Do you want to reduce the thickness of particle board? Or perhaps you need to plane an edge square? This article will explain these tasks for you.
At one time or another, we have all been here. Measurements go wrong and we must adjust our build plans. Looking at the particle board, you have an idea, but it doesn’t feel right. That’s why you’ve come online to ask the question, can you plane particle board?
Can You Run Particle Board Through a Thickness Planer? –
It is not recommended to put particle board through a thickness planer because the glue can damage the blades.
A thickness planer comes in many shapes and sizes. Most industrial workshops will have a large machine, with either straight or spiral blades. If you have a set of blades that you don’t mind potentially ruining, then you could theoretically run a board through the machine.
However, you must also consider the size of the bed. Is the board wide enough to fit onto the planer bed and pass-through safely? If it’s too short, the kickback mechanism won’t engage. There is then a danger from ejected material.
Can You Plane Particle Board Using a Manual Hand Planer?
A hand plane can remove material from a particle board. However, you should consider the job before you run to get your best plane. As mentioned already, and will be repeated throughout this article, the glue in particle board can damage plane blades.
So don’t pick up your best Lie-Nielsen for this work.
There are some amazing second-fix carpenters that finish fitting an inbuilt cabinet’s side scribes with a cheap block plane. But if they want to remove more material, they would choose a different tool for the job.
Can You Plane Particle Board Using a Power Hand Planer?
Despite this, you want to avoid planing the face of the board if you can. Edges can easily get worked, but if you are about to plane a face, take a moment to consider if there is another option. Particle boards and MDF are rarely unevenly thick. If you plane a face, you are about to make the board uneven, which can cause more problems further down the line.
What Is the Best Type of Planer for Particle Board?
If you have spare blades, and the pieces are a safe enough size to use, either the thicknesser or the electric planer is best to use. It depends on the job.
If the board fits within the bed and is long enough to engage the kickback devices, use the thicknesser to reduce board thickness. If you need to remove material from the board’s edge, look at the power hand planer.
Lastly, if you are fine adjusting a scribe, an old block plane might be favorable.
How to Plane Particle Board
To thickness plane particle board follow the steps below:
Step 1: Check the board fits onto the machine’s bed and will engage kickback devices.
Step 2: Put on PPE.
Step 3: Change the blades to an old set that you don’t mind ruining.
Step 4: Turn the machine and extraction on, wait for it to get up to speed.
Step 5: Raise the bed to the thickness of the board. In general, you don’t want to take more than 1/8th of an inch at a time from the thickness. Pass the board through the machine at no more than 1/8th of an inch increments until you reach the desired thickness.
3 Reasons Not to Plane Particle Board
The above sections highlight that it is theoretically possible to plane particle board. However, there are some important reasons why it’s not a good idea. Below we explain 3 reasons not to plane particle board.
1. There Are Other Options
Before planing a board, consider if you could reduce the dimensions by cutting another component. For instance, if a cabinet is too tall, can you take it apart and cut the side panels shorter? Or can a plinth get lowered?
2. Blade damage
This was discussed in earlier sections, but it is worth talking about again.
Particle board is not a natural material, it is manufactured. Glue, or resin, holds small wood components together. The wood or resin can be extremely hard and chip plane blades. If a blade doesn’t chip, the glue will blunt a blade much quicker.
3. Dangerous Chemicals
Unfortunately, particle board, as well as other types of boards such as MDF, contain formaldehyde. This, again, is mainly due to the type of glue used to bind the wood particles together.
When the particle board is planed, it creates a lot of dust. This puts the highly toxic material into the air, where you breathe it in. Use proper extraction and wear a mask.
3 Alternative Ways to Reduce Your Particle Board’s Thickness
Lastly, below are three alternative ways to consider instead of planing a particle board:
- Sand: Use either a belt sander or an orbital sander to take the thickness down.
- Buy a thinner board: It might not be an option for everyone, but a new, thinner board would be the cleanest option.
- Saw and chisel: This is probably the most fiddly way of doing it. Cut a series of parallel relief cuts to just above the final thickness. Then with a chisel and hammer, remove the waste. Once this is done, use only the chisel to slice delicately to the final line.
I remember my boss saying during my joinery apprenticeship, ‘if you are planing particle board on-site, things have gone seriously wrong.’ Particle board comes in set dimensions. Here, my old boss meant that if you need to plane down its thickness, either the measurements were way off, or another part of the build has changed.
It is possible to plane particle board, but it is not often advised. It can damage your tools and endanger your health. So be careful, use extraction, and wear PPE.