If you’re new to the world of woodwork, or you’re simply trying to create a fully functioning workshop without spending a fortune, you might be wondering where you can cut corners. One of the most commonly asked questions from people trying to cut down on the number of tools they need is “can you use a planer as a sander?”
To put it in the simplest terms, no. It might seem like both tools have a similar job, but the outcome of what they do is actually quite different.
The purpose of a planer, specifically a planer thicknesser, is to cut wooden boards into different thicknesses. This gives you the perfect sized boards for making floors, doors, and furniture. Note here that a planer cuts thickness, not length. If you want to shorten your boards, you’ll need to use a circular saw.
You can see our top picks of the Best Circular Saw UK here for more selection.
A sander, on the other hand, is designed to smooth rough edges and highlight the natural beauty of the wood. This does slightly reduce the thickness of the wood, but nowhere near as much as a planer does. If you try to reduce the thickness of a wooden board using a sander, it will take you a very long time!
What is the difference between a sander and a planer?
So, now you know what each tool is used for. But what other differences are there between a sander and a planer?
As its name suggests, a sander uses sandpaper to smooth the surface of the wood. It does this by using a rotator that, when pressed against the wood, spins to remove uneven cracks and soften rough edges. A portable sander can even be used to flatten tiny hills on wooden floors.
Many sanders have rotators that can spin the sandpaper in the same direction, opposite directions, or both directions. You’re also able to change the sandpaper for a higher or lower grit. This gives you the ability to create the perfect finish for the piece you’re working on.
A planer is designed to reduce the thickness of a piece of wood. It can also be used to eliminate imperfections for the surface of the wood that would take a longer time to do with a sander. For instance, if the entire top layer of the wood looks damaged, you can simply shave it off in one quick go, rather than slowly buffing it away.
The design of a planer is much different than a sander, too. It has a cutter head that is set into the bed surface. Blades are located within the cutter head that cut into the wood and reduces the thickness of it. A planer also features a set of rollers that pull the wood through the machine.
A planer’s table can be adjusted in line with the cutter head, and it’s this that gives you control over the thickness of the wood.
Looking at both of these, you can see that these two tools are in no way interchangeable. You cannot use a planer to sand, and you cannot use a sander to reduce the thickness of a board. Not without a great deal of patience, anyway. And, even in this case, you won’t get an efficient, professional finish.
Can a drum sander replace a planer?
A drum sander is slightly more powerful than a belt sander, and it’s a great tool for sanding down wood. In some cases, even plastic. It gives you a beautifully smooth,splinter-free surface. But can it be used as a replacement for a planer?
Again, no, it can’t. While a drum sander can make short work of creating a smooth surface and buffing away any imperfections, it can’t be used to reduce the thickness of an entire piece of wood. Not without a lot of patience and hard work, anyway!
However, if you need to remove just a few millimetres off the top of your board, a drum sander would be suitable for this.
It’s worth noting also that, since a drum sander is a stationary tool, it cannot be used for smoothing floors or doors that are already in position. In this instance, a handheld belt sander would be the best tool for the job.
The main thing you need to remember about planers and sanders is that, while they may seem to do a similar job, they are two completely different tools that produce totally different results.
A planer reduces the thickness of wooden boards and can create thin strips of wood that are ideal for using as floorboards or cupboard doors. A sander smooths the surface of the wood out and exposes the grain so that it’s more aesthetically pleasing.
So, if you think you can replace one with the other, and vice versa, think again! To create the best quality woodwork possible, you’ll need both in your workshop.