Few power tools will increase your woodworking efficiency and speed like a wood planer is capable of. While traditional hand planes offer finite control while you cut, they also take a lot of time to adjust and realign. A single surface may require an hour to flatten by hand and a group of rough-cut timber could take you all day. An electric-powered thickness planer can do the work in just minutes with minimal effort on your part.
Start With Planning And Safety
Understanding how your equipment functions, as well as the steps you need to take to operate it properly, are important considerations in preventing damage to you, your planer, and the wood.
Make sure that there is plenty of room for wood to feed into and exit from the wood planer. If your home improvement project requires multiple pieces to be planed to a specific size, have a table that can be used to hold the pieces before and after they are fed into the plane. Also, verify that your equipment can safely make the size of cuts needed beforehand and that your cutter head is sharp. Finally, have your safety equipment ready before you start (that includes your dust mask, safety glasses, and ear-protection at the minimum with this equipment).
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Prepare Your Wood
You will want to remove any grit or other debris from the wood surface before feeding it into your wood planer. If you are attempting to mill used wood, such as upcycling wood from broken down pallets, make sure that there are no nails or screws left in the timber.
Next, you will need to establish the grain direction on the boards you are preparing. Aligning the grain so that the blades on the cutter head cut with the grain will allow the wood to feed smoothly and provide a cleaner result. If the blades cut against the grain it will pull on the ends of the wood fiber. The cuts will be rough and you may experience what is referred to as tear out. Tear out is when chunks of the timber's surface are ripped from the board during planning.
Leave Extra Wood During The Layout Process
Starting your layout by providing extra depth, length, and width on your timber provides room to correct mistakes or to compensate for other issues. This can be important on the ends of boards when using a wood planer when a small gouge can be left on the timber ends. This is also referred to as snipe and adding an extra few inches to your board length will help to prevent snipe from affecting your final planed surfaces.
Take Several Shallow Passes
Removing small amounts of the surface with each pass will allow you to sneak up on the final dimensions and provide you with a better fit on your home improvement project. Making shallow cuts with the thickness planer also helps to provide a smooth surface with fewer chances of tear out or other surface blemishes that will be left by the blades. Setting a cutting depth of 1/32-inch is a good place to start. Your machine will handle these smaller cuts more effectively, which is safer for you and less wear on your blades, motor, and rollers.
Use Sandpaper For Final Cleanup
Even the best wood planer will leave cutting marks on the wood's surface, no matter how shallow your passes cut. Using a piece of 120-grit sandpaper in either a sanding block or oscillating sander will remove those marks and produce a level surface.