The planer is the most characteristic of all carpenter tools. Using a planer you can smooth out smaller or bigger bows and warps in the wood. Setting and using the planer require a lot of practice and you also need to know how to sharpen this tool. Given the small size of our workpieces, the best planer to use is the two-hand planer. The best way to learn how to use this tool is by getting to know the operation of a traditional hand planer.
A board as it is cut out of the trunk has two sides. The side looking towards the pith is called the pith side; the one looking towards the bark is called the bark side. When drying out, a board always shrinks and bends towards the bark side.
So as to make sure that the board sits on the bench on both sides without wobbling, always lay it on the bench with its bark side downwards and start planing its pith side (1). Then, lay it on its even side and so you can plane its bark side (2) avoiding wobbling. Be careful to keep the two sides parallel. Finally, plane the edges into square. (3, 4)
(Planing the sides of the board)
(Planing the edges)
Always plane in the direction of the grain. The grain is determined by the pattern of the wood. The direction of the grain is shown by the arches in the pattern.
(Establishing the direction of the grain)
If you cannot establish the direction of the grain, you must perform test planing. If you experience splintering, change the direction of the planing.
Sometimes, if the board was cut from a twisted tree, planing in both directions may be required.
(Planing in two directions)
If the direction of the grain changes several times, around knots for example, try pushing the planer across the direction of the grain.
(Planing across the direction of the grain)
The grain is the benchmark for planning the edges as well. Keep checking the angles with a square or angle copier.
If possible, avoid planing the cross section of the wood. This is one of the most difficult tasks. You need a sharp tool for it by all means and, considering the small surface, great practice as well. It is difficult to avoid breaking the end of the strip.
(Planing the cross section)
After the theory, let us see the practice:
The piece of wood to be planed must be fixed and pressed to a bumper. In the carpenter planer bench you have small square holes in which you can set small clamps called benchdogs to a height lower than the surface of the timber to be sawn. The other hole and benchdog are in the vice of the planer bench. Keep the timber tight with the vice, avoiding bending the wood.
(Fixing with benchdogs)
You can fix the timber on foldable workbenches, too, but you have to fix bumpers to the end first.
(A workpiece fixed to a foldable bench)
There are several types of planers: foreplanes, jointers, small router planes, etc. Their operation is the same, only their designs are different.
You can use planers with perfectly sharp blades only.
A perfectly set planer blade sticks out of the frame only a little, by 0.5 mm at the maximum. For beginners it is advisable to have the blade stick out as little as possible. Setting the blade needs practice. Place the blade and the wedge into the frame in a way that they should not stick out at all. Blow the blade carefully until it reaches the desired size. If the blade is not parallel with the bottom, strike it carefully from the sides to adjust it into the right position.
(Adjusting the blade)
Once that is finished, fix the blade with a firm blow on the wedge.
(Fixing the wedge)
Should you find that the blade was fixed at the wrong place, blow the back of the frame with a hammer until it is adjusted to the right place or is loosened.
(Loosening and removing the blade)
The way you can easily split a piece of e.g. acacia or pine into two using a thick knife, the edge of the planer blade, too, can pre-split a strip before the fibres of the wood are actually cut by the blade per se. But before the pre-splitting could take place, the chipbreaker actually breaks the chip already. The distance between the chipbreaker and the edge should not be more than 1 mm and the chipbreaker must be set to the side of the blade close enough to avoid any woodchip getting stuck between the blade and the chipbreaker. How likely pre-splitting takes place depends on the type of the timber and the thickness and angles of the planer blade. If your planer blade is not equipped with a chipbreaker, you should try to skim off thinner material with the planer.
If you have set the sharp planer blade properly and have fixed your workpiece, you can start planing. Push the planer evenly along the workpiece, lifting it a little along the last 10-20 mm section to avoid breaking the end of the strip. Pull back the planer along the outer edge, thereby protecting the blade. When not in use or stored, lay the planer on the side.
Planing is an activity that requires great practice. Planing defects can be the fault of the person performing the planning or may be due to the bluntness of the blade. It may ripple the wood and produce an ugly surface. If you notice this, sharpen the blade; it is well worth it.
A two-hand planer is very useful.
(A two-hand planer from above)
(The blade of a two-hand planer with setting screws)
Its advantage is that it is easier to guide and use for smaller workpieces. The blade can be easily set with screws. The only disadvantage is that you cannot produce large flat surfaces with it.
(Working with a two-hand planer)