Best planer for rough-sawn lumber?

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Forum topic by StewieSugar posted 10-12-2015 02:47 PM 1131 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 378 days

10-12-2015 02:47 PM

Topic tags/keywords: planer rough-sawn lumber

What planer(s) is best for rough-sawn lumber? Or, what features should I be looking for?

As background, I typically harvest between 500 and 1000 bd ft per year. The wood is typically red oak, sugar maple, or black walnut.

I’ve been using table-top planers with some challenges. At the end of every job, the blades typically need replacement. And, most boards require an extra tug or pull to get them through the first pass or two. After the boards are even thickness, then the table-top planers work well.

I’d like to upgrade to a 15” or 20” stand planer, which I’ll primarily use with rough-sawn lumber. However, I’m not sure what features to look for that are specific to rough-sawn. In particular, what planers can deal with the uneven thicknesses that are common from sawyers?

Suggestions of features to look for or specific planers would be appreciated.

14 replies so far

View FancyShoes's profile


504 posts in 784 days

#1 posted 10-12-2015 03:41 PM

Powermatic model 180! That is a 18” bed. What state are you in?

View Andre's profile


992 posts in 1226 days

#2 posted 10-12-2015 04:37 PM

I usually run rough sawn wood over the jointer to get a flat reference on 2 sides(square) then it goes through the planner for final thickness. Being a small hobby shop I only have a 6” jointer which has a carbide helical head and a general helical head planer. Carbide for rough lumber is the only way to go IMHO!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View StewieSugar's profile


3 posts in 378 days

#3 posted 10-12-2015 04:38 PM

I’m in Minnesota – Southeast corner of the state.

What does the Powermatic 180 have that makes it good for rough sawn?

View AZWoody's profile


680 posts in 644 days

#4 posted 10-12-2015 04:40 PM

I mill my own lumber but usually, for the pieces that are too wide for the jointer, I run through a drum sander to help flatten things out before running through the planer.

If the piece isn’t cupped too bad or flat enough to go direct to planer, I use a Grizzly 20” with a helical head.
I haven’t had any problems with dulling inserts or tearout on some of the more figured pieces.

View splintergroup's profile


723 posts in 642 days

#5 posted 10-12-2015 05:21 PM

The options for large planers are endless and they change year to year. The one requirement you mention that has a definite answer is the knives. Go with carbide. Helical heads are nice for a number of reasons, but at a premium markup. Small carbide inserts that can be rotated for a fresh cutting edge and individually replaced are worth it over a cutter head with traditional knives.

View pintodeluxe's profile


4825 posts in 2233 days

#6 posted 10-12-2015 06:57 PM

Big motor, and helical head are the key features to look for. I like the Shelix heads best.

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

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3841 posts in 1913 days

#7 posted 10-12-2015 07:12 PM

I’ve been watching this thread with interest. I’ve never heard of a planer with features better for rough sawn lumber, and I know at least one mill I frequent just has a 20” General they use…much like the ones a hobbyist would buy, but it is in 3 phase. I always buy rough sawn lumber, and have always just used my 15” Delta which seems to work out fine…I do admit, the variation in thickness does take some attention (sometimes) at least on the first cut. One piece of advice above deserves repeating: the spiral head part. the carbide inserts will save you a lot of aggravation.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View gfadvm's profile


14929 posts in 2110 days

#8 posted 10-13-2015 12:13 AM

I bought a 5HP 18” WoodMaster (used off CL) that I use to plane my rough sawn lumber. It will hog off materiel without complaining but shallow cuts will leave some marks from the serrated metal infeed rollers.

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

View cutmantom's profile


388 posts in 2455 days

#9 posted 10-13-2015 12:42 AM

Adjustable bed rollers will help rough boards feed more easily when set higher than the bed, I believe there is a model where they adjusted with a lever so they can easily be set flush with the bed or set higher for rough work

View unbob's profile


692 posts in 1323 days

#10 posted 10-13-2015 10:09 AM

I found the wood then had to find a planer!
Actually my wife bought a large amount of rough cut western maple, and it is really rough band saw marks.
I found the Powermatic 160-16” in my little picture there. The lever adjust for the bed rollers is really nice for this rough wood. I run it though the planer first with the bed rollers high, then, work it from there-jointer, ect.
The Powermatics are fairly common in my area, mine came out of a school.

View rwe2156's profile


2114 posts in 900 days

#11 posted 10-13-2015 10:10 AM

There is no planer that does better on rough vs. smooth, its more a matter of power I think, although the spiral heads probably effectively increase the power.

My me, if I had the $$ I would have a standard knife planer for roughing and a second helical head planer for surfacing.

+1 on the adjustable bed rollers it helps tremendously to raise them a bit higher than normal.

I skip plane the rough stock, keeping it as thick as possible for as long as possible is a good idea.
The biggest issue after skip planing is getting a flat face without losing too much material, which all depends on how flat the wood is to begin with.

I think a 12” jointer is really a necessity if you’re doing it by machine but unfortunately, expensive.

Since I only have an 8” jointer, after skip planing I have to flatten by hand (haven’t tried the sled technique yet) before sending through the thickness planer.

The 20” Grizzly 3HP has served me well for about 10 years. I’ve never bogged it.
It handles anything you put through it. The trick is light passes and examining your wood before you send it though. ;-)

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View StewieSugar's profile


3 posts in 378 days

#12 posted 10-13-2015 11:13 AM

Thanks, all, for the input!

I like the idea of the adjustable bed rollers. Seems like they’d help reduce how often the boards get stuck during the first pass or two through the planer. Looks like Grizzly has them. It also looks like PowerMatic used to have them, but I could not see if the newer models have them. I’ll watch CL for used units, but options are generally limited in our area.

I also like the idea of using a jointer. Unfortunately, a jointer of adequate width is outside my budget at the moment. Maybe next year?...

The spiral head makes sense. I can only afford one planer, so I’ll go with the carbide spiral head. Question though. Is it practical to spin the blades one direction when rough planing, such that those faces get the brunt of the abuse. Then, spin the blades to get a clean face when doing final planing? Or, is spinning the carbide blades too much work/time when doing the entire head assembly? Changing/spinning the blades looks real easy and quick, but I’ve never done it.

Thanks, again.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3841 posts in 1913 days

#13 posted 10-13-2015 11:21 AM

The are a lot of inserts on a cutter head. You have to remove each one, maybe clean the seat (and the cutter), reinstall it and then (you should) re torque it to the proper spec. Easy enough, but time consuming. I think my 15” Delta has 75 inserts on a Byrd head, and i rotated them for the first time a few weeks ago. It took almost 3 hours, though I wasn’t at all in a hurry to get it done. You don’t have to worry about the wear on the cutters, they are really robust.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Tennessee's profile


2410 posts in 1934 days

#14 posted 10-13-2015 12:04 PM

One interesting sidenote for me…most of the lumber mills I visit use large planers, 3 phase, but with straight blades. I don’t know one that I visit, (3-4), that have a spiral head in the house.

Probably a cost thing, and they can sharpen their own blades in house. Also, I notice that they have them geared so the wood fairly flies through the cutterhead, often leaving cup marks. They then take one final light cut to get rid of the marks.

But for my money, planing rough sawn, I’d be as wide as possible, with spiral cutters, adjustable bed rollers, and steel serrated feed rollers. You can get all this in a 15” Grizzly with a spiralhead cutter like I own, but there are better units out there. Its all a matter of money.

-- Paul, Tennessee,

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