planing to desired thickness

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Forum topic by JBahou posted 04-16-2010 10:30 PM 1626 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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15 posts in 2972 days

04-16-2010 10:30 PM

Topic tags/keywords: planer sander question

I’m very new to woodworking and was curious how people achieve the desired thickness when planing. Do you use the planer to get there or plane until you’re within 1/8” – 1/4” or so and then sand or move to a hand plane? I’m assuming whatever the project it is you want spot on accuracy.

I ask so that I can learn better techniques with the project I’m working on (jewelry box).


-- Jack †

9 replies so far

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3768 days

#1 posted 04-16-2010 10:36 PM

just plane down to the thickness you want. a planer will give you good accuracy. a drum sander give you the best accuracy but you can’t beat the speed of a plane. I hand plane so for me I’m more or less just taking the mill marks out so it won’t change the thickness too much at all. with sand paper it really shouldn’t change the thickness too much either.

View Michael Murphy's profile

Michael Murphy

453 posts in 3005 days

#2 posted 04-16-2010 10:37 PM

Depending on wood figure and your planer, meaning if the planer is making the board smooth and not producing alot of tearout, then you can get real close to the desired thickness, leaving a little for sanding.

Flatten your stock on the jointer, then make it uniform thickness by planing.

-- Michael Murphy, Woodland, CA.

View Brian024's profile


358 posts in 3400 days

#3 posted 04-16-2010 10:51 PM

Always plane to desired thickness, I sand on every project but its not enough to make any impact on the thickness. Like Mike said, use a jointer to flatten 1 face and then use the planer to make the other face parallel to that face. Instead of using the jointer first you can make a sled to hold the board and use that to flatten the face. Or you can use hand planes as Dennis said, which is a skill in itself.

View Dustin's profile


392 posts in 3450 days

#4 posted 04-17-2010 12:29 AM

Michael is right, it completely depends on what you are working with. Does this board contain knots or other grain changes that would cause tear out while being planed? If so, then try sanding it down the last 1/16 or so on a drum sander or wide belt. You should use a planer to remove large amounts of waste but you’ll always end up sanding it down afterward.

Teenagewoodworker, don’t think about it in terms of accuracy. A thickness sander and a planer have two entirely different jobs. A planer is used to remove bulk material and get close to a desired thickness or if it is to be some kind of dimensional then you can go right to the desired thickness. A thickness sander is used next to get rid of tearout and bring the piece the rest of the way down to it’s desired thickness. Then you can start sanding with a ROS or whatever you use. Three steps here. Wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t use all three.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3074 days

#5 posted 04-17-2010 12:38 AM

Always plane to the desired thickness. Also, I never take more than 1/32” inch off in any single pass – less than that with really wide boards.

I have installed the Wixey digital thickness guage on my planer. I like it but it certainly is not a necessary option. It’s a “nice to have” not a “have to have”.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3480 days

#6 posted 04-17-2010 03:24 AM

I would plane to the desired thickness too. Like Rich said limit how much the planer is taking off with each pass. I also like to run the planer at the higher speed since it leaves a smoother surface.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View JBahou's profile


15 posts in 2972 days

#7 posted 04-17-2010 03:02 PM

Rich: Does how much you take off have any correlation to the hardness of stock?

SnowyRiver: How does the speed affect chip out/tear out on softer/harder stock if at all?

Am I using correct terminology here stock=wood?

Thanks so much everyone, this is really helping me out a lot!

-- Jack †

View Bobby's profile


108 posts in 3052 days

#8 posted 04-17-2010 03:23 PM

I always plane to desired thickness. My DW 734 has a stop wheel that stops at 3/4, 1/2 and 1/4… and it is spot on. you have to remember… I like to have things as simple as possible… lol


View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 3768 days

#9 posted 04-17-2010 03:48 PM

Dustin – yeah a planer is used to remove the bulk but at the same time a drum sander is often used for dimensioning (36 grit on a big sander flies through wood) but it is much more precise. that’s because at the end with 180 grit you’re taking off a very very small cut so it is easy to dial in the thickness… also planers have very strong rollers which bring the wood across the blade and often if your wood isn’t perfectly flat to begin with it will be mushed down and planed to a consistent thickness along the bow. with a drum sander where the belt caries the piece of wood there is no need for the rollers to be as strong and they just hold down the wood. so if the wood is slightly bowed the sander will sand it flatter than it was before. if you have small pieces you can also shim them and use the sander as a jointer. with a planer you can do it but it takes a lot more shims and a lot more fuss.

that being said I wouldn’t want to have to mill a piece of wood from 1” to 1/2” on a drum sander. a planer would do it much faster and I would go for a planer first but if you could I would go for the drum sander as well because the accuracy is unbeatable.

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