6 Ideas to Plane Wood without a Planer

So you need a flat board for your woodworking project, but you don’t have a planer. Don’t despair! There are a number of different ways to get the results you need.

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Read on for our guide to how to plane wood without a planer.

1. Use a table saw

Use a table saw

If you’ve got a large board to plane, a table saw might be a good option. You’ll need to build a jig first to keep your board in the right position. That can be quite a time-consuming job. But put in the work at the beginning, and when you use the saw, you’ll get excellent results fast.

If you find you get flaws in the surface, check the position of your blade. It might be that the table saw isn’t at a perfect 90 degrees. Adjust it using an engineering square and the problem should disappear.

The other issue you might face is burn marks. These can happen if you don’t keep moving the board smoothly against the saw.

It’s a good idea to practice with a scrap piece of wood to refine your technique. Then when you come to planing the real board, you’ll be confident in feeding it through smoothly.

This YouTube video from DownUnderWoodWorks shows the whole process step by step.

2. Use a router

Use a router

You can use a router to substitute for a wood planer in a similar way to a table saw. Again, you’ll need to construct a jig so your wood passes the router at the right point.

The jig is basically a wooden frame the right size to hold your board securely. Position the board in place, then push the jig past the router so it cuts the face of the board. As with a planer, you’ll want to work in the direction of the grain.

Just like the table saw option, this is a case of putting in the work at the beginning. All the effort here is in constructing the jig. Once that’s done, the router will cut the board fast.

You won’t, though, get as smooth a surface as with a planer, or even a table saw. Be prepared to spend some time sanding to get a quality finish.

3. Use a jack plane

Use a jack plane

If you don’t have a power planer, one option is to go old school and use manual planers. The traditional advice would be to invest in three different planers. Start with a scrub plane, then move onto a jointer plane, before finishing with a smoothing plane.

But if you don’t have any of those, the job can be done with a single tool: the jack plane. It will just take a bit longer.

You’ll want what’s known as a number 5 or 6 plane. The numbers refer to the size of the base, and the higher the number, the longer the base. A 5 or 6 will give you enough length to ride out any imperfections in the board. That will avoid ending up with a wavy surface.

Use a straight edge to identify high spots and start with those. Work slowly with the jack plane and keep checking with your straight edge.

Placing two shorter sticks across the board and looking across them will allow you to check it’s even horizontally too. (Those shorter sticks are known as winding sticks.)

This great video from Christopher Schwartz shows you how to do this step by step.

4. Use a wide-belt or drum sander

Use a wide-belt or drum sander

Wide-belt and drum sanders work in the same way as power planers, but they use sandpaper rather than knives. They’re normally used after planing to get a fine finish. But that’s not the only way you can put them to work.

If you don’t have a planer, put some heavy grit sandpaper in the sander. You can then feed through the board in exactly the same way as you would to sand it. Just be prepared to spend a bit longer getting your wood to the right depth.

As with the other power tool options, it’s worth spending some time constructing a jig to hold the board. That will make it far easier to get an even surface.

5. Get out the sandpaper

Get out the sandpaper

All the options above rely on some kind of substitute tool. But if you don’t have one of those, there is another way of planing – with good old sandpaper.

There’s no getting away from it: this is going to take a lot of time. And as with the hand planer option, you’ll need something with a long straight edge to check the results.

Use the coarsest sandpaper you can get your hands on. Wrapping it around a sanding block will also allow you to get a better grip and exert more pressure. You can buy rubber sanding blocks, but a piece of wood works almost as well.

Keep working in the direction of the grain, and wear a mask to avoid breathing in sawdust.

Of course, if you have a hand-held electric sander that will speed up the job no end. Just don’t be tempted to press down on it as you would a piece of sandpaper. Doing so will interfere with the movement of the sanding plate and will actually slow down your progress.

6. Take it to a cabinet maker

Take it to a cabinet maker

If these options sound like hard work, one simple solution is to have someone else plane your wood for you! Cabinet makers will own professional planers, and most will be happy to plane your wood for a fee.

You won’t have the satisfaction of having done it yourself – but if the alternative is several days having your hands rubbed raw by sandpaper, that could be a sacrifice worth making.

Ready to get planing?

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the range of different options to plane wood without a planer.  Most rely on having access to some other form of power tool. But if you don’t have one of those, there are manual options too.

A jack planer will work fine, and has been doing the job for thousands of years. And if all you have is time, sandpaper and a bit of wood will get you there in the end.

Whichever option you choose, we wish you the best of luck with your next carpentry project.

Don’t forget to pin it!

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