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10 tune-up tips for perfect planing

Your benchtop planer takes a beating in normal use. Give it routine maintenance for glassy-smooth results board after board.

  • 10 tune-up tips for perfect planing

    Few benchtop planers will continue to deliver the kind of results you want—and expect—without maintenance. Getting and keeping your planer in top condition is the key that unlocks the door to peak planer performance. Although you might occasionally run across circumstances that require professional repair, such as a cutterhead out of alignment with the feed rollers, you can successfully perform the following maintenance to keep your machine in top shape. Just be sure to read your planer's manual for procedures specific to that make and model. And always unplug your planer before working on it.

    Here are some basic ideas to remember: The cutterhead cuts parallel to your planer's table as boards are fed across it, so keep it flat, clean, and smooth. Keep your planer and its parts that contact the wood clean and free of chips, dust, sappy residue, and lubricants. A little TLC will help your planer be a reliable workhorse in your shop for many years.

  • Tip 1

    Check the planer table for flatness with a long straightedge. Assess the length and width of the table as well as diagonally. If your table has any warped or low spots—which are rare—contact the manufacturer for assistance.

  • Tip 2

    To reduce snipe, set the infeed and outfeed extension tables so that the outer ends are 116 " (about the thickness of a penny) higher than the planer table.

  • Tip 3

    Clean the planer table with mineral spirits; then apply a coat of paste wax so boards will glide across smoothly as the feed rollers pull them. Buff the wax with a soft cloth.

  • Tip 4

    Use dust-collection equipment when possible, and use compressed air to blow away debris from the cutterhead, rollers, and table surface with each use. This helps avoid feed rollers that slip, and dimpled wood surfaces that result from feed rollers compressing chips against the workpiece.

  • Tip 5

    When the feed rollers lose grip, a workpiece can stall inside the planer and become gouged or burned. If you see debris build up, wipe the rubber feed rollers with mineral spirits or naphtha using a clean rag to ensure a good grip.

  • Tip 6

    Check the motor brushes every 100 hours for wear on the carbon faces. Replace them when the carbon is less than 14 " long. Excessive motor load, caused by taking deep cuts in wide stock, could hasten wear.

  • Tip 7

    Clean the head elevation screws and guide posts by blowing away dust and chips with compressed air. Use a brass-bristle brush if needed. Then lubricate the posts and threads with dry paraffin wax for smoother movement.

  • Tip 8

    Clean dust and pitch from the knives using mineral spirits and a clean rag or brass-bristle brush. You'll most likely need to do this after planing wood with high sap, tar, or oil content, such as pine or teak. Be careful not to cut your fingers on the knife edges.

  • Tip 9

    When knives dull, they often tear the wood or pull chunks from the surface, so replace or sharpen them at the first sign of dulling. Don't bother sharpening double-edged, disposable planer knives; it proves too difficult to get a consistently sharp and straight edge on all knives—which must match perfectly. Keep a spare set of knives on hand to minimize downtime.

  • Tip 10

    Clean the drive chain and sprockets only if they become covered in dust or chips. Use a brass-bristle brush and compressed air. (Avoid removing grease or lubricant from any exposed gears.)

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