Introduction: Joint Boards Without a Jointer

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…

A planer/jointer is not always available to the home woodworker who wants to do fine cabinetry. Look at the piece of cabinetry in the photo. Each face has three pieces that were jointed and glued, but without a standard planer/jointer. The glue lines are almost invisible. You can find them only by looking closely for changes in the grain pattern.

Step 1: Use a Sanding Drum in Place of a Jointer

The graphic shows the basic setup. The work passes between a spinning sanding drum and a fence with a very straight edge.

In the graphic the sanding drum rotates in a counter-clockwise direction. The work moves over the table from right to left.

Cuts taken are very light. Flip the work over frequently so both sides of the work are staight and true when finished. When the sanding drum no longer cuts, loosen one of the "C" clamps and move that end of the fence nearer to the sanding drum only about the thickness of a pencil line. Clamp again and continue feeding the work past the sanding drum.

Step 2: Equipment

You can make your own sanding drum table with a piece of plywood, an old eletric motor, and a mandrel. You will want more of the table on one side of the drum than on the other. This is so there is room for the work and the fence.

Step 3: The Mandrel

Shop hardware stores and suppliers. Often you can find a mandrel for mounting a saw blade on a motor. Remove the nut and the washers for holding the blade. Pay attention to match the thread size and shaft diameter to the sanding drum you buy. Also match the hole in the body of the mandrel to the shaft size of your motor.

Sanding drums are available through Sears Craftsman and other sources. Get one about two or more inches in diameter with a face two or three inches long. Although not easy to predict for the long term, give some thought to the availability of replacement sanding drum sleeves.

When you are finished, the sanding drum should run without vibration.

Step 4: With a Radial Arm Saw

I use a radial arm saw. By setting the shaft to the vertical position and removing the parts of the saw table behind the saw's fence (including the fence), I have a good sanding drum setup for doing jointery. One advantage to using a radial arm saw for this setup is that it is easy to crank the face of the sanding drum up or down when the grit in one area is worn down.

The jointing fence here is one of the boards from the saw table that holds the saw's fence in place. If you make your own fence, just saw about four inches from the end of a new sheet of plywood. The factory sawn edge of the plywood is straight and true. It also gives you a very long faux plane bed.

In the photo the green paper arrows indicate the direction of the drum's rotation (counter-clockwise) and the direction of travel for the work.

Step 5: Finished Product

Again, look at the finished product. You will be able to make cabinet surfaces from solid wood that equal or surpass the work done on the best planer/jointer.

The piece in the photo is made of birch. Woods like birch and maple sometimes have irregular and unpredictable grain patterns that would tear out if jointed with cutter knives. The sanding drum cuts so gently that there are no problems with grain that suddenly runs against the cutter knives rather than with them.

The original idea for this came from a Popular Mechanics encyclopedia published in the mid-1960s.

Step 6: Update: Idea in Response to Gfixler's Comment

Below is a way of using a router for jointing so the router bit cannot vibrate or jump into the work and make a cupped indentation in the work's edge. The fence (yellow) clamps to the work (brown). The router bolts onto the attachment (yellow). The attachment rides on the fence.