Thickness Planers are one of those woodworking machines that only has one job .. to take our wood and make it evenly thick from end to end and there really is very little else it can do. Despite this limitation the thickness planer is a needed machine and with a bit of innovation we can give a little bit of extra work to help it pay it's way ...
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Here are a few tips and tricks you can try with your planer to get some better end results ...
Planers don't like planing wood that is on end, it's just to unstable, but there are time where you may want to plane some pieces of wood exactly the same width. Gang planing simply requires some form of attaching 2 or more boards together to make them stable enough to run through the planer.
Probably the best way of doing this is with double sided tape. Depending on the wood, I always have 2 or 3 different versions on hand, but the most often used are double sided carpet tape (which give a pretty good stick on primarily flat surfaces) and automotive double sided tape ... the same tape they use to attach trim to the outside of cars, it's super strong, last well and is water proof, the good news it often sticks even to rougher surfaces, the down side is once it's one, it can be difficult to take off.
Shepherding Short Pieces
This is similar to gang planing it that you use tape and some support, but the big difference with this method is that it's more for planing smaller and shorter boards. The process uses 2 longer boards on the outside between a smaller board that is being planed in the middle.
It's important to note that all three boards want to be very close to the same thickness to start out, if the center board is too high it could jam or become dislodged from one or both of the shephard side boards.
The process is easy lay all three boards on a flat surface, like your table saw deck, then press them together so the tape sticks them all together and you are ready to run them through the planer taking small trimming bites each time.
Snipe happens almost always happens when planing boards when the last, very end of the board is ever so slightly clipped by the planers cutters and it leaves a small depression at the end of the board. Usually near the last 3 inches of the board and the depression is about the thickness of 2 sheets of paper. Many woodworkers get around this by making sure that the wood they use is cut to lengh AFTER it is planed, and that way they can cut the snipe off, but that doesn't always work, so the next best way to avoid snipe, is to push your wood through one right after another and butt one end to another as they are going through and amazingly ... you will avoid snipe on all board except that last one being pushed through that will not have a trailer behind it.
Slicing Figured Wood
One of the problems with planers that use straight blades, is that with figured wood, they can often leave "tear out". The reason for this is that many figured woods have grain running in different directions than a piece of straight grain wood does. One way to try and fix this is to run your wood slighly askew as it runs through the planer. Now you can only run it askew as wide as you planer is, otherwise the wood will bump up against the machine ends, so with narrower planers you don't get quite as wide an area, but I have still had good success with these.
This method does not work all the time as it depends on the what the figure in the wood is and how it is running, but it's always worth a try to help save a piece of figured wood from being subjected to tearout. Planers with spiral head very often will not create tearout, in part because the planer blades are slicing the wood and not "chiseling" the wood head on.
Jointing one Flat Surface
Thickness planers are designed to make your wood even, they are not desgined to flatten one side of a board that may be warped. The good news is that you can joint, or flatten one side only, of a board, then flip it over when the one side is flat, and plane the board a you normaly would. The way you can do this is by making a Planing Jig that will act as a large jointer on your planer ... click here for details
Planers are wonderful machines and bit time savers and with a bit of enginuity they and do even more ..
Copyright Colin Knecht