Electric Planer vs Sander & How to square a piece of wood with a table saw.


I was wondering if anyone could give me any help, tips or pointers about using an electric planer. How do you know if it is best to use a planer or a sander? For example, I have a wooden cutting board that is made of 3 strips of wood laminated together laterally , looks like this from the edge:
~~~ they were put together like one should so that the board will not for a cup as it wrap - the grain of the first and last piece are concave, the middle convex. This cutting board is pretty beat up. Would it be better to sand it or plane it. It may seem like an insignificant question, but it is the only example I have at the moment. I have both an electric sander and planer and I am trying to learn to use them both to their full potential.
I know nothing about planeing but have figured out how to use the machine. I realize it takes off much more wood then does sanding, and some pieces are too small or too big to fit in my planer.
If one has a very small piece can you place it on top of a larger piece of wood and try to run it through that way? I've not as yet done that so I don't know.
Also, I have tried to square up some boards on my table saw and I have met with failure. They are anything but square. Even if I started out with a squared piece and I cut it , it turns out to be slightly wedge shaped. Any help for me? I always wear eye & ear protection. I have a scare to remind me to stand to the side and avoid kick back - I'm very grateful it was a large piece of wood because I feel a small piece would have gone through me.
If you can give me any advice or refer me to a web site you thing is good I'd appreciate the help.
Bmiller
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Yes, that is common practice, just be sure the base piece is square too.

Sounds like you may have to do some setup on your tools to be sure they are square

Ask the same question on rec.woodworking and you'll get plenty of help.
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Hand electric planer? Belt or 1/4 or 1/2 sheet pad sander? Id use my handheld electric planer to quickly remove a minimal amount then my 4" wide belt sander, but I have done alot of this. A planer will ruin wood if you are not carefull and cant finish it completely. A planer would be to quickly remove a bit of damaged wood. Practice on scrap , first to see how it cuts, it may not even have the blades set to level and may gouge one side or the may be dull and burn it black. A hand electric planer can burn wood black if you are not familiar with it, and chip off the end of the board and gouge all over the place and throw a mess of chips, a belt sander has more control and will finish the job smooth and level, you will need maybe 50-80-120g, all three. Planers take learning, sanders are more forgiving and easier to master.
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Post this on rec.woodworking for more ideas. FWIW, you need to read your manual on the table saw, especially the part about setting the fence and the table square and parallel to the blade. Good luck.
Joe
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There are several sites you get with a "tablesaw tune up" search. It really cleaned up the quality of my cuts after I went through the process of squaring up everything.
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