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Should You Buy a Planer or a Jointer?

For anyone venturing into the world of woodworking, acquiring the right tools can make a significant difference in the quality and efficiency of your work. Among the essential tools are the planer and the jointer, each serving unique purposes in wood preparation. However, if you're faced with the decision of which to purchase first, a planer might be your go-to choice. Let’s delve into the reasons why.

Before making a decision, it's crucial to understand what each tool does:

  • Jointer: A jointer is used to flatten one face of a board and square up an edge. It's excellent for straightening warped or twisted lumber, ensuring a flat surface.

  • Planer: A planer takes over where the jointer leaves off. It is used to create a parallel opposite face to the one you just flattened with the jointer and to bring the wood to a consistent thickness.

Why a Planer Might Be Your First Choice

  1. Versatility in Thicknessing: The ability to create uniform thickness is crucial in many woodworking projects. A planer allows you to buy rough-sawn lumber (which is cheaper) and mill it to the thickness you need, which can be a more frequent requirement than edge jointing.

  2. Cost-Effectiveness: By choosing a planer first, you can initially save on costs while still being able to purchase pre-surfaced lumber (which has one flat face) for your projects.

  3. Space Efficiency: Planers generally take up less space compared to jointers, which is beneficial if your workshop has limited room.

  4. Workarounds for Jointing: While not as perfect as a jointer, you can use various methods to achieve a jointer’s effect with a planer, such as using a planer sled. This flexibility is not reciprocated; a jointer cannot mimic a planer's functionality.

When to Consider a Jointer

A jointer becomes essential when you find yourself frequently needing to straighten the edges of your boards or dealing with a lot of warped wood. It is particularly useful if you work with reclaimed lumber.

In the debate between choosing a planer or a jointer as your first significant woodworking tool purchase, leaning towards a planer might be more beneficial. Its versatility, cost-effectiveness, and ability to adapt to various tasks make it a practical first choice for many woodworkers. However, remember that as your skills and projects grow in complexity, investing in a jointer will further enhance your woodworking capabilities.