The topic came up in Body positioning while using a jointer of jointer safety. While I've never had any issues, an accident on a jointer could be very dangerous. What safety precautions should I take when operating a jointer?

  • 1
    From my earlier answer on the linked question: If you're not too squeamish, here's a good resource (PDF) with a lot of jointer accident and close-call descriptions. I find learning from others' mistakes (and missing digits) helps me keep all of my fingers intact.
    – Doresoom
    Jul 27, 2015 at 17:27
  • The missing tip of dad's thumb is why I'm extra careful around the tablesaw.
    – Daniel B.
    Jul 28, 2015 at 15:06

5 Answers 5


I copied some of the information from my earlier answer to your linked question, and added a few other points:

  • Use the proper personal safety gear, like eye and ear protection.

  • Don't disable or remove the spring-loaded guard. It's there for a reason.

  • Use a pair of flat push blocks with handles and rubber pads on the bottom for friction. Using this type of push block will allow you to safely maintain downward pressure on the work piece while it's over the cutter head. You may also want to use a variation of this with a cleat for your trailing hand to allow a better grip for forward feed pressure.

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  • As @TX Turner mentions, "When surfacing, never place either hand directly over the blade while pushing stock through."

  • Keep your hands away from the leading edge of the board when it's only a few inches onto the outfeed table. A sudden kickback with your hand in that position could lead to it getting drawn into the cutter head.

  • Stand to the side of the jointer, and stay out of the kickback danger zone behind the machine directly in line with the cutter head.

  • Be especially careful in your inspection of the lumber for nails and staples if you're using pallet boards or reclaimed lumber. These can damage the knives and cause some serious kickback.

  • Check your jointer directions for the minimum recommended length of stock suitable for working with. Don't try to joint any work piece shorter than this length.

Further Reading:

  • This old Shopsmith pamphlet (PDF) has a bunch of good tips on safe jointer use, although some are specific to the particular model.

  • If you're not too squeamish, here's a good resource (PDF) with a lot of jointer accident and close-call descriptions. I find learning from others' mistakes (and missing digits) helps me keep all of my fingers intact.

  • 1
    I would add, "When surfacing, never place either hand directly over the blade while pushing stock through."
    – TX Turner
    Jul 27, 2015 at 17:36
  • 1
    It would be good to enumerate the safety tips in the shopsmith pamphlet and provide a reference, in case the link ever goes dead.
    – Daniel B.
    Jul 27, 2015 at 17:57
  • 1
    I'd just like to note that the second PDF doesn't have images. In case anyone was worried about that. Aug 10, 2015 at 8:35

In addition to the other answers:

  • Plan your cut from start to finish. Know what you are going to use to push the lumber (push blocks, hands for edge jointing, etc.). Think about if your hand falls, where it will go and make sure that they won't contact the blade.
  • Know where the shutoff switch is located and think about how you can quickly activate it if necessary
  • Ensure your machine is well-maintained. Sharp knives, belt in good condition, waxed in-feed and out-feed tables
  • Move the fence so that only 1/4" of the blade is left exposed. This will help minimize the amount of cutter that you can come in contact with
  • When you need to use your hands, use a grip where you can control all of your digits together and keep sight of them; don't let your pinky dangle
  • If you have doubts, don't cut. Seek advice from an experienced woodworker.
  • Never start the machine with lumber near or on the blade
  • Make all adjustments to the machine with it off and locked out or unplugged.
  • Remove a very small amount of material at a time. It will take a few extra passes but you will reduce the amount of effort needed to push the board over the cutter, as well as reduce the effects of kickback should it occur
  • +1 for sharp knives and good belt. Thinking about safety, sometimes the condition of the equipment gets overlooked.
    – Daniel B.
    Jul 28, 2015 at 15:14

There are a couple things to consider:

  1. Eye protection (should be self-explanatory)
  2. Hearing protection (again, self-explanatory)
  3. Use push blocks and keep your hands away from the blades
  4. Use boards long enough to comfortably guide through the cut
  5. Keep your body outside of the line of action of the blade
  6. Keep track of grain orientation to avoid kickback (usually not a real issue, but I thought I'd mention it for completeness)
  • #6 is actually the cause of one of the accidents in Doresoom's pdf. Jointing across the grain caused kickback and lost a fellow a finger.
    – Daniel B.
    Jul 27, 2015 at 17:56

One of the magazines recently had a Jointers 101 article. Some points from that, from memory:

  • hands never get withIn 3" of the cutter (good general rule with machines), and never near the end or the board where it could slip from under you.

  • never push toward the cutter if there's any possible way to avoid it -- that author recommend a "push stick" that's about 2' long and has a hook at the back, and switches to that as soon as the back end comes within reach.

  • Switch from pushing the board to pulling it (from the outfeed side) as soon as possible. Walking the leading edge past the cutter is part of that; start cutting with your feet pointing in the right direction for that.

  • Don't apply too much downward pressure, and don't take too deep a cut per pass, both for safety and accuracy reasons.(You want the planer to remove any cupping; don't push so hard you remove its ability to distinguish that.)

  • Cupped side down, If board is bowed/cupped. You'll cut more easily and lose less wood, and the board will be less likely to rock and ruin the pass.. If the board is twisted, picking the best orientation is a judgement call.

  • Cut to rough size before jointing. Safer -- and less work and less wood lost since a shorter section generally has less total curvature. Exception being when board gets too short; under some size (6"?) it's hard to safely control. Also, if too thin it has nasty habit of "diving" into the cutter.

  • ALWAYS use blade guard. NO loose clothing. (Again good general advice)

  • Older jointers have a "rabbeting ledge" feature. Ignore it. Dado blade in the saw, or router, or router planes are better/safer solutions.

  • I do have a rabbeting ledge and I have yet to even try it. It'll probably stay that way not out of safety but that as you say there are better options. Not really sure why it would be unsafe?
    – Daniel B.
    Jul 28, 2015 at 15:13
  • 1
    The rabbetting ledge is dis-recommend mostly because (a) you have to remove the guard to use it and (b) better alternatives are available in most shops. Best use I've seen for it was as a reference surface for an in-place blade-honing jig.
    – keshlam
    Jul 28, 2015 at 15:22
  • Do not joint short stuff — say, less than 12 inches or so — lest Bad Things happen.

  • Do not edge joint small stuff (say, less than 1/4-3/8 thick or lessthan 1-1/2–2 inches wide)

  • Do not face joint small stuff (say,less than 1/4-3/8 inch thick or less than 1 inch wide).

  • ALWAYS use paddles/push blocks/push sticks

  • ALWAYS use ear and eye protection

  • Take thin cuts, 1/32 or 1/16 tops. 1/8 at the very, very most. Easier on the motor, easier on the knives and its safer.

  • Unless you know what you're doing (and why), don't muck with the outfeed table.

  • If you working with long and/or heavy stock, have someone assist you.

  • Don't stand inline with the infeed end of the cutter table, lest you take a kickback in the abdomen.

  • If you're adjusting the machine, unplug it and lock it out. Don't need nobody energizing it while you're under the hood, so to speak.

  • 1
    +1 for "have someone assist you." Several of the incidents in Doresoom's pdf are the result of long stock twisting or tipping up and the woodworker attempting to compensate by doing something dangerous.
    – Daniel B.
    Jul 28, 2015 at 15:09
  • (External) Outfeed tables and the like can help with longer pieces, as can the advice to cut pieces down to near final size before jointing to reduce the occurrence of long pieces, but... Yep, another pair of hands is a good thing. (Hm. This has me wondering about redoing the mounting system for my old planer to bring it up to tablesaw height. Standardizing most of the shop at a single height seems useful...)
    – keshlam
    Jul 28, 2015 at 15:27

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