Poor Man's Jointer

Poor Man’s Jointer

A jointer is one of the most indispensable tools you can put in your hobby wood shop, not because it can perform a large variety of tasks but because it does one common task incredibly well: making the edge of a board straight. But what if you don’t have the money or space for a jointer, or just prefer to use your resources on a tool does more, or is at least more exciting? Or maybe you’re like me: I learn to appreciate these modern toys by doing things the hard way.

I call this project the Poor Man’s Jointer. Basically I made a crude fence for a hand plane that mimics the 90 degree fence of a jointer. There are products on the market that do the same thing, but a similar jig is so easy to make, I’m not sure why you’d buy one.

Making the Fence

First you’ll need a pretty substantially-sized hand plane. It doesn’t need to be expensive: I picked up my Stanley #32 Transitional plane at a yard sale for $10 and spent about the same amount cleaning it up. I did, however, buy a Veritas blade, but after sharpening the original that was definitely unnecessary.

(Note: I’m intentionally not providing measurements because your plane will, undoubtedly, be different from mine.)

To make the fence you’ll need some straight and square scraps about the same length as the body of your plane. The first piece should be the length of the plane and about three times the height. The second piece should be the same length, and the height of the first piece minus the height of the plane’s body. Screw them together such that three edges line up perfectly, leaving a gap to the top the same height as your plane.

Rest the plane on the inner strip and mark where the throat of the plane comes into contact with it. Notch out the fence in this area so that, when the plane iron descends, it descends into the open notch. The whole point of the smaller strip is to eliminate the edge of the plane’s sole where the blade cannot come into contact with the work piece. Now as the fence glides along the edge of the work piece, the plane iron will be able to hit the entire surface of the edge you’re trying to joint.

Finally, use a couple of C-clamps to hold the fence to your plane and you’re in business!

My New Fence Gate

After months of having zero desire to spend time in my wood shop due to the weather I finally had a few days to complete a project I’ve had in mind for months: a new gate for the fence around my yard.  My dog isn’t thrilled that he can no longer agitate the neighbors at will, but I’m as happy as can be.


I made my gate out of stuff I had sitting around.  The frames are made of 2 x 4 and the slats are made from some leftover fence material.  I’d like to stress at this point that Lowe’s 2 x 4 stock sucks.  Their lumber is just too warped for something like this.  I bought my lumber at Mifflinburg Lumber and Building Supply. Their prices are competitive and their lumber always seems to much straighter than what the bigger stores offer.

The fence that I cannibalized for the center slats was similar to this one.

Preparing Stock

The first thing I did was cut everything to length, then planes and jointed all of the pieces. As a beginner in woodworking I can’t stress enough how much easier your tools will work and much simpler calculations and assembly becomes when you take the take to ensure that your material is actually square.

I decided to put a decorative edge on the frame using one of the bits from my MLCS 8377 15-Piece Router Bit Set.


My original plan was to finally make use of my Dewalt Biscuit Joiner to assemble the frame.  I put two biscuits in each corner to stiffen up the miter joints, after the fact I decided that a couple of screws might be necessary.  I put a single 2″ exterior screw in each corner and hid the holes with plugs made from dowel rod.

The slats were an interesting problem. Each slat overlaps the one beside it by about 1/4″, which left about 2″ of open space in the groove cut into the frame.  This was going to result in water pooling in that area which would destroy the bottom of the gate in no time at all.  I decided to solve the problem by gluing in filler-strips.

The four pieces of hardware that hold the board used to “lock” the gate are simply 10″ strips of pine 1 x 3 glued to 2″ of 1 x 3 and fastened to the gate with stainless steel hardware.


For the finish I ended up using stuff I already had on hand: Minwax Early American Wood Stain and exterior polyurethane. The hardware is all stainless steel.  I’d like to paint it black and I do have some touch-up to finish on the gate where I removed the old hinges, but overall I’m really please with the way this turned out.