I just purchased a bunch of rough cherry lumber. I'm going to be
making new cabinet doors and drawer fronts for my kitchen. The rails
and stiles are 2" wide and 3/4" thick. The length varies from 10.5"
Most of my lumber is 8" wide or more. With an 8" wide board, I can
get 3 rails/stiles per board. Some of the lumber is rather crooked,
warped, bowed, etc.
My jointer is 6" wide and my planer is 12" wide. The planer does have
a problem with snipe at both leading and trailing ends of the feed.
So which step in surfacing the lumber should I take? If I cut the
boards to rough length then I'll have an easier time of jointing the
edges and faces but I'll lose 3" or so on each cut do to snipe. Since
the boards are pretty long, there's really no way I can face the
entire length board and still get the final thickness to 3/4".
Is there a rule of thumb for the length of the boards that is a good
compromise before I face/edge join the lumber? Obviously I don't want
to make more sawdust than necessary but I don't think I can manhandle
some of these boards over the jointer.
Thanks for any suggestions...
You should ping Tom Watson, a "cabinetmaker" in the finest sense of the
word ... he once had a post, a few years ago, where he described his
procedure for preparing rough lumber for best utilization in his cabinet
Maybe you can google it ...
First thing I'd do is fix the problem w/ the planer... :)
Second first thing I'd do is (assuming the material isn't just terribly
poorly sawn to begin with) run one pass thru the planer to uncover
grain/color enough to make rational decisions about layout.
Then I'd plan layout of the rails/stiles to first get good grain/color
match w/ a reasonable plan for not wasting excessive amounts of material.
At that point I cut to appropriate length as you've noted to avoid
losing excessive material in the straightening process--some may be only
a single length, other two or even three just depending on the
individual boards and convenience.
At that point surface one side and then plane to thickness. If you
really can't reduce the snipe, I'd leave sufficient thickness and use
the jointer/hand plane for the final work or carry the material to a
shop w/ a thickness sander rather than waste 6" off every board.
Upshot is, I'd not put up w/ a planer that badly out of tune and if it
can't be tuned for some reason; a new portable that can be is pretty
inexpensive these days...
Snipe is caused by the workpiece tilting up into the cutterhead when
it's held down by only one of the feed rollers. I'd almost bet the
farm that the length of snipe you're experiencing is nearly identical
to the distance between the cutterhead and the feed rollers.
Understanding what caused it let me solve my snipe problem by a
combination of technique and setup.
For setup, I set the infeed and outfeed tables so that the outboard
ends are slightly higher than the inboard ends. They are intentionally
not perfectly coplanar with the planer bed. This small angle helps to
keep the "free" end of the board down against the bed when it's held
by only one of the feed rollers. I determined the amount of the
"proper" misalignment by trial and error. Too much upward "kick" on
the ends of the tables can overpower the down pressure from the feed
roller and cause a small gouge an inch or two from the ends of the
Also, if the board is longer than 3 or 4 feet, use a roller stand to
give added support to the outboard end to reduce the board flexing
from it's own weight.
For technique, as the board enters and exits the planer, while it's
held down against the bed by only one drive roller, I exert a small
upward pressure, by hand, on the outboard end of the board. This also
helps prevent the free end of the board from lifting into the
cutterhead. Again, how much upward pressure to exert is a matter of
trial, error, and experience.
With those two changes to setup and procedure, the snipe problem with
my Jet 13" planer/molder disappeared. I can usually cut pieces to
final length before planing and not lose anything to snipe.
One other way to minimize snipe is to feed a second board before the
first has gone all the way through. That way, you only get snipe on
the at the beginning of the first board and at the end of the last
But try to adjust your planer & use outfeed tables first & see how
much you can eliminate.
On Sat, 18 Jul 2009 13:29:53 -0700 (PDT), Luigi Zanasi
I've heard that and seen it recommended in a number of places. Only
problem is, I tried it and it didn't work. The second board, unless
rigidly attached to the first board does nothing to keep the trailing
end of the first board from tipping up into the cutterhead after it
clears the front roller. Likewise, the first board does nothing to
keep the leading end of the second board from tipping.
If the snipe is somehow caused by the cutterhead moving to a different
vertical position when one of the rollers isn't in contact with the
workpiece, what you suggest will prevent snipe. But, if that's what's
happening, the cutterhead/feed roller carrier needs a design fix. And
even then, there could still be a component of snipe caused by
vertical movement of the stock as it clears one of the rollers.
In my case, the cutterhead and, except for the spring loading, the
feed rollers are rigidly fixed to the planer frame and the bed is
raised and lowered to adjust the thickness of the stock. With that
geometry, as far as snipe is concerned, one board or several
parallel/sequential boards is immaterial.
While what you say makes complete sense, my experience is that snipe
is eliminated by feeding the feeding of sequential boards before the
next one has gone through does eliminate snipe except in the first and
last board. Why that is, I don't know, but it has worked for me.
On Sat, 18 Jul 2009 18:17:05 -0700 (PDT), Luigi Zanasi
Most likely because we're working with machines that have different
operating modes. I think most planers in the wild are probably the
benchtop type, i.e. DeWalt 734/735, that adjusts thickness by moving
the cutterhead and the bed is the fixed datum. With that design, your
recommendation has a great deal of merit. And I probably should have
thought of that before I spouted off.
Any clearances, slop, tolerances, etc., in the operating mechanism
without some provision to rigidly lock the carriage in position during
a cut could allow a slight movement of the head as the board
engages/disengages a feed roller. Parallel/sequential feeding would
keep both rollers engaged continuously except for beginning the first
and ending the last board and prevent that cutterhead movement from
It doesn't work for me because my planer is a stationary machine with
the cutterhead rigidly and immovably locked to the planer frame at all
times, so the cutterhead height above the bed isn't affected by
whether or not both rollers are engaged. Thickness is controlled by
moving the bed instead of the cutterhead.
One theoretical disadvantage of the fixed head design is since the bed
and I/O tables move, there's no way to set up auxiliary roller stand
support of longer boards and keep them perfectly aligned with the
planer bed without readjusting between each pass. But, in my
experience that's more a theoretical disadvantage than a real one.
But my planer is like yours, fixed head, movable bed (Makita 2040
15"), so the mystery continues. Like I said, your argument makes
perfect sense, I can visualize the board going through & sniping, so
why no snipe when I feed a board before the previous one has finished
I don't have much experience at all w/ the portables other than just
running a board or two thru one somewhere else; mine is the _old_
Rockwell Model 13 industrial-weight little brother to the full-size guys.
_BUT_, it helps w/ mine to butt pieces because the feed and outfeed
rollers then don't "fall off" the end as the next piece is feed which
makes for more consistent geometry. As well, if they're butted
directly, the friction between the two keeps the ends more coplanar.
I don't know if either of these even have bed rollers, but they're the
primary culprit w/ mine--set them too high and material will "rock" over
Other than that, the suggestions for not letting the ends droop (in or
out) is key as well as ensuring the outfeed pressure bar (not roller) is
adjusted correctly to the knives' cutting radius.
You've got a point and the effect on snipe should be the same whether
the bed deflects or the cutterhead carrier deflects.
Obviously planer snipe doesn't lend itself to simplistic solutions or
the tool manufacturers would have eliminated the problem long ago.
About the best the rest of us can do is find something that works for
us, individually, and go with it. Every planer model, and maybe each
individual machine, is different enough that what works for one might
not work for the next one. The sequential/parallel feed technique
obviously works for a lot of people, just not for me and mine.
Concentrating on, and preventing, board tipping did work.
Maybe what we all ought to do is set our powered thickness planers out
beside the road and pick up an old Stanley #8 jointer.
If your 6" jointer is a long bed model, 5-6 feet is about as long as I'd
try. If it isn't, like mine, I'd hold it 4' or so. Just an opinion.
And I've eliminated, or at least minimized, planer snipe on my ancient
AP10 by simply lifting the other end on both infeed and outfeed.
Intelligence is an experiment that failed - G. B. Shaw
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