What’s a thickness planer?

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A planer and thicknesser is a woodworking tool that produces flat and equally thick boards. It has a height-adjustable table, cutting head, infeed and outfeed rollers. A surface planer is used for larger panels and has a cylindrical cutting head. It works best on flat boards and can be dangerous if not used properly.

A planer and thicknesser is a woodworking power tool designed to produce boards of constant thickness and perfectly flat surfaces. It is a table-top instrument, which means that it is a non-portable, floor-mounted device with a working mechanism mounted on an adjustable flat work surface or table. The planer and thicknesser are made up of four basic components: a height-adjustable table, a cutting head perfectly perpendicular to the table, a set of infeed rollers and a set of outfeed rollers. The machine works by automatically feeding the table through the table, thus cutting a nominal amount of material as it passes the cutting head. If required, the panel is then turned over and the process repeated resulting in a product that is flat and of equal thickness over its entire surface.

Joinery and cabinet-making projects often require a machine capable of cutting large panels to various thicknesses, capable of producing those thicknesses equally across the board and resulting in perfectly flat surfaces. The surface and thickness planer, often called a surface planer, is such a machine. This machine is equipped with a large cylindrical cutting head equipped with two or more longitudinal cutting blades. The cutting head is positioned above and perfectly perpendicular to a flat work surface which can be adjusted in height to accommodate various thicknesses of finished board. Two sets of rollers, one in and one out, at either end of the table automatically feed the carton through the table and under the cutting head.

As the cardboard passes under the cutting head, a certain amount of material is cut across its entire surface by the cutting head. Due to the flat surface of the table, the perpendicular orientation of the cutter, and the pressure from the cutter, the cardboard is held flat during the cutting pass. Once the cut is complete, the panel can be turned over and passed through the planer and thicknesser to cut the opposite side if required. This produces a board that is exactly the same thickness across its face with perfectly flat surfaces.

The planer and thicknesser works best if one side of the board is relatively flat and even to begin with. This will generally allow you to complete the board in one step. If a board is warped, it should first be run through a jointer or power plane to reduce the deflection. Otherwise, the pressure of the cutting head on the planer and thicknesser will simply push the panel flat during the pass, only for it to resume its curvature when it exits the machine. Planer and thicknesser machines are quite dangerous if used incorrectly; operators should always follow standard operating procedures and always wear hand, eye and ear protection.

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