Power Feeder on a Jointer

A power feeder can't make the judgment calls of a hand operator for straightening the first face of a board, but it can boost productivity and improve safety. July 3, 2008

With an eye on improved efficiency and quality, and the main focus on keeping fingers away from spinning blades, we plan to mount a stock feeder on a 12" jointer for facing lumber on the first side before sending it through the planer.

I have seen a product called a Joint-mate sold for this purpose. So the idea must work to some degree. We are in doubt of its effectiveness. Would it produce the same unwanted results of running a curved board through the planer on the first side? Will the curved board just be pushed flat by the feeder taking an even shave off the length of the board only to come to the other side a little thinner but equally curved?

We are planning on a Maggi 1HP 3 or 4 wheel power feeder (stock feeder) because that is what we have. Will this idea work? How should we set this up?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor D:
The feeder needs to be set so it bears on the outfeed table only, just past the cutterhead. The wood will have to be fed into the head, then on to where the wheels will grab it and feed it the rest of the way. This mimics the way you would do this by hand - no pressure on the infeed, but holding to the outfeed.

Think about safe minimum lengths if you do this, since the next safety question will be about getting your fingers pinched by feeder wheels. Realize that you can (should) spend a lifetime in the wood shop and never lose a digit. The European shops have some monster joiners but do not have feeders on them, so it could be an EU safety rule on the feeders.

From contributor J:
We use a power feed on our jointer. It gets used about 15% of our jointer time. We have a straightening S4S machine that does most of our facing and planning. I suspect if we were facing and planing only on the jointer and planer, it would be used a lot more. It works about as well as hand facing but will not perform miracles with twisted material. It is nice when you have a large quantity of timber to face.

Mount as contributor D suggests with pressure on the outfeed only. We set ours with the minimum down pressure needed to feed the stock. We have a Suva guard on our jointer that makes it pretty safe with the feeder. A swing type guard should work if it does not hit the feeder.

Iíve seen a lot of jointers with feeders in European shops. Martin and most other European jointers have a platform and electric plug for mounting a feeder. EU safety standards consider power feeds manual feeding (MAN) compared to a planer or moulder that is mechanical (MEC). This standard dictates what type cutter head can be used for the different types and is more related to shapers.

From contributor S:
Back in the old days, we used to flatten boards on the jointer by hand, 1000 b/f at a time. Needless to say, I learned a lot of little tricks of flattening by hand that you wouldn't be able to do with a power feed. For instance, sometimes you want to start the board in the middle and take a few light passes off the back end of the board before pushing the board the entire length. As stated above, the infamous twist requires light pressure on different parts of the board to effectively zip off the high points of the twist. Just something to think about. I personally feel the wear and tear it saves on our bodies over time, and the time saved on the job, justifies going with a feeder.

From contributor G:
I have always meant to mount one on my jointer, but... time. I assumed that I would have to set the cut depth deep to take the crown of the worst boards on one pass or the feeder would push the middle of the crown down falsely and the board wouldn't be flat, although it might be planed/jointed along the whole face. Assuming that the stock was 4/4 or 5/4 and flexible enough. That would make for a slow feed rate with a wide board, but I never tried it.

From contributor D:
I also spent my formative years hand joining tens of thousands of b/f. The large Northfield patternmaker's joiner I used was loud and powerful, and super accurate. I learned quickly that I could make a straight board and get thickness by skip jointing, eyeballing, and generally doing whatever I needed to do to improve yield. The lumber was not thick enough in most cases to just blindly joint and run. To do so meant I would end up with a stack of boards too thin to plane and still make the stock I needed. As for safety, I still can count to ten, and never saw a joiner accident, but have seen three on table saws.

From contributor U:
I have a power feeder on my 12" jointer. 3-wheels on outfeed side only. We had to fabricate a bridge guard. Minimum part length is about 12"-13". If you keep a strip of ripping offcut nearby to break off for use as a shim, you can get pretty tricky with twist. We keep it set to net 13/16" with one face pass and one planer pass. If needed, it can take a second lighter pass and still shave a whisker off in the planer. But long stuff gets skip jointed, then planed on both faces.

From contributor J:
If youíre using your jointer for things other than facing, you probably want to spend a little more for a good feeder that is easy to set up. We had a lot of extra feeders after we decommissioned our dedicated shapers. The first one we tried was a low cost Samco, but we hardly used it because it was a bear to set. We finally put a Univer on it and the ease of setup from the other one is night and day. For dedicated anything should work. We used to be hand facing demons also, but at the end of the day the quality is just as good with power feed facing or facing and S4S in one pass on the moulder. The trick is to recognize what boards need extra care at the rough cutoff stage and do them an extra facing pass on the jointer or chopping to shorter length before S4S. Due to the natural living nature of solid wood, this is a difficult task for the inexperienced. Bad decisions at this first stage of processing can cost a lot of money. If you are facing and planing thousands of board feet, it is probably time to look at a moulder or S4S machine.