A wood planer is a great way to quickly flatten rough stock and create uniform thicknesses for woodworking projects. It also makes it easier to reclaim old wood from shipping crates, pallets and junked furniture.
There are several different types of planers and each serves a slightly different purpose. We’ll break them down so you can choose the right tool for your project.
How to Use a Benchtop Planer
Using a benchtop planer is one of the most important woodworking skills you can learn. It helps you smooth rough edges, shave wood to your desired thickness, and flatten warped boards.
You should know how to use your benchtop planer before you start a project. Once you get the hang of it, it can make your projects easier and faster.
Inspect the grain of your rough lumber before feeding it into a thickness planer. This is because if the planer catches the grain of the wood, it will cause unnecessary gauging and cutting.
Once you know the grain direction, feed it into the planer in a smooth direction. This is important because if the planer is hitting the fibers head on, it will create problems and lift chunks of wood from the surface.
When you finish planing the wide face of each board, run it through the machine on its narrow edge to smooth out the ridges. You can also gang bore stack your boards side by side to plane off saw marks.
Setting the Depth of Cut
The depth of cut you set on a planer is a key factor in the machine’s ability to cut wood. Some planers can make shallow cuts (the shortest distance between the rollers), while others can make deeper passes, cutting a larger amount of stock per pass.
Most planers have scales that indicate the depth of cut. Some are marked in fractions of an inch; others have detents that click through a series of numbers to indicate the amount of stock you can remove at the next setting.
To learn how to adjust the depth of cut, test your tool on a length of scrap stock first. Then turn the adjustment wheel until you can feel the cutter protruding slightly below the sole of the plane.
Once you’ve gotten the cutter set to your liking, increase or decrease the angle of the blade until you can produce a continuous, unbroken shaving. This takes time to practice.
Preparing the Boards
If you are preparing a piece of rough-cut lumber for use in a project, a wood planer is an essential tool. It will smooth the surface and provide a flat face that will side up to another piece of wood to make an even joint without gaps.
Planing the wood is an important step in any project, and it is often the first step in preparing for other decorative processes. It also makes it easier to achieve a uniform thickness across boards.
The key is to use a planer in gradual stages, planning off a small amount at a time rather than trying to take a large chunk off at once. As you go, make sure to check the accuracy of your planing by laying a straight edge along the surface.
Changing the Blades
You may need to change the blades on your planer if you find that it isn’t cutting as smoothly as it used to. Dull or blunt planer blades will slow you down, give inferior cuts and overtax your machine.
Changing the blades of your wood planer is a fairly simple process. However, you need to make sure that you buy the correct size of blades for your planer.
First, remove the cutting head cover from the rear of the planer by loosening the Allen screws on each side. Set it aside somewhere safe.
Next, rotate the cutting head cylinder until the nearest cutting blade set screws are accessible. Loosen the screws and pull the old blade from the cutting head cylinder slowly.
Insert the new blade into the cutting slot. Push it down carefully so that it sits well in the opening. It’s a good idea to use a small block of wood to assist you as you put the blade in place.