Jointer Vs. Planer (Flatten and Change Thickness)

Are you confused about the difference between a jointer vs. planer?

Perhaps, you know a bit about these two woodworking tools—but you don’t know their pros and cons.

I’ve decided to comprehensively discuss the differences between a jointer and a planer—in this post. You’ll also see their merits and demerits over each other. Plus, I’ll show you a few benefits of using woodworking tools.

What is a Jointer?

using jointer

A jointer essentially has one job, and that’s to make your lumber perfectly flat without any twists, bows, or cups. And when you have boards that are nice and flat, your woodworking process becomes more efficient and easier.

With this heavy piece of machinery, you can make the edges of lumber square and straight—with a little bit of effort.

But that’s not all.

You can use the jointer to give an unmilled piece of timber one flat face and one square edge.

I know you might be wondering, why not the two sides? Sure, a jointer can make the faces and edges of a wood piece flat, but it does this without making them parallel. For this reason, a jointer should be the first machine you use to even out one side of your raw piece of lumber.


Here are some benefits you gain from running your lumber through a jointer.

  • A jointer makes flattening surfaces and squaring edges quick and easy
  • With a jointer, you can remove all forms of defects (twists, wraps, cups, and bows) that can prevent your lumber from being flat or square
  • The jointer is fully adjustable. So, you can easily change the cut angle to fit the needs of your woodworking project


Jointers are versatile tools that perfectly flatten uneven pieces of wood. However, the jointer still has its limitations. So, here’re the things a jointer can’t do for you.

  • Jointers cannot evenly flatten the two surfaces of a piece of lumber. So if you run both sides, you have two flat surfaces with different measurements
  • You can’t guarantee a constant thickness across all boards. It means you can’t set the exact thickness for all the boards you cut—with a jointer
  • It only makes surfaces flat—hence, jointers cannot smoothen surfaces

What is a Planer?

using benchtop planer

Planers fulfill several roles in woodworking. In short, you can use a planer to smoothen the rough surface of your lumber.

But that’s not all.

You can also use planers to change the thickness of your lumber. And planers have various types and sizes that work for different kinds of projects. Hence, you can choose manual planers, which work with your strength—or go for the electric planer.

planer long board


Here are some advantages of using the planer for your woodworking project.

  • You create parallel surfaces with ease
  • With Planers, you can get consistent thickness across all boards
  • Planers can remove blemishes, stains, and coatings from lumbers
  • You can also recycle old wood with planers
  • Smoothens the surface of the board


A planer also has its limitations. Here are some of the things planers can’t do for you.

  • You can’t remove defects like warps, cups, and twists
  • Not helpful in squaring the edges of your lumber
  • More expensive than the jointer

Jointers vs Planers: What’s the Difference?

Jointers and planers are more similar than we think—but they perform different functions. The aim of using the tools is to make your wood usable.

So why can’t you just run the wood through one of them and be done with it?

Well, the answer is simple.

The jointer and planer exist to complement each other. Of course, you can’t perform the same actions with these tools, but you use the two of them to get what you want.

While the jointer is the first tool you use to flatten an unmilled wood piece, the planer completes the process by making the sides parallel—with consistent thickness.

So, if you want something with a consistent thickness that isn’t flat, run that lumber through a planner. If you want something with two flat sides without uniform thickness, run that wood piece through a jointer.

However, if you want a consistently thick board with two flat sides—run that board through a jointer first, then feed it through a planer.

jointer in use

The design and structure of the jointer and planer are also different.

The jointer is a big table-like machine with a cylindrical blade that cuts at the wood below to make it flat. It has two tables at the top of the machine (in and outfeed tables) that roll your lumber over the blade.

You need to apply pressure if you want to do it properly. Also, there’s a fence that serves as an edge guide that helps keep your lumber steady.

On the other hand, planers can be small or big, depending on the type you choose.


Plus, you can use your hands to run manual planers, while electric planers are more advanced. Planners have feed rollers—designed to press the board into the planer table. Plus, the positioning of the cutterhead, for planers, is at the top.

Here is a quick outline of all the differences mentioned:

  • Jointers make wood flat while planers deal with thickness, smoothness and make both sides parallel
  • Jointers are larger than most planners
  • The cutter head resides at the bottom for jointers and the top for planers

Why Do You Need a Jointer or Planer?

Jointers help to give your wood a flat surface and a square edge. Plus, a jointer is also the best tool to remove imperfections from your lumber.

In contrast, you need a planer to make the sides of your wood parallel and ensure consistent thickness. Plus, a planer helps to remove all forms of stains and blemishes to make your wood shine.

Thus, you need the two tools if you want the perfect timber for your woodworking project.


Here are the frequently asked questions:

Can a Jointer Do the Work of a Planer?

The role of a jointer is different from that of a planer. The jointer can only flatten one face of a wood piece. Therefore, a jointer can’t expressly do the work of a planer.

Can You Use a Planer if You Don’t Have a Jointer?

To some extent, you can use planers in replacement of jointers, but it is tricky.

For planers to work, one side of the wood should be flat. Because of this difference in design, you will need to add an edge guide to your planer—if you want it to perform the job of a jointer.

Why Do You Need to Use a Jointer First Before a Planer?

The jointer makes the surface of a timber flatter than the planer can perform.

So, this makes the jointer necessary, unless you buy a wood piece—with one flattened side. Then you can use the planner only.

Final Words

I can’t categorically say which is better: jointer vs planer. The jointer and the planer make a complete picture together. Choosing only one of the two would only give you incomplete results.

But, the planer wins this battle—for me, because of its multiple uses.

Do you agree or disagree?

Feel free to reach out to us in the comment section and let us know which tool you pick. 

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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