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What Is a Power Planer?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A power planer is a power tool used to adjust the thickness of a board or to create a flat surface on a piece of wood. This tool is a handheld device and it is powered either by a battery or by a power cord attached to a wall outlet. The power planer features a rotating blade affixed to the bottom of the tool, and a guide plate to help the user keep the tool flat and straight during use. This device is useful for small to medium projects, though some effort will need to made to avoid snipe.

Snipe occurs when the power planer is applied with uneven pressure, usually at the beginning or the end of a cut, that causes a change in the depth of the cut. This will result in an uneven board surface, thereby negating the positive effects of the tool. A power planer is more susceptible to snipe than other types of planers because of the power the tool produces and its reliance on the human touch for a quality cut. Experienced woodworkers often avoid snipe by practicing with the tool several times on scrap pieces of wood; this allows the woodworker to determine how much pressure should be placed on the tool throughout the cutting process.

A jointer, also known in some places as a planer.
A jointer, also known in some places as a planer.

Battery-operated power planer models are usually designed for smaller jobs or less frequent use, since the battery life can vary and the power output of the tool will vary according to how much charge is left in the battery. The fluctuation of power output may mean variation in blade speed, which can cause uneven cuts or other damage to the wood being planed. A power planer with a power cord that can be plugged into a wall outlet will produce a more even power output, reducing the likelihood of uneven cuts or damage to the wood.

Some planers feature a dust collection system to help prevent sawdust buildup in the air of a workshop. Sawdust can be harmful if breathed in excessively, so the dust collection system sucks up the dust before it can enter the air of the room. This is not a perfect system and some sawdust will still enter the room, but the collection system will drastically cut down on the amount of sawdust thrown into the room. A person using this tool should be sure to wear safety equipment such as safety glasses and even a mask if necessary.

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    • A jointer, also known in some places as a planer.
      A jointer, also known in some places as a planer.