle long pieces of wood in a single pass, where you might have to use multiple passes with a shorter bed. Fewer passes means less of a chance for a mistake.
Benchtop jointers, as their name suggests, are much smaller than “cabinet” jointers. The size corresponds to less ability to stabilize the frame as it shakes with the jointer’s powerful motor. Still, any quality benchtop jointer will be able to cut to 1/16” with reasonable accuracy.
Cutting capacity is another factor to consider when choosing between a benchtop jointer and a stationary jointer. It’s affected by power, but the width of the jointer also makes a difference.
Benchtop jointers come in 6” and 8” widths. These can handle most boards, but 8” benchtop jointers are typically much more expensive and may take a long time to finish a cut. They also will have a hard time making deep cuts with hardwoods.
Because of their greater power, stationary jointers have a greater cutting capacity than benchtop jointers. But the typical widths for stationary jointers are the same as with others: 6” and 8”. The difference in cutting capacity really comes in when you see how deeply the jointers can cut into boards and how quickly they can process lumber.
While you might already have a jointer in mind, it’s important to consider the limits that price might put on what you can buy. In general, stationary jointers are more expensive than benchtop jointers.
Stationary jointers start around $200, but can exceed over $500 for the nicest models. The more expensive benchtop jointers are appropriate for professionals that need a jointer they can bring to a worksite.
But stationary jointers’ additional power comes with a much higher price tag. They usually start around $450, close to the most expensive benchtop jointer you could find. The priciest stationary jointers can be as expensive as $3,000, which reflects the professional-level cutting capacity, power, and accuracy you get with those professional-grade models.
Noise may be important to you when choosing between a benchtop jointer and a stationary jointer. Strangely enough, the amount of noise a jointer makes is fairly counterintuitive: some jointers you’d think would be quieter are actually very noisy, and the opposite can be true as well.
Many people are surprised to learn that benchtop jointers are very loud. What they don’t consider is that benchtop jointers still need a powerful motor, and their lighter construction means that they make a lot of noise from shaking and rattling as well. Benchtop jointers also have an uncovered engine, putting you directly next to the engine without a sound barrier.
Although stationary jointers have even more powerful motors than benchtop jointers, you’ll probably find that yours is less noisy. That’s because its stability keeps it from shaking and rattling, and its engine is hidden behind the cabinet supporting it. Although the motor may be louder by itself, stationary jointers are usually actually quieter.
Reliability is an important consideration when choosing between a benchtop jointer and a stationary jointer. Stationary jointers are more reliable than benchtop jointers, but they’re also more expensive. If you need a jointer that you can rely on, a stationary jointer is the way to go. However, if you’re working with rough lumber or you don’t need precision, a benchtop jointer may be all you need.
Portability is an important consideration when choosing between a benchtop jointer and a stationary jointer. If you’re a professional who needs to bring a jointer onto your worksite, you’ll certainly want to do that with the most portable tools you can get.
Benchtop jointers are more portable than stationary jointers, but they’re also less powerful and have smaller cutting capacities. If you need to move your jointer around the shop, or if you’re working with small pieces of lumber, a benchtop jointer may be the better choice.
However, if you’re working with large pieces of lumber or you don’t need to move your jointer around, a stationary jointer may be all you need. It’s important to consider exactly what you’ll be doing with your jointer before you pick one, and this is a great example of why.
With the significant investment that you have to spend to buy a jointer, you certainly want to know that it’ll last you for a long time. That’s where the build quality and materials come in: those are the most important factors in how long a jointer will last you.
Stationary jointers will last longer because of their solid build and heavier materials. Because companies don’t worry about portability when they make stationary jointers, they make them with heavy, durable metal. That makes sure that a quality stationary jointer will be one of the longest-lived tools in your shop.
Benchtop jointers tend not to last as long because they’re made from lighter materials and designed to be less expensive than stationary jointers.
The bottom line is that there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between a benchtop jointer and a stationary jointer. It all depends on your needs and preferences.
If you need a powerful, accurate, reliable jointer that can handle large cuts, a stationary jointer is the way to go.
However, if you’re working with smaller pieces of lumber or you don’t need precision, a benchtop jointer may be all you need. Whichever type of jointer you choose, make sure it’s the right tool for the job.