Working with a Planer/Sander

A woodworker reports on his experience with a planer/sander. July 29, 2012

How well do the planer/sanders work? Can you process things on edge to get a final width like you can do with a standard planer? What is the highest grit you can follow the planer head with? Types/brands to look at specifically?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor G:
After years of searching for the perfect planer, I sprung for a new 36" planer/sander. That was four or five years ago. I couldn't be happier with it. We run tons of glued up panels (we don't even scrape the glue off first), S4S, rough plane and anything else needed through it.

We have a good six head moulder but still prefer to run all face frame and door stile and rail material through the planer/sander. This way we have sanded surfaces instead of machined. Running on edge works fine. Just make sure you run the material through the machine straight. If you run it skewed it will want to tip. We can run multiple pieces through at once, so it is almost as fast as the moulder.

We run 150g on the sander, which I thought would be too fine but it works great and lasts forever. We have tried 80g but the finish on the edges of face frame material was too rough for our liking. 120g works well. The spiral head cuts clean and quiet with very little chip out and what chip out there is, is removed with the sander. We have to be careful when rough planing so as to not take too big of a bite if the board thickness varies. My machine isn't as forgiving as a regular planer in that department. It isn't made for rough planing but as stated, if we are careful, it works.

When I was in the market to buy the machine, another cabinetmaker near me had one for sale and didn't like his because he got a lot of snipe. After looking at his machine I noticed the chip breaker and pressure shoe were way too far away from the cutting action. They should be as close as possible to the cutterhead, but his were inches away. I made sure the machine I bought was designed properly.

I think the rubber feed belt also adds to snipe because the wood seems to rebound off of it when it leaves the chipbreaker and pressure shoe. As with any planer, it needs to be in good adjustment to minimize snipe.

My machine is an SK brand. You are probably not familiar with them. They are better known for moulders. It's made in Taiwan. Might almost sound too good to be true, but I wouldn't want to run my 6 man shop without it. It's a buyer's market, so shop around. Some manufacturers might have leftover models that are 2 or 3 years old and be very willing to deal. I have seen some very good deals on used machines also.