How to use a Benchtop Wood Planer Safely

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. At no cost to you, I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Most first-time woodworking enthusiasts wonder how to use a benchtop wood planer in a way to maximize the quality of the results and value for their money.

What justifies that reason is the rising costs of wood. More so, lumberyard services are costly, and can drain your pocket if you rely on them always.

Surfaced board stocks, although smooth and ready-to-use, are limited to some thicknesses, often 1- or ¾-inches thick.

You need to customize thicknesses for certain projects, but we advise you against doing that in a lumberyard.

We recommend correct use of benchtop thicknessers as a cost-effective option.

Read on to leverage the knowledge of using a  benchtop wood planer to maximize quality results and minimize costs.

A Cost-effective way of Thicknessing Wood

Benchtop wood planers are thicknessers of wood, surfacing them such that their opposite faces run parallel.

And so, a thicknesser slices one layer with every pass-through, making the board stock thinner than it was before entering the machine.

The intention isn’t to flatten or straighten wood, as in a jointer.

In fact, you require a jointer first to flatten at least one face before you consider passing the board stock through the machine.

If you feed a warped or twisted material into the machine, it’d come out as it was before, but thinner.

Ensure that before you feed the material, you straighten one face using a jointer. It’s that straight face that should face down, resting on the moving table, bed or table.

Understand How a Benchtop Wood Planer Works First Before use

Most benchtop planing devices have cylindrical cutter-heads with lengths ranging between 12- and 13-inches. Thus, they can handle wood widths of the same range.

These cutter-heads are the middle rollers of a tri-roller system with the other two functioning to convey the work-piece into and out of the machine.

How a Bench-top Wood Planer Works

Some cutter-heads come with a straight curved surface of the cylindrical roller. Others have a helical or spiral surface, as if helical blades make up the curved surface.

The cutter-head rotates in opposite direction to the two feed rollers, as the rotation of the motor influences it. On the other hand, the movement of the base, table or bed causes both feed rollers to spin.

What grabs onto work-piece, delivering it the knife-bearing cutter-head is the in-feed roller. The out-feed roller conveys the cut work-piece, preventing it from going back inside.

Safety First

Planers release lots of chips that can enter your eye. More than that, some planers are noisy to operate. And if you wear loose clothing, there are real chances the rollers can grab onto it, dragging you toward the razor-sharp blades.

Safety Precaution

  • Wear safety goggles
  • Avoid dressing in loose clothing
  • Wear ear protection
  • Use the machine correctly to avoid tear-outs, snipes and ridges.

How to use a Benchtop Wood Planer

To prevent tear-out, feed the board stock with grains facing downhill toward the direction of feeding as they enter the machine.

Determine grain direction by running your fingers across the top surface of the material, as in the case of petting your dog or cat.

You’ll feel rough texture running fingers in one direction and smooth in the opposite direction. It’s the smooth direction which you should feed the material into the machine.

And if you’re working with materials wider than 6-inches, be sure to set depths to less than 1/32-inches to avoid straining the motor.

But if the width is less than 6-inches, you can set depth up to 1/16-inches.

You’d make it easy for your machine when you remove less than more of a material with a single pass.

To prevent snipe, use your hands to raise the board stock to be level as the in-feed roller grabs onto it. Repeat the same as the work-piece goes out from the opposite side.

In case feed rollers are unable to pull or push the material, grab its end and pull back.

Measure the Thickness of the Board Stock to Determine the Desired Depth

Measurement of wood

You don’t want your machine to grind to a halt, simply because you set a depth too deep for the width of the material, which the motor has to plow through.

The vertical distance between the edge of the knife (or blade) on the curved surface of the cutter-head and the base, bed or table is the depth.

And so, when you set depth, you’re essentially setting blade height.

There’s a crank on one side of the thicknesser. Use it to increase or decrease the blade height.

But before you set depth, measure board stock thickness. You can use a combination of a pair of calipers and a meter rule to determine the thickness.

Most benchtop thickness planing machines have a maximum blade height ranging between 6- and 8-inches.

The material can be thinner or thicker than the maximum space provided.

For a thinner material, you simply adjust the distance between the base and the knife edge, so the edges on the cutter-head can just touch material when you run it through the space.

But if the material is thicker than the space, then you may have to trim the material using other tools (including planers) to achieve the desired thickness.

So, it’s important to check thickness to make sure the material can fit the space between the base and the edge of the knives.

Alternatively, you can check whether the thickness fits the space by unplugging the machine first and running the material through it.

When you do a half spin, you’d chop off roughly 1/16th of an inch from the material.

Select the Desired Finish

There are two types of finishes you can achieve with a planer:

  • Dimensioning
  • Cutting for a fine finish

Slowing down the feed speed for a two-speed table planer increases the number of cuts per inch (CPI).

Slower feed speeds with more cuts per inch work in favor of finer finishes.

Greater feed speeds do the opposite: fewer cuts per inch, counting against finer finishes, giving rougher finishes but favoring quick dimensioning.

Make up Your Mind Concerning Whether to use Depth Stops

When you feel like maintain the slicing thickness for several passes, you can use a depth stop for an unchanging thickness. The depth stop locks the wheel in position, preventing it from turning after the board stock comes out.

To avoid using the depth stop, you can a lower depth setting than your needs.

Use a Hose to Connect the Port or Shroud with the Dust Collector

If you want to run a tidy workshop, you’d need to connect the dust collector to the vent or port where the planer releases sawdust and wood shavings.


You’ve learned the using of  a benchtop wood planer. It’s to understand how it operates and safety precautions you need to observe in your workshop.

How to use the thicknesser correctly, setting the right depths for given widths and machine limitations contributes to a great woodworking experience.

You’ve also learned how you can vary feed speeds for dimensioning and fine finishing needs.

The planer functions to thickness wood not to straighten or flatten it.

Leverage this knowledge to reduce your dependency on lumberyards to fix your surfacing problems. In that way, you’d save costs and be able to run a sustainable business and enthusiastic venture.


This is Abraham. Professional power tools mechanic with years of experience. Writing is my hobby. So I decide to share my experience with people by writing about all types of power tools review and buyers guide that I'm using.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments