Planers are often one of the last larger tool purchases that woodworkers make. This is because it is easy to purchase "sized" wood in most places and when a lot of woodworking projects are 3/4" (2.54 cm) there is often not an immediate need for planing wood. If on the other hand you are purchasing rough lumber a planer is a must have item, and in my workshop it gets lots of use.
There is not a lot of options when it comes to using a planer but knowing a few tips and techniques can make a big difference in your outcomes of planed woods, and the first rule of thumb is to make sure you have sharp planer knives. It is not always easy to check these but it's imperative that you have good sharp knives as this will ensure you get a good cut and that there is not needless wear and tear on your wood planer.
It is recommended by all planer manufactures to space the cuts you make across the breadth of the blade, this means when you are making multiple cuts, don't make them all in the same spot as this will create more wear on one part of the cutters which can make future cutting unbalanced across the breadth of the knives.
One of the challenges of planers (and jointers) is wood tear-out. This occurs when the blades are forced to cut against the grain of the wood and is also enhanced by dull blades. Cutting with ...
... the grain of the wood will often eliminate or at least reduce the effects of tear-out. The exceptions are when you are cutting some figured woods where the grain can grow in multiple directions. In these cases there is often no easy way or determining the lie of the grain and small amounts of tear-out are the result.
Another common fault of planers is something called "snip", this is where a tiny bit more wood is planed away either at the beginning or at the end of a board. In many cases snipe can be eliminated by using a short sacrificial board (at least 12" long) at the beginning and at the end of the board being planed that is exactly the same depth as the board you are planing. The trick is that the sacrificial boards must butt up against the board you are planing both front and back as it is passing through the planer.
Planers are one of the few tools a woodworker can purchase that will actually pay for themselves over time, IF you are purchasing rough sawn lumber which can often be purchased directly from a mill at much reduced prices ... if you have that option where you live. For most of us, a planer is simply another tool that helps us size wood for specific projects and helps to ensure uniformity in our woods.
Copyright - Colin Knecht