If you’ve ever sorted through the boards at Home Depot or Lowes, you know how difficult it can be to find the “perfect” one. This one has too many knots, this one is warped—and if you aren’t paying attention and organized, you end up looking at the same warped boards over and over again!
I’m about to tell you the perfect way to relieve your frustration. A planer.
What is a planer?
A planer is a time-saving woodworking tool and a necessary component of any serious woodworker’s arsenal. Essentially it allows you to purchase warped wood and then shave off the sections that are too high. It has one or more blades that are set to a particular depth and skim off the selected amount of wood to a uniform height. Your alternative would be to (a) use sandpaper and rub until your elbows are sore (and hope that your wood is now even) or (b) spend precious hours and money discarding boards that do not look exactly the way you need them to. You can see that planers can save you a lot of frustration and work!
Hand planer or power planer for woodworking?
When purchasing a planer, you have two options—a hand planer and a power planer. With a hand planer, the board stands still and the planer moves across it. With a power planer, the planer is stationary and the board is sent through its blades. Hand planers are less expensive but require more manual labor. Power planers are an investment for the woodworker but cut the wood quickly and struggle less with harder woods. For beginner woodworkers, I recommend starting out with a good benchtop planer. To see useful tips on what to look for and where to buy a benchtop planer, click here.
Using a hand planer for woodworking
If you decide to use a hand planer for your woodworking project, make sure you are ready to add some oomph. When using a hand planer, you will secure the wood with a vise, grab the planer, and, starting at one end, push the planer across the surface of the wood to shave off the raised surfaces. You will need to make several passes until the wood is a uniform thickness.
Using a power planer for woodworking
With a power planer (often electric), you pass the board through several spinning cutting blades. One pass may be enough to complete your mission. Be aware, however, of the scallops that power planers cause. To avoid these nasty scallops (and learn what they are!), check out my article on the top woodworking tools for the small workshop.
How to operate a power planer
Take a look at this introductory video on what a power planer is and how to operate it. For your convenience, I’ve included the transcript. Be aware that the guy mumbles!
What Is a Planer Used For? — powered by eHow.com
Kevin Mouton says:
I’m going to show you and talk about the use of the planer. The planer is essential in getting wood flat and it pretty much just has one job, after wood comes off of the jointer and you’ve established a flat surface, what it does is it makes the other face parallel to that.
So what you want to do is when you come over here, you want to take your tape measure and you want to measure the thickest part of your board and we’re measuring about one inch. Once you’ve got the thickest part of your board measured, you come over here and there’s a measure right here and you want to set that to one inch. It’s not even a bad idea to go just a hair over so that you can creep up on the fit.
With this machine, same as with machines, you want to keep it waxed and in good working order so that the wood goes through the machine very easily and gives you a nice smooth cut. The other thing to keep in mind here is same as with there, you want to take a look at the grain and we’ve got the grain running downhill this way. On this machine, with the knives cutting in this direction, we want to orient the grain so that when the machine is cutting, it’s going downhill from there and so we’ll put it through like this.
Also, after your first pass, you’ll notice if the wood is tearing out because with the tropical wood, you get grain going in a lot of directions and so that after that first pass, you’re looking to see what the jointer tells you, if there’s a lot of tear-out, you simply flip the board around end for end and feed it in that way and see if you get less tear-out. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about tear-out, but the first pass will generally tell you if you need to flip it around or not, so that’s something that you want to pay attention to, but for the first pass, you’ll always want to try and orient it so that the blades are cutting downhill on the grain and you get a nice smooth cut.
As you just saw, with the use of the planer, we’ve now established two faces of the board parallel to one another. On this way we can see the grain on both sides of the board which is going to help you select your wood for use later on in the project. You’ll be able to take them more pristine slightly parts of the board and put those in more visible places and vice-versa the parts of the board that may have slight imperfections can become lesser seen parts of the project.
As you saw with the use of this machine, very important to use headphones because it’s a very loud machine. Also with this machine, as with all machines, very important to keep the steel bed waxed and the knives really sharp so it gives a nice, smooth cut free of tear-out and just general safer use. Now that we’re established two faces parallel to one another, the next step is to take and get an edge perpendicular to those two faces so that from there we can go to the table saw and establish those two edges parallel to one another.”
Your Next Steps
To get the most out of your planer, I recommend investing in the following:
Click to buy now
In 190 pages, you will learn:
- How to choose a planer or jointer
- Required and optional accessories for your planer or jointer
- Basic planer or jointer techniques
- Advanced planer or jointer techniques
- How to make your own jigs and fixtures
- How to perform maintenance and repairs
- And you even get some planer and jointer projects for practice