4 Essential Wood-Planer Maintenance Tips

Reader Contribution by Steve Maxwell
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If you’ve got a thickness planer (aka a wood planer) in your home woodworking shop, then there are four things you need to do to keep it running well. If you want to maintain top-notch performance from your wood planer and solve problems that might come up with the machine, you’ve come to the right place.

Wood Planer Problem #1: Boards sticks while it’s being planed

This is a problem of lubrication, so to speak. The first thing you need to do – and it applies to all thickness planters on the market – is to regularly apply paste wax to the bed of your planer. The bed is that part of the machine that the wood slides on. If you don’t keep the bed waxed, your lumber is going to stick in the machine and it won’t feed through properly.

As for wax,  I use an old can of Johnson’s Paste Wax. I bought it in the late ’70s (yes it’s 40+ years old), and there’s still plenty of wax in the can. I figure I’ll get five, maybe 10 more years out of it. Any kind of floor paste wax will do the job. Unplug the planer, raise the cutterhead to expose as much of the bed as possible, remove any sawdust from the bed, then rub a little wax on it. Apply it with a circular motion. You don’t have to be fancy, just as long as you get complete coverage. Let it dry for a few minutes and then lightly buff the wax off with a clean rag. It’s amazing how long this wax treatment will keep lumber sliding smoothly while you plane it. Watch this video on exactly how to apply wax to your wood planer where it’ll make a difference.

Wood Planer Problem #2: Planed wood has raised ridges

The cause of this problem is a nick in the blades, most often caused by hitting a hard knot. You can’t always avoid this problem, but you can fix it rather easily. With the machine unplugged, remove the top of your planer to gain access to the cutter head.  If your blades are still fairly sharp and leaving smooth wood behind (except for that raised ridge), there’s an easy fix. By sliding individual blades side-to-side relative to each other you’ll get rid of the ridge. If the nick in one blade doesn’t align with the nick in other blades, no ridge will appear.

If you look at the cutter head you’ll see that the bolt holes securing the blades are not round. They’re oval and this allows you to slide one blade or the other from side to side slightly. The advantage is if you’ve got just a little bit of ridging on your planed boards and you want to get that planer planing really well for an important project, but you don’t want to change blades, you just loosen off the blade anchoring screws, slide one blade a little bit to one side and then the nicks in the blades that caused the groove in the first place don’t line up and you get perfectly smooth results, at least for a little while. It works.

Wood Planer Problem #3: Surfaces produced are not as smooth as they used to be

Wood planer blades wear out in time and changing them is the solution. Most planers on the market these days use disposable blades that are sharp along both edges. Take the old blades out (wood planers use either two or three blades depending on the design), flip the blades over, then secure them again, fresh side out.

As you’ll see when you get into the machine, the blades on all wood planers are held down by a whole bunch of bolts. That’s true regardless of the machine you have. But what you need to do is to start loosening off all the bolts and then remove them. Now, before you do that though, I want to show you a little trick.

If you really do have to change your blades (as opposed to simply shifting nicked-but-sharp blades to one side or another) you’re going to find the job easy after you understand the basics. Blades these days have holes for registration pins. These are small round protrusions of metal that come out of the cutter head and lock the blade in just the right position up-and-down so you don’t have to worry about getting blade height right. When the blade’s in place, you put your metal cap strip on top, tighten all of the bolts down, go back and forth several times to make sure you’ve got them all tight, then you’re good to go. Get a detailed tour and video on changing wood planer blades and making these machines cut as well as they were designed to.

Wood Planer Problem #4: Shavings jam up in the machine

Now, when you’re changing the blades and you’ve got the cutter head exposed, there’s one more thing you should do. This is the fourth bit of maintenance. Applying paste wax to the inside surface of the shroud that surrounds the cutter head. This is the same stuff you applied to the bed and it greatly reduces the buildup of pitch where the dust and shavings flow out of the machine. The free flow of shavings is important. If shavings clog up during a cut, the wood planer will press them down into your lumber and create ugly indentations in the wood. Not good. Waxing the shavings passages goes a long way to prevent your planer to jamming up during heavy planing.

Take care of these three issues and you’ll have smooth wood every time you walk over to your planer and turn it on. Got a question about wood planers, woodworking or any aspect of rural, hands-on living? Send me an email I’ll do my best to help.

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