Planing can be a lot of fun, but without a power hand planer, the bigger jobs can quickly turn into frustration and nightmare.
Using a power hand planer isn’t incredibly difficult, but like many woodworking tools, the quality of the finished product will depend significantly on how much you know about it and how well you can handle it.
So, to achieve the best end-product possible, here is our comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about using an electric hand planer, followed by our guide to using a power hand planer on wide boards.
Using an Electric Hand Planer
Operating an Electric Hand Planer isn’t the most difficult job in the world, but it can be quite a departure for those only used to working their non-powered counterparts or a stationary power planer.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to first get to grips with the basics of operating an electric hand planer before we jump into the best ways to plane wide boards.
What is a Hand Planer?
A hand plane is only one of the most common workshop tools for woodworking. By using muscle power to slide the device off the piece of wood you’re cutting, a planer shaves a small amount of wood in increments using a fixed blade. The average maximum amount of material a planer (electric or manual) can remove is one-eighth of an inch.
A plane can thus be used to perform various woodworking tasks:
- Tidy wood surfaces and tables of paint and scratches.
- Clean up the rough end grain of a piece of wood.
- Smooth wood surfaces, or tapering wood: for instance, leveling-out framing lumber, chamfering handrails, bevelling door edges, or preparing for joinery.
What is a Power Hand Planer?
But there aren’t only manual hand planers. There are three common types of planers, each with its unique lists of specialties and uses:
- Handheld planers with one stationary blade are referred to as ‘manual hand planers’. Manual hand planers allow woodworkers to tidy up small surfaces, make final adjustments to complex projects, and complete jobs that require absolute precision and subtlety.
- Powered planers that are stationary are frequently referred to as ‘stationary electric planers’. These are ideal for processing smaller pieces of wood but are limited by the requirement to manipulate the piece of wood in question around the planer.
- Finally, power hand planers are a lot like handheld planers. However, they feature an uber-fast rotating blade that allows its user to trim surfaces of lumber and timber quickly and precisely.
These tools are perfect for larger pieces of wood, including wide boards.
The rotating blade may seem a subtle difference, but the result is a far more efficient tool that can complete common woodworking tasks in a fraction of the time.
How to Operate a Power Hand Planer
Given its automation, a power hand planer is significantly easier to use than a manual planer. It will usually only have two controls: an ‘On’ switch and a depth adjustment dial or knob. Once you have adjusted the height of your planer, simply lock it in place to prevent any slides mid-cut.
However, there are a few notes to keep in mind to attain the perfect finish – especially if you haven’t much experience planing wide boards:
- Run the front edge of your power hand planer along with the piece you are cutting. Avoiding placing or pushing the blade flatly down onto the surface, as this will result in your tool gouging the surface.
- Try to find as comfortable a position to hold the tool still as you can. Moving from side to side or changing your grip mid-push could result in a non-straight cut. Be sure to grip both sides as tightly as you can, preferably with one hand on the handle and the other on the depth adjustment tool on the front.
- The more slowly you move, and the more consistent pressure you use, the smoother the cut will turn out.
- However, putting more pressure on the front at the beginning, and laying off at the very end, can help maintain a super-smooth cut and prevent ‘planer snipe’.
Why use a Power Hand Planer on Wide Boards?
Although the virtues of the electric hand planer are oft-stated, they become particularly apparent the minute it is time to plane some wide boards. Their dexterity, efficiency, and ease make them the perfect implement for such a job.
Here are a few reasons why:
- Stationary power planer cannot move, which makes planing wide boards difficult. Instead, you must manipulate the board you wish to plane around it. For this reason, stationary planers are usually equipped with medium size (12 – 14 inch) planes, to best help plane small wood surfaces.
- Alternatively, planing with a manual hand planer will take significantly longer than with a power hand planer.
Power hand planers, however, have none of these problems. They are fast and efficient, with a range of large blades and those to easily maneuver into the nooks and crannies a wide board will necessitate.
So, now you’ve decided on the perfect implementation, here is our step-by-step guide to using a power hand planer on wide boards.
How to Use a Power Hand Planer on Wide Boards
Step 1. Health and Safety considerations:
Before you begin, it is important to equip yourself with the appropriate safety equipment, as well as to ensure your equipment is functioning properly.
Here is our easy checklist to ensure you have everything you need to complete the job safely:
- You are wearing appropriate safety goggles, to prevent shavings from flying into your eyes. Failing to do so could cause you to lose control of the planer, damage the wood you are working on, or injure yourself.
- You are wearing a workshop-grade dust mask that can protect you from both wood shavings, dust, and any chemicals which may seep from the wood as you cut it.
- If the blades in your power hand planer need to be changed, ensure the tool is completely disconnected and unplugged before you attempt to dismantle it. Make sure you equip blades of the same weight and height if you plan to change them.
- As you reassemble, or before you begin to use it, ensure that the screws locking the blade and fastening the blade are secure.
- Remember to remove any adjusting keys or wrenches before turning on the power.
- Thoroughly check the wide board for foreign objects like staples, nails, or screws before you begin. If any are present, be sure to remove them before you go near the wood with your electric planer.
Step 2. Prepare the right surface:
Before you begin to plane, you must also set up the board correctly on a properly prepared surface. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind while choosing the ideal work surface:
- You should aim to plane your wide board on a surface wider than the board itself. This will help keep the board secure and prevent it from bending under acute pressure.
- The surface should also be elevated, such that you can comfortably maintain consistent pressure and ensure the wood doesn’t wobble.
- Finally, if the board is not flat, place it facing upwards with the elevated portion supported to ensure it remains stable. Apply shims as necessary to prevent the wood from rocking.
Once you have prepared a safe, appropriate surface to work on, it’s time to start the procedure.
Step 3. Begin the Procedure:
Once you have done so, use a shop-made marking gauge to draw a guiding line onto your piece of wood.
The process of smoothing the wide board is done slowly and in stages. This is to ensure you maintain control over your cut as well as to maintain the structural integrity of the finished product. Ensure you apply the same hand pressure on the implement throughout the cut, so that you don’t gouge or snipe the wood.
Be sure to keep your feet and shoulders steady while working on your wide board, as this will help to ensure it keeps stable and doesn’t rock or wobble.
Step 4. Stop Often and Use Winding Sticks to Check the Wood:
Simply plane down high points to work towards a flat surface, using winding sticks occasionally to help determine whether the wood is still flat. Remember: the quality of the final result is dependent on the speed and depth of the plane’s path.
Focus on moving the power hand planer slowly and with consistent pressure, instead of making inconsistent passes quickly.
However, it is recommended not to make the wood entirely flat. This may involve over-working the wood and preventing it from properly settling securely into its new shape. Instead, aim to shave off around three-quarters of the excess wood while planing.
Step 5. Leave the board to settle:
Similarly, it is important to let the board settle before working on it any further. It is recommended to leave it for at least 24 to 48 hours, although best results may well come from longer periods before proceeding onto later steps.
So, go take a well-deserved break from the workshop! Return to this guide in a few days, when you are ready to move forward with the finishing touches.
Step 6. Sand the board down:
Although some may not see the need in sanding down an already pretty flat wide board, others may want to use it for further woodworking in a table or other surface that needs to be flat. In this case, you may be interested in sanding down the rest of the board.
For the same reason manual hand planers are not recommended for large planing jobs, nor are sandpaper or handheld sanders. Instead, it is best to use a belt sander or a regular sanding machine, as these tools are designed to sand thick wood quickly and neatly. Allow the board to move as it is pressed against the sander as if it is caught it could bend or lose its shape.
So, there we have it: the ultimate How to Use a Power Hand Planer on Wide Boards guide.
The most important thing to remember when completing this task is that the quality of the finished product depends entirely on how well the tool itself is used and understood. As does the safety of the individual operating it.
For this reason, it is important to understand exactly what a power hand planer is, what it is used for, what personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to safely use it, how to maintain it, and finally, how to achieve the best results with it.
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