Using a Wood Planer

Hand PlanerThe hand wood planer is basically a wood chisel with a specialized handle enabling a woodworker to precisely control the blade and cut, for the purpose of shaving off thin layers of wood as it travels over a surface. If properly used, it gives a flat smooth surface to a workpiece. Here are a few guidelines for hand planing.

First off, check the position of the level cap, the part on top of the cutting iron which acts as a stiffener. The cap should be offset 1/16 inch from the edge of the cutting iron. The plane-iron assembly needs to be removed from the plane to check this, which can be done by lifting a cam on the lever cap.

If you need to adjust the offset, a screw on the cap is loosened and the cap is slid into the proper position. You should also ensure the plane iron’s cutting edge is sharp and free of nicks and chips. Sharpen the blade if necessary.

After you have reassembled the plane, use the lateral adjustment lever to ensure the cutting edge is perfectly parallel to the bottom of the plane. You should now have a plane that is well set up for use.

Edge Planing

To plane the edge of a piece, follow the steps below.

- Place the workpiece securely in a bench vise or clamp so that it will not move during the planing

- Put the plane’s toe on the edge to be worked on. With one hand on the plane’s front knob and the other hand on the handle, push the plane forward. Use the knob to give downward pressure and then when the handle of the plane passes over the work surface, use it as well for downward pressure.

- As the plane’s front reaches the end of the workpiece, ease off pressure on the knob.

Check the flatness of the planed edge with a straightedge, and mark any high spots with a pencil. Plane the high areas until you achieve flatness according to your straightedge. Squareness of an edge to the adjoining face of a piece can be checked using a try square. A square edge is defined as the edge and the face forming a 90 degree angle.

Hold the try square’s handle against the face and press the blade against the edge; there should be no light showing between the blade and the edge of the workpiece. Mark high spots with a pencil for planing. Producing a squared edge is a repetitive process, methodically checking and planing away small amounts of wood so that you don’t overshoot and remove too much material.

For squaring edges on longer pieces, a longer plane can be used, such as a jointer or jack plane. Also, make plane stokes from each ends of the piece to the middle, rather than one long stroke in the same direction.

Power planers are also available that save time on large projects. These apply pressure for you so the work is not quite so exhausting, and they are just as precise if kept in good condition.

Photo by wilhei55, Creative Commons Attribution License