How to use a portable power planer
As the name suggests, a portable power planer, or electric planer, does the work of a hand planer but does it faster and with far less effort.
A portable power planer is ideal for squaring framing, resurfacing old beams, installing doors and windows, removing saw marks in ripped boards, shaping deck and fence post edges or resurfacing cabinets quickly and easily.
Although electric planers come in a variety of sizes, with the large 6½-inch-wide models able to plane to a depth of ⅛ inch at a single pass, the most popular model is the 3¼-inch-wide portable power planer, which is light enough to be used overhead.
An electric planer has a back shoe that is fixed at the same depth as the cutting blades. The front shoe determines the depth of cut with a depth adjustment knob that adjusts the planing depth from 0 to 3/32 inch in increments of 1/64 inch.
The blades, or knives, on an electric planer must be very sharp if the tool is to work properly. If the planer becomes difficult to push through the cut or wood comes out in chunks instead of shavings, remove the blades and, depending on the model you have, sharpen or replace them. Sharpen or replace both blades.
If the blades on your portable power planer can be sharpened, use a fine stone to restore a fine, continuous edge. The back edge of the blade also needs polishing to remove any lip that may have been left during sharpening process. If the blades are nicked, replace them. Reinstall the blades following the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure they blades are installed securely and the drum plate is tight.
To use the portable power planer
The cut should be made in a single pass. Before you start make sure there is enough cable slack to complete the pass in one continuous motion.
Place the front shoe on the wood, keeping the blade clear of the work surface. Turn the electric planer on and when the motor reaches full speed, slowly bring the planer into contact with the wood and begin to move it forward with a steady pressure.
As you work with the portable power planer more, you’ll become adept at balancing your hand pressure between the handle and the front knob to maintain a smooth cut. At the end of the pass, apply more pressure at the back to avoid dipping the tool and cupping the surface before the blades clear the work. Also be careful not to let the front shoe drop off the end of the wood which can leave an uneven bite on the edge.
Portable power planer options
If you are purchasing an electric planer, compare options. Some models of portable power planers have a kickstand that allows you to place the planer on a surface without resting it on the blades or body of the planer. An edge/rabbet guide will allow you to plane edges and make rabbet cuts. A dust ejection feature that adjusts to exhaust to the left or right and a dust bag will help keep your work area free of dust and debris.
—By Steve Sturgess, stevesturgess.com