In a workshop, one of the uses of the planer-thicknesser is to prepare rough sawn stock. Before machining, the depth of cut can be regulated by raising or lowering the infeed table. However, where the timber (i.e. a thick oak post or beam) is too large, heavy or inconvenient to lift onto the machine, a portable power planer could be used instead. It works on exactly the same principal as the depth of cut is set by adjusting and locking the front shoe.
A single or pair of carbide blades rotate in a balanced cutter block at approximately 20,000 rpm. When the blade or blades become blunt, more effort is required to push the tool across the timber and as they become dull, the wood debris may look like sawdust rather than shavings, with the probability of smoke also being produced. In addition, using blunt blades will place extra strain on the motor. If two blades are fitted, they should be replaced or resharpened at the same time to maintain the balance of the cutter block. In addition, blades that aren’t mounted squarely on the cutter block may cause the machine to vibrate and it’s always worth double checking the tightness of the mounting bolts before switching on the machine.
Spare blades can be ordered for most machines so if it’s used on a regular basis, it’s always prudent to keep some in stock. Power planers, like their bigger cousins, also generate a lot of waste chippings which means that some sort of collection device is desirable. Many machines can be connected to a vacuum extractor but if one isn’t available, a waste collection bag should be used.
Some machines are supplied with a fence; useful for working on narrow surfaces such as the edge of a door. For some machines though, a fence can be purchased as an additional accessory. Before purchasing a power planer, it’s advisable to check if a fence can be fitted or indeed if one is required for the type of work undertaken.
Should I buy one?
Under the right circumstances, where the project or timber is simply too unwieldy to move comfortably around, the power planer is without doubt the correct tool for the job and it’s use will prove decidedly advantageous. They should, however, be used with caution and only after practice on some waste material as they will remove, quite easily, a vast amount of timber.
Once it’s gone, it can’t be put back!
(...unless you own a Rider Reversa!)