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Handheld planers come in two types: manual planers (Image 1) and power planers (Image 2). When using a manual hand planer, you'll make more passes over the wood than with a power hand planer.
To smooth rough wood surfaces with either type of planer, grasp the handle and lower the cutting head until it just touches the surface of the board, and run the planer over the wood in the direction of the grain, one pass at a time (Image 3). To smooth wood's surface with either type, grasp the handle and run the planer over the wood in the direction of the grain, one pass at a time.
Make sure the planer is bolted down or securely fastened in place. Remove any nails or staples from the wood.
With the planer's height adjustment, lower the cutting head until it just touches the surface of the board. Remove the board, and lower the head another 1/16" for the first cut.
Send the board through for a first pass. The machine will automatically feed the board to its outfeed table.
Follow with several gradually deeper passes. For softwood such as pine, remove only about 1/16" from the surface per pass. Remove less per pass from hardwood.