How to Use a Thickness Planer

Carpenter with electric plane
  • 1 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 80-600
What You'll Need
Thickness planer
Eye protection
Dust mask
Ear plugs
Rough lumber

Forget paying premium prices for top quality lumber when you can invest in a thickness planer. It can pay for itself in just a few home projects. Turn a useless room into a library with an elaborate design of shelving. Build your own cabinets and work tables from materials finished from inexpensive lumber. The thickness planer enables you to create uniform boards ready for a fine finish. Follow the steps below to effectively and safely use this helpful tool.

Step 1 – Choosing a Planer

Power tool manufacturers offer a variety of planers for use by homeowners as well as builders. Many of today’s planers are compact and easy to use. For about $400, you can purchase a tool that operates on household current and accepts boards up to 13 inches wide. Rockwell, Delta, Dewalt, Makita, Ridgid and Ryobi are familiar brand names that offer efficient thickness planers. Hand held electric planers are available, but they cannot replicate the satin sheen produced by a thickness planer.

Step 2 – Positioning the Equipment

Today’s planers are compact enough to fit in the coziest workshop. After choosing a machine, locate it near a power supply if possible so that the cord does not interfere with the work area. Power equipment is safest when plugged directly into an outlet; extension cords can become overheated and cause a fire hazard. Be sure to have enough space ahead of the planer for feeding lumber and behind it for the out feed. Keep all electrical equipment away from plumbing fixtures and pipes. Secure the base of the planer to your work table or stand to keep it from shifting or tipping over during use.

Step 3 – Selecting the Material

The purpose of a planer is to transform inexpensive lumber into fine wooden planks for intricate woodworking. Choose products that are at least 14 inches in length and no smaller than ¾-inch wide. The limiting factor in board length is the distance allowed on each side of the planer. Cedar gives a fresh pine scent and brilliant streaks of color. Mahogany has a dark hue, and redwood is strong with a rich tint. You will be impressed with the finished product.

Step 4 - Feeding the Machine

The thickness planer requires several adjustments that determine the final product you intend to produce. Lumber should be planed on both sides to keep uniform moisture in the wood and prevent it from warping. Power up the machine and turn the depth adjustment crank to the desired thickness. Never switch on the machine with the material inside the feeder. The material removal gauge can be set from 1/32 to 1/8-inch, so you may need to feed the lumber through the planer more than once to achieve the desired thickness.

Feed from the front of the machine; never pull the wood piece from behind. Keep the board’s height uniform on both sides of the planer. Wear safety glasses and ear protection while operating the equipment and a safety mask because of escaping sawdust. You will need the mask again when finishing this fine material produced by your thickness planer.