Using the appropriate tools for your wood project is vital to its success. Jointers and planers are essential tools with distinctive functions, but they can sometimes fill in for each other.
You can use a planer as a jointer if you work with thick boards. The hand planer will work with the slimmer boards, but you risk injuries or machine damage. The idea is to prevent the wood from rocking and turning while jointing with a planer.
The rest of this guide is a step-by-step guide that explains how you can use a planer instead of a jointer.
How to Use Your Hand Planer As a Jointer
A jointer machine usually takes up space, which may not be ideal if you have a small workshop or don’t work on wood frequently. The device has a table to feed your wood in and another to take it out – alongside other features.
A hand planer is a much simpler and more portable tool to keep in your workshop. While you can use your hand planer as a jointer, you need to know how a jointer works.
The goal of a jointer is to make it easy to join two pieces of wood by smoothing the edges. This may sound like a task that sandpaper can take on, but not when you have rough lumber.
While smoothing the wood, a jointer also solves issues in the wood, like cupping and warping. I have an entire article explaining the functions of a jointer in woodworking and how you can use the device properly if you want to brush up on how a jointer is used.
Meanwhile, a planer is used to ensure that a plank of wood is of a consistent thickness throughout its length.
While a jointer and planer may, at first glance, seem to perform different functions, you can use a planer instead of a jointer. In fact, some people even make convertible planers. Once you turn this planer around, what you have is a jointer.
Here’s how you can use your planer as a jointer.
1. Get All the Necessary Materials
A planer is not going to transform into a jointer by magic. You are going to need to add some parts to the hand planer. Some of these tools should accompany your hand planer when you purchase, but you must get some yourself.
Some of the tools needed for this job include;
- The electric hand planer. This is the most critical tool you want to convert. You can use the manual hand planer, but you may not get the expected results. If you don’t already have a hand planer, I recommend the WEN 6530 6-Amp Electric Hand Planer (available on Amazon.com), mainly because of its 16-stops for depth adjustment.
- Edge guide. The edge guide typically comes when you buy your hand planer, but if yours doesn’t, I recommend this Saker Chamfer Plane-Woodworking Edge (available on Amazon.com). It’s easy to use and adjust, but I do recommend using it with an edge guide.
- L bracket. The L bracket is used to install the edge guide, so it usually comes with a new hand planer. It is best to get this directly from the manufacturer.
- Toggle and regular bolts and nuts. You will need bolts and nuts to fix the edge guide and other things into your hand planer before it can work as a jointer. Again, be sure to have bolts and nuts that correspond to the sizes provided in your hand planers.
- Smoothing plane. Using a hand planer for a jointer job is not exactly an easy task, and you will most likely not get the perfect result. You will need a smoothing plane to add some final touches to make your work more precise. STANLEY Hand Planer, No.4 (available on Amazon.com) is a product I can vouch for, as it can lock with the wood to increase the smoothing accuracy.
2. Check and Clean the Electric Planer
Your hand planer will be one of your favorite tools if you perform a lot of woodwork that requires smooth sides. However, we always tend to forget to clean and maintain this device.
Start by cleaning the blades and sides of the hand planer off all debris. If you can and feel confident in doing so, you should dismantle it and clean all parts thoroughly with engine oil. Remember to unplug the appliance before cleaning and ensure the engine oil has light thickness.
3. Set Up the Hand Planer as a Jointer
There are two different ways your hand planer can work as a jointer;
- Create a jig to fit the hand planer
- Add the edge guide to convert it to a jointer.
Both choices work perfectly to convert your hand planer to a jointer, but they have their respective advantages.
The edge guide method allows you to smoothen the longest wood boards while controlling the hand planer. However, if you are not careful, the guide may get ripped off, and you may not get a smooth finish.
Installing the edge guide on the hand planer is usually easier than creating a jig for the hand planer. However, it can be more expensive if you do not have the tools.
Here’s the process:
- Identify the bolt hole for the edge guide. You can check the user manual to get an exact bolt location.
- Install the L-bracket first and hold it with the toggle bolt.
- Install the edge guide with its flat edge facing the inside. Likewise, secure it with the toggle bolt.
After installing this correctly, you should have your edge guide at the top of the hand planer blade without touching it. This setup is crucial, as the edge guide should only guide the blade on the surface without interfering.
Creating a jig will keep your planer at a stationary position, which will increase the accuracy while smoothing the surface. However, the downside is that you can’t use it for long wood jobs. Also, you will need a lot of scrap wood to take on this process.
This video will give a visual understanding of creating the jig for the hand planer;
4. Setup Your Workspace
You need enough space to smoothen your wood with a hand-plane jointer. You need a working table where you can fix your wood and clamp it.
The conversion you do with the hand planer determines the workspace you need. You need to have a working table to control the hand planer over the wood. But if you made the jig, you only need a flat surface since you’re holding the wood.
Check this video for a good setup example:
6. Power and Use Your Plane on the Wood
After setting up the workspace and your hand planer, you need to turn it on and start working. As I have mentioned, if you are controlling the hand planer, it is better to hold the side of the edge guide to increase accuracy. If not, ensure you slide the wood over the hand planer firmly.
Using a hand planer as a jointer is not as easy as I described above. I strongly advise you to try it on some scrap wood to make mistakes and learn from them.
If you can afford to and find a use for them, I would advise buying the jointer and the hand planer, as they have irreplaceable functions. If you can’t afford both, the jointer is usually a better choice to buy. You can convert only if you already have a hand plane at your disposal.