How to plane rough sawn timber.

plane your own timber

As a company we sell two types of timber, sawn and planed all round timber. The first is roughly sawn and the second is planed to have a smooth finish all-round on all sides.

You may ask why we are writing an article about how to plane timber yourself when you can buy it already smoothly finished, well there are a few reasons why you may want to plane the timber yourself.

Firstly, price. Planing the timber, yourself will mean the wood you buy is cheaper, as you are only paying for the raw, sawn material.

Secondly, flexibility. Sometimes it's more practical to order sawn timber then cut and plane it to the exact specification you require at the time.

This is a short article on "how to plane sawn timber" is an introductory guide with some hints and tips. With the aim to put you on to the right path to achieving perfectly smooth, planed, timber which can be used in any application.

How dry does wood need to be before planing?

Ideally wood that has been kiln dried (or properly) air dried for a sustained period. The moisture content should have reached its equilibrium, in the environment that you intend to work on it.

Wood is hygroscopic, meaning it will take on and release water to match with the surroundings. Drying with wood, properly, in a kiln can take the moisture content to low single digit numbers but as soon as exposed to any room, workshop, or indoor environment it will 'adjust' to suit the moisture levels of the space.

It is not a good idea to plane or work with freshly cut wood, it will cause the grain to lift, block and potentially damage the planer knives or tools.

All the timber we sell on Woodubuy is Kiln Dried (wood that has been dried in an 'oven') to make sure the moisture content is reduced and stabilised to ensure planning and working with it results in a reduced amount of warping, cracking and workability issues. Freshly chopped timber is not suitable for planning.

Does timber need to be planed?

No, timber does not need to be planed, if you are not seeking a smooth finish to any of the surfaces.

Sawn timber has a rough finish and can be used in construction or as a rustic affect. Planed timber can be used for flooring, shelving, furniture making and, basically, anything where a smooth finish is required.

How to use a hand planning tool.

A hand plane is great way to achieve a smooth finish on a piece of sawn timber at home.

If you have access to electric planing machinery, then great - as this will be your best route for speed and a consistent finish. There is nothing like using a hand plane to achieve a perfectly smooth finish and it's not as hard as you think (unless you have lots of long, wide wood sections) but it doesn't take practice to get it right.

Before starting work on your timber, we recommend getting used to your hand plane first buy practicing on an off-cut or a spare piece of timber.

Also proceed with caution - you have a sharp blade that protrudes from, what looks to be, a smooth flat surface. You can't always see the blade - but it is extremely dangerous to wipe you hand or any body part across the bed of the planing tool.

Make sure the timber you are going to be plane is fully secure and will not move, it is recommended that you clamp the timber to a workbench or a solid service.

You should ensure that the cutting [planing] knife/blade is extremely sharp. Use an appropriate sharing tool.

The blade or planing knife, is adjustable, the more the 'sticks out' from the planer surface, the more you will plane, or effectively cut into, the surface of the wood. The workability of the wood species with determine how much you can plane off at once.

A common mistake is to drop the blade too far and then, end up, 'digging' a big chunk out the wood that this then hard to 'plane out'.

To start planning, apply some pressure to the front knob of the tool then move the hand plane slowly but consistently over the surface of the timber, following the grain, it is essential that you do not lift the plane until you reach the end of the timber.

Repeat the process but do not track the plane back over the timber you have just planed, lift and move back to the start.

The idea is to, gradually, remove layers in smooth, level, and continuous motion across the FULL length and width of the surface. Done correctly, it will create a smooth level finish.

All hand tools are different and can require pressure based on the weight of the tool and sharpness of the blade. As with everything, practice makes perfect.

What is the difference between a Hand plane and a Jack plane?

The hand plane (also known as a smoothing plane) is smaller in size than a jack plane. A Jack plane is used on timber to shape it into the dimensions required whilst removing most of the rough elements of the timber.

The hand plane has a rounded blade that is designed for perfect finishing of planed timber.

This is just a general overview of the differences and sometimes it's just down to personal preference on what tool or tools you should use to plane timber.

How to select a hand plane?

This is a personal question and there is no recommended tool that will suit everyone, but it is commonly agreed that a quality hand plane is an essential tool for any woodworker to own.

The task being performed, the type of wood and the desired finish will all influence the choice, size, type and shape of your wood plane.

You must make sure it has a very sharp blade, on new tools this will not be a problem, but if using an old tool its always best to check the blade and sharpen as often as possible and probably before every use.

Conclusions about hand planning timber.

Hand planning timber is not that hard, it just requires time and practice.

Always make sure your hand plane is sharp and you plane along the grain of the wood.

Regularly check the sharpness and angle of the blade and inspect the finish as often as you can.

Once you have planed the top layer off it cannot be replaced, therefore regular checking ensures a consistent finish in terms of size and dimensions.

Hopefully this article helps you on your woodworking journey, but if you are not confident in planning the timber yourself you can always buy the timber planed all-round and cut to size on this website.

Buy Planed Timber.

Published: 12/11/2022

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