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Documentation: Manual PDF
- Use Guidelines
- Materials Guidelines
- About Certification Requirements
ACE Planer Certification Course
- What Does a Thickness Planer Do?
- Thickness Planer Adjustments
- Thickness Planer Accessories
- Common Techniques
- Dust Collection
- Thickness Planer Safety
- Default Configuration
- Protecting the Thickness Planer
- Trouble Shooting
- Testing out for certification
- Certified users only
- Eye protection required
- Must use dust collector – confirm there is room in the dust collector bin before planing; this tool and the jointer turn a small amount of wood into a huge fluffy pile of shavings
- No stock under 10″
- One piece at a time
- No edge planing without proper setup (please see steward first; use table saw if possible)
- No loose knots or inclusions
- Only change the cutting speed when the machine is on and running
- Report any issues: malfunction, lines left in surface, excessively loud running (it’s not that loud with sharp knives), excessive tearout, etc.
We have had a number of near-injuries, many hours of steward time, large costs, and well over two months of tool downtime from nail strikes and cutting the wrong material. Please follow the materials guidelines below.
- BARE, UNTREATED, UNFINISHED ”’WOOD”’ ONLY!
- No MDF, no plywood, no OSB, no plastic, no metal
- All reclaimed wood or wood from ”any” source other than a commercial lumber yard or mill, home store, etc. MUST be scanned with the metal detector prior to use
*Please check Meetup or ask on Slack about upcoming classes. Those already experienced with planers can usually get certified by talking to one of the trainers; just ask on Slack or contact a Steward.
About Certification Requirements
Certain tools at AMT require certification to use. In general, these are tools that are more likely to injure you out be damaged by misuse. In the shop, the planer, jointer, table saw and band saw currently require certification. Lack of certification requirements does not imply a tool is safe to use without training—the lathe and router table, for example, can do a great deal of damage if misused but we do not yet have training developed. Individual help is available for those tools upon request.
Certification does not necessarily provide all information needed to use the tool in all manners consistent with its intended use, nor does it replace or reduce the obligation of the user to independently read the manual and to understand and use the tool safely.
Some tools have associated risks that may not be obvious. If you are ever unsure about something, please ask—there are many members, including the shop stewards, who are more than happy to help you.
ACE Planer Certification Course
This is a summary of what is taught in the AMT certification course for the Thickness Planer.
What Does a Thickness Planer Do?
This tool can reduce the thickness of stock and leave a furniture-quality face behind that is parallel to the opposite face.
Typically one face is made flat using a ”jointer,” and then the second face is made flat and parallel to the first with the thickness planer.
Thickness Planer Adjustments
You can adjust how much wood is removed by setting the cutting depth. The cutting depth is adjusted by lowering or raising the ”head”. There is a handle for screwing the head up or down and a scale to indicate the approximate depth. The scale may not be accurate.
You adjust the depth so that the resulting stock is the right thickness, but you must not attempt to take off too much wood in one pass. Multiple passes may be required to remove enough wood for your needs.
Thickness Planer Accessories
The most common accessories are support tables, to support the work before it enters the tool and after it leaves, and push sticks of various shapes.
A thickness planer is used to reduce the thickness of wood and make one face parallel to the other. That’s basically all it can do; however, there is still a technique to master with a thickness planer: how much wood to remove in each pass, and how many passes to make.
Passes that remove little material end up far smoother than passes that remove a lot. The thickness planer is designed not to allow too much to be removed in one pass, but you should not get close to this limit.
Some woods plane easier than others – very hard woods require more passes to remove the same amount of softer woods.
Unlike the other tools in the shop, the thickness planer draws the wood into the cutter on its own. You only need to keep the wood feeding in straight.
- Begin by ensuring one flat face using a jointer
- If the stock is over twice the length of the input table, you may need an input and output support table or roller
- Set the stock on the input table near the mouth of the thickness planer and set the desired depth of cut
- Turn on the dust collector
- Turn on the thickness planer
- Slowly feed the stock into the thickness planer until it begins to feed the stock on its own
- Keep the stock going straight into the thickness planer
- If the stock stalls because of a low point, just push the stock gently until the thickness planer resumes feeding on its own.
- As the stock finishes its pass through the thickness planer, be careful not to let it droop or sag; this leads to tearout or “snipe” at the end of the board
- Planers make ”’a lot of sawdust”’. The planer has a port near the cutting head for connecting the dust collector hose. Pull out the slider on the hose to allow the collector to suck in sawdust.
- Turn on the Cyclone dust collector if it is not already on. Make sure to check the collection can and the filter to ensure there is room for your dust.
- Check the gates on the cyclone dust collection system. The gate to the planer, plus one other gate in the system should be open. All other gates should be closed.
Thickness Planer Safety
A planer’s job is similar to a jointer’s, but a planer is a safer tool in general. It has its own automatic feed mechanism for drawing the stock through the tool, so once you slide your work into it and the cut begins, you are only “steering” the wood, not pushing it.
Sometimes the automatic feed will stop pulling the wood in and you’ll need to push the stock a little to re-engage the feed wheels. If you push too hard you can damage the tool.
While not as common as with a jointer, kickback can happen on a planer, especially when beginning a cut. Always stand to the side of the work when using a planer. Never attempt to plane short stock. Your work should ideally be more than 3x as long as the gap between the inlet and outlet tables, but realistically no less the 10″ in length. Use support tables if the stock is over twice the length of the input table.
The main risk of damage is to the thickness planer’s blades, which can be nicked by even a tiny fleck of metal in the stock. Once even one blade has a nick in it, the planer will leave a raised line on every face it makes until the blades are re-sharpened and re-aligned.
Thickness planers are very loud. You will have to wear hearing and eye protection when you use one.
This tool has a concealed cutting head to reduce the risk of injury. With stock under 3/4″ you might not even be able to reach the cutting blades if you tried (please don’t try). However, when planing 10″ beams, reaching the blades would be easy.
Planers are designed to discourage you from taking off too much wood in one pass. When you adjust the depth of cut, you are also setting the height of a guard that prevents you from inserting your stock if the cut would remove too much material.
Failsafe Hand Positioning
Failsafe hand positioning means putting your hands where they would not be injured should the unexpected occur.
Place one hand on either side of the stock, sliding it into the planer until it engages, and then steer it so it continues to move straight through.
Failsafe Stock Handling
Failsafe stock handling is how you hold and move your work (aka stock) throughout the entire process.
Never work short stock. Always insert work straight into the planer. If your stock is narrower than the planer throat, choose a random location to feed in your stock and keep it straight as it proceeds.
Do not attempt to take off too much in one pass. Never work used materials unless you have checked them thoroughly for metal (nails, screws, tacks, etc) with the metal detector.
Let the planer pull the stock; do not try to force it. If your stock isn’t already flat it might have a “valley” where the planer stops dragging the stock forward. If this happens, gently push or pull the work while keeping your hands far from the planer’s throat. Never push under the machine with your hand.
When you are done with the Thickness Planer:
- Unplug the machine and wait for it to come to a halt
- Remove your work and remove any remaining sawdust with the dust collector hose (or shop vac)
- Close the dust collector inlet and turn off the collector unless someone else is using it
Protecting the Thickness Planer
The main risk with this tool is damaging the blades. There are typically three of them, and it costs about $100 to have them sharpened. If even a tiny piece of metal touches one of the blades, it will nick the blade, and from then on the thickness planer will produce a face with a wooden line where the nick happened. This puts the planer out of commission until the blades are sharpened to remove the nick.
If the wood is not from a lumber yard, it must be thoroughly checked for metal using the metal detector in the shop.
- Face: If a board is 4″ wide and 24″ long, its face is 96 square inches
- Input support table: a table or roller that supports the stock before it contacts the planer
- Input table: the table in front of the cutting head
- Output table: the table behind the cutting head
- Output support table: a table or roller that supports the stock after it has exited the planer
- Stock: the piece of wood to be made thinner
- Wax clean feed tables
- Vac and remove build-up
- Make sure dust lines are clear
- Check blades, Replace as needed
- Make sure one set of blades on hand and order replacements as needed
- True up for same thickness across bed
With all troubleshooting please refer to the manual.
Issue: Power shuts off suddenly.
Steps: Please remember that that particular machine has a built-in thermal cutoff switch. If it starts over-heating, it may stop without warning. If it does shut down, the testing procedure is as follows:
- Check the built-in circuit breaker button next to the power switch. Press it and attempt restart.
- If that doesn’t work, check the electrical panel near the double black doors.
- If there is no sign of tripping there, wait 10-15 minutes (to let it cool down) and attempt restart.
- If it still won’t restart, update the machine status and post to Slack.
- Trying to take off too much material per pass
- Clogged or inadequate dust collection – Make sure that the planner is not clogged and that you have the right gates open… oh, and that the cyclone filter is not clogged.
Issue: Planer spraying wood chips everywhere
Steps: The dust collection lines are clogged or not drawing adequately.
Testing out for certification
Experienced users may test out to obtain certification. Post on Slack to get in touch with a certification tester.
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