Creating a Table Top With An Electric Planer

Making the Perfect Tabletop with An Electric Planer

Let’s face it, putting together a table is a staple in the woodworking community. If you want to make a table worth using, you’ll need to make a tabletop that looks great and is perfectly level and smooth. For most people, that means grabbing an electric planer and going to work.

In this piece, we’ll tell you exactly how to make the perfect tabletop with an electric planer. All you need is some lumber, your planer, and some free time.

Different Planer Options

We typically suggest an electric planer when it comes to making furniture like a table. There are three major types of planers to consider: a hand planer, an electric corded planer, and an electric battery-powered (cordless) planer.

A hand planer is used for very thin cuts. They are typically too small for a project like this, but they can be used for the final plane to achieve a nice, smooth layer.

A battery-powered (cordless) planer is great for when you’re not near an outlet. They are heavier tools since the batteries add a bunch of weight. Additionally, they’re more expensive and the battery will eventually run out of juice which requires a recharge.

Electric corded planers will plug right into the wall. They only operate when there’s electricity running through the outlet. If your woodshop is in a basement, garage, or woodshop, this is probably the best option for you.

Are Planers Easy to Use?

Planers are incredibly easy to use. As long as you’re going smooth and steady, it’s hard to make a mistake. The planer will do most of the work for you, you just have to apply a constant pressure downward and slowly move the machine forward. [Read more about How to Use an Electric Planer].

Hand planers require a little bit of finesse. Electric planers only require a practice run or two before you get the hang of it – just like any other power tool you might use.

Defining the “Perfect Tabletop”

Let’s quickly define what we’re looking for when we talk about a “perfect tabletop”. You want the top of your piece to be:

  • Perfectly flat
  • Level
  • Absent of surface defects
  • Mar-free

In simpler terms, you want a table that you can actually use and be proud of.

7 Steps to Make the Perfect Tabletop with An Electric Planer

We made the process really easy. These 7 steps will tell you everything you need to know in order to make the perfect tabletop with an electric planer. Read them carefully and don’t start your project until you’ve read them all.

Also, this is a good time to put on your safety equipment: glasses, gloves, and a respirator are a good idea.

How Do I Use an Electric Planer On a Table Top?

Here is a quick guide to using an electric power planer on a tabletop, to make sure you get the best results and avoid damage to your planer or your tabletop. Always follow the safety instructions which came with the tool to ensure you are protected before you begin to work.

1. Start with the Perfect Wood

Before going any further, you need to make sure that your material is perfect. If you’re making a wooden tabletop (which is the most common type), then you’ll need it to be perfectly dry. Give the wood multiple weeks indoors to thoroughly dry out before trying to plane it.

You should also double-check the wood itself. Make sure there are no fasteners or embedded material that will ruin the planer’s blade. You should plane before making the final cut in the material, so make sure you have a large enough piece of wood.

2. Make Sure Your Workspace is Ready

Your tabletop will only be as good as the workspace used to create it. If you have a shed, garage, or workshop, you’re already ahead of the game. Identify a table that’s large enough to fit your piece of wood.

Ensure the table is free from dust and debris that might disturb this project. It’s also a good idea to use a dry rag to wipe down the space.

You’ll want to opt for a sturdy surface to work on rather than a pair of sawhorses. If your setup isn’t secure, then your tabletop won’t be flat – it’s as simple as that. For a single 2×4 or 4×4, you can just put the wood in a standard clamping table.

3. Check Your Tools

With your material and workspace perfected, it’s time to focus on your tools. It should be pretty obvious at this point, but the setup is the most important part of the project. That’s why we’re taking our time and double-checking everything ahead of time.

The tools in this case are your electric planer and any clamps you’re using. For the clamps, make sure you have enough to secure your piece of wood and they’re all reliable and sturdy.

For your electric planer, start by checking the blade. If it’s dull, you’ll need to sharpen it before getting started. It’s also a good idea to plug it in and run the tool in the air to make sure it operates. Ensure your planer blades are sharp and not dull.

4. Set Up the Electric Planer Tool

Your electric planer probably has the ability to choose which side the chips come out on. You want to make sure they’re blowing on the opposite side of the tool that you’ll be standing on.

At this time, you should also pick your cut depth. This is a dial on your tool that tells you how much of the material will be planed with each pass. A smaller depth is quicker to plane but requires more passes.

Finally, attach the vacuum hose or dust bag to your tool. A lot of nasty sawdust will come out of the piece as you work, so this is an imperative step. It saves your lungs and keeps your space cleaner.

5. Make Your First Pass on the Tabletop

With the material and tool set up, you’re ready to get started. When it comes to each pass, the name of the game is consistency.

You want to travel at a steady speed and apply a consistent pressure along the board. Any choppiness will result in surface imperfections and a tabletop that isn’t perfectly flat.

To start the first pass, you’ll want the front of the planer resting on the board. Your dominant hand should be on the trigger and your non-dominant hand should be applying pressure on the front of the planer. If you have a knob at the front, rest your non-dominant hand here.

Before pulling the trigger, the blade should be behind the board. That means that it isn’t in contact with the board and will spin in the air. When you’re ready to get started, start applying pressure on the planer and hold the trigger.

Wait for the blade to get up to speed. Once it has, start slowly moving the planer forward across the board. Don’t forget to keep up the pressure the whole time. When the planer is hanging off the board when you first start, most of the pressure should be applied to the front of the tool so it doesn’t flip backward.

At the end of the stroke, the pressure should be applied to the rear of the tool so it doesn’t flip forwards over the board. Continue forward with the planer until the blade is no longer touching. Hold that position, release the trigger, and wait for the blade to stop spinning. Lift the tool slowly.

Voila, your first pass is completed.

6. Repeat Step 5

Now, you’ll keep repeating step 5 until the board is perfect. You might need multiple passes until you get the desired thickness. Alternatively, you might need to do multiple passes until the top face is perfectly flat, all the imperfections are planed out, and there are no defects.

We suggest making multiple passes of smaller cutting depths. Not only does this give you more practice, but it also removes a lot of room for error. By doing multiple, low-depth cuts, you’ll be left with a more perfect tabletop.

7. Finish Off Your Planed Tabletop with Wax, Varnish, Stain, or Paint

You are now free to finish off your tabletop however you choose to, I would personally add a bit of wood stain to it and then finish off with some varnish (see Below). But you could always just wax it or paint it depending on how you want to complete your perfect upcycled furniture project.


Conclusion

Hopefully, this quick guide has shown you how easy it is to use an electric planer on a table top. As long as you follow all the safety guides and make sure your blades are sharp, using an electric planer will really make all of your woodwork projects far quicker and easier.

They are also the perfect power tool to use in a small workshop as they don’t take up much space at all. They are super versatile and can be used for smoothing large surfaces like a table top but also for much more detailed work like creating beveled edges and finishing the edges of cabinets and tables as well.

Once you have used an electric hand planer you will not want to go back to the old-fashioned manual planing for any of your projects again! There is a quick final safety warning though, be careful not to plane your fingers as the blades on these really are sharp.

When you switch off the tool after using it, always take the utmost care and don’t try to put the tool away until the blades have completely stopped moving. It’s just not worth the risk.

Image
Top Pick
DEWALT DCP580B 20V MAX Brushless Planer (Tool Only)
Runner Up
Bosch PL1632 6.5 Amp Planer, 3-1/4"
Cordless
Makita XPK01Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 3-1/4-Inch Planer, Tool Only
Best Seller
PORTER-CABLE Hand Planer, 6-Amp, 5/64-Inch (PC60THP)
Out Door Use
DEWALT Hand Planer, 7-Amp, 3-1/4-Inch (DW680K)
Product
DEWALT DCP580B 20V MAX Brushless Planer (Tool Only)
Bosch PL1632 6.5 Amp Planer, 3-1/4"
Makita XPK01Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 3-1/4-Inch Planer, Tool Only
PORTER-CABLE Hand Planer, 6-Amp, 5/64-Inch (PC60THP)
DEWALT Hand Planer, 7-Amp, 3-1/4-Inch (DW680K)
Corded
No
Yes
No
Yes
Yes
Price
$158.20
$123.96
$155.00
Price not available
Price not available
Prime
-
-
-
Top Pick
Image
DEWALT DCP580B 20V MAX Brushless Planer (Tool Only)
Product
DEWALT DCP580B 20V MAX Brushless Planer (Tool Only)
Corded
No
Price
$158.20
Prime
Buy On Amazon
Runner Up
Image
Bosch PL1632 6.5 Amp Planer, 3-1/4"
Product
Bosch PL1632 6.5 Amp Planer, 3-1/4"
Corded
Yes
Price
$123.96
Prime
Buy On Amazon
Cordless
Image
Makita XPK01Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 3-1/4-Inch Planer, Tool Only
Product
Makita XPK01Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 3-1/4-Inch Planer, Tool Only
Corded
No
Price
$155.00
Prime
-
Buy On Amazon
Best Seller
Image
PORTER-CABLE Hand Planer, 6-Amp, 5/64-Inch (PC60THP)
Product
PORTER-CABLE Hand Planer, 6-Amp, 5/64-Inch (PC60THP)
Corded
Yes
Price
Price not available
Prime
-
Buy On Amazon
Out Door Use
Image
DEWALT Hand Planer, 7-Amp, 3-1/4-Inch (DW680K)
Product
DEWALT Hand Planer, 7-Amp, 3-1/4-Inch (DW680K)
Corded
Yes
Price
Price not available
Prime
-
Buy On Amazon

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