Using a Surface Planer

What You'll Need
Surface planer
Safety glasses
Hearing protection

A surface planer is a very useful addition to any workshop. It’s a great advance on the hand planers that woodworkers used to use, and can be far more exact, as well as much quicker. As with any power tool, it’s important to know how to use a surface planer properly. It’s not complicated, but the correct use is vital for safety and producing the best results.


Step 1 - How It Works

There are two sets of rollers on the surface planer. One feeds the wood to be planed in, and the other helps it go out smoothly. The table on which these rollers rest can accommodate wood up to 14 inches wide.

For the depth of the wood there’s a hand crank to adjust the height of the plane, which will usually just go up to 6 inches. For thicker pieces of wood you’ll need a larger unit than any you buy for home use. It takes several passes of the wood to achieve the smooth surface at the height you want.

Step 2 - Preparation

Before using the surface planer on a piece of wood you should put on safety gasses to protect your eyes from sawdust and splinters. Also wear hearing protection as the machine is very loud.

Hold the wood firmly and be sure it’s even with the table until you get it on the rollers. They will then guide the wood into the surface planer. Failure to do this will mean that the blades in the unit will gouge deeper than you want and can mark the wood.

Step 3 - Cutting

When you feed the wood into the surface planer, keeping it flat and even with the table of the machine, stand to the side of it. That way, should a problem occur and it kicks back, you won’t be behind it and end up hurt.

Pay attention to the manual with regard to the minimum sizes of wood you should put into the surface planer. Don’t be tempted to ignore them. The unit does have pawls that stop this happening, but they don’t always engage immediately.

Keep passing the wood through the unit until you have the desired height. You’ll find the surface is completely smooth and even.

Step 4 - Wood Stuck

On very rare occasions wood can become stuck in the surface planer. If this happens don’t try to force the wood through the machine with your hands. Instead you should employ a stick to try and free the wood.

Although there is an outlet for sawdust from the surface planer, sometimes it might build up in the unit. Don’t try to clear the sawdust with your hands. Find a piece of scrap wood and use that to clear away any debris. It’s important to always keep your hands clear of the table and the rollers. This way you’ll be certain to avoid injury. Unplug the unit before cleaning it after use and never use a dirty surface planer.