There are various tools you will need for woodworking, and two commonly used are hand planers and jointers. They are similar but not the same thing.
This discusses hand planers and jointers and what makes them different. We also want to determine whether you can use a hand planer as a jointer. So, can I use a hand planer as a jointer?
Hand Planers and Jointers: The Basics
Before we go further, let’s see what hand planers and jointers are.
What is a Hand Planer?
A hand planer is a commonly used woodworking tool. It features a very sharp blade fitted into a flat base and has two handles to push it along. A hand planer is designed to shave away thin layers of wood from a surface such as a board.
Most hand planers are manually powered, so you need to push it along. They remove small amounts of wood from a surface, usually around 1/8 inch.
This tool is most commonly used to straighten a side of a board that is warped or twisted, chamfering the corner of a board, or shaving the edge of a door that is sticking. However, a hand planer is the tool of choice if you need to remove a small amount to flatten a relatively small surface.
What is a Jointer?
A jointer is a large and stationary woodworking tool powered by electricity. It sits on a large table through which a set of blades protrudes. Unlike many saws and woodworking tools, the blades of a jointer are a circular drum fitted with many small knives.
This circular drum sits horizontally on the table and spins very fast. These blades can shave away thin layers of wood from the surface of a board. Generally speaking, a jointer is used to make one face of a board perfectly flat. It can also make the adjacent side perfectly square to the first side. However, a jointer cannot be used to create two parallel and perfectly even sides of a board.
Can I Use a Hand Planer as a Jointer?
In their most basic forms, hand planers and jointers are designed to shave away very thin layers of material from a piece of wood. However, whether you can use a hand planer as a jointer is highly questionable. Generally speaking, a hand planer will not serve the same purpose as a jointer.
One reason it would be challenging to use a hand planer as a jointer is accuracy. A hand planer features an entirely flat table on which a board rests.
You push the board over the top and through the blades that protrude through the table. You can therefore pass a very long board through those blades to achieve a flat and even edge on one side of the board.
Because the table is 100% flat and the blades lay at a 90-degree angle to the table, you can create one perfect right angle from the first side of the board to the adjacent side.
In other words, you can square the narrow side of a board once one of the wider edges has already been jointed. Due to the design of the jointer table, this 90-degree angle is very easy to achieve.
Technically Speaking, Yes, But Realistically No
Yes, both tools are designed to flatten and straighten one board side. However, because a hand planer is manual, and you need to push it along with your hands, achieving 100% accuracy is difficult, especially for a long board. Also, when you run a planer along a long board, accurately shaving away the same amount of material from one end to the other can be difficult.
Also, the blades are on the bottom when using a jointer, with the board resting on a table. This means that a jointer holds the board in the proper position so that the blade can shave off an even amount of material from front to back. In addition, the table of the jointer acts as the flat surface that supports the board so that the blades can evenly shave off the same amount of material from one side to the other.
However, you run the blade over top of the board with a hand planer, and you don’t really have a reference for what is exactly flat. Now, you could do some measuring and marking.
For instance, if you need the board to be 3/4 inches thick from front to back, you can mark a line from one side to the other. You would then use your jointer to remove all material down to that line.
However, this would mean that one side of the board, the underside, would already need to be perfectly straight and flat; if the underside is not straight and flat, you have no reference for what is flat and straight on top (this is the benefit of the table of the jointer).
So, while it is technically possible to use a hand planer as a jointer, it will not be easy. This is something that would require a great deal of skill.
Moreover, also consider that a jointer is a very fast-working power tool. For example, you can jointer a long board in just a few seconds.
However, it could take up to an hour to completely flatten a single board with a hand planer. Therefore, if you need to flatten and straighten many boards, using a hand planer would be highly inefficient and time-consuming compared to a jointer.
With a hand planer, there is no fast and accurate way to square one side of the board with the adjacent flat side of another.
While it is technically possible to use a hand planer as a jointer, it’s not going to be easy or overly accurate. Moreover, it’s time-consuming. Planers and jointers aren’t the same things, although they both shave wood from the surface of a board.