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Get the most from your planer

Make your planer more effective at doing its main job–planing boards to thickness–and multiply its usefulness by putting it to work in ways you might never have considered before.

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  • Veer from the straight path

    Feeding boards at a slight angle not only reduces surface chip-out, but also helps limit any snipe to one corner. You can also feed a board at a sharp angle; then straighten it somewhat after a couple of seconds. This only works, however, on benchtop planers with rubber feed rollers. Stationary models with steel rollers will not allow you to straighten a board once it starts feeding.

  • Make a board train

    Planing boards end to end keeps the feed rollers at a consistent height, taking away the chance for snipe. Use scrap pieces to lead the first board and follow the last.

  • Plane thin boards with ease

    Take shallow cuts (164 ") when planing thin stock, so you don't accidentally shatter the workpiece. If you want to plane a workpiece to a thickness less than 14 ", you'll get the best results by using an auxiliary bed. Although most planers indicate they will cut to 18 " thick, don't try it: You risk deep snipe and chatter marks. Instead, place a 3'-long piece of melamine through the planer, and clamp it to the infeed and outfeed tables. Then plane your stock to thickness as usual, as shown. To plane a short board thin, double-face tape it to a 15"-long piece of 34 " plywood, MDF, or particleboard. This allows the workpiece to ride piggyback through the planer.

  • Runners secure short stock

    Scrapwood runners help you get use from cutoffs, like this 8" piece of leopardwood. Because most planers won't safely and accurately machine single workpieces shorter than 12", use special runners when you need to plane a board that short, as shown. To do this, glue sacrificial runners - at least 12" long and slightly thicker than the workpiece - to your stock's edges. Be certain to glue the carriers parallel to each other so they will maintain equal contact with the feed rollers. Wipe away glue squeeze-out that will nick the knives. Once you've milled your board to the desired thickness, rip away the runners on the tablesaw.

  • From warped to flat in practically no time

    We cut this 10"-wide, bowed birch board to rough length, and then glued it to sacrificial runners to carry it through the planer. Chalk marks vanish when the face is flat. Then rip away the runners at the tablesaw, and plane the opposing face to the desired thickness.

  • Group boards for stability

    Squeeze boards together on the infeed and outfeed sides when edge-planing. To plane the edge, a board must be square and true on all four sides, but slightly wider than finished width. If the workpieces are not exactly the same width, narrower boards (especially in the middle of three or more boards) can be kicked out by the planer. You can plane single boards or multiple boards at the same time, which helps them maintain a 90° angle, as shown.

  • Don't let dull knives damage your boards

    Worn and nicked planer knives couldn't do justice to this mahogany, which had multidirectional grain at opposing ends that was difficult to read. After changing knives and making several passes with light cuts, we revealed a board with beautiful cathedral grain.

  • Get flawless surfaces with figured boards

    This curly maple suffered substantial chip-out (left) when it was planed at the dealer. By using sharp planer knives, a slower feed rate, and 164 " cuts we produced a smooth surface with striking figure (bottom photo).

  • Jig delivers perfect edges

    This shop-made jig holds stock at a right angle as it feeds through the planer. However, maximum cutting height will be reduced by the thickness of the jig's base.

  • Let your planer do the hard work on tapered boards

    This tapering jig feeds through the planer while holding the workpiece's tapered face parallel to the feed rollers and cutterhead.

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