Last updated on April 27, 2021 by qualified builder Aaron Barnett
Achieving correct thickness is essential when processing wood, especially for furniture making and for manufacturing structural wood pieces. ‘Planing” is when you correct thickness errors in processed timber or boards or adjust a wooden board or beam to the desired thickness.
A hand plane is a small tool that can work just as well as an industrial-grade planer in the hands of a skilled woodworker.
When you know how to use a power hand planer on wide boards you will be able to flatten and level wider surfaces of wood.
Your options for reducing the thickness on wide boards
There are plenty of ways in which you can better reduce board thickness and make wood smooth faster. These range from simple and affordable tools to bigger more complex and expensive options. Let’s go over what’s available.
Standard electric hand planer
You can make use of only a standard electric hand planer for planing wide boards. A small tip for improving how to use an electric hand planer on wide boards is to sand the surface well afterward with a belt sander to blend the lines between each sweep.
- Gives you depth adjustment.
- Reduces strain and increases efficiency.
- Has accessories that increase effectiveness and adds more utility.
- Leaves a line on either edge of the width of the planer, you will need to position your next sweep in the right spot to blend in with the last plane.
The Makita KP312
This is the biggest hand electric planer available, made for planing bigger wider boards. With a powerful 15-amp motor the bigger base and blades make it the best electric hand planer for smoothing wide boards.
- Ideal for workshop use.
- A 33-foot long cord gives it a long reach.
- Ergonomic handle with a large ejection chute.
- Extra-wide electric planer.
- Blades can be expensive and difficult to replace.
- Less effective on smaller jobs.
The Makita 1806B
The next size down is the Makita 1086B. Nearing 11-amps, this Makita planer is a versatile and more affordable alternative to the KP312 and shines in smaller to medium-scale work. Go with this If you don’t need extra width but still need a large powerful motor that’s a little easier to control.
- Wide cutting up to 6 ¾”.
- The lock-on button feature eliminates button-pressing.
- Sticky cord material and is incompatible with newer carbide blades.
Belt sanders can function a lot like hand planes, except it’s better to use them when you’re finishing a workpiece.
Belt sanders are good options to go with if you feel like you need to make additional passes to get a perfectly flat and even board. Especially if the planer you used first does not reach the full width of your board in a single pass.
- High-powered and can easily go through the toughest materials evening out a planed surface.
- Offers high levels of precision.
- Harder to work even if you work a board for too long (starting even slightly angled can further ruin thickness).
- Cannot plane timber back as a wood planer can.
A wood router can be used to get a perfectly flat surface on any board if you set up the right rig. Using a hanging you can use a wood router to perfectly flatten a table or wide timber board. However, it is going to be much slower than other methods mentioned.
If you have reasonable flatness, but humps caused by using a planer with the blades not set correctly parallel. Or from over-sanding, you can use this method to achieve perfect flatness again.
- Fairly easy to do.
- Offers a way to get a perfectly flat board.
- Unable to cut as deep and fast as the other tools here.
- Will take a bit of time to set up the rails and position everything.
These are basically automated board-processing tools that come ready to go. Those serious about their woodworking invest in a thickness planer at some point as they are some of the best at producing and maintaining consistent results.
- Easy to set up and use.
- Can easily make timber the desired thickness you want.
- Best for those with high production margins.
- Each thickness planer will have a maximum cutting width.
Do you need to split/rip wide boards down?
No. There’s no need to break down your piece into smaller pieces. A hand planer will work fine even with . Of course, it might require you to make additional passes if the board is wider than your planer’s blade width.
To add, splitting the board up adds more work as you’ll need to make sure that the thickness of the split pieces is identical to avoid a mismatch. And you would have to glue the boards back together perfectly flat.
Here’s what you need to know about strong and lightweight woods.
How to get the wood board perfectly flat after planing by hand?
For extremely long and wide pieces, usually in the form of single wooden slabs, getting them perfectly flat requires a little extra work beyond just hand planing.
Using a wood router on a hanging guide allows you to get imperfections that are too small for a planer’s blade to correct.
Make a jig that acts as a rail for the router and position it perpendicular to the workpiece. Move it along following the jig’s guide until you cover the entire piece to remove humps and any excess material.
But in most cases, you can use a belt sander, planer, and an aluminum straight-edge to monitor flatness.
How to get boards reasonably flat after using electric hand planers?
Use a belt sander. Since belt sanders were designed to quickly smoothen wooden surfaces, using a belt sander to scruff out anything that your electric hand planer might have missed will ensure decently flat boards.
Of course, you have to still make sure that you’ll be using the sander with the piece completely leveled, this will further reduce errors and avoids running the risk of getting skewed thickness. Also, make sure your passes with the sander are even strokes.
Should you use an extra-wide electric hand planer?
If you need to know how to use an electric planer on a tabletop or a really wide board, and the job demands it, then yes. deciding whether to go with a regular-sized hand planer or an extra-wide one really does depend on how you will tackle your projects. And how often you will be doing a job like this.
Using an extra-wide planer on wider pieces will help reduce work time and effort on large pieces, while it can be less effective and cumbersome when size doesn’t matter.
The Makita KP312 vs The Makita 1806B
The Makita KP312 is larger and near industrial-grade in terms of performance. This hand planer was designed to be a workshop powerhouse and is better suited for heavier applications that usually involve larger and tougher pieces.
It’s basically the power of a thickness planer without the constraint of a box.
In comparison, though the Makita 1806B is no pushover, its smaller frame and lower output make it better for general and medium-scale projects when power is needed.
Both are great, but you’d basically want the KP312 if you’re going for higher investment and have wider work demands. The 1806B is a better semi-portable model and is a good all-arounder for professional serious planing work.
What is the beauty of a thickness planer?
A thickness planer is what you use to get perfect boards – flat, even, and accurately thickened pieces. With a thickness planer, rarely would you need to use other tools to do further corrections, if at all!
For those who are already scaling up their woodwork, a thickness planer will greatly boost productivity as it easily produces a consistent stream of perfect-dimensional wood.
When to use a thickness planer?
Those who have a regular delivery schedule to meet or higher production margins should consider investing in a thickness planer since it’s a tool that consistently produces great quantities of flat and accurate pieces.
Besides keeping up with greater project demands, you can also use a thickness planer to even out relatively important pieces before finish or to correct finished pieces.
Dos and dont’s when hand power planing wide boards
Now you know how to use an electric hand planer on boards that are wide, here’s what you should be cautious about.
Thickness plays a big part for woodworkers, especially for those that are expected to manufacture other objects. The thickness of a piece affects its strength, durability, and even its aesthetic appeal.
There are many ways in which thickness is controlled and corrected. A hand power planer is great for working with a wide range of differently-sized pieces, while a thickness planer easily makes quick work for a lot of larger and wider boards the fit.
And if your want to know how to use manual hand planers for light planing, here’s how.
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