Jointer vs. Table Saw: Do You Need Both?

Jointer vs. Table Saw: Do You Need Both?

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If you are planning on getting into the world of carpentry, then there are some specific tools that you are absolutely going to need. Here we are talking about large power tools.

Two tools that you may be familiar with include table saws and jointers. That said the two are very different machines. A lot of people wonder, if they have a table saw, do they still need a jointer? Today, we want to determine exactly what both machines are and if you need both of them.

Jointer and Table Saw: The Basics

Before we start talking about the similarities shared and the differences between jointers and table saws, let’s first figure out exactly what both of them are.

What Is a Jointer?

Jointer A jointer is a specific type of woodworking machine that features both an infeed and an outfeed table, as well as a fence. In the middle of both of the tables, there is a horizontal riving knife. Unlike a saw blade, this riving knife looks more like a circular drum.

It looks kind of like a thin and elongated tube with knives lining the outside. These are straight blades that spin at incredibly high speeds, and they protrude out of the surface of the table by just a little bit. Wooden boards are then laid on the table and passed over these knives.

The point of a jointer is to shave away small amounts of wood from the flat surface of a board. A jointer can be used to flatten out both the narrow and the wide edges of a board. Jointers are designed to get rid of cups, bows, and twists in wood. They’re designed to shave away a certain amount of material to flatten out a board.

What Is a Table Saw?

Table Saw On the other hand, we have the table saw. A table saw, as you can imagine, generally features a fairly large table. A large and circular saw blade then protrudes out from the bottom of this table. This saw blade is quite large, and it spins at incredibly high speeds.

Table saws usually come complete with fences, and they may also come complete with miters. They also feature both infeed and outfeed tables. Wood is laid on the surface of the table and then pushed through the spinning blade. The point of a table saw is to saw apart pieces of wood.

Depending on the blade being used, a table saw may also be used to cut apart other materials. Table saws can very easily perform rip cuts on very long pieces of wood. If we are talking about shorter pieces of wood, they may also be able to perform cross cuts or angled cross cuts.

Similarities of Jointers and Table Saws

Now that we know what both jointers and table saws are, let’s figure out what makes them similar.

1. They Both Have Spinning Blades

One of the most basic similarities shared between these two machines is that they both have very sharp blades that spin at very high speeds. Yes, these blades do have different functions, but they are still spinning blades nonetheless.

2. They Both Have Infeed and Outfeed Tables

Another very basic similarity that both of these machines share is that they generally have fairly large tables. People generally refer to these as infeed tables and outfeed tables. One end supports the wood as it starts to pass through the blade, and the other end supports the wood as it comes out of the blade. That said, jointers do usually have slightly larger tables.

3. They’re Both Designed for Woodworking

Perhaps the biggest similarity that both jointers and table saws share is that they are both designed to work with wood. As you will find out below, yes, what they are designed to do is very different, although they are both designed to work with wood.

4. Both Come in Various Types

Something else worth mentioning about both of these machines is that they do come in various types.

For instance, you have full-sized cabinet table saws and full-size cabinet jointers. These are extremely large and designed to work with large materials, but they certainly aren’t portable. There are then also far more portable models, such as benchtop table saws and benchtop jointers.

These are much smaller than the cabinet versions, and much more portable, although they can’t work on materials that are quite as large. You then also have contractor models of both, which are like combinations of benchtop and cabinet models.

5. Both Require Great Safety and Respect

The other thing to keep in mind here is that both of these machines are quite dangerous due to their sharp and spinning blades. The utmost safety and respect is required when working with either of these tools.

Differences Between Jointers and Table Saws

Now that we know what makes jointers and table saws similar, let’s determine what makes them different.  Although there may be fewer differences in number between these two machines, the differences are far more significant than the similarities.

1. Types of Blades

One of the primary differences between these two machines is the types of blades that they have. The table saw has a very thin, large diameter, circular blade that spins at very high speeds. On the other hand, the blade or blades on a jointer take the form of a circular drum with knives on the exterior. You can imagine a thin and elongated soda can that is covered in blades.

2. Primary Function

The primary function of both of these tools is very different, and this is the biggest difference between them.

A table saw is designed to saw apart pieces of wood. These are generally fairly long boards. The table saw is designed to make long rip cuts, and sometimes crosscuts too. The bottom line is that table saws are designed to saw apart wood.

A jointer is very different. In no way does it saw apart pieces of wood. Instead, the function of a jointer is to shave away thin layers of wood, either from the narrow or the wide edge. By removing material from areas that are convex or warped, a jointer has the ability to create a perfectly flat and even board. Jointers are made to remove warps and flatten boards.

3. Workable Materials

The other difference worth noting here is that table saws are a bit more versatile in terms of the materials that they can work with. A jointer is designed strictly to work with wood and wood only. However, table saws, depending on the blades that are fitted into them, can cut various materials such as wood, plastic, tile, metal, and more.

Jointer vs. Table Saw: Which of the Two Should You Use?

To answer the question of the day, if you are getting into woodworking, you are going to need both of these machines. As you can see, they both perform extremely different tasks.

For instance, if you have a long board that is both warped and needs to be cut apart, you will need both of these tools. You are going to need the jointer to ensure that the board is perfectly flat and straight. You are then going to need the table saw to cut the board into multiple pieces.

The bottom line is that if you need to flatten and straighten a piece of wood, it’s a jointer that you need, and if you need to cut what apart, then it is a table saw that you need.

Can You Use a Table Saw as a Jointer?

No, you really cannot use a table saw as a jointer. A jointer has a very wide set of blades that can be several inches wide. This means that you can easily flatten the wider edge of a two-by-four.

Due to the limited depth at which a table saw blade can protrude from the table, it really cannot cut all the way through a board in this sense. You definitely cannot even out the wide face of a board with a table saw.

You just cannot stand a board up on its narrow edge and cut all the way through the wide edge with a table saw. It just doesn’t work that way. Due to the way in which a table saw is built, flattening a piece of wood is very hard in general.

It’s just not designed to do that. You could flatten out or straighten the narrow edge of a board using a table saw, but not the wide edge. If you need to flatten a piece of wood, it is a jointer that you will need.


As you can see, jointers and table saws really are two very different tools.

Although they are both used for woodworking, they perform very different jobs. Therefore, if you are seriously planning to get into carpentry of any kind, you are going to need both a table saw and a jointer. They both perform vital tasks that will be required to complete any sort of woodworking project.

How Do Jointers and Table Saws Compare with Other Tools?

See how jointers compare with: joiners | planers

See how table saws compare with: bandsawscabinet sawscircular saws | flooring saws | miter saws | panel saws | routers | tile saws | track saws