Table Saw vs Jointer for Beginners
Jointers, planers, miter saws, and table saws… there seems to be an endless amount of power tools available for your workshop.
Many times, people wonder why they need more than one. Especially when they visually look somewhat similar to each other.
The truth is each tool is designed to do a specific job. In some cases, you can replicate one tool’s effects using another, but it won’t be easy and won’t be as accurate.
Before you rush off to buy every tool you can, let’s take a look at two and compare them. Perhaps you can save a bit of cash!
The only real similarity between a table saw vs a jointer is that they can both be used to square a board. However, this is significantly easier to accomplish using a jointer.
What Is a Table Saw Used For?
A table saw is also called a bench saw or a saw bench. It is exactly what its name suggests. It’s a table with a saw on it.
The blade is a circular saw that is mounted to an arbor or mandril. This mandril is driven by a motor, belt, or gears.
The saw blade sticks up through a gap cut in a table. The table is there to support the material being cut. In stationary models, the table surface area is usually quite large. In portable models, the surface area is reduced.
With the blade sticking up through the table, you can push your material toward and through the blade to cut it.
In most cases, you can adjust the height of the blade to get shallower or deeper cuts. You can also adjust the angle of the blade to create a decent angle cut with a table saw, without having to utilize a miter saw.
What Is a Table Saw Fence?
Table saws have a rip fence, a plastic or metal piece that runs parallel to the blade. It acts as a guide to make sure your wood goes through the blade in a straight line.
A table saw’s main job is to cut lengthy sections of wooden material. This is the way table saws can do rip cuts that go with the grain of the wood and crosscuts across the grain with absolute ease.
Table saws can also make grooves and dado cuts if you change the table saw blade for a dado blade. A dado cut is a groove or channel made across the grain, while a groove goes with the grain.
Types of Table Saws
There are quite a few different kinds of table saws to buy on the market. Each table saw mentioned possesses attributes and benefits that will depend entirely on your specific needs.
No one saw is better than the other, and as long as you use any one of these table saws safely, you’ll get the most out of them without them taking something from you. Some saws are stationary and only suitable in larger workshops. Others are designed to be carried around a job site.
- This DeWalt table saw has a 10-inch 240tooth carbide blade, a rolling stand, push stick, miter gauge, rip fence, 2x blade wrenches, and blade guard assembly manual.
- Heavy-duty powerful Jobsite table saw that is robust enough to be the centerpiece of your home workshop at an affordable price point.
- It has a 32 ½-inch rip capacity to the right of the blade and a 22-inch rip capacity to the left of the blade.
- Easy blade height and angle adjustments are made smoothly via rotating the flywheel with a depth of cut at 45° – 2-1/4” & depth of cut at 90° – 3-1/8”.
- Benchtop Table Saws– These are lightweight and compact saws that are designed to be placed on top of a workbench. They are usually housed in plastic or aluminum cases with handles on the sides.
- Jobsite Table Saws– Jobsite saws are similar to benchtop saws in that they are designed to be moved around. The major difference is that they usually have fold-out legs or stands.
- Portable Table Saws– These are larger than benchtop or Jobsite saws. They will more often than not have a stand. Sometimes the stand will be collapsable; other times it will have wheels that allow it to be moved around. Compact saws look more like contractor saws than other portable saws. They usually have a cast-iron work surface.
- Contractor Table Saws– Not to be confused with Jobsite Table Saws, these are stationary saws that usually have open framed stands. The motor is often suspended on a pivoting bracket behind the saw. Contractor saws are popular with hobbyists and in-home workshops. They are cheaper than cabinet saws and can run from normal outlets. They usually have 1 or 2-hp engines which makes them powerful enough for most materials.
- Cabinet Table Saws– These are the big boys! The motors and moving parts are all encased in a heavy steel cabinet. This not only stops dust from becoming a problem but it stabilizes the saw and reduces vibrations that can cause inaccuracies. Cabinet saws are large, expensive, and immovable. They are designed for large shops and professional woodworking.
- Hybrid Table Saws– A hybrid table saw aims to be a bit of an in-between saw from a contractor and a cabinet saw. They often have an enclosed cabinet but tend to be smaller and lighter than full table saws
Table Saw Features
Smaller portable table saws tend to use universal motors. In these machines, the engine is usually a direct drive which means it powers the arbor directly without the use of a belt.
Some high-end, powerful job site saws use gear-driven engines, but this is unheard of in smaller models.
Compact saws use universal motors, but they also tend to use small belts to transfer the action.
From Contractor saws and up, induction motors are used to power the blade. These are generally more powerful and able to cope with tougher materials.
In large industrial cabinet saws, the motor can be as large as 5-7.5 hp. Generally, though, cabinet saws used in home workshops have a 3-5hp engine.
Do You Really Need a Table Saw?
While you could live life as a woodworker without a table saw, it really is the one power tool I’d recommend you add to your tool collection as a beginner. Table saws offer the kind of versatility that you’re not going to find from any other saw without purchasing several power tools.
And if you start building a tool collection with everything from miter saws, jointers, track saws, and table saws, it gets expensive.
While track saws and circular saws are both great alternatives and combining both will give you a lot of options when attempting to make a range of cuts for woodworking projects, a table saw can just do so much more.
A table saw is used primarily for ripping long boards of wood with both speed and accuracy, although it can also be used for making miter and bevel cuts with the right adjustments. But where table saws really do shine is for ripping longboards and or sheets of MDF accurately.
Apart from that, you can use a table saw to cut a taper or a relatively simple groove into wooden materials as your skills progress. Keep in mind, that the size and thickness of the material you can cut all depend on the size of the motor and the table’s size.
Portable benchtop saws are not ideal for cutting long or large planks because the table surface cannot support the material through the cut. Although, you can buy extension tables that should fit your table saw if you’re not willing to DIY it and make your own.
An extended table for your table saw is hugely beneficial as it will give you more room for cutting large sheets with relative ease.
Table saws can also be used to square up boards and planks, though the process can be a bit fiddly. I’d recommend always using a miter gauge if your table saw is equipped with one. We recently cover exactly how to do this in our most recent article on how to square a board with a table saw if you’d like to dive a little deeper.
What Is a Jointer Used for?
A jointer looks similar to a table saw in that it has something sharp in the middle of a table. The reality is actually quite different.
For a start, a jointer consists of two tables and a cutter head or riving knife in between them.
The two tables are called infeed and outfeed tables. The infeed is the side you start from, and the outfeed is where your wood ends up.
The tables can be raised or lowered independently of each other and the cutter head, but they remain on the same plane as each other. This means that they are perfectly flat, or at least they are when they’re properly aligned.
What Are Jointer Knives?
Jointer knives act a little bit like a razor. They are straight blades attached to a head that spins incredibly fast. The wood passes over them, and they shave off extending or protruding wood. These need to be sharpened regularly to work well.
A jointer may have a cutting head instead of a jointer knife. These tend to be spiral or helix in shape and are essentially tubes of steel covered in small cutters. The head rotates as the wood passes through the jointer cutting into the material.
A jointer’s job is to straighten out wood. If your wood has a bow, cup, or twist, a jointer will sort it out.
Types of Jointers
There are fewer types of woodworking jointers than there are table saws. Mostly you have a choice between open and closed or multifunction jointers.
In terms of price comparisons, a jointer is going to set you back a lot more than a table saw, so just keep that in mind if you’re growing your home workshop on a budget.
- Brilliant heavy-duty jointer that is ideal for beginner woodworkers looking to shave lengths of lumber without spending a fortune.
- Delivers perfectly flat pieces of lumber in mere minutes so you can craft superb looking fences posts, table legs, and much more.
- Equipped with a powerful single-phase 1-HP motor that can straighten any wooden material regardless of hardness.
- Made from highly durable cast-iron material with a precision-ground cast-iron table for extended support when working with longer lengths of lumber.
- Closed stand jointers– These are essentially cabinet jointers. The engine and moving parts are enclosed in a cabinet, making them heavier, quieter, and more accurate. These are the kind of jointers you’ll see in professional shops.
- Open stand jointers– These have the motor below the surface, but it is not enclosed. Open stand jointers are a bit easier to move, especially if you place the stand on a wheelbase. They are, however, noisier than closed stand jointers.
- Benchtop jointers– These are adorably small in comparison to their full-sized siblings. Usually used for small hobby projects, they tend to have 6 inches or similar cutting surfaces.
- Jointer-planer– This is a multi-functioning tool that functions as a jointer and a planer. A planer is used to precisely shave down wood so that it’s the same thickness all across a surface.
A jointer-planer usually has an over/under design to save space. The jointer is usually below the planer as it requires top and bottom rollers.
Jointers are typically driven by an induction motor. The motors can range from 2-5hp in size and power.
The exception to this is a desktop jointer. They still use induction motors, but they are smaller. Usually, 1 or 2 hp.
The main difference between jointer motors and table saw motors is that jointers are almost always direct drive. Table saws tend to be belt-driven in the larger stationary models.
Do You Really Need a Jointer?
A jointer really only has one job. That is to flatten out wood, unlike a table saw or band saw, which cut just about any wood.
A piece of wood that is bowed means that it is curved along the length of the wood. A jointer can remove this bow by shaving off the thicker ends or middle that causes the bow.
Cupped wood has a curve across the wood. It looks a bit like a drainpipe. This can also be straightened out with a jointer.
A twist is when the board rocks on the diagonal. So, if you press on one corner, the opposite corner lifts. Again, this is fixed by a jointer.
The other thing a jointer can do is square a board. Most jointers have a fence that runs perpendicular to the table.
Once you’ve flattened a face, you can place it against the fence and pass the board through the cutter. This will square up that edge.
You can repeat the same process for all sides of the board, leaving you with a perfectly square board. It is far easier to use a jointer to square a board than it is to use a table saw.
How Do You Turn a Table Saw Into a Jointer?
Even if you already own a jointer, turning your table saw into a jointer is still a technique you will want to learn to master as a woodworker. All you need is to add a simple fence, and you can joint on your table saw.
Making Your Fence
When making the fence, consider using melamine. The base piece should be 4 x 48-inches, and the other piece needs to be wide enough to clamp it onto the rip fence assembly. You then need to fasten them together so that the two pieces form an L shape.
Now you need a thin 40-tooth alternate top bevel blade, or ATB, to get the surface on your jointed edge. Thin will always be better than thick because this tells you how much is removed with each pass you take.
Locating Your Cut
Now clamp your fence to the rip fence. Make sure it is centered on the rip fence length. Always make sure your saw is off and unplugged when you are doing this. You then need to mark the fence where it is in line with the blade’s back.
Making Your Relief Cut
The table saw, like your jointer, requires both an infeed and outfeed. The saw blade should be in line with the outfeed side, while the infeed side should be the blade’s width. Move your rip fence to the left side of your saw blade before making your relief cut.
You then position your fence, so it is outside the blade’s face and is still even with the fence’s edge. If you are having a hard time with this, remember that it is easier to feel than seeing.
You can carefully run your fingers alongside the tooth’s face and the board’s edge. You can then make any adjustments you need to ensure everything is even and have a straight edge.
Now you can plug the table saw back in and cut into the edge of your fence. Always come to a stop when you reach the line you made during the relief cut stage of this process. If you need help keeping the work right up against the rip fence, we suggest using a feather board.
Make sure the blade’s outside edge is even with the fence’s outside edge. You can use your finger to feel for this as you did before. If it is off, adjust as necessary.
From Table Saw to Jointer
It is now time to move the rip fence back to the right side of the saw blade. You can then remove the riving knife. Clamp your fence in place so your blade relief is just behind the saw blade.
Adjust your rip fence again so the blade can freely spin and the outside face of the tooth is even with the fence’s outside edge.
Now, you can finally make your test cut. If needed, adjust your fence so it is closer to the saw blade for a more precise cut.
Once you get your settings right and the fence has been adjusted enough that it is properly positioned, you can edge joint the day away using your table saw as a jointer.
Does It Work as Well as a Jointer?
So, does it work as well as a jointer? Not necessarily, but if you don’t have a jointer, it is an easy technique to familiarize yourself with, and it allows you to continue your woodworking project.
Watch this video to see how a table saw can be used as a jointer.
Though to the untrained eye, a table saw and a jointer may look similar, they are very different machines with completely different jobs.
A table saw is a vicious saw designed purely for cutting lumber at a rapid pace, while a jointer is a more tactile shaving tool.
Both power tools have their ideal use cases, and if you’re interested in operating a highly functional woodworking shop, you might want to consider buying a table saw, and a jointer as your skills progress.