How To Use A Planer — A Step-by-Step Guide

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A planer is a must-have tool for anyone who works with wood, whether you’re a seasoned woodworker or a DIY enthusiast. However, using a planer without the right knowledge can lead to wood damage, personal injuries, or harm to the tool.

So, here’s what I’m here for. I’ll distill all the essential information you need to master the art of using a planer, ensuring your woodworking endeavors start off on the right foot.

Tools and Materials

Step #1: Get the Planer Ready

You’ll need to do some preliminary preparation before firing up the planer. Remove any obstructions from the blade region as a first step. It is essential to clear this area of any sawdust or wood chips before beginning work on a new board.

green planer

The planer blade should be roughly the same height as the initial board you intend to plane. After you’ve set up your planer, inspect each board. Ensure the machine has been checked for potential dangers, such as nails, screws, or other debris.

Step #2: Run it on the Flat Side

The planer must be used on each board in its length. To begin, pass the planer over every board’s vast surface. Make minor, steady adjustments to the planer’s settings instead of making drastic cuts simultaneously.

When you need to machine several boards to the same thickness, plane them simultaneously rather than working on each board individually. By processing multiple boards together, it allows for streamlined operations and reduces the overall time required for the task.

operating a planer

Use the planer set at a uniform height and pass every board through it. The panels should be rerun through the planer with reduced depth to remove even more wood. 

So long as you keep doing this, you can get the boards to the thickness you want. And for the finest and flattest finish, plane each board on both sides.

Step #3: Polish the Edges

After you finish with the flat surface of each board in your planer, you may trim the edges. Now, you’ll lay each board face down on the planer and run it through to flatten and smooth the narrow edge. 

It is best to feed multiple boards at once through a planer if you require them to all finish up the same size. You can feed up to five boards through an edge planer without damaging the machine.

board on a clamp

Plane the edges of each board on both sides to ensure a perfect final product.

How to Use a Hand Planer

Hand planers are another popular option. This is merely a portable, miniature form of the original device.

The work of a hand planer is similar to that of a benchtop planer but on a much more compact size. In fact, there are different types of wood planers to choose from, depending on your project. 

The caveat is that they are less useful for milling wood to uniform thickness and width than for flattening and smoothing the pieces. 

Cutting a whole board to the same thickness as a tabletop planer is far more complex with handheld tools since they require manual pressure from the user.

Fore Plane

Yet, they are still an efficient power tool for various purposes, such as when you must smooth a board that has already been fastened or fitted. 

Safety Tips and Tricks

When to Resharpen or Replace Blades

The iron (blade) of the plane should be highly sharp before usage. This is true even for a brand new planer. 

bottom edge of a planer

Put a 220-grit dry or wet sandpaper sheet on the workbench to sharpen the blade. Keep the blade’s bevel flush against the sandpaper by holding it at a 25- or 30-degree angle.

With the blade still at this angle, you should rub the sandpaper in a circular motion while downward pressure is applied. 

A blade is ready for use when a burr appears along its spine [1]. You may remove the burr by running the blade’s flat side across sandpaper.

The frequency at which blades need sharpening is often determined by the quantity of material removed during the sharpening process. 

blade setup of a planer

If a blade is in good condition and you simply restore its sharpness, you only need to eliminate 0.015″ of material.

Buying vs. Renting a Planer

Purchasing tools can be expensive, and many of us find our finances stretched thinner than I’d like. You may have put off upgrading your arsenal with new tools or fixing the ones you already have that could perform better.

On the other hand, that doesn’t imply you have to settle for less-than-optimal resources for your next project. Choose a rental yard, and help will be at your doorstep. Do you need a planer? Instead of buying, why not try renting?

When you know when to rent a tool instead of buying one, you can save spending a lot of money and time. In addition, you should focus on more than just initial expenses.

If you’re going to use the planer once, there might be better options than buying it. It costs more money to buy a tool, especially high-priced ones like the Dewalt DCP580B 20V brushless planer, and then spend time and energy storing it and keeping it in good working order. 

Stationary Planer

Sometimes, the price of a planer needs to be decreased to justify its usefulness, even if you only use it a few times per year.

When you rent a planer, you only have to worry about the cost of replacement parts and any repairs that may be necessary. However, if you need to use it frequently, investing in one can save you a lot of money in the long run. 

More article guides for you:

FAQ

What should you not do with a planer?

You should not run screws, nails, and other metal through a planer. Wait to clean the area until the planer has wholly stopped and locked. You shouldn’t stare inside the workings of the planer. Stay in the way of stock as it passes through a planer.

Conclusion

Mastering the art of using a planer is within reach for anyone, even those just starting out. To become proficient, all it takes is a bit of time dedicated to grasping the basics.

When you’re in the process of planing, make sure to keep your hands well clear of any sharp blades in motion, and firmly secure the board in place using clamps. These precautions are essential for a safe and successful planing experience.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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