This is 11 Killer Tips for Using a Wood Planer in Your Shop. If you have a wood planer, these tips will help you get the absolute best performance from your tool. They are all easy to do, and I’ll show you everything you need to know. Enjoy.
The Thickness Wood Planer
The thickness planer is one of the most overlooked tools for beginning woodworkers. It’s just one of those tools that isn’t blatantly apparent why you would need it, or what tasks in woodworking you would use it for.
It’s easy to tell what a table saw, or a miter saw to does. You can visualize and understand the need for doing that type of operation much more easily. The thickness planer however is a little bit different.
Once you’re through this array of awesome tips on how to use the thickness planer, you’ll have a much better understanding of the tool. Being able to make perfectly flat surfaces is a huge advantage as a woodworker, and you will know how.
The thickness planer helps you make flat surfaces essentially on demand. With that kind of power, your projects will look better, your joints will be cleaner, and your overall ability as a woodworker will go up significantly.
Here is the list of tips so that way you can familiarize yourself with what you are about to learn. As usual I will go into all of them in detail further down.
Free Woodworking Tips Delivered Every Monday! Add Me to the List!
- Thin passes are the best
- Clear in and out feed areas
- Watch grain direction
- Adjust in and out for snipe prevention
- Cut pieces long to remove snipe if it can’t be adjusted out
- Riser for making thin pieces
- Replace blades when dull
- Buy a knife setting jig
- Plane your boards before gluing them
- Always use dust collection
- Use ear protection
Thin Passes are the Best
This tip is universal to just about every single tool that you have in your shop. When in doubt, making thinner passes that remove less material in each round is always better than trying to take a big bite at once.
The planer is no exception. The rotating blades on a thickness planer for wood are very strong, and they can remove a large chunk of wood in one pass. However, the results are not nearly as clean as when you remove thinner amounts in multiple passes.
Also, on pieces of wood that are more prone to tearing out grain, or losing little chunks, thinner passes help solve this problem. You will have a lot less mistakes, and your pieces will look a lot better if you don’t take off as much material on each run through the machine.
See Also: 50 Awesome Reasons to be a Woodworker
Clear In and Out Feed Areas
Before you use your wood planer, it’s a good idea to take a look at the in feed and the out feed areas, and make sure they are clear of obstructions. This is a common mistake for beginners, but it’s easy to alleviate.
Don’t make the mistake I did. I checked my in feed but forgot all about the out feed. Once your thickness planner starts advancing the piece through, it’s hard to stop it from pushing things out of the way on the other side.
That being said, assess the amount of clearance you need on all sides, and get things out of the way. Make sure that the wood has a safe path to enter, and make sure that it also has a safe path exit. You’ll be glad you did.
Free Woodworking Tips Delivered Every Monday! Add Me to the List!
Watch Your Grain Direction
Grain direction is the alignment of the fibers in the piece of wood in relation to the surfces that are being planed by the thickness planer. Depending on which direction those fibers are running, the results can be good or bad.
If the rotating blades on the thickness planer are hitting the ends of those fibers head on, it will create problems and lift chunks of wood from the surface. This is not good obviously because you won’t have a smooth surface, which is the goal of the wood planer.
If you send the wood through the other way, where the tips of these fibers are pointed away from the spinning blade, it will cut them without lifting them. This means you will get a lot smoother results, and the tool will have an easier time cutting the wood.
If you can’t read the grain on your piece of wood, then simply make a thin pass in one direction, and then turn the board around and make another. One of these will sound really nice, and the other one will sound much louder and less smooth.
Send the board through in the direction that sounded nice, and that’s going to be where the grain direction is oriented properly for planing.
See Also: 15 Great Places to Get Woodworking Wood
Adjust the Wood Planer for Snipe Prevention
Sometimes, a board that is passed through the thickness planer will end up being cut a little bit more deeply on the last few inches as it exits the machine. This is called snipe, and it’s typically a matter of adjusting your in and out feed tables.
In order to cut more deeply, the board has to raise upwards and make more contact with the spinning blades than normal. This typically happens when the out feed is adjusted too low, allowing the board to tip forward.
If you are experiencing snipe, try raising the out feed table to be at least horizontal with the center of the machine, but it can even be a pinch higher. This should solve the problem by keeping the end of the board against the floor of the machine.
A Work Around for Snipe
In some instances, like my awesome thickness planer, the snipe can’t be adjusted out through changing the height of the tables. When that happens, you only need to make one minor adjustment to your process in order to fix the problem.
Typically, snipe will happen on the last few inches of your board. So if you need a 40 inch long board, simply send a 44 inch long board through the machine, and you will have plenty of spare wood to cut off and remove the snipe.
Though this isn’t the prettiest of solutions, it is a working solution. Sometimes, you need to make adjustments to the way that you do things in order to solve problems. Since I can’t just run out and buy another planer, and I can’t adjust it out, I use longer boards.
See Also: 7 Easy Woodworking Joints for Beginners
Riser for Making Thin Pieces
Most thickness planers for wood will only allow you to go down to about 3/16 of an inch of thickness before the head will not be down any farther. If you need to make thinner boards than that size, you need a riser board.
The riser board is simply a piece of MDF or melamine that is 3/4 of an inch thick, and cut to fit inside the throat of the planer and cover the in feed and out feed trays. You clamp it in place, and it raises the floor of the tool.
Now, the blades can go all the way down to the new floor, and even through it. This means you no longer have a maximum depth. You can now thin a piece down as far as you want without any machine limitations.
This is great if you’re making very thin pieces of wood for a project like an acoustic guitar, or some other project were you will need to bend the wood. Thin pieces are very easy to make with the planer riser, all you need to do is build it.
See Also: How to Make a Planer Riser
Replace Planer Blades when Dull
One of the best tips about using a wood planer that you will probably ignore for way too long is replacing the blades when they are dull. Dull blades are completely useless, and you are going to destroy a lot of good wood until you replace them.
Thankfully, a set of wood planer blades are not incredibly expensive, and you can find them in a number of different places. Make sure to buy the exact set you need for the tool that needs the replacement, and you should be in good shape.
Like any tool that uses a blade, the blades just stop working as well when they lose their edge. If you can have them sharpened, go ahead, but on a thickness planer this can be a very difficult operation.
Instead, it’s much easier just to buy a new set, and carefully install them.
Buy a Knife Setting Jig
One great tip for installing your blades is to buy a nife setting jig. This is a jig that helps you align the blades perfectly in your thickness planer, and it will save you a lot of heartache in the future.
Thickness planer blades have to be aligned almost perfectly in order to work correctly. If one of the blades is off, the other blade ends up doing all of the work. This means it will go dull faster than the other blade, and you will always be operating at half strength.
Don’t fall for this. Buy a knife setting jig unless your planer already has a built-in method of aligning the blades. You won’t be able to do it by eyesight or measuring. The jig will help you a lot, and it’s worth every penny.
Plane Boards Before Gluing Them
The most common reason that you will use a thickness planer is to flatten the faces or edges on a piece of wood. Why do you need to do that? When you glue pieces of wood together, flat mating surfces are very important.
A lot of times this step is skipped, because it can be quite a hassle to sand the wood a flush or use a hand plane to get it flat. Now that you have a wood planer, all you need to do is send the wood through for a couple of thin passes and you are all set.
Make it a point to always create the flattest surface possible before you glue your wood together for your different projects. This will mean joints that are nearly invisible, and that last a lot longer because of the increased strength.
Always Use Dust Collection
Wood planers create a lot of dust and debris. Due to the simple fact that so much material is being removed at one time, you will be surprised at how much that planer throws out of the other end when you start working.
That being said, you should always hook up dust collection to your thickness planer because it needs to get all that debris out of the way in order to function properly. It also keeps it from building up in the air, and getting your shop dirty.
Does collection can be as simple as a shop vacuum. Get some hoses and fittings if needed, and make sure that you can connect it to the port on your wood planer. Turn it on every single time, and you won’t have to worry about the debris.
Always Use Ear Protection
Your thickness planer is going to be very loud. Then, when you send a piece of wood through, it’s going to get even louder than that. Even if you’re only making a couple of passes, it’s definitely worth the effort to wear ear protection.
Ear protection is available in a number of different forms now. There really isn’t an excuse anymore for not wearing some sort of hearing protection. Go online and find something that suits you, and make it a point to have it available in the shop.
You can get a discount set of earmuffs for a few dollars, and hang them on a peg on your pegboard so you have them when you need them. This way, you can put them on and off really easily without getting earwax on your fingers.
If you hate earmuffs, buy earplugs. The point is to protect your ears, because this machine is very loud, and over time it will hurt your hearing.
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know 11 different killer tips on how to use a wood planer, it’s time to take action. Dust off that old planner of yours, and put some of these ideas into motion. Get out there and take action, and make some sawdust.
First thing that I recommend you do is to start taking very thin passes on a piece of wood, and establish the grain direction right away. Start feeding the peace in the way that doesn’t cause the machine to scream, and you will love the results.
For pure practice, plane that piece down the darn near nothing. Keep going and going and seeing how thin you can get it, and take very thin passes along the way. The thickness planer is an awesome tool, all you need to do is use it.
If you have any questions on these awesome tips about using a wood planer, please leave a comment and I’ll be glad to answer them. Happy building.
More From Westfarthing Woodworks
I give away the majority of my woodworking, wood finishing, and guitar making tips, but I also have several books if you want to take the next step.
You can see them in my Book Store, and they are all on Amazon.
Also, if you want to Join the Facebook Group, you can do that as well. We are just starting to grow a fantastic community and I would love for you to be part of it.