Using a power planer

Like a hand plane, the power planer rides on a shoe, or sole plate (Fig. A). Like a jointer, the planer has blades mounted on a cutter head or drum that spins at 20,000 rpm, removing wood equal to the difference in elevation between the front and rear shoes.

The front hand grip doubles as a depth-adjustment gauge. The gauge, with its built-in scale settings, turns back and forth to move the front planer shoe up or down, setting the depth of the cut. Depending on the depth you set, the planer removes lots of wood (1/8 in. per pass) or, like a belt sander, a little (1/64 in.).

Get the most out of the tool by mastering the right way to hold and push the planer. Properly balancing your body ensures safety and the best planning results.

Balance means standing with your feet apart in a position that you'll find comfortable throughout the full tool pass on the workpiece. Each pass of the planer involves a rhythm of balance and hand pressure:

· Begin by resting the front shoe of the planer flat on the wood without letting the blade touch the work.

· Start the tool, let the motor reach full speed, then ease the plane into contact with the work and push it steadily forward.

· Keep your initial pressure on the front grip as the planer enters the workpiece.

· Balance hand pressure between the tool handle and front knob as both planer soles contact the work.

· As you push the tool off the work, apply greater control to "catch" the rear handle. Avoid overreaching at the end of a pass; the front shoe will drop off the wood and let the blades take an uneven bite off the end of the wood (called "snipe").

The speed at which you push the tool and the depth setting you choose will affect the final smoothness of your work. For power-shaving dimensional lumber, bites of 1/8 in. per pass are OK. To obtain the smoothest results when you're edge-planing hardwood boards, use a 1/64-in. or 1/32-in. depth setting, push the tool slowly and make more passes.

Blades: Resharpen or replace?

 How to change blades

Change blades when they become dull or nicked. As blades dull, they smoke up the room, the planer becomes difficult to push, and wood debris comes out as sawdust instead of shavings. Nicked blades leave a groove in the smoothed wood. Unplug the power planer and read your tool's instructions carefully. Avoid tool vibration by installing the blades squarely in the set plate and bolting the drum plate tightly on the cutter head.

Some power planers have two full-sized blades that must be resharpened using a whetstone. However, most planers (ours included) use two double-edged, carbide, disposable "mini blades" (Photo 6). Many planers come with plastic "gauge bases" that help correctly position both the mini blades and the set plate for mounting on the drum. Other tips about blade replacement:

· Unplug the power planer before you change blades or make any repairs and adjustments to the tool.

· Change blades before they get so dull that they create smoke or fine powder as you plow through the work. Forcing the planer like this harms the motor.

· Resharpen or replace both blades at the same time. This maintains cutter head balance and ensures quality cuts.

· Blades that aren't mounted squarely on the cutter head cause the tool to vibrate. Double-check mounting bolts for tightness before running the planer.

Easy to Buy, but Hard to Rent

Most power planers have blade widths of 3-1/4 in. Some are equipped with blades 6-1/8 in. or wider. Planers differ in cost because of blade width, quality of construction, amp power and standard accessories—like a carrying case.

Light-duty models will handle 90 percent of your tasks and cost less than $100. Contractor grade planers are more rugged, have more accurate and easier-to-work depth gauges, include standard accessories and cost $130 or more.

Select tools or buy accessories with:

· Cast metal sole plates, which warp less than stamped metal plates.

· Power cords longer than 6 ft., because they're less likely to hang up on the workpiece and interrupt a smooth pass with the tool.

· Adjustable fences (Photo 3) that allow you to work accurately on door edges, wood trim and boards.

· Chip deflectors (see Photo 1), which direct waste instead of "broadcasting" it.

Power planers rent for about $25 a day, but they're tough to find. Many rental centers are dropping planers from their tool inventory because of customers who abuse the tools by running the blades over old paint and hidden metal fasteners in the wood.

 

· Unplug the power planer before you change blades or make any repairs and adjustments to the tool.

· Change blades before they get so dull that they create smoke or fine powder as you plow through the work. Forcing the planer like this harms the motor.

· Resharpen or replace both blades at the same time. This maintains cutter head balance and ensures quality cuts.

· Blades that aren't mounted squarely on the cutter head cause the tool to vibrate. Double-check mounting bolts for tightness before running the planer.


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