Milling lumber square with just a benchtop planer and router?

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Forum topic by ryanjg117 posted 05-21-2015 11:00 AM 4597 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 2557 days

05-21-2015 11:00 AM

Topic tags/keywords: milling lumber square

I have a small garage shop and am wondering if it’s possible to mill perfectly square wood with just a benchtop planer (like a Dewalt DW735X) and my router table for edge jointing? For my router, I have a fence that will accurately offset for good, glue-ready edge joining.

I ask this because I’ve always been taught to plane the bottom face first on the jointer, then use that flat edge against the fence to joint, then take it to the thickness planer for the other face, then to the table saw for the parallel cut on the opposite side.

I would assume the answer is NO because the thickness planer is using the reference opposite (potentially not flat) face to plane the top…

Wondering if there is any way to get around this in a small garage shop, rather than additional sanding at the end. :)


23 replies so far

View jdh122's profile


1281 posts in 4272 days

#1 posted 05-21-2015 11:17 AM

Your best bet would be to make a sled for your planer. Check out

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View camps764's profile


867 posts in 3814 days

#2 posted 05-21-2015 11:32 AM

Jdh is on the money – before getting a jointer I used that planer sled. It was a bit finicky but did the trick, and was a fun little build.

-- Steve

View AZWoody's profile


1478 posts in 2678 days

#3 posted 05-21-2015 03:58 PM

You can also make a sled for your router, which would flatten one side and can be made to flatten boards and glue-ups wider than your planer.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6542 posts in 4268 days

#4 posted 05-21-2015 04:45 PM

Ultimately you will want to get a jointer. If you only have a few projects, then the planer sled may work. I find planer sleds are a pain to use. Also, you would rely on a tablesaw straight line ripping jig to get one straight edge.
A good jointer makes life so much easier.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 4144 days

#5 posted 05-22-2015 12:49 AM

I agree with the need for a jointer but you will still need your planer sled to face joint stock that is a lot wider than your jointer.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Goodsh's profile


93 posts in 3374 days

#6 posted 05-22-2015 02:36 AM

For what it’s worth you don’t need anything so fancy as the FWW version. I just had two 11 inch wide 4’ long 3/4 MDF prices glued together for 1.5 inch thickness and then used a hot glue gun to glue the board I was flattening to the sled to run the whole thing through. I used a jack plane for edge jointing. Even on four foot boards it worked fine. The sled was really heavy and a pain to use (which resulted in me getting a jointer fairly fast) but it worked fine and got the job done. I think the 1.5 inches probably was overkill.

View Jake's profile


850 posts in 3085 days

#7 posted 05-22-2015 06:13 AM

You will be fine without a jointer if you don’t have the space. A planer is much more versatile tool and it takes up less space.

Now to be sure, without a jointer you will spend more time prepping stock, but you will be perfectly fine without one. A decent jack plane or no 7 or 8 will do just fine getting glue ready joints after some practice and with a planer sled you can easily flatten one side.

I work without a jointer and a planer, (I rent a planer when I need one, also because of space) and i manage just fine, you just have to be more careful.

-- Measure twice, cut once, cut again for good measure.

View ryanjg117's profile


9 posts in 2557 days

#8 posted 05-22-2015 06:30 AM

Thanks all. I’ve read up on the router jigs for planing, but didn’t know about the “support” jigs for the surface planer… Makes sense and looks easy to make.

I’m really limited on space (literally just a one-car garage shop right now), but I’ve been able to get by just fine with a tracksaw that creates almost-glue-ready edges. With the addition of the router table and fence, I’m hoping I have a good solution for edge jointing. Trying to get almost all of my bases covered with the least amount of tools possible (that’s why I love the router).

Looks like the benchtop planer will be my next purchase.

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 5216 days

#9 posted 05-22-2015 12:41 PM

Perhaps I use the traditional method. Most of my stock is WoodMizer sawn boards, air dryed.

After cutting my boards to “rough” length, I prep one surface using a hand plane and winding sticks. This easily identifies any twist and shows where I need to plane. I start the winding sticks at the ends of the board and then work my way toward the center. I don’t need to completely hand plane the surface in order to obtain a flat enough surface for my power planer. This method doesn’t take a lot of effort, works really well, and is not as time consuming as most would think.

I started with a #5 hand plane, and now have a #6 with a curved blade per Chris Schwarz’s instructions.

By-the-way, my shop in Gainesville is only 194 sq. ft. A 6” or 8” jointer is out of the question. Once you start using a hand plane you’ll find yourself using it for a lot of other purposes as well.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View SirIrb's profile


1239 posts in 2685 days

#10 posted 05-22-2015 12:49 PM

Without waxing philosophically and understanding that I am a design engineer, what do you mean “perfectly square”? I deal daily in +/- .010. So I would say, how close to square do you need to be understanding you are referring to an organic medium like wood that will become imperfect as soon as the humidity changes assuming you can get it perfect to begin with.

What is your acceptable tolerance? +/- .015 and .25 degrees?

I would say if that is your tol then you are good. But that isnt perfect. I have to keep this in mind at work. Though I work within 10 thou, guys in medical design are at 1 thou or less.

Figure out your tol, shoot to tweak your tools then see if you can get repeatability.

-- Don't blame me, I voted for no one.

View dschlic1's profile


517 posts in 3424 days

#11 posted 05-22-2015 05:05 PM

I second (or third) the use of a planer sled. Mine is even simpler. I bought a melamine shelf at Home Depot 12” wide and 48” long. I attach the board to be flattened using hot melt glue. I place masking tape of the melamine before the hot glue as I found that the glue will remove the melamine!

You can also use the table saw to joint or straighten on edge. Do a search for straight edging jigs. As an alternative, purchase a long inexpensive straight edge/ruler. Attach to one side of the board using carpet tape, then rip the board on the table saw with the straight edge against the rip fence. If you have the saw blade set square to the table top, then the cut edge should also be square to the bottom face.

View bonesbr549's profile


1589 posts in 4521 days

#12 posted 05-22-2015 05:54 PM

A lot of good feedback, but I’ll add m2cw. As others have mentioned a sled would be nice, but you will need to have a sled long enough for every board you do and longer boards will be an issue.

If you don’t have a power jointer, then the old fashioned #7 or #8 hand plane will get the job done quite nicely. I had a delta 6” jointer that was such a POS, that I could not even use it. So, I got a scrub plane & #7 and watched rob Cosmons rough to ready, and did many a project with out ear plugs at all. I it was quite nice too. I’ll admit that since I bought the 12” jointer, I like that a little better, but hey I’m an old man.

Never underestimate the power of a hand plane and winding sticks to get it just right.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View bbasiaga's profile


1259 posts in 3449 days

#13 posted 05-22-2015 05:56 PM

The router sled method is good for planing end grain, like cutting boards. I just recently made a melamine sled to joint a 9” wide board with my planer. Worked well, though I had to make it 72” long, and the melamine itself was not totally flat over that distance. It still worked, I just had to shim a few extra places.

If you have a heat gun, it will hep you get the glue off. It sticks to the melamine pretty well!


-- Part of engineering is to know when to put your calculator down and pick up your tools.

View nashley's profile


46 posts in 2733 days

#14 posted 05-22-2015 06:05 PM

I agree with 8iowa. I’ve had great success flattening one face with my hand planes and moving to the benchtop planer and flattening the opposite face. If one edge is decently straight I’ll then use a hand plane to straighten that edge. If I’m working with a live edge it can be straightened with the bandsaw, jigsaw, circular saw, etc. and then use the hand plane to finish straightening the edge. I can then use the straightened edge along the fence of the table saw to straighten the opposite edge. I haven’t had a need for a planer sled…yet.

-- Nathan

View HerbC's profile


1822 posts in 4314 days

#15 posted 05-22-2015 06:29 PM

The router sled method is good for planing end grain, like cutting boards. I just recently made a melamine sled to joint a 9” wide board with my planer. Worked well, though I had to make it 72” long, and the melamine itself was not totally flat over that distance. It still worked, I just had to shim a few extra places.

If you have a heat gun, it will hep you get the glue off. It sticks to the melamine pretty well!


- bbasiaga

I would not recommend running end grain, such as cutting boards, through a planer. You are asking for major problems if you do that regularly, even with a sled.

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

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