As someone who is passionate about woodworking, I’m here to guide you through the wonderful world of portable woodworking thickness planers. We’ll take a look the the popular DeWalt thickness planer and others. These are the bench top planer machines that typically sell for well under $1000.00 for a home DIY workshop or jobsite use.
These incredible tools can take your woodworking hobby to the next level, allowing you to achieve precise and consistent results. In this article, I’ll provide you with valuable suggestions and reasons for using a woodworking thickness planer effectively.
How A Thickness Planer Changes Things
My woodworking skills level took a positive step upward when I purchased my first and only thickness planer. After careful consideration from reading numerous online reviews and a special deal from my local tool store I purchased the DeWalt 735X thickness planer.
Purchase of this machine changed things in a dramatic way. I gained more flexibility with my lumber purchases. Instead of being limited to a few wood species carried at the ORANGE BOX store, I was now able to use locally grown and other species that were rough cut and mill it to the precise thickness and consistency for my projects.
Before having a planer I would spend countless hours belt sanding lumber to be used in table top glue ups. After my tops were glued up I would spend additional time doing more sanding.
If you’ve done a few woodworking projects you’ve probably found most S2S wood purchased from big box stores is not perfectly flat or may even have slight twists. Using my planer and a planer sled I’m able to do quick work on removing these slight defects.
As an added benefit I eliminated about ninety percent of my post assembly sanding. When I use the fine setting my boards come out silky smooth and I use a card scraper to refine things a bit more.
Understanding Woodworking Thickness Planers
Before we dive into the setup and usage, let’s grasp the basics of thickness planers. These machines are designed to do two essential tasks in woodworking: planing and thicknessing.
Planing is the process of smoothing and flattening the surface of rough lumber. It’s crucial for creating even and polished pieces of wood, a fundamental step in any woodworking project.
Thicknessing, on the other hand, involves reducing the thickness of a piece of wood to a specific dimension. It’s essential for achieving uniformity in your woodworking projects.
I use my Dewalt thickness planer a lot for refining boards for table table top and desk top joiner glue projects. If you plan on doing these types of projects a planer is an essential piece of equipment that will get a lot of use.
Planing and Thicknessing Twisted or Cupped Boards
If your lumber is twisted or cupped you will need to remove the twist or cup with the aid of a planer sled. Once you get one side corrected, remove it from the sled, flip it over and plane the second side.
Setting Up Your Woodworking Planer Thicknesser
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of setting up your thickness planer for optimal performance. Follow these steps:
1. Safety First
Prioritize safety by wearing appropriate safety gear, such as safety glasses and ear protection. I cannot stress this enough. Planers are VERY LOUD. See OSHA handbook on power tools.
Always ensure the machine is in good working condition.
2. Adjust the Infeed and Outfeed Tables
Set the infeed and outfeed tables to the right height and alignment, ensuring smooth wood movement through the planer. A slight upward tilt of the infeed and out feed tables will minimize or eliminate board snipe. Test your adjustments on scrap woods or on the first passes of you project boards.
3. Blade Alignment
Check and adjust the blades to be perfectly parallel to the table for consistent and precise cuts.
4. Depth of Cut
Adjust the depth of cut to achieve your desired thickness. Start with a shallow cut and gradually increase it to avoid tear-out.
5. Feeding Speed
Control the feeding speed for a smooth and even planing process. Too fast can lead to tear-out, while too slow may cause burn marks. The DeWalt is a two speed machine. I run mine on the rough cut setting until I get close to the desired thickness and then switch to fine for the last passes.
Using Your Woodworking Planer Thicknesser
Once your machine is set up, it’s time to start using it effectively. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Parallel Passes
Make parallel passes to ensure even thickness across the entire width of the wood.
2. Joint One Edge First
Before thicknessing, joint one edge of the wood to create a flat reference surface. This will make thicknessing more accurate. I’ve used the technique for glue-ups under thirteen inches.
3. Prevent Tear-Out
Use a slow feed rate and consider using a spiral cutter head to minimize tear-out on delicate wood species.
4. Keep It Clean
Regularly clean the machine and blades to maintain top-notch performance.
I clean my infeed table, outfeed table and bed with Super Clean to remove all wood tar, sap and grime that accumulates to prevent drag. I then apply a liberal coating of Minwax paste wax and buff out. You could probably even use Turtle Wax automotive paste wax as well since it’s a polished metal.
Maintaining Your Woodworking Planer Thicknesser
Proper maintenance is key to ensuring your planer thicknesser stays in top shape and continues to deliver precise results.
1. Blade Maintenance
Regularly inspect and sharpen the blades. Dull blades can lead to tear-out and subpar results. If you notice nicks or dings in the blades, it’s time for replacement. I suspected the blades on my Dewalt thickness planer needed to be changed when it started having difficulty feeding lumber in. Also, they came out with gouges running the length.
Since my blades were two sided I simply rotated the blades Problem solved. Like new.
Check for moving parts that require lubrication, such as the elevation and depth adjustment mechanisms. Keeping them well-lubricated ensures smooth operation.
3. Dust Collection
Connect your thickness planer to a dust collector or use a dust extraction system. This not only keeps your workspace cleaner but also prolongs the life of the machine by reducing dust buildup.
This cannot be understated. Planing a few boards will fill up 32 gallon waste can in no time.
Choosing the Right Wood for Planing
Not all wood is created equal, and your choice of lumber can significantly impact the quality of your woodworking projects.
1. Hardwood vs. Softwood
Hardwood, like oak or maple, is ideal for fine woodworking and cabinetry. Softwood, such as pine or cedar, is excellent for construction projects. DO NOT PLANE MDF. It’s not intended for this nor is there a need to.
2. Grain Patterns
Pay attention to the grain pattern. Straight-grained wood is easier to work with, while highly figured wood may require more care to avoid tear-out.
3. Moisture Content
Ensure the wood has the appropriate moisture content. Too much moisture can result in warping, while overly dry wood may splinter during planing.
Advanced Techniques for Planer Thicknessing
Once you’ve mastered the basics, consider these advanced techniques to take your woodworking to the next level.
1. Tapered Cuts
You can create tapered boards by adjusting the infeed and outfeed tables differently. This technique is useful for table legs and other decorative elements.
I haven’t done this. There are better ways to do tapers that are more accurate and faster.
2. Bevels and Chamfers
Experiment with bevels and chamfers by adjusting the depth of cut and feeding speed. This allows you to add artistic touches to your projects. This one’s not a good idea either
3. Achieving Precision
For precision work, make multiple passes with slight adjustments to achieve the exact thickness you desire. This is especially useful for intricate joinery.
This is precisely what you need this for!
Working with a woodworking planer thicknesser can be incredibly rewarding for hobbyist woodworkers. With practice, proper setup, and careful wood selection, you’ll be able to create beautiful, professional-quality pieces. Remember, safety and maintenance are paramount, so always prioritize them in your woodworking journey.
Bench Top Planer Thicknessers At A Glance
Below are some of the most bench top popular planers available on the market today. I personally own and use the Dewalt Thickness Planer DWP-735X. I purchased the package that included planer, extra set of knives, outfeed tables and stand. The outfeed tables help to minimize snipe, so you should consider purchasing if the unit you’re interested in has an option for these.
The WEN WEP-1326 has an interesting table set-up that includes attached retractable roller stands.
|Maximum Cutting Height
|1/8 – 6-3/32 inches
|1/8 – 5 inches
|1/8 – 6 inches
|1/8 – 6 inches
|1/8 – 6 inches
|1/8 – 6 inches
1. Can a thickness planer be used to plane irregularly shaped pieces of wood?
While it’s designed for flat boards, you can use a planer thicknesser to plane slightly irregular shapes, but extreme irregularities may be challenging.
2. What safety precautions should I take when changing blades on the machine?
Ensure the machine is turned off, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for blade changes. Use appropriate safety gear and handle blades with care.
3. How do I prevent snipe at the beginning and end of the board?
To minimize snipe, support the board at both ends with woodworking roller stands and feed it consistently at a lower speed. This is especially true if you are running longer boards. With my Dewalt thickness planer I figured out tilting the infeed and outfeed tables upward very slightly mostly eliminates this problem. I’m guessing this may be true for the other models as well.
4. Are there any specific maintenance tips for the motor and electrical components?
Clean the motor and electrical components periodically, but avoid direct contact with water. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for motor maintenance.
5. Can a thickness planer be used to process reclaimed or rough-sawn lumber?
Yes, thickness planers are excellent for preparing reclaimed or rough-sawn lumber. Just be prepared for extra passes to achieve your desired results. Be sure to inspect reclaimed lumber extra carefully for nails and screws. Running over one of these is a bad day for your planer.
6. What is the difference between a thickness planer vs jointer?
A jointer creates a super smooth edge on boards with the intent of joining them together so they create are virtually seamless piece. A planer creates two parallel faces on a board of a consistent thickness.
7. What are the typical electrical power requirement for portable thickness planers?
Portable planers typically operate on 120 volts AC and require approximately 10 to 15 amps of current. When I fire up my Dewalt thickness planer it runs fairly well on my 15 amp outlet until I start running wide hardwood boards like Hickory or Ash. I can tell about when the the breaker is going to pop. To correct this I raise up the cutting head to do a less aggressive cut. I feel a 20 amp outlet would likely alleviate this issue especially if you are running dust collection off the same circuit.
These machines may have power ratings ranging from 1 to 2 horsepower. Ensure proper grounding and use the appropriate outlet type with standard North American plugs. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific requirements.