Why buy an 8" jointer?
Not every woodworker needs a jointer in the shop--only those who insist on working with stock that is flat, straight, and square. With 6" jointers selling for as little as $350 these days, you might wonder why you should consider a machine selling for two or three times that much. That's a fair question, and we offer three good reasons to buy an 8" jointer: capacity, capacity, and capacity. Need specifics?
Joint wider stock. That extra 2" of width may not sound like much, but it makes it possible to face-joint rough-cut lumber (often sold in 6-8" widths), and common widths used in furniture or cabinets, including drawer faces.
Joint longer stock. As a rule of thumb, you can joint stock accurately up to about 1-1/2 times as long as the bed (the combination of the infeed and outfeed tables). With an 8" jointer, that amounts to about a 9'-long workpiece (compared with a 6' max for the typical 6" jointer). Bigger fences also support stock better when edge-jointing.
Joint with less motor strain. Manufacturers recommend cutting no deeper than 1/8", so an 8" jointer won't remove any more thickness per pass than a 6" jointer. But even if you never face-joint 8"-wide boards, these big machines cut narrower boards with less stress on the motor, extending its life.
Having said that, we can think of two solid reasons why an 8" jointer might be too much for you:
Tight quarters. These machines run about 6' long and 24" deep and can quickly eat up a wall in a small shop. That footprint doesn't even include infeed and outfeed room, which adds another 6-7' on both ends.
Tight budget. Even the least expensive 8" jointers, starting at around $650, cost more than all but the most expensive 6" machines. The models we tested range in price from $995 to nearly $1,700 (a price higher than many woodworkers are willing to spend on a tablesaw!).
Choose your cutterhead: Straight or spiral
Among the eight jointers in our test, we found four different cutterhead styles. Four tested machines use straight-knife cutterheads--a design as old as the tool itself. The other four jointers use some variation of a "spiral"cutterhead, with knives or inserts arranged in a spiral fashion around the cutterhead. An increasing number of manufacturers now install spiral-style cutterheads on their jointers--or offer them as an option--because their shearing action produces less grain tear-out in figured wood. Our test results bear that out, as we face-jointed curly white oak, lacewood, and bird's-eye maple (much to the chagrin of our tester, who nearly wept while jointing these beautiful boards into chips). But are spiral cutterheads worth the extra $400 or so manufacturers charge for them?
Learn the results of our testing of the Craftsman 21703, Delta 37-350A, Grizzly G0593, Jet JJ-8CS, Powermatic PJ-882, Shop Fox W1705, Sunhill CT-240L with spiral cutterhead, and Yorkcraft YC-8J with spiral cutterhead when you pick up the February/March 2006 issue of WOOD magazine and turn to page 69.
Editor's Choice Top Tool: Powermatic 60B, $1,200