Ensuring Accurate Thickness Settings on a Planer

Tips and tricks for getting consistent thickness settings from your planer, with a minimum of fuss and bother. April 20, 2008

I have a 15" Delta planer and don't know how to set the depth of cut. I think I'm missing a part, but the manual doesn't really say. There is no pointer that points to the ruler that says what thickness I want to plane to, it's just a small metal piece with a rivet. Is this right? Do I have to just plane and measure until I get what I want, or can I set it to exactly 3/4 and let it run?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor C:
Every planer is different. You'll get used to the position of the hand wheel and the actual net thickness you are achieving versus what you want to. It's common practice to take the backlash out of the adjusting screw and note the position of the crank handle, paint a stripe if you need to. Use a sharpie and a straight edge and make nice marks. You'll use them for years, and it will become second nature to get the hardwood parts you need at top quality.

From contributor J:
Where dimensions are critical, yes, it's a good idea to plane and measure, creeping up on the correct positioning. You might want to make the test cuts on scrap pieces, because a too-light final cut may not be enough to take off indentations from the infeed roller.

From contributor D:
I tell everyone I can to forget those little pointers and scales, "squint and set" planer settings. Buy a digital readout and connect it to your machine. Your accuracy will improve tremendously, and you will know exactly where you are or want to be, within a few thousandths. You don't waste time or material anymore. Repeatability is also a breeze. Once you use one, getting by without it is like losing electricity - difficult.

From contributor B:
Being consistent is usually more critical than being accurate. I note the relative location of the crank for 3/4, 13/16, etc. I don't really care if I am 1/1000 off, as long as I have consistency.