More Reasons For Buying A Thickness Planer First

February 7, 2013

To recap the last post; when asked which tool would I purchase first, a thickness planer or a jointer? My answer will always be a thickness planer. Some of you might be asking “why?” Well it’s plain and simple as far as I’m concerned.


With a thickness planer I can use a technique or two to make it perform like it’s intended too without having to use a jointer in the process.

In a “fully” equipped shop, milling of rough lumber typically starts with a trip across the jointer to flatten the first face and then again to square up one edge perpendicular to it. From there, it’s then taken to the thickness planer to be thickness to it’s final dimension by running it under the cutterhead to remove material from the opposite face.

Unlike a jointer, a thickness planer doesn’t require the user to continually apply pressure to the board to achieve an uniform cut. Instead, a set of rollers do the job. And since one side of the material is laying flat on a surface the entire time, it’s possible to place the stock on a specialized sled which can support the board so it stays in place without being jostled around.

The sled for this kind of job doesn’t have to be very complicated. A flat piece of plywood with a cleat on the back end along with a few shims can easily handle the job. Or if you’re the kind who really enjoys building jigs with all the bells and whistles, one like the Planer Sled featured in this Fine Woodworking Magazine article may be exactly what you’re looking for.

Another option is to use a hand plane to knock down the high spots on one face of the board until it lays level without rocking when you push on the corners. Simply feed it into the thickness planer with the untouched face up and start removing material. This is a technique I demonstrate in episode 496 Bedside Tables Pt 2 .

It sounds more complicated than it really is, and it’s much easier than it looks! Just give it a try.

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  1. Brian C. Brazil says:

    I’d like to add that if you use a handplane to level the board, it can be any old junker. You’re using it for rough stock removal, so you don’t need to be anal about having a flat sole or razor sharp blade.
    Something in the #5 range is perfect, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use a #3.
    If you can, put a little camber on the blade and set it to take an aggressive bite.

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