Table Saw Vs Jointer

Table Saw vs Jointer: What Are They Used For?

Jointers, planers, 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 the effects of one tool using another but it won’t be easy and it 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 jointer is that they can both be used to square a board, although this is significantly easier to accomplish using a jointer. 

Table Saws

What Is a Table Saw Used For

A table saw is also called a bench saw or a sawbench. It is exactly what its name suggests. It’s a table with a saw in 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 are able to 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 an angled cut.

Table saws have a rip fence which is a piece of plastic or metal 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 material. It can do rip cuts that go with the grain of the wood and crosscuts that go across the grain. 

Table saws can also make grooves and dado cuts if you exchange the saw blade for a dado blade. A dado cut is a groove or channel that is made across the grain while a groove goes with the grain. 

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  • Delivers clean, square, and accurate cuts thanks to the true Accu-Fence system that slides effortlessly and easily locks securely when need be.

Types of Table Saws

There are quite a few different kinds of table saws on the market.

Some are stationary and only suitable in larger workshops. Others are designed to be carried around a job site. 

  • 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 the 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. This can cause a bit of an issue with dust collection. 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- These saws aim to be a bit of an in-between form contractor and cabinet saws. 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 jobsite saws use gear-driven engines but this is unheard of in smaller models. 

Compact saws do 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?

A table saw is used primarily for ripping long boards of wood with both speed and accuracy. It can cut through wood or it can cut grooves into materials. 

The size and thickness of the material you can cut depends on the size of the motor and the size of the table.

Portable benchtop saws are not ideal for cutting long or large planks because the table surface cannot support the material through the cut.

You can buy extension tables that fit table saws. These give you more room for larger material. 

Table saws can be used to square up boards and planks though the process is fiddly.


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 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. 

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 in order to work well. 

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 to it, a jointer will sort it out. 

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  • Made from highly durable cast-iron material with a precision-ground cast-iron table for extended support when working with longer lengths of lumber.

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. 

  • 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 a cutting surface of 6 inches or similar.
  • 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 in order to save space. The jointer is usually below the planer as it requires top and bottom rollers.

Jointer Features

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. 

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 drain pipe. 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 which will leave you with a perfectly square board. Although, it is far easier to use a jointer to square a board than it is to use a table saw. 

In Conclusion

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. 

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