How to Use a Thickness Planer for the Smoothest Results


Learning how to use a thickness planer is a great alternative to purchasing milled wood, which is expensive. Instead, you can purchase rough cut lumber and plane each side, which will turn out smooth, beautiful results. With all the money you’ll save on wood, you can take on more projects each year.

 Learning how to use a thickness planer is simple. Before use, make sure you’ve read the included instructions manual from cover to cover. Choose wood of the appropriate lengths, ideally around 12 to 13 inches. Adjust the settings on the machine to the appropriate thickness level desired. The whole point of using this type of planer is to produce incredibly smooth lumber for your next woodworking project, so choosing rough-cut lumber it’s perfectly fine and can save you hundreds of dollars that would otherwise be spent on costly milled lumber. Remember, the lumber should always be fed from in front of the machine never from behind. Wear safety goggles, a respirator, and ear plugs during use, for protection.

What is it?

Learning how to use this type of planer correctly can allow you to take on more projects since your budget will no longer be an issue considering how much money you can save using rough-cut lumber.

The thickness planer is the perfect tool if you require a large quantity of planed stock and often purchase rough cuts of lumber. With one or two trips through a planer, your lumber will emerge smooth surfaced. Learning how to use a thickness planer can save you hundreds of dollars otherwise spent on milled boards.

man scouring

Like other types of planers, this particular tool utilizes a cutterhead, however, the thickness planer can handle much wider and thicker stock. A large benchtop planer can easily handle 12-inch wide stock, however, some types of free-standing models are able to plane pieces that are 36 inches in width or more. Most smaller 12-inch planers can handle wood that’s up to 6-inches thick while a larger 18-inch model can handle 9-inch thick stock.

Here, I’ll go over how to use this particular planer and include some great tips and tricks that will teach you how to use it more precisely for a smoother result.

How it Works

Beginners often start off by purchasing the best portable table saw, such as the Rockwell RK7240.1, but many beginners don’t realize that using a thickness planer is also essential since it can save hundreds of dollars that you would normally spend on high-priced milled wood.

This type of planer cuts from above instead of below. The lumber is presented to the machine manually, with one face kept against the bed. A couple of rollers are included with one placed at the rear and one at the front. You’ll feed the lumber through the machine using a consistent rate. The cutterhead is located between the rollers with several knives attached. These knives will do the actual planing work with the help of bars that rest on the wood as it moves through the machine.

The first bar is referred to as the chip breaker and it’s what helps to prevent tear-out. The other bar is the pressure bar and it will keep the wood flush to the feed bed. Unlike a jointer planer, this machine comes equipped with the cutterhead contained inside the housing. Additionally, most woodworkers feel that this particular type of planer is much safer to use.


If you’ve tried learning how to use a jointer planer, then the idea of trying to learn how to use another type of planer machine may seem intimidating, but unlike the jointer planer, this machine is relatively easy to use.

The first step to using this type of tool is setting it to suit the wood that’s to be planed. You’ll need to adjust the feed bed to the correct height so that only 1/16 of an inch will be planed in a single pass. Most models will come with a control wheel that can be adjusted so you can precisely set the speed at which the wood will move past the cutterhead. When you set up a new machine make sure that you measure the thickness of the wood at the corners, in addition to the midpoint. Next, you’ll set the machine to surface the wood at 1/16 less than the max thickness.

You’ll lead with the thinnest end of the stock tapers. When the wood is fed into the machine you’ll stand off to one side. The wood should be supported so that the weight doesn’t forcibly push the surface into the cutterhead. Once the machine has planed approximately half of the wood, you’ll move to the other side and support the wood there.

Planing Thin Lumber

For thinner wood, you’ll need to use a type of carrier board which usually involves a piece of plywood that’s around three-quarters of an inch thick. The plywood should be slightly longer than the wood to be trimmed. You can easily compensate for the added ¾ of an inch when you set the height.

Most models will not take wood that’s 12 inches in length. If you have to plane a shorter piece, then make sure you follow the shorter piece with a piece of scrap that’s roughly the same thickness.

How to Choose a Planer


There are many different manufacturers that offer a variety of planers to choose from that are designed for home use only. Many of today’s newest models are easy to use and compact. You can buy one that works on a household current for just a few hundred dollars. These machines can usually handle lumber that’s around 13-inches wide. Models that are handheld are also available however they’re not able to replicate the same type of smooth surface that’s produced by a standalone thickness planer.


These days, most models are compact enough that they can fit in even the smallest workshop. After you choose a new model, make sure you install it near a power supply which will prevent the cord from interfering with your workspace. Obviously, it should be plugged directly into an outlet since extension cords are potential fire hazards when they become overheated. You should ensure that there’s enough space on each side and at the head of the machine for feeding stock, as well as behind it for the outfeed. The base of the planer should be secured to prevent it from tipping or shifting during use.

Material Type

The entire purpose of this type of cleaner is to take a cheap piece of wood and turn it into a fine wooden plank for a beautifully finished woodworking project. Make sure you choose wood that’s at least 14 inches long and around three-quarters of an inch wide. I recommend choosing redwood, which offers a beautiful rich tint and durability, mahogany which offers a darker hue, or cedar, which features beautiful streaks of color.

The Process

When you use this type of planer, it will require many adjustments that will determine the quality of the final product. In order to keep uniform moisture in the wood, it must be planed on each side in order to prevent the wood from warping. Once you fire up the planer make sure you set the depth adjustment crank to the correct thickness setting. Avoid turning the machine on with wood on the feed bed.


As I mentioned earlier, you’ll want to feed the lumber from the front of the machine. Avoid pulling the wood from behind. The height of the board should be kept uniform on both sides of the machine. During use, make sure you wear your protective safety goggles. Investing in a respirator or wearing a safety mask is also necessary due to the sawdust.

Related Questions

Can You Fix Cupped Wood?

Yes. Wood fibers tend to release moisture back into the air if the air is dry, which can shrink the wood back down. Cupping can happen for a variety of reasons and doesn’t necessarily have to do with the quality of the craftsmanship.

How Do You Flatten Warped Plywood?

To flatten warped plywood, all you have to do is spray down the concave areas with hot water. Next, you’ll place the wood outside on a flat surface, such as the driveway. The exposure to the sun and hot air can help to dry out the wood. The last step is placing a large heavy object on top of the wood, which will help to flatten it out quickly.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to use a thickness planer will be exciting for the woodworker on a budget, since this machine will take a rough cut piece of lumber and turn it into furniture-quality, smooth lumber, for a fraction of the price you’ll normally pay for expensive milled wood. These machines are also easier to use than other types of planers, so they’re beginner-friendly to boot.