The Millwright’s Apprentice

Tools of the Trade: The Jointer Plane

Tools of the Trade: The Jointer Plane

Now that we’ve completed our initial stock preparation with the fore plane, it’s time to flatten the face and square the edges of our work-piece. This will prepare to finally be put to use for joinery. To do this, we need a new tool: the jointer plane.

What is a Jointer Plane?

According to Moxon:

The Joynter is made somewhat longer than the Fore-plane and hath its Sole perfectly straight from end to end. Its Office is to follow the fore-plane, and to shoot an edge perfectly straight,’ and not only an edge, but also a Board of any thickness; especially when a Joynt Is to be shot.[1]

Let’s unpack this definition a bit. The jointer should be long, and the sole should be perfectly flat and straight. This way you have a long, straight surface that will ride over any low spots on your board and only let the iron take down the high spots. So long as you run the plane over the full length and breadth of your piece, you should end up with something fairly flat. Joynters were also (perhaps more importantly) used to “shoot” the edge of a board straight and square to the face, which allows you to glue two edges together without any gaps.

This jointer plane, in the Dominy collection at the Winterthur Museum, Gardens, and Library, is a fine example of mid-18th-century English-Colonial style planes.[2] The body was made by the user, and the iron was made in England and imported to Philadelphia. But now that we know what we’re talking about, how were they actually used?

How Were They Used?

As Moxon explained earlier, the office of the jointer is to follow the fore plane, so after you’ve removed most of the rougher surface and high spots from a board, you can get it perfectly flat with the jointer.

Here we’re starting with a board which has been left very rough by the fore plane. It’s mostly flat, but we need to remove the dawks (the deep gouges in the surface) before we can use it for joinery.

By running the jointer from one end to the other, carefully applying even pressure across the surface, we’re able to bring down most of the roughness. Work from one edge, and after each pass, move towards the other edge a little over half the width of your plane, each pass should overlap slightly (I like to think of it like mowing the lawn).

Just keep repeating this, until the board is brought down completely flat, without any dawks left in the surface.

We’ll then finish this face with a smoothing plane (but that will be covered in next week’s blog).

Once the face is completely finished, we can move on to the edge.

We need to take out the roughness and marks on this and make it perfectly straight and square to the face.

To do this we run the jointer across the edge, making sure to keep it steady and not rocking it at all. This takes a lot of practice, but when you get the hang of it, it’s relatively simple.

After a number of passes, and a lot of patience, we have a perfectly squared edge!

Jointer planes become even more important when working with longer pieces; for example, take the planks of this door.

Each plank is over 6 feet long, and they needed to fit together tight enough that no daylight could get through (though as you can see from the photo, a bit of warping has already led to small gaps developing). This door is the entrance to our “new” 1740s kitchen which we’re in the process of restoring. Check us out on Facebook (@newlingristmill) for more information on this project!

I hope you enjoyed our discussion of the jointer plane, we’ll be continuing the “Tools of the Trade” series with one more plane (the smoother) next week.

Again, I would normally invite everyone to come visit us in the Millwright Shop, but it’s currently closed due to COVID-19. We will be continuing to post here on the blog, and we’ll be doing more Facebook Live videos, so be sure to follow us on Facebook. Stay safe and check back here next week!

If you’d like to take the next step and get involved in the shop once this has all calmed, please contact us at:


Find us on Instagram @newlingristmill1704

Look for us on Facebook @newlingristmill


[1] Moxon, Joseph. Mechanick Exercises: Or, The Doctrine of Handy-works. London: D. Midwinter and T. Leigh, 1703. Page 93 Digitized by University of Michigan, Accessed May 18, 2020

[2] Dominy, Nathaniel.1766. Jointer Plane. In the Winterthur Digital Museum Collection. Accessed May 18, 2020.


Dominy, Nathaniel.1766. Jointer Plane. In the Winterthur Digital Museum Collection. Accessed May 18, 2020.

Moxon, Joseph. Mechanick Exercises: Or, The Doctrine of Handy-works. London: D. Midwinter and T. Leigh, 1703. Digitized by University of Michigan, Accessed May 18, 2020

Leave a Reply

You are donating to : The Newlin Grist Mill

How much would you like to donate?
$10 $25 $50
Would you like to make regular donations? I would like to make donation(s)
How many times would you like this to recur? (including this payment) *
Name *
Last Name *
Email *
Additional Note

Newlin Grist Mill’s trails are open!

There are a few changes you need to be aware of before you visit:

  1. Open hours are 7am to 5pm. New gates have been installed at the entrance to Newlin Grist Mill. These gates will be unlocked at 7am and locked at 5pm daily. Please keep this in mind when visiting the park.
  2. Repair work is ongoing and not all trails are currently open. While the worst of the damage has been repaired, use caution and please be mindful of marked trails that remain closed while repairs continue.
  3. The parking lot by the log cabin will remain closed or partially blocked off, as we continue to work on completing repairs.
  4. Restrooms, visitor center, and historic buildings are still closed. Please be patient as we work to rebuild the visitor center and make repairs to our historic buildings.
  5. Please be respectful of our staff and volunteers as they work on repairs throughout the park.