Planing Toward the Middle

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When you’re planing a board to thickness, there’s a little more involved than simply shoving the board through your planer. To get the best possible result, in regards to board stability, you should follow a specific sequence of events.

What we’re after

We have a couple of goals when we’re planing wood. One, of course, is to get the board smooth. Another is to make sure that the board has uniform thickness throughout. The planer will also guarantee that both faces of the board are parallel to each other. While all that stuff is happening, we should take a simple step to help the board stay flat after the work with the planer is done.

What we’re avoiding

Sometimes, when wood is dried, the moisture content near the surface can be slightly different than the moisture content at the core. If, when you’re planing, you remove all or most of the material from one face, you can end up with a board that’s prone to cupping. It’s very easy to reduce the likelihood that this will happen.

Our approach

To keep your material as stable as possible when you’re planing the surface make sure you’re removing equal amounts of material from both faces. This is simple to do. Make a pass with one face up, reset the head of your planer, flip the board, make another pass, repeat. This approach, removing equal amounts from both faces and working toward the core, will go a long way toward helping your material stay flat. While you’re doing the work make sure you’re using the planer safely by checking out our planer safety tips.

Keeping your boards as flat as possible is sure to make your upcoming woodworking projects a lot easier to do.

Discussion
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8 Responses to “Planing Toward the Middle”
  1. Steve

    I understand the concept in the video. However the piece of hickory shown had a large area that was from the rough sawing that was not getting planed.

    Here is my question. How do you keep the planed sides parallel when flipping the board to evenly remove material? I think the lesson you are providing (please confirm) is sometimes you must violate the rule of removing material on the unjointed side only when you suspect stresses are going be released.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Steve. You’ll start this process with the jointed face down on the planer bed. Once the opposing surface is flat and parallel to the jointed face you can flip on each pass, working your way toward the middle. The hickory needed a couple more passes to get the rest of the rough sawn surface off.
      Thanks
      Paul-Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply
  2. backroom

    I agree with alternating sides but I always begin by removing a small amount first until I get the sides parallel and then remove more material but I never remove more than 1/16” at a time. Also to avoid snipe, you can run at an angle or use a piece of scrap. Some woods are very expensive and to loose the last 2 to 3” on a board due to snipe is not acceptable. Anyway, I find this cuts down on snipe.

    Reply
  3. Mike

    I am used to flipping the board after each pass but I usually feed it in so I am cutting “downhill” on the grain which means flipping it end for end.

    Reply
  4. DAVE

    I cut, flip, cut, rotate, cut, flip, cut, rotate, etc. By doing this, it cuts towards the core, and removes any snipes I may happen to get.

    Reply
  5. Mark Katz

    I agree with you on alternating sides. However, rather than flipping the board as you did, I usually flip the board end-over-end, especially if the grain viewed from the side is sloped. If the first side is “planed uphill”, the second side will be also. There are exceptions of course.

    Reply
  6. Clay

    Your planer looks just like mine. I notice you did not seem to depress the locking bar between passes. Why not?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Clay. Planers with locking cutterheads can generally be used without using the locking mechanism. If the board is reasonably flat before it passes through the planer, often you can achieve good results without sniping. Using the cutterhead locking mechanism will ensure the best results every time.
      Thanks
      Paul-Woodworkers Guild of America

      Reply

Tags: Free Videos, George Vondriska, how to plane a board, planing tips, using a planer, woodworking tips, woodworking tools

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