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View Pyro's profile

How important is a thickness planer?

by Pyro
posted 01-24-2018 02:57 AM


36 replies so far

View Loren's profile

Loren

10477 posts in 4007 days


#1 posted 01-24-2018 03:12 AM

Having a planer considerably simplifies and
saves labor in building furniture finer than
stuff like adirondack chairs and picnic tables.

View fuigb's profile

fuigb

558 posts in 3317 days


#2 posted 01-24-2018 03:44 AM

You’re a beginner? Don’t bother with a planer or anyother signature tool until your (1) have an epiphany (“cripes, my life would soooo much easier if I had an X”) and (2) you money that won’t be missed for other things.

I went 19 years without a planer and made plenty of fine-looking and functional items for the home, basement, garage, and yard: loft beds, end tables, shelves, more shelves, etc. I was damned persistent when I needed to be and bought high-end lumber when my skills and meagre collection were not up to the task. I only bought my first powered planer when Sears put a Dewalt on sale after Thanksgiving. Two montha later i got a big bonus at work, treated myself to a Rigid jointer and only then stepped up my furniture-making game.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View johnstoneb's profile

johnstoneb

3100 posts in 2532 days


#3 posted 01-24-2018 03:46 AM

Only you can decide when a tool becomes necessary to your wood working.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View YesHaveSome's profile

YesHaveSome

154 posts in 618 days


#4 posted 01-24-2018 03:55 AM

I couldn’t wait to get a planer when I started for a couple of reasons 1) I don’t have the patience for hand tools and 2) I didn’t want to buy s4s lumber because it was either pine or poplar or whatever you could get at your local home center or it was crazy expensive for species like walnut, maple, exotics, etc.

More than anything, I am lazy and impatient and if I have to spend too long on one step I’ll get bored.

So if you’re anything like me, I’d put a planer near the top of your list.

-- But where does the meat go?

View John_'s profile

John_

197 posts in 2065 days


#5 posted 01-24-2018 03:59 AM

How easy/expensive is it for you to get hardwood lumber that is surfaced on all four sides (S4S)

It would have been a lot easier to build your workbench out of Poplar, Doug Fir or some other hardwood – but your going to pay more for it. Factor in the cost of the planer, probably a dedicated electrical circuit and some type of dust extractor to help keep the wood chips from getting embedded in your newly planed lumber

For me, the biggest advantage of having a planer was consistency. When you ran a bunch of lumber through all the pieces should be consistent in thickness

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

5233 posts in 2668 days


#6 posted 01-24-2018 04:12 AM

Why would you not want one? Jointer and planer right after tables saw for me.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View robscastle's profile

robscastle

6011 posts in 2563 days


#7 posted 01-24-2018 04:22 AM

How do you think I went from rough sawn timber to this

Here is the Blog

-- Regards Rob

View ppg677's profile

ppg677

213 posts in 1215 days


#8 posted 01-24-2018 04:23 AM

Table saw, planer, router, and hand tools can go a long long way.

View ColonelTravis's profile

ColonelTravis

1976 posts in 2253 days


#9 posted 01-24-2018 04:25 AM

I do all my dimensioning by hand, except roughing out board thickness with a bandsaw every now and then. Do I need one? No. Do I want one? Maybe. Probably going to get one down the road. But because I know of no other way than with hand tools, and I don’t do this for a living, and I enjoy/respect the perseverance (lunacy) needed to do woodworking by hand, it doesn’t bother me enough yet to not have one. But I have to admit that, the more I do, I am bothered a little by not having one.

View Rich's profile

Rich

4392 posts in 948 days


#10 posted 01-24-2018 04:34 AM


Why would you not want one? Jointer and planer right after tables saw for me.

- AlaskaGuy

+1. I use all three on every board I mill.

-- Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill. -- Shinichi Suzuki

View Andre's profile

Andre

2570 posts in 2165 days


#11 posted 01-24-2018 07:08 AM

Krenov said it best, I’d would rather spend my time working with the wood than preparing it to be worked with.
Or something along that thought train?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View knotscott's profile

knotscott

8277 posts in 3735 days


#12 posted 01-24-2018 10:32 AM

For getting flat straight square lumber, a planer and a jointer in tandem are the best tools for the job IMO. Planer first because it can be coaxed into flattening with the help of a planer sled, and there are work arounds for edge jointing on the TS or with a router instead of a jointer.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View pontic's profile

pontic

690 posts in 968 days


#13 posted 01-24-2018 11:13 AM

Consider one of the combo machines if cost and space is a problem. I used a Makita 2030N for twenty years before I moved to a larger space.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View becikeja's profile

becikeja

988 posts in 3172 days


#14 posted 01-24-2018 12:54 PM

Not sure what you currently have in your shop. I went years without a planer. Ran into an opportunity to buy a truck load of Mahogany at $1 a board foot that was in rough shape. It was then time to buy a planer and turn the load into clean lumber.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View gargey's profile

gargey

1013 posts in 1135 days


#15 posted 01-24-2018 02:03 PM

When I got a planer, I was super happy that I got a planer.

I don’t have a table saw, bandsaw, jointer, drill press, etc. I don’t mind doing almost all things by hand.

BUT, if you wanna make something out of 0.5” boards and you buy 4/4 rough, it sure as hell makes life easier (vs miserable).

Buying S4S doesn’t solve everything – most places will only stock 3/4”

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5367 posts in 2710 days


#16 posted 01-24-2018 02:21 PM

It depends on what you want to build. Without a planer you are pretty dependent on the big box stores S4S lumber which is way over priced compared to rough hardwood at your lumber dealer. A lot of species of wood are just not available in S4S. Some projects call for thinner stock than the standard 3/4”, like drawer sides, tough to do with out a way to thickness it. Things like cutting boards that are glued up from multiple strips of wood can be easily and quickly leveled in a planer. When I began wood working it was my second purchase after the table saw.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View JayT's profile

JayT

6158 posts in 2570 days


#17 posted 01-24-2018 02:39 PM

I use mostly hand tools and a planer is one of the few pieces of machinery in the shop. I can and have dimensioned lumber by hand, it’s much nicer using a planer.

-- In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Carloz's profile

Carloz

1147 posts in 951 days


#18 posted 01-24-2018 03:05 PM

A planer will not make your 2×4s perfectly flat and even. It simply will make it the same thickness ( which they already are). For a project like workbench you can easily go without planer.
If you need to reasaw or just plane down lumber to another thickness the planer is of a big help but usually this rarely happens for most projects.
I do have a planer and use it here and there simply because I have it. Could leave without it.


Hi guys,

I just framed out my workbench. Used KD 2×4 s. Couldn t help but notice how much easier it would have been if all that 2x was perfectly flat and even, especially for a beginner like me. So I wonder if I should move the planer higher up on my list of tools to buy? What do you guys think it belongs in terms of importance? Thanks.

- Pyro


View Pyro's profile

Pyro

58 posts in 520 days


#19 posted 01-24-2018 03:53 PM

Thanks for all the feedback guys. This gives me a lot to chew on.

Carloz – Thanks for your response. One of the problems I was having with my 2x was when squaring up my project. I’d go to use the framing square and just couldn’t seem to get square until I realized the square was wobbling on a piece of lumber that should be flat. Had it been easy to remove the piece (I couldn’t), I guess I would have just taken it to the table saw and taken off a 16th or so. Then that got me thinking that working with a piece a bit thinner could mess a project up if you either didn’t remain aware of it or your project relied on that piece being the same thickness as other pieces. That got me onto the planer.

Would a planer help with these kinds of problems? Is there a better or simpler way? Shop space and money are always concerns but I’d still like to know what you veterans have to say. Thanks!

View Bill_Steele's profile

Bill_Steele

505 posts in 2091 days


#20 posted 01-24-2018 04:20 PM

I would get a planer when you can afford it. I have a DeWalt DW733 and if I were in the market for a new thickness planer I would probably get the DW735. I’ve found my planer to be a useful tool that is part of almost every project I make that incorporates solid wood (not needed for sheet goods like plywood or MDF).

I think the planer was the 3rd powered tool I bought—behind my table saw and drill press.

I’m self taught (and still learning) with regard to woodworking. I more or less started with power tools (e.g. circular saw). Sometimes I wish that I had started solely with hand tools and worked up to power tools. I think power tools evolved from hand tools out of a need to speed up production.

I find it difficult, often frustrating, and time consuming to get good, consistent results using only hand tools. I have respect and admiration for those that use hand tools primarily or can get good results using hand tools (e.g. getting square stock with hand saws and hand planes).

As others have stated, a planer by itself won’t get your stock straight and square. This tool when used in conjunction with a properly setup jointer and table saw can enable you to square up stock relatively quickly—compared to using hand tools. Another advantage of using machines is that you can get identical results for multiple pieces of wood when you process them at the same time and with the same machine setup. When you are able to create exact copies of components—then I think the quality of the end product improves.

View OSU55's profile

OSU55

2242 posts in 2349 days


#21 posted 01-24-2018 04:26 PM

Depends on what you plan to do ww wise. I built “standard workbenches” and other shop and yard grade cabinets and shelves etc without a TS, planer, jointer, hand planes, chisels, etc. when I decided to build in-house, nice furniture, a TS and planer were tied for 1st so I could use any species or grade of lumber. I already had a router, but a router table was added. Its also when I decided to use hand planes for flattening glue ups and jointing ( vs a powered jointer), and hand planes and scrapers have replaced my ros’.

Just depends on what you plan to build and how much time and energy you want to use up ( hand tools vs powered). Personally Im not going to expend time and energy on dimensioning by hand. My hand tools are used as a complement to the powered tools – sometimes HT are easier/better sometimes not. I do dovetails and m&t joints both and combined hand tool and powered.

View jimintx's profile

jimintx

913 posts in 1944 days


#22 posted 01-24-2018 04:56 PM

To answer the original inquiry: I’d tell you to get the planer and enjoy the results.
If you had asked, “Can I live without it?”, then I would say “Yes, you can.”

Otherwise, I am intrigued by the comment below. There is nothing at a hardwood lumber store in Houston that is cheaper than the regular dimensional (S4S) pine from my local big box stores. I wish I could personally shop for assorted species of wood supplies in the area where rough hardwood was available for lower prices. I do think however, that the option of using a planer on either type of wood is highly desirable.


...Without a planer you are pretty dependent on the big box stores S4S lumber which is way over priced compared to rough hardwood at your lumber dealer. ...

- bondogaposis

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View dhazelton's profile

dhazelton

2837 posts in 2656 days


#23 posted 01-24-2018 05:27 PM

Yes, you can spend $500 on a tool to make $1.98 lumber a little nicer to work with….or you could just buy better lumber.

I’d think about the stuff you want to do in the future and if you think a planer will make your pieces better or the process easier then do it.

View dschlic1's profile

dschlic1

450 posts in 2329 days


#24 posted 01-24-2018 06:05 PM

Try searching your local Craigslist. You can probably find a thickness planer for under $200. I picked up a DW735 for $300.

View ArtMann's profile

ArtMann

1365 posts in 1175 days


#25 posted 01-24-2018 06:42 PM

Unless you are determined to do everything with hand tools, a planer will probably become essential if you continue in your hobby. Just as an example related to your original post, I use a lot of 2 X 4 and 2 X 6 Southern Yellow pine for shop projects and jigs. I buy it 2 or 3 months ahead of time in the summer and dry it in the hot unvented loft of my shop. When I am ready to use it, I machine it down on all sides by 1/16 – 1/8 and it is usually very stable after that. Normally, dimensional lumber is not straight, flat, smooth or dry enough for projects that require any kind of accuracy. There is also the problem of radius edges that my method eliminates.

I suppose I need to add that a jointer is also part of the methodology.

View LesB's profile

LesB

2075 posts in 3802 days


#26 posted 01-24-2018 06:55 PM

You did not indicate what sort of planer you might be looking at.
I got by for several years with a 12” table top planer and it worked well. I finally upgrades to a 15” stand alone and could not be happier.
For the most part I justified my tool purchases according to the projects I worked on.

-- Les B, Oregon

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5432 posts in 3603 days


#27 posted 01-24-2018 07:11 PM

I lived for many years without a planer. I finally bought a “lunchbox” planer about 20 years ago, and it has served me well, considering it’s size (12” wide). I don’t use it all that much, but when I do use it, it’s because it is the best way to plane a piece of wood. Take for example that I want to reduce the thickness of a 4×4. My table saw can’t do it in one pass; it has to be flipped and run through the saw a 2nd time. Needless to say, the cuts will not meet without a slight difference of depth. The planer is the obvious answer.

The only thing I don’t like about planers and jointers is the need to keep knives sharp and properly aligned. It takes a lot of time to remove and replace knives plus sharpening time. Once a knife gets nicked, you can say goodbye to further use. Every piece of wood that goes through that planer will be defaced by that nick. That is off course if you are using the full width of the planer. You may still pass smaller width pieces through by avoiding the nicked area.

View clin's profile

clin

1025 posts in 1355 days


#28 posted 01-24-2018 10:15 PM

Having a planer opens up new ways to work with wood (aside from using hand planes). You can start working with rough lumber, turning it into surfaced stock. Opens op a lot more options than only working with surfaced boards. I get by using a planer sled rather than a jointer.

It’s also oddly satisfying to take large rough stock, rip and plane it into nice smooth boards.

Bottom line for me, is once I got one, I have used it much more than I expected.

-- Clin

View MrUnix's profile (online now)

MrUnix

7358 posts in 2558 days


#29 posted 01-24-2018 10:27 PM

The only thing I don t like about planers and jointers is the need to keep knives sharp and properly aligned. It takes a lot of time to remove and replace knives plus sharpening time. Once a knife gets nicked, you can say goodbye to further use. Every piece of wood that goes through that planer will be defaced by that nick. That is off course if you are using the full width of the planer. You may still pass smaller width pieces through by avoiding the nicked area.
- MrRon

Not all jointers/planers are created equal :)

Some can be a PITA to set/replace knives, some have indexed knives that are fairly easy to replace, and others are dirt simple and just require a couple of hardwood blocks and 10 seconds of your time.

Also, if you do get a nick in a knife, you can shift one or more over slightly and eliminate the ridge it creates. Of course, you can only do that so many times before you are fubar and will need to either replace or sharpen the knives. If you get one that has standard knives, they can be sharpened over and over again until they are just plain too short to use. Many of the newer lunchbox planers used indexed knives that are more or less considered disposable, which will increase long term operational costs. Just stuff to keep in mind.

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5367 posts in 2710 days


#30 posted 01-24-2018 10:40 PM

Otherwise, I am intrigued by the comment below. There is nothing at a hardwood lumber store in Houston that is cheaper than the regular dimensional (S4S) pine from my local big box stores.

To clarify jimintx, You’re right there is nothing cheaper than the #2 pine at the big box store, but if you compare red oak at HD prices to red oak prices at the lumber yard, you are going to see a big price difference. My local HD sells 1×6” red oak for $4.50 a lineal foot, that comes out to $9/bf where as at my hardwood dealer sells it for $3.75/bf. That is a huge difference that will really pay for a planer in a short time. No doubt there are great price variations through out the country, if you do your homework, it can open your eyes.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View jimintx's profile

jimintx

913 posts in 1944 days


#31 posted 01-24-2018 10:44 PM

I gotcha, Bondo. I was not thinking about finding oak or maple or other more exotic hardwoods at Home Depot. Going to a real hardwood store is way better.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View Sawdust4Blood's profile

Sawdust4Blood

408 posts in 3381 days


#32 posted 01-24-2018 11:10 PM

My planer paid for itself faster than any other tool I own. What it saved me on lumber costs more than made up for what I paid for it in less than a year.

Whether you do it by hand, pay someone else to do it for you, or buy your own planer and joiner, good results begin with stock that is flat, square, and uniform thickness. I’m too impatient to do it by hand and you really don’t have to do a lot before buying your own joiner & planer becomes cheaper than paying for S4S.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View Airbusguy's profile

Airbusguy

8 posts in 480 days


#33 posted 01-27-2018 12:57 AM

I cant imagine doing any fine woodworking without a planer. Like most machines, the more it costs, the more it will make your life easier.

View robscastle's profile

robscastle

6011 posts in 2563 days


#34 posted 01-27-2018 02:38 AM

Hey Pyro

I have a free planer for you!

Keep and eye on Carlos he has one and is going to leave without it, simply a matter of dropping by and picking it up!

-- Regards Rob

View dalepage's profile

dalepage

385 posts in 1200 days


#35 posted 01-27-2018 03:11 AM

You can buy a bench planer that does a fine job.

I cannot imagine not having a thickness planer. If you buy only s4s lumber, you’re going to be limited with what you can do versus buying roughsawn lumber in enough BF to get a better price. Plus, a lot of good wood cannot be bought planed.

Get a planer.

-- Dale

View IantheTinker's profile

IantheTinker

282 posts in 486 days


#36 posted 01-27-2018 03:12 AM

I wish I had put a planer higher up on my list, then I might have one right now, lol. I come across so many boards, because I like to use free lumber, that I would have loved to have a planer for. I have tried electric hand jointers, hand planes, and sanding in order to try to get boards flat and better usable. A planer would have been so much easier, and saved me a lot of time.

Obviously, my suggestion is to move it up on your list.

-- opiningminnesotan.com

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