Introduction: Machine Substitutions: Woodworking Without a Jointer

About: Maker on YouTube. Helping others break barriers to making by inspiring and informing.

No jointer, no problem! This Instructable is all about how to do everything a jointer does, without a jointer.

This is intended to be a reference. If you have some experience, my brief explanation will be enough to send you on your way! But if you're newer to this hobby, I've also included links along the way to other videos me and some of my friends have done that provide full explanations of the substitute techniques.

This Instructable is organized under each task you can perform on a jointer and then providing substitute techniques.

You can find my full article on my website at:

Step 1: Face Jointing

Face jointing is where the jointer sings. Face jointing is the first step of a milling a board and is picking the appropriate face and making it flat, the rest of the milling process will reference off of this face.

The easiest substitute for face jointing is a planer with a jointing sled!

But I recognize that a planer is a fairly large investment also. If you don't have one, and one isn't available to you, you can make a router sled and use that to flatten both faces of your board, then a different technique to edge joint them.

Last but not least, this will hold true for all the techniques mentioned, you can always use hand tools!

Step 2: Edge Jointing

Edge jointing is the second step in milling and is also done primarily at the jointer. It's the process of making the edge flat, straight, and square to the first face.

One of the easiest and fairly accessible techniques is to use a table saw with a jig. I used to tape a level to the side of my board to do this, but there are simple jigs you can make such as the one below.

Perhaps the best substitute for edge jointing is a router table with a fence that can be shimmed.

A self explanatory method is using a circular with a guide to ensure the saw runs straight.

And as always, you can turn to hand tools.

Step 3: Tapering

Another super common task performed on the jointer is tapering. It's fairly quick, very accurate, and because you're doing it on the jointer it'll be flat! Of course there are other ways to do it.

I don't often cut tapers, so when I do I usually just build a dedicated jig to use on the table saw. But you can also build an adjustable jig, or purchase one.

And same as edge jointing, you can use a circular saw with a guide as well. Just align the track/guide along the taper you want to cut!

And of course.. hand planes! The technique is fairly simple, mark the taper and start with tapers where the most material will be removed and slowly work your passes towards the beginning of the taper.

Step 4: Rabbeting

Many, but not all jointers are built with the ability to cut rabbets. Though it's a bit of an eclectic technique, in the spirit of completeness I felt I should include it!

I have cut rabbets on the jointer just for the sake of trying it, but I normally do them at the table saw. A flat grind blade is preferable. You can either take multiple passes until the rabbet is cut, or take one cut with a face down, and a second cut with an edge down, to cut both sides of the rabbet. A third table saw option, and the one demonstrated below is to use a dado stack.

Fairly self explanatory is to use a router or router table. You can use a rabbeting bit with a bearing, which makes the task very straight forward. Or a straight bit and some sort of edge guide to guide the router.

And of course, there are always the hand tools!

Step 5: Get Busy!

I hope you found this useful. Don't ever let the lack of a tool prevent you from diving into a project, there is always another way to get the job done. And in fact, starting with your journey with limited tools is a good way to learn. It forces you to really understand how tools, wood, and joinery work together and function and results in instinct and ability to problem solve.

If I missed any techniques that you like to use, please share them below!

This is my first in a series of videos I plan to do on machine substitution, so be sure to follow me if you want to catch the rest as they come.