I've got a steady supply of hardwood flooring that I'd like to be able to
use for something besides, well... flooring. I'm trying to find out which
tool would be more suitable for cutting the backs of the boards down flat.
The wood I'll be using will be between 2.25" & 5.25" (predominately 2.25")
wide by .75" thick with various lengths - red oak mostly but also white
oak, maple & pine . If anybody has an opinion I'd be grateful, and opinions
on models would be appreciated as well (space & price are big concerns I'm
Well, a jointer establishes a flat face, and a planer uses one flat face to
establish a second flat face, parallel to the first.
Be sure you get enough machine to handle the volume you expect. Factor in
the cost of resharpening/replacing the planer knives. A Google search on
planers here on the Wreck will yield the groups' opinions, offered freely
Is this material you are expecting prefinished? Removing that finish is
really hard on knives, and abrasives. It's meant to last for years under
heavy foot traffic. Not all free wood is free, in other words.
A "suitcase" thickness planer. Look for model recommendations, because
there are big variations in quality. You might want a chip collector
You're feeding it stock that's already pretty flat, so passing it
through twice will clean up both surfaces and get it to thickness. You
don't need a jointer or surface planer here - you can manage most
stock without, unless it's twisted.
Expect heavy knife wear - flooring is hard on them and contains lots
of trodden-in grit (and nails !). If you're doing a big batch, run it
through first on your "old" blades, then stop and put a new set of
I'm confused. Could you post a link to an example of a '"suitcase"
thickness planer,' and an example of a "surface planer?" Thanks.
As far as I know, all you can plane are surfaces, and that will always
change the thickness, normal to the surface planed. Therefore all
planers will thickness-plane surfaces.
I can't imagine one folding up like a suitcase.
On 17 Sep 2004 10:46:34 -0700, email@example.com (Mike Reed)
This is a regular trans-Atlantic terminology problem.
Surface planers have a flat table with a cutter in it. They make one
surface flat. Turn the wood over and they'll make the other side
flat too, but it could quite easily end up wedge-shaped. Their
adjustment is for cut depth, and you don't often change this.
Add a fence to a suface planer and you have a jointer.
Thickness planers have a cutter mounted _above_ a flat table. They
make things a uniform thickness and remove wedging. If you feed them
something that's already approximately flat (relative to the size of
their table) then they'll make a flat surface on the other side to
match. Their adjustment is for final thickness, and you adjust this on
In the USA, thickness planers are usually just called "planers".
Cheap thicknessers are called "suitcase" or "lunchbox" thicknessers.
They're a plastic casing, with an internal framework of varying
quality. The tables are thin metal sheet extensions that fold down
from the case. So long as your thicknesser has a "head lock", it
ought to do reasonable quality work. The cutters are mounted on a
movable head that moves up and down over a fixed table. Motors have
brushes (aka "universal" motors) and are noisy.
More substantial thicknessers are cast iron and ride on four steel
posts, hence the name "four post thicknesser". Some "four posts" only
have two posts. The cutter head is fixed and driven by belts from a
large induction motor, so it's much quieter. The table moves instead.
Really big thicknessers go back to moving the cutter head. A _really_
big thicknesser may even have four or five independent heads. It can
surface and thickness all four sides in one pass, and then put a
shaped moulding onto it.
If you really need to flatten the wood, that's the job of a jointer. A
planer does not flatten wood. However, after you have one side flat,
the planer is used to get the other side to match at an even thickness.
One tool does not do the job of the other. You might choose to have
some fun with some hand planes instead.
Thanks for the advice everybody, all the wood will be new, unfinished &
kiln dried. It's all leftover from work - I do wood flooring installation,
sanding and finishing (refinishing as well). I wouldn't mind going the hand
plane route as Bob suggested but the prospect of tediously getting all the
grooves in the bottom of each strip flat doesn't appeal to me. I hope I
don't sound lazy but I work a minimum six day week, usually seven so
cutting down some of the time consuming parts would be a big bonus.
Once again thank you to all who responded :)
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