Plywood is a material that many DIYers and professional woodworkers turn to when creating pieces of furniture or joists that will last for a long time. But can you run plywood through a thickness planer? Well, there isn’t a simple answer to this question.
It is possible to run plywood through a thickness planer, but there are a couple of reasons why you might not want to.
To begin with, the glue that holds the plies together can dull a blade extremely easily. This means that you’ll be spending a lot of your time resharpening or replacing the blade which, ultimately, will slow down your progress.
The same principle applies to other glue-laden woods, such as MDF and particleboard. So, if at all possible, you should try not to run these through a thickness planer either.
Another reason why you might not want to run plywood through a thickness planer is that the grain of the ply creates long, string fibres instead of the tiny wood chips you’d get from real wood. These fibres can clog the planer’s dust port which could cause damage to the machine.
How do you reduce the thickness of plywood?
This really depends on how big the sheet of plywood you’re working with is. If it’s quite large, then using a belt sander is your best bet for reducing the thickness of plywood. However, you will need to be extremely careful so that you don’t accidentally end up ripping through the layers.
It’s about finding the perfect balance, here. A 150-grit sandpaper would be ideal, but if you go for anything higher than this it will be too rough on the veneers.
You can also use an orbital sander to reduce the thickness of plywood but, again, it’s about finding the perfect balance. Use a 60-grit sandpaper and make sure you’re applying a very small amount of pressure to the plywood.
If you’re working with smaller sheets of plywood, you can reduce its thickness using a handheld block plane. This will allow you to shave some of the thickness off without exposing the layers of glue that hold it together.
This will take a bit longer, but it’s the right tool to use if you want perfect results. You’ll need a steady hand and some patience, but the pay-off will be worth it in the end.
How thin can a planer cut wood?
Most planers can cut wood to about ¼” thick. When wood gets thinner than this, it becomes too light and flexible. As a result, there’s a chance it can be sucked into the planer’s blades and, ultimately, it’ll turn into wood chippings!
Let’s say that you’re making veneers, though. What do you do when you need to cut wood thinner than a ¼” thickness. The best tool for doing this would be a drum sander.
However, there is a way of getting super thin cuts of wood using a planer. You can create a homemade sled out of ¾” plywood and a couple of pieces of solid wood scraps.
Below, we’ll take you on a step-by-step guide:
- Find two small pieces of solid wood and glue attach them to one end of the ¾” plywood sled to form an L-shape
- Place the wood you want to create a thin strip of onto the sled, and secure it in place using a small amount of glue so that the end sits neatly into the L-shape
- Run the sled through the planer until the wood has been cut to the desired thickness
By glueing the piece of wood in place, you stop it from being sucked up into the planer and obliterated. And, once you’re done, it can easily be removed using a wallpaper scraper.
The above technique should allow you to cheat the system and cut your wood to a thickness of ⅛”. It’s not a good idea to try and go any thinner than this though, otherwise, you simply risk damaging the wood and having to start all over again.
When it comes to whether or not you can run plywood through a planer, the choice ultimately lies with you. It is possible, but if you don’t want to risk damaging the plywood it’s not a good idea. More importantly, you could end up causing damage to your planer by dulling the blades or clogging the dust port.
Instead, we would recommend using a handheld block pane if you’re working with a small piece of plywood. And, if you’re working with a larger piece, use a belt sander or an orbital sander. Take care not to use too much pressure or a sandpaper with a high grit, practice a little patience, and you’ll have the desired results without causing any damage to the wood or your equipment.