Planes are designed for removing shavings of material from lumber when a saw would cut off too much material and sanding would remove too little. A hand plane consists of a razor-sharp cutting blade, or iron, set in a steel or wood base. Adjusting the blade requires some trial and error. After making an adjustment, test the plane on a scrap piece before using it on your workpiece. Usually, the shallower the blade is set, the better the plane cuts.
The blade on a surface-forming rasp can’t be adjusted, but interchangeable blades are available for fine and rough work. Surfaceforming rasp blades have a series of holes stamped in the metal, so shavings seldom become clogged in the tool’s blade. If you plan on planing many large workpieces, consider purchasing a power planer. A power planer does the job more quickly than a hand plane and with equally fine results.
Power Planer Over View
Traditional hand planes are still used by both carpenters and woodworkers, but it takes practice to sharpen, adjust, and use them properly. If you’re not experienced with hand planes, a power planer may be a better choice for your carpentry projects. It’s much easier to set up and operate, and it will generally plane away material more quickly than a hand plane.
Typical power planers have two narrow blades mounted in a cylindrical-shaped cutterhead. The cutterhead spins at high speeds to provide the planing action. Power planer blades are made of carbide, which stays sharp much longer than a conventional steel plane blade. When the blades dull, they do not need to be resharpened. Instead, you simply remove them from the cutterhead and replace. Most power planers have double-edged blades, so you have a second sharp edge to use before it’s necessary to buy new blades.
To use a power planer, set the depth of cut by turning a dial on the front of the tool. This raises the front portion of the planer’s sole to expose the cutters. Limit your cutting depth to not more than 1/8″ on softwood and 1/16″ on hardwoods like oak or maple. If possible, connect the planer to a dust bag or shop vacuum to collect the planer shavings; these tools make considerable debris quickly. Start the planer and slide it slowly along the wood to make the cut, keeping the sole of the tool pressed firmly against the workpiece. Push down on the front of the planer as you begin the cut, then transfer pressure to the rear of the planer as you reach the end of the cut. If you are planing both across the grain and along it, make the cross-grain passes first, then finish up with long-grain passes. This will allow you to plane away any tearout or chipping that occurs on the crossgrain passes.
To change power planer blades, remove the screws and gib bars that hold the blades in place and carefully remove the dull blade. Wear gloves to protect your hands. For double-edged blades, flip the blade to the fresh edge and reinstall. Tighten the gib screws securely.
Turn the planer’s cutting depth dial to set the amount of material you’ll remove with each pass. Limit cutting depth to 1/8″ or less to prevent overloading the motor and to ensure a smooth cut.
Draw layout lines on your workpiece to mark the amount of material you need to plane away. Make repeated passes with the planer until it reaches the layout lines. Keep an eye on your layout lines as you work to make sure the planer removes material evenly.
As you make each pass, apply more hand pressure on the front of the tool to begin, then transfer pressure to the rear as you end the cut. Slide the tool smoothly and slowly so the motor doesn’t labor in the cut