Why build a planer sled
simple, I don’t have a jointer. While I have had some success edge jointing with the table saw and router, a jointer has been on my wish list for some time to give me face jointing capability. For example, I wish I could have one, I wish I could afford one, and I wish I had room for one.
Given my limited space and need for tool mobility and tool storage in order to park the cars in the garage, I have considered various options on how to get the optimum results in the minimum space. I believe an 8” jointer would provide me with a significant amount of capability, but an 8” jointer would be the largest I could accommodate in my shop provided it is equipped with a mobile base for storage.
Advantages of a Planer Sled
1) Adds capability to my shop while I save up for a jointer.
2) May be more suitable for a small shop where a small 6” jointer for edge jointing and a planer sled for face jointing is more feasible in terms of space.
3) Would also be useful for boards wider than 8” even if I eventually get an 8” jointer.
”Old Trick – New Dog”
As I researched planer sleds on the web, I came across a video with an ingenious approach by Keith Rust based on an article from Fine Woodworking that used the idea of a wedge as an inclined plane to adjust several leveling cleats along the length of the board being planed. Keith used screws for a positive lock between the wedges and the leveling cleats, and used non-skid tape on the top of the leveling cleats and the bottom of the wedges to mitigate slipping. Once I saw how well this sled worked in Keith’s video I knew this was something I had to try for myself.
My Planer Sled
I built the main planer sled base with a torsion box construction using ½” plywood and pine.
The leveling cleats and wedges are made from maple. The inclined plane of the wedge mates with an inclined dado in the cleat to raise and lower the cleat keeping the cleat top surface parallel with the bottom surface of the wedge.
I built a simple jig for the table saw to hold the leveling cleats at the same angle as the wedges so that when I passed the dado blade through the leveling cleats the mating angled surfaces of the wedge and cleat would yield parallel surfaces between the bottom of the wedge and the top of the cleat.
Pictures of simple jig with a wedge to show the angles.
Pictures of how to use the simple jig to cut the inclined dado in the leveling cleat Use dado blade of same thickness as wedges – the pictures taken after dado blade removed.
Simple Modifications / Improvements
I made a few modifications that I felt provided some improvements to the sled design with some additional constraints to help stabilize the board on the sled.
1) I replaced the wood screws that provide positive lock between the wedge and the cleat with 6-32 threaded inserts and 6-32 nylon thumb machine screws. I felt that the thumb screws were easier to torque with one hand, w/o tools, than the wood screws that Keith used. I found that the nylon machine screws provide a very good positive lock with the thread inserts when loaded up against the wedge.
2) I added a pair of cleats at the forward end of the sled to constrain the board from being moved separate from the sled by the planer rollers. While the leveling cleats have non-skid tape these end cleats provide a positive stop in addition to the passive non-skid tape restraint.
3) The last modification I made was to add T-track to two of the leveling cleats. I use the T-track to provide lateral motion support at each end of the board being planed. While these lateral stops reduce the overall width of board that can be planed by 1.25” I can still plane a 10.5” board and I can always choose to maximize the width by not using the lateral supports.
As a note, I marked the sled with the direction of feed and recommend orienting the leveling cleats such that the load from the planer will tend to push the cleats into the wedges rather than off of the wedges as an additional safeguard against inadvertent unloading of the leveling cleats due to potential vibrations during planning.
A Quick Test
I ran a test with a 6/4 4” wide board that was warped severely (it’s what I had for a test piece). I found, just as in Keith’s video, that the set up was only a few minutes and a few passes through the planer and I had flattened one side of the board with success and relative ease. Removing the board from the sled and running it through the planer by itself flattened the other side. I also found that the system maintained the initial setup throughout planning w/o becoming loose or needing re-adjustment. The sled really works well and is an excellent addition to my shop.
The Finished Planer Sled
I built both an 8’ sled and a 4’ sled with 11 leveling cleats. This leaves ~ 8” of unsupported board between the cleats on the 8’ sled but can be much less on the 4’ sled with more cleats per unit length. The unsupported board length is a big draw back of this type of sled, but it should be more than suitable for 4/4 stock or thicker. Also, the sled is very well suited for warped boards, but cupped boards present a different challenge. A cupped board would be placed on the sled concave side up and would require enough cleats to support both edges of the convex side of the board along the length. Now I have to think hard about what size jointer I want vs. what size jointer I really need.
Thanks for viewing. Perhaps this will be helpful to others who are struggling with jointer or “lack of jointer” issues like I am.