Sunday, October 7, 2012

V3.40 - Oh No, My Planer quit planing

Let’s see, where were we?... Oh Yes, you’ve been using your lunchbox planer, and it has been working just fine…but all of a sudden, it refuses to plane the wood. You can’t even shove the wood in and get it to work. It used to be that it practically pulled the wood out of your hand as you fed it…now, it ain’t happening. What’s a woodworker to do?

Well, in this scenario, the FIRST thing to do is to make sure that the planer’s bed (or “table”, if you prefer, by either name, it is the surface the wood slides on) is not caked up with sticky pitch or sap. If it is, you may have found your problem. What you need is a good bed cleaning. There are several tar & pitch removers on the market and I am sure they work great and are not as hazardous as my personal favorite – fingernail polish remover. Also known as, acetone. I like it, I use it, but I make doggone sure that I have good ventilation while using it. Back when I was in the Navy, I got wasted by working in an enclosed space with lots of free-flowing acetone. That taught me a good lesson. Anyway, clean the bed if it needs it.

SECOND: Check the feed rollers and make sure that they aren’t caked up with wood flour. If they are, they could be slipping on the wood and not grabbing it enough to pull it through. Here again, a good cleaning is the answer. If your planer has steel rollers, acetone could be your friend once again. On the other hand, if your planer has urethane or rubber-coated rollers, as most lunchbox planers do, you’ll need to clean them a different way. Some people say to use alcohol, but I have seen this cause those types of rollers to get harder than they should be...which also causes them to lose their gripping power. My personal favorite for urethane rollers is…Dawn. Yep, dish-washing soap. Mix up some in a bowl with water as hot as you can stand it and use a Scotch-Bright pad to scour and scrub the rollers. Rinse all the soap off and let them air dry and they will be good as new… and pull like it, too.

Ok, we’ve covered two corrective actions for when a lunchbox planer abruptly quits planning...there actually IS a THIRD solution…and some people would say that it should be the first thing to do. I don’t think so and I’ll tell you what the THIRD option is, and why it is third on my list…next week.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

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