How to Use a Jointer Planer Safely

Old wooden tool

Many woodworking projects will require you to learn how to use a jointer planer in order to square the edge on a board perfectly. While there are a variety of ways to perform this task, using a jointer offers unparalleled precision. However, in order to get this machine to deliver, you’ll need to learn how to properly use it. Learning how to operate this type of machine is fairly simple and can be broken down into a few basic steps. If you learn how to correctly use this machine you’ll be rewarded with better joints and a cleaner cut.

If you’re learning how to use a jointer planer, your first step is reading the user’s manual in order to understand how the machine works, how to set the cut of depth, how to properly square the fence, and how to feed the lumber through the cutterhead. It’s also important to learn about the machine’s limits so you don’t push it too hard and cause overheating or a dip in quality.

Learn how to read the grain in wood so you can place it correctly in the bed. If the settings are correct and the fence is square, then you’re ready to carefully and steadily feed the lumber through the machine, applying a firm level of pressure to ensure the wood moves through the cutterhead smoothly.

Important Guidelines

Understanding how this machine works will be crucial. Most models provide some type of convenient feature that will make the process more predictable and easier. Before you fire this machine up it’s important to learn how to adjust the drive belt, tension, change the blades, set the depth of cut, and adjust the fence properly.

Additionally, learning how to tune this machine is also critical. You’ll want to use the best straight edge you have to ensure that the table is set perfectly parallel.

carpenter working

You can use a digital angle gauge or a machinist square to set the fence to a perfectly square position. If you don’t have a square fence, then using a jointer will be a difficult process.

A machine’s capacity boundaries are limited by the width and length of its bed. You’ll need to set a lower limit regarding the size of the board you’ll run through the machine for safety reasons. In most cases, half an inch thick is the smallest recommended piece. Don’t try milling smaller lumber than what’s recommended.


The limit of what this type of machine can handle is a matter of quality, not safety. I recommend limiting the length of board to no more than twice the length of the infeed table. If you run into an issue where you’ll need to joint longer lumber than what a machine is able to handle, then try using a straightedge and router instead. While this is tedious work it’s much safer.

Depth of Cut

Learning how to set the correct depth of cut is also important. You need to do so carefully in order to avoid burning out the motor. However, it should be set at a depth that will make noticeable progress with every single pass. Most woodworkers recommend setting the depth of cut at 1/32 of an inch. At this setting, it will typically take a couple of passes in order to remove enough wood to produce a square edge. While this is a somewhat conservative approach, it will prevent burdening the machine.


Did you know that the direction that grain runs in the lumber can have an impact on the surface quality of the edge? Depending on the species of wood, you can end up with very sharp lumber or no effect whatsoever. Most woodworkers don’t bother reading the grain for edge jointing unless they run into an issue, since a majority of the time when you’re edge jointing the surface won’t be exposed on your final product.

However, if you run into tear-out or chatter, as you’re working, then it’s important to learn how to read the grain in order to eliminate or reduce the effect. To do, check out the wood and determine the direction of the grain on the lumber. When you’re feeding a board, the grain direction should be at the edge and pointed toward the end of the bed as it runs through the machine.

Face Jointing

Before you start edging the wood, you may need to face joint your lumber so that you’ll have a flat face to place against the machine’s fence as you joint. Try not to skip this step since it can lead to safety issues.

How to Handle a Fence that’s Not Square

When you’re in the process of joining several parts in order to form a panel, even the slightest deviation from being squared can have a big effect and can cause major issues with glue-up. To avoid this, you can mark the top of every other board in order to indicate the face that will be placed against the fence. Next, take the non-marked boards and flip them over and mark the opposite side. Keep in mind, you should always place The marked face against the fence in order to produce the best angles at glue-up time.


jointer and tools

If you’ve had experience using the best portable table saw, such as the Rockwell RK7241S, then you know you’ll need to use a certain level of pressure to secure the workpiece in place, but not so much that it will cause tension in the wood as it’s cut or cause it to move out of place. It’s the same with the jointer, however, you’ll need to practice how to correctly feed the lumber through the cutterhead a few times before you get the hang of it.

To feed your lumber properly through the machine begin by placing the board against the fence at the desired edge on the table. At this time, make sure that the board is resting flat against the fence and not twisted.

Using one hand, place it on the top edge close to the front of the board and maintain pressure both forward and downward. Try to avoid overdoing the downward pressure. You don’t want to flex the board flat. Instead, you simply want to control it as it moves through the cutter head. If you use too much pressure this can distort the board which will result in a concave edge.

As your hand passes over the cutter head, make sure you lock it into position 2 to 3 inches past the cutterhead. This allows you to switch from using the outfeed table to using the infeed table as the reference surface. This is a smooth transition and it’s where many jointing issues occur. After you’ve made this transition,  your non-dominant hand  should remain in the same position throughout the duration of the cut in order to maintain pressure, in addition to securely holding the board against the fence.

Maintaining Pressure

Now, you can use your dominant hand to continue to maintain a feed pressure that’s sturdy, in addition to applying pressure toward the fence. Maintaining a steady feed rate will be important. If you feed the lumber through the machine too quickly it can cause a rippled surface. For ultimate safety, you can use a push block to feed the lumber through the machine. This will be a good idea if you’re dealing with narrower lumber.

Related Questions

How Can I Tell if My Saw Blade is Sharp?

If you notice a change in the quality of a cut, or sawing becomes increasingly difficult, then it may be time to learn how to sharpen a saw. Remember, your tools should be sharpened and ready before use. A dull blade can have a major impact on the quality of the cut.

Are More Teeth On a Saw Blade Better?

Blades with fewer teeth will offer a rougher cut, while blades that have more teeth will provide a smoother, cleaner cut. If you’re using a saw for your next woodworking project, go with a blade that has more teeth. Usually, blades with fewer teeth are mainly used for construction projects, not fine woodworking.

Final Thoughts

Many woodworkers have struggled to learn how to use a jointer planer, since it requires more of an extensive setup compared to other machines. Additionally, you have to learn how to choose the correct cut of depth, how to determine if the fence is square, and how to maintain the proper level of pressure on the lumber as it moves through the cutterhead.

But once you learn how to use this machine correctly, you’ll find yourself relying on it for most of your woodworking projects in the future. I hope my guide has taught you how this type of woodworking machine works, and what you can expect concerning results and the overall process.