Squaring Up the Best Benchtop Jointers for 2018
For anyone interested in doing DIY trim carpentry around the home or building small items such as shelves, benches, tables and so forth, a jointer is a near necessity nowadays. The simple reason for this is the prevalence of low-quality dimensional lumber that is cut from small, young trees and then kiln dried. It is nearly impossible to find a straight piece of wood in your typical home store, and a good jointer can turn warped, damaged boards into usable, accurately-dimensioned wood.
The three basic types of jointer are benchtop, closed stand, and long bed machines. Most closed stand and long bed jointers are large, free-standing industrial machines. These floor-model jointers are heavy, high-maintenance, expensive, and hazardous to use, so the majority of home shop owners will need to find a low-cost, portable benchtop jointer. Fortunately, today’s benchtop machines perform well enough to handle most types of DIY or even light professional work, and they are available at easily manageable price points.
- 8 Best Benchtop Jointers - Comparisons
- 8 Best Benchtop Jointers - Reviews
- 1. Grizzly G0725 6” Benchtop Jointer
- 2. Cutech 40160H-CT 6" Benchtop Jointer
- 3. Delta Power Tools 37-071 6” MIDI-Benchtop Jointer
- 4. Shop Fox W1829 6” Benchtop Jointer
- 5. WEN 6560 6” Benchtop Jointer
- 6. Jet JJP-8BT 8” Benchtop Jointer/Planer
- 7. Woodtek 115955 6" Benchtop Jointer
- 8. Porter-Cable PC160JT Variable Speed 6" Jointer
- The Best Benchtop Jointer
8 Best Benchtop Jointers - Comparisons
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How does a jointer work?
A jointer has a perfectly flat steel or iron table with an opening in the center that exposes a cutterhead mounted with very sharp knives or cutting inserts. The cutterhead spins parallel to the table at high speed, and when the edge of a board is passed over it, a thin layer of wood is shaved off, leaving a flat, smooth surface. A fence mounted on the edge of the table keeps the board straight as it moves over the cutterhead. The normal position of the fence is 90 degrees to the table surface, but the fence can also be set to leave an angled face on the edge of the lumber.
Cutterheads and Cutting Depth
Jointer cutterheads come in several configurations, with the two most common types being straight knife heads and spiral heads. With the cutterhead being like a roller, straight knife heads mount 2 or more long, straight blades lengthwise along the Cutterhead. Spiral heads have rows of small two- or four-sided insert-type carbide cutters bolted on to the head in a spiraling pattern running around the cylinder.
Both types have advantages and disadvantages. For example, straight knives are simpler and cheaper to service, and come in resharpenable or disposable types. Spiral heads produce smoother cuts, but replacing the cutting inserts is a more complicated and expensive process.
Cutting depth refers to the amount of wood that a jointer can remove from a board in one pass. Cutting depth can be adjusted to match the hardness of the material being worked or to meet the needs of the task. Most benchtop jointers have a maximum 1/8” cutting depth capability.
Cutting Out the Best Benchtop Jointers
Jointers are becoming more common in the DIY and home shop space, and there are quite a few benchtop models to choose from. We sorted through some of the most prominent brands looking for build quality, useful feature sets, and cutting capability. Read on to see our choices for the best benchtop jointers for the money.
8 Best Benchtop Jointers - Reviews
1. Grizzly G0725 6” Benchtop Jointer
The Grizzly G0725 has a very beefy build for a benchtop machine and comes with features and looks that mimic a large industrial jointer. The 12 Amp 1.5 horsepower motor runs at 20000 RPM and out-powers most other jointers this size. Both the fence and the 28-1/2 by 6-1/4 inch table are cast-iron construction, and with a steel body, this jointer pushes the limits of portability at 76lbs. The 1-7/8 inch cutterhead mounts 2 jack-screw adjustable knives and turns at 10000 RPM. Maximum cut depth is the typical 1/8”, and a built-in dust exhaust fan and collection bag system is a nice added touch. This jointer has the build and power needed to work in light-duty professional settings, and it can handle rougher input stock than most bench top machines.
For a jointer with a tiny 19 by 11 inch footprint, the Grizzly is a real power pack. We liked the solid fence set-up – the mounting and adjustment components are steel – but the plastic lock bolt wings were a disappointment. Getting the machine trued-up takes some work as the usual Chinese quality control had the table on the machine we tested off by a few thousandths, and the fence was not perfectly straight either.
Users looking for an old-style heavy metal build will like the Grizzly G0725, and it is our favorite benchtop jointer. It is a powerful, stable machine that can run light stock without being bolted down, so it is a great choice for on-site use on finish carpentry projects.
- Lots of power
- Solid fence
- Heavy-duty build
- Table and fence are not accurately machined
- Difficult to adjust infeed table height and special Allen wrenches are needed
- The included hex wrench strips out the knife bolts
2. Cutech 40160H-CT 6" Benchtop Jointer
Although not one of the big brand names, the Cutech 40160H-CT 6” bench top jointer delivers a lot of capability at an entry-level price point. It has a 10 Amp 120 volt motor that drives a spiral cutterhead with 12 2-sided high-temper stainless steel inserts. This is a lot of cutting power for a bench top machine, and the Cutech had the only spiral cutterhead among the machines we tested. A dust collector with a 2-1/2 inch port allows the Cutech to be connected to a dust collection system or shop vac. The tables are cast iron and on the small side at 12-1/2 by 7 inches each, but they are accurate and the machine is sturdily built for the most part.
The Cutech is a fairly capable machine for an intermediate-level jointer, and its small dimensions and less than 40lbs. of weight make it a good fit in the home shop or as a portable touch-up jointer on professional job sites. The body of the machine and table are solid enough, but we found the aluminum fence to be a little flimsy and difficult to keep square. Power users may soon find themselves building extensions for the table and modifying the fence.
As a basic small jointer for the DIY market, the Cutech 40160H-CT represents a good balance of quality and affordability. It can cut to a depth of 1/8”, is truly portable, and is simple to set up and use. The Cutech is a good value for the money and came in second in our test.
- Cuts well for a small jointer
- Easy to adjust while working
- Very affordable
- Company has no established reputation
- Fence is difficult to lock firmly
- Jointer will need to be bolted down
3. Delta Power Tools 37-071 6” MIDI-Benchtop Jointer
The Delta MIDI 37-071 is similar to the Grizzly in build, with a lot of steel and cast iron in use and a weight of 76lbs. It has a 12 Amp motor that runs the 2-blade aluminum cutter head at 10000 RPM and a 28-1/2 by 6-1/4 inch table. The fence has a brawny mount system, and setting it was simple. Dust removal is handled by a standard 2-1/2 inch port, and the side-mounted exhaust tube is very accessible for attaching a bag, shop vac, or dust collection hose. The base is well-designed and the machine is heavy enough to provide good stability. It cuts with good power, and in light, kiln-dried fir it does not bog down much even on a full 1/8” deep cut.
This jointer is well-constructed overall, and the unit we looked at came with a reasonably true fence and table. Unlike some other machines, the table was set parallel to the fence out of the box. In any case, table adjustment is simple on this machine. The detailing on this machine is lacking and does not live up to traditional Delta standards. The cast iron components have some nicks and burs, and the cut depth gauge is just a sticker with some markings on it.
If you get a good unit and get it set up and tuned in accurately, this Delta can do well on the small jobs it is built for. Compared to some of the other jointers out there, we feel the 37-071 is overpriced for the quality and features on offer. Still, it comes with a 5-year warranty, the knives are inexpensive and easy to service once you get the correct wrench, and the table and fence are well-machined. The Delta gets 3rd place in our test.
- Fairly accurate machining on the table and fence
- Solid, sturdy base
- All-metal build
- Must be connected to a shop vac for effective chip removal
- No cut depth gauge
- Poor build details
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4. Shop Fox W1829 6” Benchtop Jointer
The Shop Fox W1829 is a solidly built little jointer with a formed steel base and cast iron table and fence. The 12 Amp single-phase motor puts out 1-1/2 horsepower to spin the 2-knife cutting head at 10000 RPM. Like most of the other benchtop jointers, the table on this machine is 28-1/2 by 6-1/4 inches, with an in-feed adjustment knob that allows for control of cutting depth while working. A built-in impeller keeps the cutterhead and work area free of chips and dust, and comes with a disposal chute that fits on a standard trash can.
Like other Shop Fox power tools, the W1829 jointer is heavy and solidly built, with some good ideas in terms of design features. It has plenty of power and cuts well, and the dust collection system is great. Where things fall apart are in the details. The ends of the in- and out-feed tables were out of true on the machine we tested, and we struggled to keep the fence square. The unit was also painted rather than powder coated, and the paint work was clumsy.
All 6” jointers are made in China nowadays, so any purchase is going to be a roll of the dice. The Shop Fox has a nice, heavy build, and great power. If you can get one with an accurately machined table and fence, some of the other problems can be tweaked and adjusted away. As it stands, this jointer does not offer enough detail quality for its price point so we ranked in 4th place.
- Heavy duty construction
- Powerful motor
- Good dust control system
- Poor detailing and accuracy
- High price to quality ratio
5. WEN 6560 6” Benchtop Jointer
WEN is making some fair-quality power tools available at entry-level price points, and the 6560 6” jointer is typical of their offerings. The cast iron base, table, and fence put the WEN near 80lbs. and make for a stable machine. A 10 Amp motor runs a 2-knife cutting blade at 10000 RPM, with a 1/8” maximum cut depth possible. The jointer has a standard 2-1/2 inch dust port and comes with a dust bag, but connection to a shop vac is necessary for effective chip clearance. Cutting performance was similar to other jointers in this price range, and the knives have a jack-screw adjustment system.
WEN tools are not highly detailed products, and the low-quality of the casting process used on this jointer’s components was immediately visible upon inspection. As we have seen with other machines in our test, machining on the fence and table is not perfectly accurate, and likely varies from unit to unit. The jointer cuts well, and with some work on the table and fence, reasonable accuracy can be achieved on short stock.
It sometimes seems like these lower price point jointers are all made in the same factory. It is difficult to find outstanding features to set any of them apart. The WEN is a good machine for light DIY and hobbyist work, and it rises in quality above similarly-priced machines that rely on aluminum for their fence and/or table. The WEN jointer stands out as our favorite in the low price range for its heavy build and comes in 5th overall.
- Decent quality for the price
- Good customer service network
- Fence brackets are weak pot-metal and can crack
- Height and tilt of infeed table is difficult to adjust
6. Jet JJP-8BT 8” Benchtop Jointer/Planer
The Jet JJP-8BT is the lowest-cost way into a jointer/planer combination that is small enough for the home shop and light enough to move around. The jointer tables are precision ground cast iron, but the use of extruded aluminum for the jointer fence and sheet metal for the planer outfeed table extension keeps the total machine weight down to 58lbs. With an 8” 2-knife cutterhead, the jointer function can theoretically handle 8” stock with a cutting depth of 1/8”. The 13-Amp motor does have good power, but a smooth, full-load cut in any but the softest material would be difficult to achieve. The planer infeed is just below the jointer outfeed, and it is best suited for light-duty work.
The JJP-8BT has a 2-knife cutterhead that turns at 9000 RPM for a cutting speed of 18000 CPM. The claimed feed rate of 19-1/2 feet per minute is highly dependent on the type of material being worked. With hardwoods, or when resurfacing old, weathered material, the machine will bog and strain. It absolutely must be bolted down to handle any sort of tough work. Adjustment knobs are well-placed, but the adjustment hardware has a small-scale feel to it that makes it difficult to get things really locked down. The bump-off safety switch is awkwardly positioned in our opinion. Connection to a shop vac is required for effective debris removal and dust control.
The JJp-8BT has a toy-like feel and build to it that we did not particularly like. That said, if you use it as a 6” jointer and take advantage of the small size and relatively low weight, it can be a satisfying machine. Like many jointers in our test, the fence on the Jet is not true and has about a 1/32” arch in the center. The Jet earns 6th place.
- Only 8” benchtop on the market
- Jointing and light planning capability in a small package
- Requires a lot of time on set-up to get tables flat and adjust knives
- Fence mounting hardware is light and weak
- Beds do not stay level
- Dust chute must be moved between jointing and planning functions
7. Woodtek 115955 6" Benchtop Jointer
The Woodtek 115955 will meet the needs of users looking for light weight and a compact footprint. Weight savings is achieved by using extruded aluminum for the 23-5/8 by 4-1/2 inch fence, while the tables are cast iron. The machine is easily portable at 42lbs. The 10 Amp 1/2 horsepower single-phase motor turns the 2-knife cutterhead at 7500 RPM, yielding a cutting rate of 15000 CPM. The typical twist knob is used to adjust table height/cutting depth. A 2-1/2 inch dust port relies on an outside source of suction for debris removal.
The Woodtek jointer is a light-duty machine best suited to small-piece work in the home shop. It has a very clean and simple appearance, with an aluminum guard and a basic toggle switch for power control. The tables on the unit we got were reasonably accurate, and setting the fence was not difficult. The jointer runs well in small dimension pine at a 1/16” cut depth and was relatively quiet and vibration-free. With larger 2x4” stock, care is needed to avoid pushing the fence out of alignment because it is difficult to get a tight enough lock on the fence with the plastic wing-handle bolts provided.
For the hobbyist, simplicity like the Woodtek 115955 offers can be a good thing because there is less to adjust and go wrong. This is the type of jointer that you can bolt down, line up and lock in, then run small stock through with no further bother. The knives do not last long when you start feeding weathered, rough material through the machine, but replacements are available at low cost. We put the Woodtek at number 7 in our test.
- Light and portable
- Simple design is friendly to beginners
- No bump-off switch
- Fence cannot handle heavy pressure
- Table adjustment knob and screw fitting are flimsy
8. Porter-Cable PC160JT Variable Speed 6" Jointer
The Porter-Cable PC160JT is a beginner-range jointer that offers the advantage of 5 variable speeds between 6000 and 11000 RPM that are set from a numbered dial. This makes it easier to get clean cuts in a variety of wood, and with a little practice, tool marks can be minimized to a level not usually possible with a 2-knife bench top jointer. Knife replacement is simple and inexpensive, and a jack screw system allows for leveling the knives. The 32 by 11-inch table is built from aluminum. Some users may question durability and accuracy here, but aluminum adds to the portability of the machine by reducing weight. The table on the machine we looked at was as easy to true up as most others.
The PC160JT has a bit of a light-weight, cheap feel to it. It can be difficult to get the fence perfectly squared up, and the process will take some getting used to. Once the machine is set, it cuts well as long as the operator does not push it too hard with tough material. The full 1/8” depth setting is not recommended, but multiple passes at 1/16” or so will produce a level, smooth board edge.
The Porter-Cable is a light-duty jointer that will serve the needs of most home woodworkers. It cuts typical milled lumber well, and dust collection can be handled by a shop vac with the addition of reducing adapter. Even though the fence and table adjustment functions are touchy, most users will set the machine one time and just leave it. For buyers on a budget, the PC160JT is our low-price leader.
- Variable speed setting
- Easy blade maintenance
- Priced within reach of the hobbyist
- Flimsy build
- Fence can shift while working
Video Credit - Joel Van Staden
The Best Benchtop Jointer
It does not take too long to notice that many benchtop jointers on the market today are nearly identical in features, function, and quality. Precision is key when jointing lumber, and a minor inaccuracy in the table can result in 1/8” or 1/4” difference over a 7-8 foot run. So to us, the best jointer is the one with the heaviest build and most accurate machining on fence and table. Power is next in importance. Portability may be more important to some users than it is to us but we did consider it. If you review our list of best benchtop jointers with their build, power, and portability characteristics in mind, then figure in your budget numbers, it is very likely that one of these eight great machines will meet your needs.