How to Square Lumber with a Jointer for Woodworking

Learn how to square lumber in this Howcast woodworking video featuring Makeville Studio, part 1 of a 2-part series.

One of the first steps you’ll have to do in any woodworking project is squaring out and milling the rough lumber. All of our woodworking machines rely on straight, square edges to do accurate work; The table saw, chop saw, band saw, any of the tools, the router; need straight, flat edges and square faces to do their work properly. So, milling up the lumber is always the first step.

Now, there’s a procedure for milling wood that’s a simple one to follow, and it has an acronym called FEE, which stands for Faces, Edges, and Ends. What that means is that your always starting with the faces first, the faces the wide part of the board and you’re flattening the face, and then the edges refers to the edge here. You’re squaring up the edge to the newly flattened faces, and then the ends refer to the ends of the boards that your then cutting off in a cross-cut square to the edges that you just now made square to the faces.

So, it’s the sequential process where your squaring up and flattening the wood in a way that leads to it perfectly square, flat board. Usually the first step in this process with the faces is to hop onto the jointer, and flatten your face. If you’ve got one flat face already, reasonably flat and you can check in on our jointer table if your pieces are small like this. If the pieces are sitting flat already, like this one, there’s no need to actually even use the jointer, you can jump right into the planer. But, most of the time there’s some little cupping or bowing that you need to take care of on the jointer, so let’s do that first.

In my scenario we’re working with two pieces of wood that are going to end up being the same, we don’t need them to be the same thickness, and they’re going to be a little table top. And so, whenever you do milling you always do your work in a batch, meaning, whatever I do to this piece I’m going to do to this piece piece as well, before I change any of the settings on the machines; and that goes for jointer, the planter, and the table saw. You always work in a batch like this.

Okay, so let’s look at the jointer first, let’s say we had to flatten these faces. First step, let’s get the jointer to the proper widths to accommodate out stock, open this fence up a little bit so we’ve got enough room. Lock it in place, you want to check again to see the depth that your cutting, so you can use a little engineer square to check that. See the height difference in the tables, looks good to me we’re not going to take a very aggressive cut. And then we’re ready to go. The last thing you want to look at and consider when your using these machines, the jointer and plane are especially is wood grain direction. Okay?

The grain direction of the wood actually has a big impact on how the machines perform and how smooth of a cut you’re going to get. Let’s look at this wood for example here, if you can see the grain of the wood in the side, we’ll follow one of these with my pencil. You can see it’s going up hill from right to left. what that means is that the wood fiber is in this piece of wood are actually sticking out with this pencil out of the wood. So, in a machine like this if we were to pass this over top these blades, which are spinning at me, if the wood is sticking out like this, the blade is going catch the fibers of the wood and tear them out.

So, one of the things that you always want to do is make sure your wood is orientated so that doesn’t happen, if we spin this around that means now the fibers are facing this way. That means now when the blade comes around it’s just going to push the fiber back down. So it’s going to be a much smoother cut, we’re not going get any tear-out.

Okay, we’re ready for our first face flattening. We’re ready to go, I’m just going be passing this over the blade. Alright, that’s one. You want to check and make sure what you got actually did get flattened. Let’s put it on, the table. Yes, looks, looks good nice and flat. So put that one aside. And then you would do this same thing for your next piece. Run it through and flatten it as well. Once you have the flat faces done, you can bring it over to the planer for the next step.