How to Properly Use a Wood Planer

  • Intermediate
  • 200-2,000
What You'll Need
Manual or power wood planer
Woodworking bench
Eye protection
Sandpaper of various grits
Broom and dustpan to clean up

Learning to use a wood planer, either manual or power-operated, will greatly improve the quality of the finish you achieve on your woodworking projects. It will also save you time and money as you prevent spoilage of wood materials in the intermediate and final stages of your task. Follow the guidelines below to use a wood planer safely and correctly.

Step 1: Check Your Planer for Readiness

Inspect the blade of your planer to ensure it is sharp. If it was not cleaned thoroughly after the previous job, take a few moments to clean it now with a chamois or other piece of tanned leather. If it is dull, disassemble the planer and replace the blade with a fresh new one to avoid rough cuts on the wood. Make sure the blade is level and even unless you are intending to cut at an angle.

If you are using an electric or powered planer, ensure the battery is charged or that the electric cord is in good repair and is plugged into a grounded outlet.

Step 2: Organize Your Workbench, Planer and Wood for Your Dominant Hand

Hold the planer snugly but comfortably by its front and back grip knobs. If you are right-handed, set up your planer and workbench so your right hand will be at the back of the planer with your left hand guiding the front. Reverse the orientation of the planer, board and workbench if you are left-handed.

Step 3: Select Your First Board to Be Planed

Examine the board you wish to plane carefully before readying it for planing. Check for obvious lumps, warps, knots and knot holes, or any signs of dry rot. Choose only boards with straight grains and minimal flaws for planing, as these will be among the most visible parts of your completed project.

Step 4: Secure Your Board to the Workbench

Use adjustable clamps or a vise grip attached to the workbench to secure the board you will plane. It should not move forward or back, and must not wiggle from side to side. A well-secured board will plane cleanly, and prevent injury to you and others nearby. Put on your eye protection and turn on your power planer, or set the manual planer on the board.

Step 4: Choose Where to Make Your First Cut

Tilt the planer very slightly forward to bring the planer blade into contact with the board surface. Push firmly, with straight wrists and forearms, to move the planer along and peel a fine strip of wood off the board. Use your legs and lower body to exert force upward and forward to move the planer along. Avoid bending at the waist to push, to prevent strain on your lower back.

Step 5: Check the Board Surface after Each Cut

After each cut, run your hands over the board's surface and examine it visually to ensure you have planed where you wish and at the angle you wish. Continue planing until you have arrived at the contours and surface texture you wish. Finish resurfacing the board with various grits of sandpaper to improve the texture.