What is it?
A thickness planer is a power driven machine that shaves off wood in small incremental layers. It allows the user to mill lumber to custom sizes which is critical for fine wood working like building furniture or cabinets.
How does it work?
Typically, the thickness planer has a rotating cylindrical cutting head that contains from 2-3 dual sided removable blades. The blades rotate at a high RPM and shave off layers to flatten the sides and cut the lumber down to the desired thickness.
Most bench top portable thickness planers plug into a standard (120v) wall outlet. The motor not only drives the blades but also the feed rollers, usually at 16-26 feet per minute. The in-feed roller usually has ribs to pull the lumber into the planer and the out-feed is often smooth in order to no leave imprints on the finished board.
The blade head moves up and down to adjust to your desired thickness. Most have depth gauges, but varying accuracy occurs with different machines.
What to look for?
Most of these tools have a 12-13 "capacity for width and a height of six to seven inches. They do tend to be heavy as far as portable tools go- they range from approximately 60-90 lbs. feed rollers and the blades, you will want to find something in the 2-3hp range.
How do you use a thickness planer?
Well, you should always consult your operating manual provided to you by the manufacturer, however here is the basic premium. This is a power tool, but you probably should not try to take off more than an 1/8 of an inch layer of material at any one time. In fact you probably should start with consider ably less! If you try to take off too much at one time, you can at minimum get a rough surface and at worst damage your blades, machine or injure yourself or another bystander. Keep your cuts shallow.
Different woods will react in different ways. Feed rate can affect the finished product as well. Generally soft woods will need to pass through at a higher rate than the hardwoods to prevent material teasing out of your stock.
What else do you need?
Dust control is incredibly important with a tool like the thickness planer. A simple shop vac hooked up to the tool may be sufficient (depending on the tool and the vacuum). Not only will it save you from being up to your armpits in wood shavings, but it helps to prevent build up of residue and save you time from having to clear away shavings so often. Keeping the machine clean will also prevent damage to your cutting blades and less than desirable finished surfaces created by stray shavings.
Source by Chris Van Oosten