A tool for flattening lumber, for squaring sides and edges of boards.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, as a term. "jointer" -- spelled then, joynter -- dates back to 1687, but it refers to the powerized jointer. Evidently when the mechanical jointer appeared, it is labeled "jointer" because of the resemblance to the function of the jointer hand plane. Alternatives to the term jointer are bench plane and hand planer.
Below are a few examples of "jointer" and "bench plane" in use; I am looking for a good example of "hand planer"; in the meantime see hand planer used below, with the "Good Luck" Hand Planer.
The Joynter is made somewhat longer than the Fore-plane.... Its Office is to follow the Fore-plane, and to shoot an edge perfectly straight,... especially when a Joynt is to be shot.
1683 etc [Joseph] Moxon ...Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing [ (1683-4). 1703. Reprint. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970] I. 65
1872 John Richards Wood-Working Machinery
The first and leading tools are bench planes, a set of which should consist of one 26-inch jointer...; one 24-inch jointer...;one 22-inch foreplane [etc.]. [I need to check this reference again; it isn't correct]
1892 Appleton's Cyclopedia of Applied Mechanics, Modern Mechanism [Supplementary volume] New York: D Applton, 1892, page 633, describes jointers as,
Jointers.-It being next to impossible to joint the edges of wood perfectly by hand tools, for gluing, such work is usually done by machinery, both by reason of the greater perfection of surface and on account of the decreased cost. The stroke jointer is a very simple machine which, while taking up a good deal of room, is not very heavy, and is very simple in operation.
There is a cast-iron table, borne by suitable legs or pedestals, and through the top of which there project two or more ordinary planing knives. Along this table there vibrates [?] lengthwise a frame which bears the piece the under side of which is to be jointed. The material being properly clamped to the carriage, the latter is given lengthwise motion by a pitman driven from a large wneel upon a separate stand, this being operated by hand or by power, as desired.
The hand-feed planing and jointing machine will plane out of Wind; and as the amount of material cut away is controlled by hand and by sight, there is scarcely any kind of planing which cannot be done by it more truly and with less labor than by hand work, and in one-tenth of the time required thereby. In the II. B. Smith Co.'s hand planer there is within the framing a chute which delivers the shavings in the rear of the machine and at the same time forms a cross wedge in the framing, thus increasing the rigidity of the machine.
A useful machine, which is a combination of power surfacing machine and hand planer, is designed to save the expense and space of two separate machines in furniture cabinets and coffin manufactories, wherever the separate machines have been found of value. The cylinder is arranged so that planing may be done either under it, by feed roller, or over it, by hand. When arranged to do the former it will surface long and short pieces up to 24 in. wide and 6 in. thick.
The cylinder has three knives arranged at an angle so as to give a shearing cut; thus, in connection with a self-adjusting pressure bar before the cut, avoiding tendency to tear in cross-grain lumber.
Source: Appleton's Cyclopedia of Applied Mechanics, Modern Mechanism [Supplementary volume] New York: D Appleton, 1892, page 633.
1926 Charles G. WheelerWoodworking: 654. Jointer. Very important for planing and squaring edges and truing flat surfaces. Automatic safety guards should always be used.
1985 Ernie Conover, American Woodworker 1, no 3 September 1985, pages ? The purpose of a jointer is to make a surface really flat. It removes all the irregularities inherent in wood: Cup, Warp and Wind; and we are left with a surface that is really flat. A jointer cannot stand alone in that it cannot make a second side parallel to the first. That is the job of the planer. Both machines are necessary to obtain flat S-4-S (surfaced four sides) lumber suitable for cabinet work.
The following texts for the two planers are adapted from accounts in two nineteenth century periodicals. The construction of each unit is as follows:
[This machine] plays such a useful role in the wood-working shop where planing out of wind, cornering, beveling, rabbeting, chamfering, squaring-up and perfect glue joints are required to be made well and expeditiously, that it has come to be looked upon as a necessary part of the plant of the establishment. ... The frame is cast in one piece, which prevents the possibility of distortion or displacement of any of its parts should it not be carefully leveled on the floor. The cylinder is of cast steel, and runs in special self-oiling boxes devised by the makers; the cutters work 16 inches wide; and the top, which is 5 feet long, is provided with an adjustable gauge for straight and bevel work. To allow of easy access to the knives for the purpose of sharpening, etc., the two sections of the top are so arranged that they may be drawn back on the planed ways. When once the two sections of the top are set level, they may be adjusted independently of each other, by means of the hand-wheels at either end of the machine, and thus the depth of the cut may be regulated. The machine, as its appearance indicates, is strongly built, compact, and simple in construction. The machine weighs 1,000 pounds.
Source: The Manufacturer and Builder 15 June 1883, page 129
J. G. Batterson, of Hartford, CT, manufactures the
The Good Luck hand planer, designed and built by Bentel and Margedant of Hamilton, OH, is adjustable of the whole surface of the table, and can be quickly set at any angle while the machine is in motion ....
The cutterhead ... is the patent triangular shear knife head ....While the knives are perfectly straight ... they are placed at a peculiar angle. Very knotty and cross-grained material can be planed without splintering or tearing. .... The weight of the 24-inch machine is about 1,400 pounds. The more noteworthy mechanical details are referred to in the following description: The frame is cast in one piece, its form insuring a good rest on the floor, while it supports the tables in such manner as to insure the best resistance to vibration and jar. The tables rest on the frame without any strain or forced supports, braces or other devices. The table slides are of the well-known class of V-slides, provided with gibs to adjust and take up the wear. The hand-wheel and screw shown on each end of the machine, adjust the tables horizontally, and in relative position to each other and to the cutter-head, the movement being oblique, thereby keeping outside the radius of the cutting line of the on the common two-knife heads.
Each table is three feet long, giving a table machine with this triangular shear-knife cutter head, just issued a very interesting and complete report on surface 6 feet 2 inches in length, including the opening between the two tables. The tables are cast in one piece, top and bracket, The fence is a special feature of the Bentel & Margedant hand planer, for which the makers. These machines are built in four sizes-12, 16, 20 inches. Weight is about 1400 pounds.
Source: The Manufacturer and Builder 19 May 1887, page 100.
On the Left is a romanticized illustration that accompanies instructions in a 1926 Popular Mechanics’ Shop Notes on how to fabricate a jointer. The claim that the project “presents no very great difficulties” for 1925, is almost a gross overstatement, because even today, in 2006, where we are awash with electrical tools in our home shops, fabricating this jointer would be difficult.
Hjorth discusses the emergence in 1914 of the first "portable" jointer. (Its so-called portability is not too bad, either, at 34 lbs; in 1914, though, it would be powered by a DC motor. In that era, "portability" meant moving the jointer from job to job.) This jointer was produced in Buffalo NY, by the J D Wallace firm. Hjorth's photo is, frankly, terrible, but the back cover of Shopnotes 48 November 1999, features a beautiful color photo, with the caption (on the right side of the photo below. The "portable" jointer above features a unique aluminum guard that covers the exposed knives. The fence is supported by the motor housing, and a lever locks it at the desired angle. With a direct-drive motor that spins the cutterhead, this jointer is still providing reliable service today, and originally powered direct current.
Power woodworking tools, scaled for the homeshop, began to appear in the second decade the 20th century. Introduced in 1914, the 4-inch J D Wallace "portable" jointer was driven by a direct-current motor.
The Building Age 36 December 1914 , pages 84-85
One of the latest candidates for popular favor in the way of a bench planer is the little machine which is being introduced to the attention of carpenters and builders by J. D. Wallace, 527 West Van Buren Street, Chicago, Ill., and shown in operation in Fig. 12.
This is a portable power planer which weighs only 50 lb. including its direct-connected electric motor. It will be observed that the planer stands on the bench without fastening and can be operated from an electric light socket. It is furnished with either direct or alternating current motor, although if desired it can be arranged for belt drive from a countershaft. It is of such a nature that it can be carried directly to the job and put into operation at a moment's notice.
The planer is said to take the heaviest cuts in hard as well as in soft wood and in addition will take a fine cut that will not show the knife marks. Its fence is adjustable to any angle and the table to any depth of cut.
Its cutting knives are 4 in. wide, but by removing the fence, stockup to 12 in. wide can be roughed off.
The cutter head is cylindrical and the throat opening averages only 1 in. in width—half the usual size.
The device is a planer pure and simple, there being no attachments for doing other work. Mr. Wallace, the manufacturer, makes the prediction that before another season is over this bench planer will be considered as necessary to a carpenter and builder as a try square and will eventually eliminate the hand plane from the tool kit.
96. The jointer or hand planer is, next to the circular saw, the most necessary and useful machine in the woodworking shop. Its main parts are a heavy cast-iron bed supported on two columns, two tables, and a cutter head mounted on top of the bed.
The cylindrical shape of the modern cutter head is a great improvement, as far as safety in operation is concerned, over the old square cutter head. It is mounted on ball bearings, in a special casting which is bolted to the bed near its center, and has either two, three, or four thin knives. The size of the machine is given according to the length of the knives. These run from 4 to 30 in. in length.
The tables are from 1 to 2 in. wider than the knives, and can be lowered or raised by means of handwheels. For all ordinary work, the rear or outfeed table should be level with the knives at their highest point. If the rear table is too high, more will be cut off the front part of a board than at the rear, and as the board is passed over the cutter head, its front end will be seen gradually to rise from the surface of the rear table. If the rear table is too low, on the other hand, the board will drop down on the rear table when its end leaves the front table, causing the cutter head to dig into it.
Source: Herman Hjorth Principles of Woodworking: Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1930, pages 39-40.
Historically, according to Hjorth, around 1790, the Englishman, Sir Samuel Bentham
made the most remarkable and ingenious series of inventions, which changed woodworking from a handcraft to an industry. The most important of these was the principle of rotary cutting, which is used in all modern Planers, Jointers, Shapers, Molders, and Matchers. He also invented veneer-cutting machinery, segment circular saws, tenon cutters, boring machines, and sharpening machines. He even suggested tilting the table or saw and described fences for ripping and crosscutting. Samuel Bentham may, therefore, rightfully be called "the father of woodworking machinery.The theme of Bentham and the Planer is explored in greater detail here
Source: Herman Hjorth, Modern Machine Woodworking Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing, 1937, page 4. For more on Bentham, click here.
Cutterheads in the first jointers were "square" and very dangerous. Jointer cylindrical cutterheads were developed in England and Germany, about 1901; Oliver introduced the cylindrical cutterhead in America in 1908.
The rotary cutterhead inventions were patented in the years 1791 to 1793, and manufacture was started immediately in the London residence of Sir Samuel's more famous brother, Jeremy Bentham. The frames of the machines were made of heavy timbers bolted together and only the cutters and bearings were made of metal. Not until about sixty years later were woodworking machines made entirely of metal. I couldn’t locate an illustration of the Bentham planer.
It wasn't always that way. The original 1808 Woodworth machine used a "square head" design. The square head gets its name from the fact that the knives are bolted to flat spots milled on the head. Without the knives in place, the head looks square rather than cylindrical. Below is an illustration from the 1921 Oliver Machinery catalog #21. For another picture, see figure 12, p. 16, of Herman Hjorth's Machine Woodworking, 1937.
The "heart" the jointer and the planer is its cutterhead. Cutterhead configurations are of two, mostly three, and even four knives. Cylindrical in shape, the cutterhead secures the knives in slots. The cutterhead's length (i.e., width) determines the width of stock that can be flattened and smoothed and/or squared. Width varies from 4 inches up to 12 or even 15 inches. This diagram is from Thomas W. Miller's "Setting Jointer Knives," American Woodworkerv. 1, no. 3 September 1985, page 30.
In number, usually 3, but sometimes 2 or more rarely, 4.
Length of knives is determined by length of cutterhead. Constructed of steel or carbon. 663. Small portable jointers to connect with an electric light socket will do most of the work of the beginner and amateur at comparatively slight expense. They also save much time, labour, and expense, where large machines are installed.
(I found this in late 1940s issue of Home Craftsman.)
The "heart" the jointer and the planer is its cutterhead. Cutterhead configurations are of two, mostly three, and even four knives. Cylindrical in shape, the cutterhead secures the knives in slots. The cutterhead's length (i.e., width) determines the width of stock that can be flattened and smoothed and/or squared. Width varies from 4 inches up to 12 or even 15 inches. Diagram above is from Thomas W. Miller's "Setting Jointer Knives,"AW v. 1, no. 3 (sept 1985), p. 30.
It wasn't always that way, though. The original 1808 Woodworth machine used a "square head" design. The square head gets its name from the fact that the knives are bolted to flat spots milled on the head. Without the knives in place, the head looks square rather than cylindrical. Below is an illustration from the 1921 Oliver Machery catalog #21. For another picture, see figure 12, p. 16, of Herman Hjorth's Machine Woodworking, 1937.
In general, according to Conover, "the larger the diameter of the cutterhead, the better." Why? The large circumscribed radius leaves less of a rippling effect on the wood, and the feed rate and speed of the cutterhead should be so configured as to yield a minumum of about forty cuts per inch. Most machines sold today in fact, yield a minimum of fifty. The formula to derive this is: cutterhead speed times the number of knives in the cutterhead, divided by the feed rate, multiplied by twelve. This will yield the number of cuts per inch.
In number, usually 3, but sometimes 2 or more rarely, 4. Length of knives is determined by length of cutterhead. Constructed of steel or carbon.
(I found this in late 1940s issue of Home Craftsman.)
In general, according to Ernie Conover, "the larger the diameter of the cutterhead, the better." Why? The large circumscribed radius leaves less of a rippling effect on the wood, and the feed rate and speed of the cutterhead should be so configured as to yield a minumum of about forty cuts per inch. Most machines sold today in fact, yield a minimum of fifty. The formula to derive this is: cutterhead speed times the number of knives in the cutterhead, divided by the feed rate, multiplied by twelve. This will yield the number of cuts per inch.
Sources: In preparing this entry I consulted several authoritative manuals and articles, in particular the articles on the Jointer in Shopnotes , issue no 48 (Nov 1999), Ernie Conover 's articles on the jointer and the planer, American Woodworker , v. 1, no 3 (Sept 1985) and v. 1, no. 4 (Dec 1985), and the chapters on the jointer and the planer in Daniel W. Irwin , Power Tool Maintenance , 1971, Robert Scharff's The Complete Book Of Home Workshop Tools , 1979, Wiliam F. Holtrop & Herman Hjorth, Machine Woodworking , 1960, Consumer Guide's 1978 Tool Catalog , and Rick Peters' Jointers and Planers: How to Choose, Use, and Maintain Them , 2001.
(Ernie Conover's articles on the jointer and other power tools remain valuable resources, although I speculate that -- today -- 20 years later, and buried in an "old" copy of American Woodworker, the articles are not consulted. Conover was preceded in this role -- i.e., publishing "how-to-do-it" articles on power tools as magazine articles -- by Herman Hjorth, a major figure in America's Industrial Arts scene as well as amateur woodworking during the first part of the 20th century. See his still excellent article on how to use the jointer in Home Craftsman May-June 1949, pages 22-25. (I say more about Hjorth in the narrative portions of the history, chapter by chapter.)
For more sources on the jointer, see my syllabus on the Jointer/Planer
Jointer and Molding Knives: click on this link for discussion of Router Bits, Shaper Cutters and Jointer and Molding Knives.