Whether yours is a small shop or a new shop, set it up for big-league lumber surfacing at an entry-level price point with a benchtop jointer. Our head-to-head test points you to the right model.
Bencthtop Joiners

A jointer provides the best and fastest way to flatten the face of a board and square an edge to that flat face. Paired with a thickness planer, it quickly and reliably processes less-expensive roughsawn lumber into project-ready, surfaced boards, a capability that can pay for itself in short order.

Price increases have pushed even the value-priced 6" floor-standing jointers from the $500 range up over $1,000. So that makes a benchtop jointer—selling for as little as $250—even more attractive if you're investing in your first jointer. And the small footprint and weight of these machines—about the same as a standard 10" mitersaw—make one ideal for a shop tight on space.

To find the best value-priced jointer for you, we tested 12 models in the WOOD® shop—models with either straight-knife or insert cutterheads in capacities of 6" or 8". Many of these machines are nearly identical, with only cosmetic and slight performance differences. Here's what we found.

They're powerful, but don't push it

All 12 test jointers use 110-volt motors that are smaller than those you'll find on a floor-standing model. To measure each jointer's ability to handle full-capacity cuts, we face-jointed 6"×3' hard-maple boards, removing 1/16" per pass, and recorded the time it took. The Grizzly G0946 cut fastest at 1:03 (an average of three tests), with six other models taking 1:12 or less. The Delta 37-071 took the longest at 2:18. The three 8" jointers handled 6"-wide maple in 1:11 or 1:12; when using 8" maple, they needed just 3-5 seconds longer. (See the chart on page 50 for power grades for each unit.)

To really put them through their paces, we next set the jointers for the maximum ⅛"-deep cut and repeated the tests. The 8" jointers fared best here, requiring only a slightly slower feed rate. All 6" models, however, required a significantly slower feed rate to make the cut, with some bogging down even then. The Delta could not complete this demanding cut—but we don't recommend doing this with any of these jointers. Instead, limit full-width cuts to a shallower depth and reserve full-depth cuts for narrower boards or edge work.

How to know if a benchtop jointer is right for you


■ Ranging from $250 to $1,100, these are the lowest priced jointers to buy new.

■ The small footprint (about 20×30") and light weight (35–70 pounds) allow you to easily lift and store it when not in use.

■ The 6" and 8" board-width capacities of these machines match those of their more expensive floor-standing counterparts.

■ Many models in our test include disposable or inexpensive cutters or knives making sharpening unnecessary or optional.

■ You can place a benchtop jointer on a stand or workbench at a height comfortable to you.

■ Chip collection proves excellent when using an appropriate shop vacuum or dust collector.


■ The short infeed and outfeed tables make it difficult to work with boards longer than 5–6'; you'll need workpiece support stands for those.

■ The small motors do well enough with shallow cuts (1/16" or less) but require a much slower feed rate when cutting up to the maximum 1/8" depth. Deep cuts could also overwork the motor.

■ Long-wearing carbide knives and cutters are rare on benchtop models; you'll likely get steel cutters or knives, which dull faster.

Cut quality cuts later effort

Ideally, a jointer would leave wood surfaces without any tooling marks that need to be sanded or planed away later. But since that is rarely the case with a jointer of any size, your tolerance for sanding or hand-planing after jointing might center your choice of jointers on cut quality.

To evaluate the quality of cut for each model, we face-jointed walnut boards with a 1/32"-deep cut, then rubbed white chalk on the surface to reveal high spots (tooling marks), as shown below. Four machines, the Grizzly G0945, Rikon 20-800H, Shop Fox W1876, and Wen JT3062, produced the cleanest surfaces.

LEFT: The Rikon 8" jointer with insert cutterhead produced this clean cut, which needs only light sanding to make it ready for finish. RIGHT: The Delta's two-knife cutterhead left consistent scallops and chatter marks across the board's width, requiring significant sanding.

Snip the Snipe

Snipe, a slightly deeper cut in the last 2–3" at the outfeed end of the board (shown at left), results when the cutters' peak arc exceeds the height of the outfeed table. Unlike many of their larger counterparts, the outfeed tables on the tested benchtop machines cannot be raised or lowered to eliminate snipe. For the straight-knife machines, eliminate snipe by lowering the knives to match the level of the outfeed table. Insert-cutterhead models have no adjustment for snipe. Only two test jointers produced measurable snipe, however: the Delta and Shop Fox at .03" deep, an amount that is visible but that takes only moderate effort to fix.

detail of snipe
If you can't adjust away snipe on your jointer, then start with a longer board and cut away the snipe, or blend it by sanding, planing or scraping.

The length of a jointer's tables limits the length of board you can reasonably flatten. Each test model has paired infeed/outfeed tables that measure between 13" and 15". The 8" models include extensions on each end to make it easier to handle boards up to 8' long.

table extensions of a benchtop jointer
To use the table extensions on the 8" models, release the lock knobs below the tables, extend as needed, and relock.

Change is certain; nuisance is not

The jointers in this test use three types of cutters: high-speed steel (HSS) straight knives, HSS inserts, or carbide inserts. Steel cutters dull more quickly than carbide and need to be changed more frequently, but eventually the time comes for all cutters. So choose a jointer that makes blade changes and adjustments easy.

Blade area of the table
In the straight-knife cutterheads, blades rest on a pair of jackscrews you adjust to bring the blade in line with the outfeed table.

All five straight-knife machines use the same cutterhead design to hold a pair of full-capacity knives. Each knife rests on jackscrews that thread into the cutterhead; adjust these screws up or down to set the knife height, above.

Then secure each knife in place with a gib plate. With these models, changing knives and resetting the height proves tedious for two reasons: First, all models come with a right-angle hex wrench for the socket-head screws rather than a T-handle wrench, necessitating a lot of partial turns and wrench resets. Second, achieving the perfect knife height takes a lot of fussy trial-and-error work with a straightedge. Replacement knives cost from $10 to $44 per pair.

detail showing the HSS insert cutter
Models with two-sided HSS insert cutters use an indexing dot or dash in one corner to indicate when you've rotated that insert.

Three 6" jointers and all three 8" models use the same style cutterhead wrapped in offset groupings of 1/2"-square inserts with two cutting edges. To swap cutting edges, simply loosen an insert's screw with the included T-handle wrench (or remove it altogether for replacement), rotate the self-aligning insert to a sharp edge, and retighten, above.

Replacement inserts sell only in 10-packs, costing from $34 to $66 per pack. Curiously, Grizzly and Shop Fox do not sell HSS replacement inserts, but only two-edge carbide versions. No manufacturer sells inserts in a quantity that matches the number on the cutterhead, so a full replacement requires purchasing multiple sets.

Jet’s spiral cutterhead
Jet's spiral cutterhead with four-sided carbide insert cutters uses 1-2-3 marks to indicate the number of turns made.

The 6" Jet JJ-6HHBT uses carbide inserts with four cutting edges, above.

These inserts spiral around the cutterhead, mounted so the cutting edges slice the wood at a slight angle rather than straight-on, as with the other insert machines. While we appreciate the longevity of the carbide along with twice as many cutting edges, this unit's cut quality was surpassed by nine other test jointers, and replacement inserts sell for $100 per 10-pack.

detail of the depth capacity indicator
Ten of the test jointers use this indicator that magnifies the 1/8" cut depth capacity across a much larger scale. Few people will likely need its difficult-to-distinguish 0.1 mm increments, though.
depth gauges showing 1/8" (actual-size) scales
The Jet and Delta's depth gauges use 1/8" (actual-size) scales with few increments. They're tricky to set precisely, and there's no lock to ensure that the setting holds.

More jointer points

■ Cutting depth. All test models use one of two identical depth-adjustment systems that work okay but could be better. None has detent settings for common depths, such as 1/32" or 1/16", so you have to rely on your ability to align the pointer to a hard-to-read scale when you need a precise setting.

■ Fences. Each model uses an aluminum fence about 4 1/4" tall and approximately two-thirds the length of the combined table. They all adjust front to back via a manual slide (no rack-and-pinion gears). The Delta and Jet tilt to 45° toward the front and back with stops for both as well as 90°; all others tilt from 90° to 45° toward the back only. All were accurate, and only the two 6" Wen models needed initial calibration for the tilt stops.

■ Chip collection. All models worked very well when connected to a shop vacuum or dust collector. All but two 6" jointers use the same 2½" O.D. dust port; some shop-vacuum hoses will require an adapter or duct tape. Delta and Jet have 2⅜" ports that fit more of the hoses in our shop. Alternatively, these two come with dust bags, but we found them to be less effective than connecting a vacuum hose. All 8" machines have 4" ports and come with a 2½" reducer. We got the best results with 4" hose and a dust collector.

■ Accessories. All but one machine comes with two push pads. Strangely, Jet includes only one push pad, substituting a push stick for the second; we prefer two push pads.

■ Warranty. We appreciate that the Delta and Rikon models come with a five-year warranty. Craftsman and Jet provide three years; all others are one or two.

Go big when eyeing a jointer

Rikon 20-800H
Chart comparing benchtop jointers

Any of the tested jointers can straighten and square a board's edge, but flattening a face begins to reveal the differences between the models. Two models scored A's across the board in our testing, but the 8" capacity, table extensions, and long warranty make the Rikon 20-800H ($550) the clear winner of our Top Tool award. We give a nod to the Grizzly G0946 and G0947 machines for finishing closely.

Wen 6" JT630H

For Top Value, we honor the Wen 6" JT630H. It costs just $280 and performed well in all tests.