Sunday, June 1, 2014

V5.22 - Introducing the Wood Planer

Ok, after a few weeks of ‘detours’, we’ll get back to our roots this week and introduce an old friend. But FIRST: God bless our troops- wherever they may be!!

This week is the lead off column of a series on a machine that many woodworkers find to have an almost ‘mystical’ air about it. This is the Wood Planer or, as it is known in Europe, the wood thicknesser. In all fairness, “thicknesser” is a more appropriate description of what the machine actually does, than is the name ‘planer’. While handtool history is not my ‘thing’, I suspect that the thicknessers acquired the name ‘planer’ simply because what they did was so similar to a hand plane that smoothes a boards surface.

Over my many years in the industry, I don’t suppose there was ever another machine that caused as many headaches and problems for my customers as did the planer. I think most of that was because the average woodworker just doesn’t understand how these things work, and because the typical planer has so many adjustments that it is a bit intimidating.

The best starting place for our discussions is most likely to define the types of planers that are out there. Decent sized shops would have a planer that would be capable of planing 18” – 20” – 24” or even 36” wide stock. These types of planers are the ones with all those adjustments I mentioned because they have chipbreakers, pressure bars, spring-loaded infeed and outfeed rollers and bed rollers. All of those components must be adjusted properly and they have to be adjusted with consideration given to each of the other components. This is what I call an Industrial Planer.

Further down the scale is the planer that is typically found in home workshops. It’s easily portable and usually has a capacity of only 12”- 15” wide. These planers do not have pressure bars or chipbreakers or bed rollers. As you can see, the number of adjustments is way down from the Industrial types. These planers are fondly called “lunchbox” planers.

I think we will start or series off talking about lunchbox planers because I think that is the most likely type of planer my readers would have. Now, I could be wrong and if I am, I trust those of you who may have industrial planers in your shop to drop me a note and let me know.    

Most lunchbox planers are ready to use, right out of the box. Oh, there might be some accessory tables to add or a stand to put together, but essentially the planer is ready to plane wood… and that is a bonus for the buyer.

Let’s pause here for the week. See ya next time…

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

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