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Simple Guide to Jointers and Planers

As with most of our guides, we like to keep things pretty simple. Our Simple Guide to Jointers and Planers is no different. We will make every effort to keep the new woodworker in mind. In addition, we will talk through some value options that can help people who are on the fence about buying a machine make the right decision. Personally, I can’t imagine my workshop without a Jointer and Planer. Both of these tools have so many uses and make relatively complex processes a snap. Keep reading to find out more. And if you have questions about saw selection or what sander is right for you, check out our Simple Guide to Electric Saws and Simple Guide to Electric Sanders.

Planers

Simply put, planers create a single flat surface in your workpiece. By moving the wood through the planer on a set of rollers, rotating blades cut the board down to a consistent height. Planers are great time savers, and in some cases can take a pretty rough looking piece of lumber and turn it into something useful. In addition, they are great for getting lumber to a specific dimension when precision really counts. For example, we sometimes create six-pack beer carriers from recycled pallet wood. Pallet wood is notoriously janky, with odd widths, lengths and thicknesses. All it takes to get the wood to 1/2″ thickness is a few runs through the planer!

Our Shop

In our shop, I use a ‘lunch box’ style planer like the one above from Porter-Cable. I am not sponsored by them, but I do love their products. This style of planer is a great value for beginner woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts because they provide high durability and most of the features you want in a high-end model. They call these models lunch boxes because you can carry them around by the handle. They are highly portable, if not a bit heavy. Mine has been very dependable and is capable of handling every type of wood I have put through it. The hardest wood I have milled with it is American Ash. With a fresh blade, it didn’t have any issues. I did experience a bit of gouging when I tried to run it through with a duller blade.

This model has a max width of 12″ and an opening of 5″ high. While I have never worked with wood over 3″ thick, myself, I have used this planer to reduce boards to as thin as 1/2″. I have used my planer to level out rock maple end-grain chopping blocks. Some folks will advise against it because it can cause tear-out or even kick out your workpiece. I have never had this happen. I believe that if you are cautious about making sure that you only plane off about 1/16″ at a time, the machine can handle it. Your mileage may vary.

Maintenance & Upkeep

There are three big maintenance pieces that I want to address for anyone considering purchasing a planer. First, you will need to plan on buying blades occasionally. Unfortunately, there is no safe and easy way to sharpen dull blades. The good news is that replacement blade sets can be found relatively cheaply on Amazon. Secondly, you will find yourself waxing the infeed and outfeed regularly. The rollers pull / push the workpiece well, but friction needs to be reduced wherever possible. We recommend Paste Wax for this polishing. Lastly, the large screw that serves to raise and lower the planer bed will need to be cleaned of sawdust and lubricated with grease occasionally.

If you are looking to upgrade from a basic model, the Dewalt option has some interesting bells and whistles that are worth considering. First, this model has three blades. The three blade system reduces the wear-and-tear significantly, which means less blade changes. Secondly, this model allows you to control the feed rate. If you are working with harder woods, or just really need a cut to come out smoothly, being able to slow down the feed rate is a huge bonus. Lastly, this model has a dust collection system. This feature is sorely lacking in the Porter-Cable model. Every time I fire up my planer, I am left with a huge pile of shavings on the floor.

When you are ready to move out of the hobby / DIY space and take your shop to the professional level, you will be looking for a planer that can handle 15″ boards. These models provide additional width, superior adjustability, enhanced dust collection, and helical cutter heads. If you aren’t familiar with helical cutter heads, they are basically a gift from the gods. Offset blades spin around to create a significantly more reliable cut. In addition, as blades dull, you can choose to rotate the four-sided blade to a fresh and sharp side. This saves a ton of effort and money maintaining blades.

Jointers

Jointers perform a similar role as a planer, but they work against a fence, which creates a 90 degree angle and a flat surface. In my experience, jointers are particularly useful if you will be doing any glue-ups. Matching planes for two boards is very difficult without a jointer. However, if you run a board through the jointer a few times, you will have a perfect match for those two boards. Your glue-ups will be much smoother, with less waste and zero frustration. A jointer can perform many of the same functions as a planer, but with a smaller 6″ work surface.

Our Shop

Let me start by saying that I was very on-the-fence about purchasing my jointer. I wasn’t sure I was going to need it. In addition, I didn’t know if I would use it often enough to justify the price tag. To be honest, I am still on the fence about using it often enough to justify the price tag. However, there is no doubt that I need it in my shop. The jointer has become an indispensable part of my shop. While it’s role is highly specialized, nothing can quite reproduce the work that it does as well, or as efficiently.

Maintenance & Upkeep

Similar to the planer, jointers are going to need replacement blades occasionally. The frustrating part is that most of the work occurs at the fence, so blades wear much faster in the first third of the blade. As with planers, there aren’t any good options to sharpen the blades, so replacement is advised. Blades are even cheaper than for the planer, because they are half as long. In addition, the jointer will also need to be waxed regularly to keep your workpieces moving smoothly. We generally keep Paste Wax on hand for this purpose.

If you are looking to upgrade from the basic 6″ benchtop model, consider looking into an 8″ benchtop model. This will allow you to surface wider boards. In addition, the model above features a helical cutter head. Like we mentioned before, that’s a pretty serious upgrade, especially when you consider that a jointer gets the most work done next to the fence. By managing your blades well, you can really make them stretch by replacing the heavy-use area blades smartly.

When you are ready to take things to the professional level, you’ll be looking for a model similar to this one. Shop around and explore different manufacturers. Some are known for precision, others durability. Find a brand that works well for you and your needs. There are models out there that will joint up to 12″ boards. Figure out your price point, your must-haves, and then get out your check book!! With a larger model like this, you can reliable joing significantly longer board that would prove challenging on a tabletop jointer.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed our Simple Guide to Jointers and Planers. We really enjoy woodworking and sharing all of our tips and tricks with you. If you aren’t ready to make your own boards, but would like to support our shop, we have charcuterie boards for all occasions and tastes in our Etsy shop. We also have a selection of end-grain and edge-grain chopping blocks available as well. You can click the E in the sidebar, header, or footer of this page to go directly to our Etsy shop, or you can click here to see our selection of boards and blocks on the site.

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Simple Guide To Electric Saws

Saws are a critical part of any woodworking shop. The ability to make the most precise cuts, from multiple different angles and depths is critical as projects grow in complexity. There are a few simple tools that will help you to grow your potential project list. Our Simple Guide To Electric Saws will provide you with the basic knowledge you need to understand these tools and how they work. In addition, we will provide some project ideas that suit the particular saw type. And if you have questions about sanding tools, click over to our Simple Guide to Electric Sanders for more information.

Types of Saws

We want to keep this guide rather basic, so we will cover the real workhorses of the shop. Personally, the goal is always to expand my ability to do more types of projects, with the smallest number of tools possible. By focusing on equipment with broad capabilities, it allows me to spend money on wood and other supplies – not tools! To get the most value out of your purchases, we will focus on the big four: Miter Saw, Circular Saw, Table Saw, and Band Saw.

Spalted Maple Chopping Blocks made on the Table Saw

Miter Saws

Your Miter saw is going to end up making a lot of cuts for you. Also known as a chop saw, this tool is capable of making straight and angled cuts. Most also have a swiveling blade mount that allows you to adjust another axis, often referred to as a double-bevel saw. Blade sizes vary, but the standards are 7-1/4″, 10″, and 12″. As you might have guessed, the bigger the blade, the larger piece of lumber you can handle. Also, as your blade size increases, so does your price tag. No surprises there, right!

In addition, you will also need to decide whether you want your miter saw to have a slide, radial arm, or fixed blade. Fixed blade models are known to be highly dependable, as there are less moving parts. Sliding and radial arm models will provide you with more versatility in your cuts, at the cost of more complex moving parts. This usually means more maintenance and potential repairs. That said, I would advocate for the sliding or radial arm models because they open up so much potential for great projects.

Projects

Having a miter saw in your shop will open up your project potential in may ways. First, it will allow you to safely and precisely create repetitive cuts. Next, it will allow you cut on precise angles up to 90 degrees. What size board dimensions you can safely and reliably cut will depend on your blade size, but you will definitely be able to execute any project that involves 2×4 wood. You will most likely be able to work with 4×4 lumber as well.
With your miter saw, you can now tackle projects like wooden bird feeders, Adirondack chairs, and simple utility shelving. In addition, you could easily create wooden picnic tables, or even hanging barn doors. Comprehensive project plans are available from many different sources. Pinterest has a wealth of ideas, and many of the plans you can find there are free of charge.

Circular Saws

Circular saws are handy, portable, and can make a wide variety of cuts. They are very useful for making long, straight cuts in large workpieces. They can also cut angles (bevels) in wood, with limited ranges based on the saw’s manufacturing. Because they are lightweight, they are also easy to maneuver. This comes in particularly handy when your workpiece is bulky, or the cut is out of the working range of a miter or table saw. Generally speaking, most offerings on the market for circular saws are going to be 7-1/4″ blades. There are not too many bells and whistles available for circular saws. Some models have laser guides and emergency stops, but generally look for high amperage and a quality brand name that you trust.

Projects

Circular saws are most useful for cutting thin pieces of wood. This makes them ideal for any project that involves plywood. As I stated before, there are myriad plywood projects available on the web. With your circular saw, you can also complete projects like wooden bird feeders, Adirondack chairs, shelving, picnic tables, or even hanging barn doors.

Table Saws

Table saws are true woodworking tools. This is an area where your options start to really open up. Job-site saws, such as the offerings below from Ryobi, Dewalt and Bosch can be accessorized with wheels and stabilizers to make them highly mobile, or they can be fixed in place within your shop. PowerMatic (and many others) make fixed units that offer superior dust collection, precision cuts, and powerful reliability that job-shop table saws cannot deliver. But like most things in life, if you want the premium features, you pay a premium price.

Table saws allow you to make highly precise cuts repeatedly. The fence, a metal divider that runs parallel to the blade, provides a consistent guide to move your workpiece along. In addition, table saws can accommodate many jigs and sleds to make super-precise cuts simply, or allowing you to get consistent and repeatable results on the same cut over and over. Lastly, table saws open up the possibility of using a Dado stack. Dado blades or Dado stacks are illegal in Europe. Basically, this tool allows you to ‘stack’ multiple cutting blades together to notch out wood to a reliable width. Dado stacks are particularly useful for creating box joints in woodworking.

Projects

With a table saw in your shop, you can make all of the projects that I mentioned above. In addition, you can start to make chopping blocks, cutting boards, bee furniture (bee boxes), and even cabinets. Jigs and sleds can also be fun to make. Just be careful you don’t fall down a rabbit-hole – making jigs and sleds is addictive!!

Testing out Box Joints with scrap lumber

Band Saws

Some people will tell you that a band saw is not necessary. However, I felt that our Simple Guide To Electric Saws would be incomplete without mentioning this very versatile saw. Much like table saws, there are a wide variety of band saw options based on your particular needs. If you want something portable, the offerings from Dewalt and Bosch below are perfect for you. If you would prefer a fixed model on a budget, the Ryobi model would be a good starter. And lastly, if you want to set the shop up with a high quality fixed model that will last through years of daily use, choose a model from PowerMatic, ShopFox, or Grizzly.

Band saws are great additions to a woodworking shop because they offer such a high level of maneuverability. By moving the workpiece against a blade, you are able to carve out just about any shape your mind can conceive. This flexibility allows you to create very precise, twisting, turning cuts that other saws simply cannot achieve. Band saws may have limited applications in your creative process, but when you need to use a band saw, no other saw will be able to do the work safely and reliably.

Projects

With a bandsaw in your shop, you can cut out any shape that your mind can conceive. Your abilities aren’t just limited to 2-dimensional signs and designs. With the ability to turn your workpieces and cut from all angles, you can even start to create 3-dimensional art in wood or soft plastic.

Closing Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed our Simple Guide to Electric Saws. This guide was far from comprehensive, but we hope it gave you an overview of the various types of cutting tools that are available to you. Every woodworker has their own style and preferences, so we are optimistic that you will take what you have learned today and use it to tailor your shop’s tool selections to your individual needs and wants.

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repairman polishing wall with construction tool
Workshop

Simple Guide To Electric Sanders

Everyone has come across a tip or trick at some point in their life and thought to themselves “I REALLY wish I had known that when I got started”. Well, it feels like a good time to share some of those “ah-hah” moments with you all. In our Simple Guide To Electric Sanders, we will cover the basic knowledge that I wish I had known walking into the hobby. We hope that our insights will help you to fill your shop with the right gear to fuel your woodworking passions for years to come!

Types Of Sanders

Random Orbital Sander

We will start with the workhorse of the sanders, the Random Orbital Sander. If you are planning to enter into the woodworking hobby with charcuterie boards, cutting boards, and chopping blocks as your main types of projects, you are going to want to buy the best Random Orbital Sander that your budget will allow. You are going to spend many hours standing over a workpiece trying to get the finish just right, so why not make that time as comfortable and effective as you can?

When I started into the hobby, I had an old Random Orbital Sander that I had bought from Wal-Mart in my toolbox. After upgrading recently, I can’t believe I waited this long. The added benefits of a solid ergonomic design, including anti-vibration and hand placement have made sanding a much less laborious chore! Again, you will spend hours sanding, so make them as comfortable as possible.

Sandpaper Grits 40 (40-1000 for Epoxy)

I burn through a lot of 40 grit paper on my Random Orbital Sander. It is probably worth your time to buy a large pack of 5″ discs to have in your shop. I also picked up a selection of other discs ranging up to 1000 grit. I rarely use them because I am working with a lot of live-edge materials. However, if you are going to be adding epoxy inlay to your workpieces, you will want to sand your way through a grit progression that gets you to 1000 grit finish. We cover all the details in our Beginner’s Guide to Epoxy Resin. Having this broad range of sandpaper available is going to go a long way towards ensuring that your finished epoxy works glisten!

Detail Sander

The Detail Sander is probably my second most-used sander in the workshop. Because I am working with a lot of live-edge materials, I often require additional maneuverability. Live-edge lumber has odd contours and tight spaces. The design of the Ryobi Corner Cat really works nicely for this type of work. The tip of the sander can get into really tight spots, and is great for corners (as the name suggests). The sides of the sanding pad can also be used to great effect. By following along the contours of a live edge, you can quickly knock down any rough spots. The best part is, the surface area of the pad is generous enough to sand larger planes, as well.

Sandpaper Grits 40, 120, 240

I usually run three grits through my Corner Cat Sander – 40, 120, and 240. I generally use 40 grit to knock down any heavy discoloration left behind by bark. This grit is also good to grind down branch collars and knots. It also makes quick work of the notoriously hard-to-sand end grain. You can sand these surfaces with a Random Orbital Sander, but I find the ROS kicks a bit more. In addition, it seems to wear out pads really quickly.

As I work through the grit progression, I use 120 grit to round off sharp contours on the live-edge pieces. By gently turning the sander while moving along the live edge, I am able to impart a safe edge that still holds true to the natural form of the workpiece. In addition, 120 grit does a great job of eliminating any router burn marks. Router burn occurs on the chamfered edges if I linger too long in one spot.

As you may have guessed, 240 grit is used to give the wood that silky smooth finish that everyone loves. I sand along all of the wood surfaces until everything is smooth to the touch. In addition, I love to use 240 grit to round off any sharp corners in the wood. Lastly, I run the sander along the live edge to ensure that it has a completely splinter-free edge that is not too sharp.

Finishing Sander

The Finishing Sander (also called Sheet Sander) is probably the sander that I use the least. However, it definitely has a place in the shop. These types of sanders have a similar level of maneuverability as a Detail Sander, but cover a slightly larger area. As such, I tend to use my Finishing Sander when I am working with a thicker piece of live edge. If I am working with 4/4 to 6/4 lumber, the Corner Cat does a fine job. However, with anything thicker, the added surface area of a Finishing Sander makes it so that you can sand your workpiece with a single pass. This saves quite a bit of time and effort.

Sandpaper Grits 40, 120, 240

You will want to stock up on all three grits of sandpaper for your 1/4 Sheet Sander, as well. Because of the nature of the tough work that happens at lower grits, I find that I go through 40-grit paper faster than the others. While this is not surprising, it can be annoying. Because most kits are sold as an even number of sheets per grit, I find myself ordering 40 grit separate. Your mileage may vary!

SanderStrengthWeaknessGrits
Random OrbitalCoverageManeuverability40
DetailManeuverabilityCoverage40, 120, 240
FinishingVersatilityRips Paper40, 120, 240

Looking Forward

We hope you enjoyed our Simple Guide to Electric Sanders. As we continue to expand our capabilities in the workshop, our selection of tools is sure to grow. As we acquire more tools and master their many uses, we will continue to provide tips, tricks, and guides. Our guides are meant to save you time and effort.

Please take the time to check out our selection of charcuterie boards, end-grain and edge-grain chopping blocks. You can click the E in the sidebar, header, or footer of this page to go directly to our Etsy shop. If you would prefer, you can click here to see our selection of boards and blocks on the site.

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