All About Planers and Sanders

Power planers and sanders are smoothing tools. Planers are designed for use only with wood, but some sanders can also be used on metal or masonry surfaces.
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Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2007 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: DK - Do It Yourself Home Improvement ©2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Power Planer (Side View)

Planers are designed for use only with wood. They come in a number of sizes. The larger, heavy-duty types are best suited to professional use, but smaller models are fine for DIY. Make sure the machine has stopped moving before putting it down after use to avoid accidental damage to surfaces. Unplug the machine before adjusting or changing the blades on a planer.

Power Planer (Front View)

Planers remove sections of wood that are too small to be cut easily and accurately with a saw, but are also too thick to be smoothed down with a power sander. Blades have a reasonably long life span, depending on usage, and replacing them is straightforward for most models. The most common reason for blade failure or reduction in the tool's lifespan, is accidentally planing a nail or screw embedded in a wood. Inspect wood carefully before planing it.

Underside of the Planer

A grooved guide in underside of the planer is used to bevel corners.

Using a Power Planer

Use the depth gauge to determine the amount of wood to remove, remembering that if a large amount of wood needs to be shaved off, the depth gauge should initially be set high, then reduced as you reach the full extent of the cut. When the planer reaches full speed, sweep it evenly across the surface to remove the wood gradually. Refer to your model's owner manual for details on using the depth gauge. Most planers have a dust collection facility; use it if you have one.

Belt Sander

This tool is similar in function to a power planer, but it removes wood more gradually. It is ideal for smoothing narrow lengths of wood, but can also be used on larger surfaces that a planer cannot tackle. The most abrasive of hand-held power sanders can take off a considerable depth, so it is good for removing layers of paint. Keep the belt flush with the wood's surface — it will cut grooves into the wood if held at an angle. Do not apply too much pressure, because it can damage the operating mechanism.

Maintaining a Belt Sander

You may occasionally need to adjust the belt tracking; see the instruction manual for your model's adjustment requirements. To change a sanding belt, first switch off the sander and unplug it. Pull the belt release lever to enable you to remove the old paper, then insert a new belt of sandpaper and push the release lever back into position.

Orbital Sander

Useful for working large wooden surfaces. A large circular sanding pad vibrates with a near-circular motion, so it can be used for a wood grain in any direction. However, a coarse paper will leave circular abrasions; use increasingly fine sandpaper as you progress for a smooth finish. The sander has a simple hook-and-loop mechanism to make changing sandpaper easy. A soft pad can also be attached to an orbital sander to turn it into a polishing tool for buffing. Align holes in paper with those in sanding pad to aid dust extraction.

Palm Sander

This small tool often has orbital action. It is great for working on small areas or in awkward corners. Palm sanders have limited speed settings. The paper is held in place with a lever clamp and is easy to change.

Step 1: Using a Palm Sander

Position and attach the dustbag, following the instructions given in the manufacturer's manual. Switch it on and let it reach full speed.

Step 2: Using a Palm Sander

Sweep the sander across the surface to be treated. In this instance, the flat face of a length of baseboard is being sanded.