Benchtop jointers are an essential woodworking tool for smoothing and flattening edges and faces of lumber prior to additional milling or final assembly. When purchasing a benchtop jointer, it is important to understand the maximum board length capacity of the model you are considering.
Selecting a jointer that can accommodate the lengths of stock you need to work with will ensure efficient and effective milling of your material. In this article, we will look closer at benchtop jointer board length capacities and how to choose the right size jointer for your woodworking needs.
Factors that Affect the Length of Board that Can be Jointed
When using a benchtop jointer, there are several factors that can affect the length of board that can be jointed. These factors include:
- Length of the jointer bed: The length of the jointer bed is an important factor in determining the length of board that can be jointed. Most benchtop jointers have a bed length of around 28 to 36 inches, but they can range from 28 inches to 72 inches. Generally, the maximum length of wood that can be jointed without in-feed and out-feed support is twice the length of the bed.
- Size of the board: The size of the board being jointed is another important factor to consider. The width of the in-feed and out-feed beds determines the maximum width of wood that the jointer can handle, with six inches being the most common. The thickness of the board is also important, as jointers can typically handle boards up to a certain thickness, such as 1/8 inch or 1/16 inch.
- Type of jointer: The type of jointer being used can also affect the length of board that can be jointed. Benchtop jointers are generally smaller and have shorter bed lengths than floor-standing jointers, which can handle longer boards. However, benchtop jointers can still be used to joint longer boards with the use of in-feed and out-feed support or a sled or jig.
- Technique: The technique used when jointing a board can also affect the length of board that can be jointed. Taking light passes and using in-feed and out-feed support can help ensure that longer boards are jointed accurately and safely.
The length of board that can be jointed with a benchtop jointer can vary depending on several factors. It is important to consider these factors when determining how long of a board can be jointed with a benchtop jointer. Taking these factors into account can help ensure that the jointing process is safe and effective.
Jointer Bed Length
The length of a jointer’s beds is the primary factor that determines the maximum size of material it can accommodate. Choosing a jointer with beds long enough for your work is crucial.
For benchtop jointers, the standard lengths are:
- 4 foot beds – Entry-level for hobbyists and small projects
- 6 foot beds – Ideal for most general home workshop needs
- 8 foot beds – Allows jointing longer boards needed for furniture etc.
Floor standing industrial jointers offer even longer beds:
- 10 foot – Meets the needs of many professional workshops
- 12 foot – Allows jointing very long tabletop slabs or wider panels
- 16 foot – Specialty extra long bed jointers for mills and factories
Keep in mind you’ll need to support long ends of a board being jointed. Many jointers have optional infeed and outfeed extension tables.
When in doubt, go bigger on the bed length to allow room for growth. It’s frustrating to be limited by a too-short jointer bed. The added cost of a slightly longer bed is generally worth the added versatility. Compare your board length needs against the jointer bed lengths to choose the right size jointer. This will maximize your machining capabilities.
In addition to the jointer’s bed length, the size of the actual board being worked limits the maximum length that can be effectively jointed.
Narrow boards up to 2 inches wide have minimal flex and can be jointed close to the full length capacity of the jointer beds. For example:
- A 4 foot benchtop jointer can fully joint a 1 inch thick x 4 foot long board.
As board width increases, the allowable workable length decreases. Wider boards need more support along their length to prevent sagging and snipe. Some examples:
- A 6 inch wide board should not exceed 3 feet on a 4 foot benchtop jointer.
- An 8 inch wide board is limited to about 2 feet maximum on a 4 foot jointer.
- A 48 inch industrial jointer can accommodate a 4 foot wide panel around 6 feet long.
Larger surface area boards require shorter workable lengths than narrower boards on the same jointer. Consulting your jointer’s manual for specific size limitations is recommended. Allowing too much unsupported overhang is unsafe and produces poor milling quality.
Type of Jointer
The design and type of jointer impacts how close to the maximum bed length a board can be machined.
Benchtop jointers have space taken up by the motor and drivetrain before the cutterhead. This requires allowing extra room before the end of the beds. As a general guideline, benchtop jointers can only use about 75% of the total bed length for jointing operations.
Floor-standing jointers have the cutterhead placed at the very beginning of the beds. This allows utilizing 95-100% of the full bed length for jointing boards.
Floor-standing jointers are heavier duty with more power and stability. They can better handle the forces involved in working long boards.
- A 6 foot benchtop jointer is limited to around 4.5 feet maximum board length.
- A 6 foot floor-standing jointer can use the full 6 feet of beds for jointing.
So when working with longer lumber, a floor model jointer provides greater capacity over a benchtop model with the same bed length. The tradeoff is floor-standing jointers have a much larger footprint and higher cost. Consider both your space and budget constraints when choosing between benchtop or floor jointers.
Tips for Jointing Longer Boards with a Benchtop Jointer
Benchtop jointers provide an affordable option for smaller home shops to flatten and square lumber. But their compact size does limit the maximum board length that can be machined. Here are some tips to safely push the capacity of a benchtop jointer for edge jointing longer boards:
Use Infeed and Outfeed Supports
Adding roller stands or attaching extra tables at the infeed and outfeed sides of the jointer provides much needed support for long boards. As the board enters and exits the cutterhead, most of the length will be resting on these supports rather than hanging off the beds. This helps reduce snipe and allows the jointer to focus on the cut.
Take Light Finishing Passes
Hogging off 1/8″ depth of cut in a single pass puts a lot of force on a long workpiece. For boards near the jointer’s capacity limits, take lighter 1/32″ finishing passes instead. Making multiple shallow cuts to reach the final depth reduces the risk of the board flexing or twisting during the cut.
Use a Jointing Sled or Jig
A dedicated jointing sled or jig adds an auxiliary support system for the workpiece. This allows sliding longer boards through the jointer while keeping them stable and avoiding sag. The jig rides along the jointer beds while taking the brunt of supporting the weight. A jointing sled is a great shop-made option.
Exceeding the recommended 75% of bed length capacity on a benchtop jointer can be done safely with care and techniques to provide additional workpiece support. But it requires lighter passes and awareness of snipe. Consult your jointer’s manual for its tested capacity limits. With extra care, minor expansions may be possible.
When selecting a benchtop jointer, one of the most important factors to consider is the maximum board length capacity. Several variables impact the workable lengths, including:
- Jointer bed length – Longer beds accommodate bigger material. Standard lengths are 4′, 6′, and 8′.
- Board width – Narrower boards can be jointed closer to full bed length. Wider boards require shorter supported lengths.
- Jointer type – Floor-standing jointers utilize beds more efficiently than benchtop models.
While benchtop jointers are limited in board length compared to industrial machines, options like infeed/outfeed stands and jointing sleds can help maximize capacity.
Understanding the length limitations of your jointer, and selecting a size adequate for your typical board dimensions, ensures you can flatten and square stock efficiently and safely. Don’t let an undersized jointer bed length hinder your woodworking projects! Carefully evaluate your workload boards and choose an appropriate benchtop jointer length.