What is a thickness planer used for?

Close up A man with work clothes and a cap carpenter scouring a wooden board on an thicknessing machine in a light workshop, side viewWondering how useful a thickness planer could be for you? If you are into DIY projects involving wood, chances are that you already use some power tools to cut or size your lumber. The local supplier may not always have stock in your required dimensions, or they can also turn out to be costlier than you might want to spend.

You are then required to purchase boards of other size or thickness and get the specific measurements yourself. The job can be done using a table saw to reduce the thickness of the lumber, and the edges can be taken care of by using a jointer, but the process and task becomes both a time consuming and difficult.

To save you the trouble, there is a handy tool called a wood planer, which can size down the lumber to your desired thickness. It is also known as a surface planer, and it is used by carpenters and hobbyists alike to treat their wood stock.

What is a thickness planer used for?

A thickness planer can be used to obtain boards of even thickness which are also completely flat on both sides. The new generation of surface planers replace the old handheld models and are equipped with a planing platform which gives you lumber of uniform thickness using manual or electronic adjustments.

The machine comes with a rotating cylindrical drum or cutter head which contains multiple dual-sided blades that can be removed. The cutter head rotates at high RPMs to slice off the extra wood and flatten the surface to give you your desired dimension.

You can put any irregular piece of wood in the platform and the feeders will automatically carry it forward after you switch on the machine. The motor provides power to the cutter head and also the rollers which feed the board in and out.

The lumber automatically moves, pushed by the in-feeder while the out-feeder pulls it slowly from the other end. Usually the feed-in roller is equipped with ribs to grip and move the lumber, while the feed-out rollers are plain so as not to leave any marks on the board. In the end, the machine smoothens and flattens your board according to the thickness set by adjusting the planing platform or the cutting drum. It’s all automatic, and it’s all simple; you really don’t have to worry about anything here.

Example of use with a thickness planer using the Wen Benchtop Thickness Planer as an example

To demonstrate the use of a thickness planer, we will use a particular product, the WEN 6550 12.5-Inch 15A Benchtop Thickness Planer. It is a benchtop thickness planer that comes from the renowned Wen company, and can size lumber of up to 12.5” wide and 6” thick. It’s also one of the best thickness planers out there, and here is how it can help with all your needs.

If you look at the machine, you will find the granite platform where the board has to be placed. There is a tri-roller feeding system which moves the lumber smoothly while it is being cut.

The machine uses the dual blades in the cutter head and it is placed in between the rollers. The planer is powered by a 15-amp motor which can slice wood with 18,000 cuts per minute, while the feeders can move it at 26’ per minute.

The wood to be sized is first placed on the granite table. The desired thickness is set by adjusting the rubber handle at the top. You can be precise with your specifications as each rotation of the handle adjusts the height by 1/16”. After you start the machine, the feeders start moving the plank, while the dual blades size it down to the set thickness.

The job is done quickly and effortlessly, and you do not need to manually use the table saw and jointer to cut down your lumber. The use of a thickness planer is simple, and they can be used for a wide variety of purposes.

Different uses for a thickness planer in carpentry

Here is a look at the different ways you can use a thickness planer. It’s simple to use and has some great benefits.

  • By using a thickness planer, you are relieved from having to buy lumber of specific dimensions. Any irregular piece of wood, even old and discarded boards can be transformed to workable lumber for your project using a surface planer
  • The planer is also useful for projects where you need to join the edges of two boards. The machine can be used to smooth the surface before the planks are glued together
  • It is best for leveling the sides of objects which are square shaped so that the grooves get a perfect fit

Before you use a thickness planer

A thickness planer helps you save money as you can stock wood from other projects and use them later after they go through the machine. It is really easy to operate the machine, but you need some practice to get perfect results.

If you are just a beginner, you can encounter inclined planes on your board or even snipes and tear outs. It is a must to read the manual first and understand how your specific model works. Then you can try your hand at it by using planks that you have in your stock. After that, begin with your project.

Also, keep the following in mind:

  • Avoid wearing loose clothes which can get stuck in the feeders
  • Do not forget your gloves, safety goggles and dust mask
  • Do not hold the board underneath while feeding it. Your finger can get stuck and drawn inside
  • Do not put your hands on or touch the cutter head while the machine is in operation
  • Make sure the planer is switched off after use

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