How To Use An Electric Planer On A Table Top

Planing the table top with handheld electric planer.

A couple of years back, a friend gifted me with a handheld electric planer to jumpstart my woodworking career. Being a tyro in woodworking at that time, I did not even know how to maximize its use. So, I did my assignment, and after extensive research and a couple of blunders and mishaps, I came to understand the essentials of using the handheld electric plane.

As someone who was once a newbie in woodworking, I would like to provide you the most succinct tips on maximizing your handheld electric planer’s use.

The electric planer may appear to you as an odd-looking machine, yet it does its job well, and it does it much faster and more accurately. It features cutting blades that efficiently shave off the parts of the wood or material you would like to remove. 

Moreover, you can quickly adjust the shaving depth based on the finish you would like to accomplish. You can do it by tinkering on its front knob to adjust its cutting depth. Most electric planers also come with specialized features like the fence that you can easily adjust. Besides, it will help to remember that an electric planer does not cut beyond 1/16 of an inch every pass.

Techniques On Using an Electric Planer on a Table Top

Before you even set your hand on an electric planer, you should read the manual instructions and learn about the safety tips on how to use it. It will help if you have a clear idea of these safety instructions. Once you have understood the safety tips, you can begin tinkering with the electric planer. Moreover, you can check out the following guidelines on how to use an electric planer:

  • First, you should carefully choose with care the materials you will work on using your planer. Ensure that you will use dry wood. If the wood is not yet dry, thoroughly dry them out for several weeks before working on them using your planer.
  • When the wood has already dried out, you should go around it to check for any hidden nails. You can damage your planer’s blades if you fail to see a nail embedded into the wood.
  • Unclog your tabletop of any unnecessary materials. Wipe the top with a clean cloth to remove any dirt. Ensure that you do not add moisture to the wood, so you need to use a dry cloth to wipe the table. Moreover, make sure that the top is clean and free of any debris that may damage your planer’s blades.
  • You should take out your clamps and start securing the table top with clamps. Make sure that the tabletop is stable, secure, and will not move once you begin planing. Likewise, you must make sure you have enough room to move around the table to reach all the sides.
  • Check the blades of the planer if they are sharp. If they are not sharp, make sure that you sharpen them. Dull blades will not help you get the optimum results. So, ensure that your blades are sharp for the task at hand.
  • Take the most stable position or stance when you begin to plane the wood. You do not want to feel off-balance when pushing the plane against the wood surface, for you can damage the planer and the wood if your stance is unsteady. So, take the right posture and ensure that your feet are well-grounded. Keep them apart until you find the best position to get the proper support. It will help if your stance is the most comfortable stance you can sport. This right stance will give your hands enough leverage to support the planer as you push it through.
  • Before working with the planer, ensure that the planer’s heel is running parallel to the material will work on. You should also ensure that the wood is not dipping or moving as you pass the electric planer over it. You can use a straight edge to keep the wood from dipping.

Tips on Handling the Electric Planer

Once you have followed faithfully the tips mentioned above, you can then start working with your planer. Below are some succinct tips on how to handle the planer the right way:

  • So, once you have gotten the right stance and sharpened the blades and positioned the wood correctly, you can then set the planer at the table’s edge. Turn on the planer and begin to shave off the wood. Strip down small amounts of wood at a time. Then, slowly move and try to achieve the finish you want to achieve.
  • Avoid dropping off and nicking the edge with its blade. Be careful as you continue to move the planer across the board’s surface.
  • If you are working on older and reclaimed wood, you should adjust the blade’s depth, depending on the number of twists the wood has. Reclaimed wood usually has irregularities and twists that you need to correct.
  • Ensure that you make proper adjustments to your position as you move the planer along. If you fail to adjust your stance, you may end up with an accident or even hurt yourself. You may also damage the tabletop or your planer if you fail to change your position and the planer’s angle.
  • You can also create decorative beveled edges using the electric planer. However, engaging in such work may require more experience and an advanced level of skills. If you feel confident, however, you can try out this technique.
  • Once you have finished shaving the whole table top, you should turn off the planer and remove it from the table. Place it somewhere in a safe place until the blade stops spinning. You can then finish off the tabletop whatever way you want to finish it off. You can finish off with varnish, or you can paint it or wax it.

Things You Should Be Mindful of

When using handheld planers on a tabletop, you may encounter the following common issues faced by newbies and beginners in woodworking:

Cross-grain Planing Issues

If you were to ask me about cross-grain planing, I would frankly answer that I will never plane a piece of wood across the grain even if I am using a newly sharpened plane. Instead, I will angle the tool at least 45 degrees to avoid serious damage to my blade. 

My point is—it will help if you consider the grain of the wood when using an electric planer. The wood grain may be a factor in the facility of using a planer. So, as a newbie, you should learn about grain orientation and the best way to plane relative to the wood grain.

Runaway Issues

One of the issues you may experience when using an electric planer is the runaway issue. Handheld planers are fantastic tools, and they are powerful. They can simply run away from your grip if you don’t hold them tight, considering their power. So, it will help if you are wary of this issue. 

If you are a beginner, you should also do some workouts in strengthening your arms and forearms. With more muscular forearms, you can prevent this issue from happening. Yet, if you learn how to handle the planer well, you can always avoid this potential issue. 

You should remember that even at a slow speed, if the planer’s blade bites into the wood, you will find it hard to control. So, it will help if you never lose sight of the projection of the blades. Make sure also that you have perfect control of their projection.

So, take it slow and set the planer’s blade to a depth to remove only the smallest amount of wood as possible. This smallest amount is equivalent to 0.1 mm. In this way, you can avoid runaway issues. 

If you observe expert woodworkers, you will notice that they take off the planer at each pass. Of course, this is a good practice. Yet, you may increase the fatigue you will experience if you imitate them because you will extend your arms more often.

Conclusion

Using the electric planer will save you a lot of time and effort in your woodworking projects because it is a powerful tool. Even if you are a muscular woodworker, for example, you can never beat the electric planer in its efficiency. Yet, if you maximize its use, you can double or triple your woodworking outputs.

You can utilize the electric planer for a wide range of applications, and it can hog off a large amount of wood within a short period. You can also expect the results to have smooth finishes. So, if you want to raise your woodworking skills a notch higher, you should shift to the electric planer’s use. 

At the onset, it will help if you begin learning the rudiments of using the electric plane. Then, follow the succinct tips above to improve your planing skills. Eventually, you will produce great workpieces that others would appreciate.

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