What Is The Best Benchtop Jointer? Read My 2018 Buying Guide And Reviews
Posted on May 31, 2018
Flattening faces and squaring the edges of oversized, warped, rough lumber is a blessing for any woodworker. The truth is simple: the initial investment required to buy a jointer allows you to save money on lumber for years to come.
My guide will compare current offers on the market, so you can take an informed decision about what will work best on your shop.
I chose to compare small benchtop jointers for several reasons: I have a small shop, I like to park my cars inside my garage, and an 8" of even a smaller 6" jointer makes sense for 90% of all woodworking tasks. I also believe a small jointer is an ideal first step for the vast majority of woodworkers. Should you outgrow one of these, you can always sell it on Craigslist and buy a bigger tool later on. Having said that...
- 1 The Best Benchtop Jointers are...
- 2 Why a benchtop jointer?
- 3 How To Choose A Benchtop Jointer
- 4 Safety Tips For Jointing Stock
- 5 Benchtop Jointer Reviews
The Best Benchtop Jointers are...
Budget Benchtop Jointer: Porter-Cable PC160JT: If you simply want to get things done, this 6-inch jointer by Porter-Cable is one of the cheapest jointers currently on the market. Since it is also one of the lightest machines as well, it is easy to store it out of your way in your small woodshop. The Porter-Cable is the only benchtop model with variable speed control, which could be useful if you intend to joint exotic lumbers. Click here for info and prices.
Best Benchtop Jointer: Cutech 40180HC-CT: I like this 8-inch jointer by Cutech a lot because it offers a spiral cutterhead with 16 double-sided carbide inserts, so your cuts will always have a higher quality and cutter maintenance expenses are way lower on two fronts - carbide needs less sharpenings, plus it makes more sense to change individual inserts versus change an entire knife should you need. The extendable tables also add flexibility to this Cutech jointer, and this is an exclusive feature. See price here.
Best Benchtop Jointer-Planer Combo: Jet JJP-8BT: What I like the most about this 8-inch jointer planer combo by Jet is the possibility of haveing two machines within one footprint, which works best for smaller workshops. In my personal circumstances, this Jet jointer-planer is a no-brainer choice for the space savings for my tiny shop. I am much more used to seeing these machines in European Youtuber Woodshops, so I was surprised to see that Jet sells these machines on Amazon.
|Brand & Model||Amps||V||Capacity||Cutterhead Type||Cuts per Minute||Speed (RPM)||H x L x D||Link||Weight||Table Length||Fence H x L||Fence Stops (deg.)||Dust Port|
|Cutech 40160H-CT||10||120 V||6" x 1/8"||Spiral (12 inserts, double-sided HSS)||131000||11000||32-1/4" x 12" x 12"||See today's price||40 lbs||30"||4-3/8" x 19-5/8"||90, 135°||2-1/2" Port|
|Cutech 40160HC-CT||10||120 V||6" x 1/8"||Spiral (12 inserts, double-sided carbide)||131000||11000||32-1/4" x 12" x 12"||See today's price||40 lbs||30"||4-3/8" x 19-5/8"||90, 135°||2-1/2" Port|
|Cutech 40180H-CT||10||120 V||8" x 1/8"||Spiral (16 inserts, double-sided HSS)||192000||12000||37" x 16" x 12"||See today's price||49 lbs||33-1/2" (extends to 51")||4-3/8" x 19-3/4"||90, 135°||2-1/2" Port + 4" Adapter|
|Cutech 40180HC-CT||10||120 V||8" x 1/8"||Spiral (16 inserts, double-sided carbide)||192000||12000||37" x 16" x 12"||See today's price||49 lbs||33-1/2" (extends to 51")||4-3/8" x 19-3/4"||90, 135°||2-1/2" Port + 4" Adapter|
|Delta 37-071||12||115 V||6" x 1/8"||Straight Knives (2)||20000||10000||26" x 8" x 10"||See today's price||76 lbs||28-1/2"||4-5/16" x 22-7/8"||45, 90, 135°||2-1/2" Port|
|Grizzly G0725||12||115 V||6" x 1/8"||Straight Knives (2, HSS)||20000||10000||29-1/2" x 19-3/4" x 12-1/2"||See today's price||76 lbs||28-1/2"||4-5/16" x 22-7/8"||45, 90, 135°||2-1/2" Port + Dust Bag|
|Jet JJP-8BT||13||120 V||8" x 1/8"||Straight Knives (2)||18000||9000||31" x 18-1/2" x 16-1/2"||See today's price||58 lbs||29"||4-1/8" x 21"||90, 135°||2-1/2" Port|
|Porter-Cable PC160JT||10||120 V||6" x 1/8"||Straight Knives (2)||12000 to 22000||6000 to 11000||32-1/4" x 12" x 12"||See today's price||41 lbs||32"||4-3/8" x 19-5/8"||90, 135°||2-1/2" Port|
|Powertec BJ600||12||120 V||6" x 1/8"||Straight Knives (2)||20000||10000||29-1/2" x 19-3/4" x 12-1/2"||See today's price||76 lbs||28-1/2"||4-5/16" x 22-7/8"||45, 90, 135°||2-1/2" Port + Dust Bag|
|Rikon 20-600H||10||120 V||6" x 1/8"||Spiral (12 inserts, double-sided HSS)||131000||11000||32-1/4" x 12" x 12"||See today's price||37 lbs||32"||4-3/8" x 19-5/8"||90, 135°||2-1/2" Port|
|Shop Fox W1829||12||110 V||6" x 1/8"||Straight Knives (2, HSS)||20000||10000||29-1/2" x 19-3/4" x 12-1/2"||See today's price||76 lbs||28-1/2"||4-5/16" x 22-7/8"||45, 90, 135°||2-1/2" Port|
|Wen 6560||10||120 V||6" x 1/8"||Straight Knives (2)||20000||10000||28-1/2" x 20" x 14"||See today's price||80 lbs||28-1/2"||4-1/2" x 22-3/4"||45, 90, 135°||2-1/2" Port|
|Woodtek 115955||10||120 V||6" x 1/8"||Straight Knives (2, HSS)||15000||7500||28-1/2" x 18" x 12"||See today's price||42 lbs||28-1/2"||4-1/2" x 23-5/8"||45, 90, 135°||2-1/2" Port|
Why a benchtop jointer?
This is the ideal size and best choice for small to medium woodworking projects and suit most home workshops.
They already allow you to work with rough lumber and save money instead of being restricted by the S2S (surfaced two sides) dimensions your local home center offers.
Personal rant: You can always use a hand plane and do the work as if you had no electricity at home, but that gets old super-fast.
While some people may enjoy doing that, I’m certainly not one of them. I like doing things myself and I’m a DIYer at heart, however I also value my time and choose carefully where to invest it.
I prefer using power tools to plane my wood and take my time using traditional joinery methods, instead of using a pocket hole jig. To each, their own. Rant off.
In other words, if you want to take your woodworking to the next level, a planer is the next step in your journey since it allows you to buy a much wider variety of woods and establish a reference surface and square edge.
How To Choose A Benchtop Jointer
Table Width = Cutting Capacity
This measurement is the maximum lumber width the jointer can handle.
- 6 inches: this is the smallest jointer you can buy and it fits most budgets. It is best suited for hobby woodworkers and some contractors too, due to its portability.
- 8 inches: moving up a step in size, 8” jointers give you more flexibility because you can joint wider boards, and in general also allow you to work with longer lumber because they have longer tables and are heavier, more stable machines.
- 16 inches: these are professional work platforms, suited for large, industrial workshops that need it for daily use.
As a rule of thumb, you can comfortably handle wood that is twice as long as the jointer’s table length. You can buy of make table extensions for occasional work with longer lumber.
Tip: Table alignment is one of the two most important things for accurate and dependable results.
Most fences can be set with positive stops at 45°, 90°, and 135°, and also any angle in between. The vast majority of your jointing, though, will happen at 90°.
Tip: An accurate fence is the other vital element for ensuring accurate work results, and you ensure it with proper fence control.
The smaller this figure is, the more passes you will need to make in order to straighten your lumber.
In other words, this is what defines your work efficiency.
Most motors use standard 110v, single phase outlets.
Some jointers, however, allow rewiring to 220v, single-phase.
Do not underestimate the amount of dust and wood shavings your jointer makes during operation.
I strongly believe that keeping a clean shop means keeping a safe shop, so make sure your chosen jointer is compatible with your current dust management system.
Dimensions and Weight
Only you can answer these questions based on your own needs and circumstances.
- How much space do you have available in your shop?
- Can you buy a jointer with a fixed base?
- Would you rather build your own cabinet and use that as storage space?
- Straight Knives: this is the most common cutter type. The cutters spin on a vertical axis along the jointer width and are usually made of solid steel.
- Spiral Knives: this is most advanced in terms of technology. Here the knives spin as they cut into the wood. This design allows for (relatively) more silent operation, as well as less blade sharpening. Wood shavings are smaller too. Some manufacturers offer a spiral design version where they place several inserts – usually 12 inserts for 6-inch benchtop planers to 16 inserts for 8-inch models.
Why Helical Cutters are BETTER than Straight Knives?
- MUCH lower noise levels - think garbage disposal (80 dB) versus lawn mower (90 dB)
- Carbide cutters stay sharp for a longer time, saving downtime and sharpening costs
- Possibility to rotate or change just the damaged cutters instead of changing the entire knife
- Smaller wood chips versus the long wood shavings produced by straight knives (especially soft woods), which clog up dust collection more often
Number of Knives/Inserts and Cuts per Minute
Simply put, the more knives/inserts a machine has, the more cuts per minute it will make, and the smoother the end result will be.
On the other hand, the higher cuts per minute figures also tend to result in a higher need for re-sharpening the jointer knives.
Jointer Vs Thickness Planer
Both machines operate in similar ways to remove material, creating straight and smooth surfaces, however they perform different operations.
- A jointer will first straighten one face and one edge, while also making them square to each other. This is the most important difference to the jointer because it creates the initial references on your stock.
- A thickness planer is used afterwards to make the opposite face and edge parallel with the previous surfaces, thus finishing to square your lumber. You can also use it for creating uniform thickness in all your lumber before moving on with your project, which is an added convenience.
Ideally you should own both machines. In real life, they both cost money, which is a finite resource.
If you are in doubt of which purchase you should prioritize, absolutely go for the jointer first because its ability to square stock is much more important than the convenience of having wood planed to a consistent thickness.
Also consider that some manufacturers offer the convenience of combination machines for jointing and planing stock. This is always an interesting choice for smaller shops and tighter budgets.
Safety Tips For Jointing Stock
- Always use the guard. No excuses allowed here.
- Jointing stock with knots or other defects increases your chances of accidents.
- Keep your fingers away from the revolving cutter head.
- Always joint with the grain.
- Don't attempt to surface pieces shorter that 12 inches.
- The maximum depth of cut should be 1/8 inch.
- Always use a push block when surface jointing or jointing a thin piece of stock.
- Always stand to the left of the machine and behind the cutter head.
- Make sure stock is always held firmly against the fence.
- Check the machine to ensure all parts are securely tightened.
- Wear safety glasses and hearing protection.
- Don't wear loose clothing. Roll up long sleeves and keep shirt tails tucked in.
Benchtop Jointer Reviews
Below you will find photos and product reviews for all benchtop jointer models currently available for sale.
Although there are 13 models reviewed in this page, I am actually comparing only 7 different models.
It's because some of them, made by different companies, are the same machines with different colors. I will also show them below in detail.
Cutech 40160H-CT, Cutech 40160HC-CT, Porter-Cable PC160JT, and Rikon 20-600H
That's right, the 2 Cutech's, the Porter-Cable, and the Rikon are the same machine, with small differences between them.
Both Cutech's feature spiral cutterheads, the only difference between the both of them are the cutterhead insert materials – HSS inserts on the 40160H-CT, and carbide on the 40160HC-CT. Carbide costs more and lasts longer. The Rikon also uses HSS inserts; the Porter-Cable uses straight knives.
The helical cutterhead allows for a smoother, more silent operation and simpler maintenance with reduced ongoing costs. The cutterhead inserts are two-sided, meaning you get 2x as much use out of each one of them. You can replace them individually as you need, which is smart. Replacements can be bought in packs of 10; their price is within reason.
The Porter-Cable specifically is a favorite among hobby woodworkers. The main difference from the rest of the market is its speed control feature for the lumber you are cutting, resulting in smoother surfaces and less wasted time on sanding afterwards. Neither the Rikon nor the Cutech have this feature.
Weighing 40 lbs, this unit is one of the lightest units reviewed today. It’s lightweight enough for being placed in different parts of your small shop as you see fit. In other words, storing it once you have finished using it is easier on your back.
Cutech's customer service is top notch. I have engaged on an online chat at their official website because I wanted to know some measurements as I was writing this guide, and they answered all my questions on the spot. They also sent me an email later informing me of one measurement they didn’t have immediately available with them – the 6-ft cord length. Try that level of customer care with a big name tool brand!
The main problem with this machine is that you will need to spend extra time on your initial table setup. The fence isn’t also super sturdy.
If you are patient when you first get the machine and can live with the fence, you might end up a happy customer.
The spiral cutterhead and the lower price point makes this Cutech benchtop jointer unit one of the best cost-benefit ratios you can find today - see it for yourself.
This machine has a lower price point and it does show in the Aluminum fence, which is not the end of the world by itself. The main issue is its fence adjustment system, which needs re-squaring every time you adjust it. It’s a design issue and there isn’t much to be done about it.
The 4-inch dust port is bigger on this unit, compared with 2-1/2 inches in most other benchtop jointers.
Out of all 4, the Porter-Cable PC160JT is the one I find best. It is the cheapest benchtop jointer on this group, and also one of the lowest prices available on the market today. Do not be discouraged by its flaws. It can very well be your entry into working with rough lumber and saving money on each lumber purchase. Both advanced and beginner woodworkers will get excellent value for their money with its variable speed feature. Click here for info and prices
Cutech 40180H-CT and Cutech 40180HC-CT
If you liked the 40160, you probably should consider the 40180 series.
They also have two identical machines, with the only difference between them being the carbide inserts on the 40180HC-CT (versus the HSS inserts on the 40180H-CT).
The main difference between the 40160 series and the 40180 is the width: 8 inches here versus 6 inches on the other machine. These machines also have 16 inserts on their cutterheads versus the 12 on the other machine.
Another important difference is the table length: the 40180 offers 33-1/2 inches, extendable to 51 inches of total length, versus 30 inches on the 40160. By the way, the extendable table is an exclusive feature of this Cutech model.
Everything else is similar in these two machines, so it is really up to you. The 40180 allows you to joint longer and wider stock, so your shop time tends to be more productive.
Do you need the extra capacity offered by the 40180?
Would you like to “future-proof” your purchase and already go for a higher capacity unit?
In my opinion, this is the best benchtop jointer in the market today - the main factors for me are the helical cutterhead, the extendable table, and the double-sided carbide inserts. Click here to see today's price.
This Delta benchtop jointer certainly offers you stability. At 76 lbs, this is one of the heaviest machines reviewed here today, so it’s unlikely this unit will move around while you are jointing board on it. The weight also helps reduce machine vibration.
Part of the weight is due to its cast iron construction, much more solid, stable, and durable than the aluminum that you often see in this category.
As with most benchtop models, this jointer uses straight knives. It’s not a deal breaker because the lower price reflects that, however you need to be aware that finishing your boards will likely take longer, since straight knives mark the lumber a bit more than spiral cutterheads.
Swapping the knives is simple due to its jackscrew arrangement.
The fence needs some time to be setup. Once you get it there, though, it is very stable and precise.
The built-in dust blower takes care of most wood shavings, however you will be better off by hooking it up to your dust collection system to avoid clogging the dust chute.
The Delta 37-071 jointer is a great choice for the hobby woodworker who wants a substantial machine for a reasonable price. The cast iron construction benefits certainly make a good cause for this unit.
Grizzly G0725, Powertec BJ600, and Shop Fox W1829
I will review these 3 units together because they are exactly the same machine.
This Grizzly/Powertec/Shop Fox jointer has many similar features to the above Delta 37-071, namely cast iron construction resulting in bulky weight, less machine vibration, more solidity, stability, and durability. This machine will not move while you are jointing lumber! They could be a good entrance model if you do woodworking as a hobby.
Here are the two main differences between these three machines:
- It also uses straight knives, however Grizzly/Shop Fox’s knives are made with harder HSS. In other words, Grizzly/Shop Fox’s knives will last you longer and require less re-sharpening or blade changes in comparison with the Delta (or even the Powertec).
- The Grizzly and the Powertec offer a dust collection bag (and the Shop Fox does not) to capture wood shavings, which could be convenient is you don’t have a dust collection system in your shop.
With so many similar characteristics, and some even better such as the knives, you’d be surprised to know that the Grizzly/Powertec/Shop Fox are also much cheaper than the Delta. But there’s a catch.
Adjusting the infeed and the outfeed tables in the Grizzly/Powertec/Shop Fox demands some tinkering, which is not described in the user’s manual. You will also need a pair of 6-inch Allen wrenches in 3 and 5 mm, which are not shipped with this machine. The screws are easy to find under the machine, so accessibility isn’t an issue.
Oddly, not all machines have these issues, so it looks like a quality control issue more than anything. Take that as you will.
If you are patient enough to sort these issues with the Grizzly/Powertec/Shop Fox, you can count on having a dependable workhorse in your home woodshop for a fraction of the price of the Delta.
This Jet model is the only benchtop jointer planer combo that I am reviewing today. In other words, buying this machine gives you double functionality for a similar price point of all the other machines available in the market.
If you watch YouTube videos from European makers, you will probably have seen similar machines in their tighter woodshops. Most of these machines have similar designs, where some simple dust port adjustments allow you to switch between jointer and planer in under a minute.
This is a basic machine. Its main differential from other competitors is having all the functionality you need for jointing and planning lumber to your needs using half as much space. It is one of the best choices for small workshops with tighter budgets because it allows you to be fully functional from day one. See today's Amazon price.
This Wen is an honest hobby benchtop jointer, plus it is one of the cheapest benchtop jointers currently available at Amazon. As per user reviews, the fence adjustment is the main negative side of this unit.
My main issue with the Wen is that it's just so... average. While it is one of the cheapest currently for sale, and all its specs are on par with the competition, I have a hard time recommending this model to anyone.
Get a Porter-Cable with variable speed control or a Powertec with a dust bag, they cost around the same but offer something extra for your money.
This is yet another lightweight choice if you need a jobsite jointer or simply need to store it out of your way in your small home shop.
The complete lack of customer reviews at Amazon, however, does not inspire me to recommend this jointer to anybody – unless you wouldn’t mind being the first one and taking a chance with your hard-earned money.
The truth is simple - there are very similar machines on the market with similar prices, such as the Grizzly.