Can You Plane Plywood?

Can You Plane Plywood?

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If you need to make a piece of plywood thinner, you might consider running it through a planer.

That being said, planers are somewhat finicky tools, and they can’t handle all types of work.

So, can you plane plywood? Let’s take a look at a variety of planing machines and whether or not they can be used to plane plywood.

Can You Run Plywood Through a Thickness Planer?

Thickness Planer Technically speaking, yes, you can run plywood through a thickness planer. This will technically make the plywood thinner. However, whether or not it is a good idea is questionable at best. There are two reasons for this:

First, the glue that holds the plywood together causes the knives on the planer to get dull way too quickly. It will more or less ruin those blades.

Moreover, if you plane plywood across the grain, it’s going to create a lot of long and stringy fibers. This can then clog the dust port of your planer, and will require maintenance. So, while it is technically possible, it’s absolutely not going to be good for your machine.

Can You Plane Plywood Using a Manual Hand Planer?

Hand Planer If an actual thickness planer does not work, then what about a manual hand planer? Well, the issue here is unfortunately more or less the same across the board. The fact of the matter is that the glue that holds the plywood together is also going to ruin the blade on your hand planer.

It’s going to cause it to become dull very quickly, and some of the glue might even stick. It’s just not going to work very well.

On that note, if you plane the plywood across the grain, as opposed to along the grain, you might actually force the layers of plywood to separate and come apart. While it is technically doable, just like with the thickness planer, it’s certainly not ideal.

Can You Plane Plywood Using a Power Hand Planer?

Power Planer So, if a large thickness planer and a manual hand planer are both not ideal for this purpose, then what about a power hand planer?

Well, predictably, the theme here still remains the same. All of the glue contained in plywood simply is not good for the blades on any planer, no matter what type we are talking about.

Those blades are going to get dull very quickly and will require either sharpening or replacement. There is also the fact that, if you plane across the grain, you could actually pull pieces of the plywood right off, causing the layers to separate.

There is also the fact that if you plane plywood, you’re actually removing the hard outer layer and exposing the much softer inner layer, which can then cause the plywood to degrade much quicker.

What Is the Best Type of Planer for Plywood?

If we were talking about the three types of planers discussed above, you are probably best off using a hand planer. Due to the high degree of control you have with a hand planer, you might not cause as much damage to it as to the other types.

However, something we haven’t talked about is a block plane. Generally speaking, a block plane is one of the best types of planers to use for plywood.

This is a hand tool, but it is designed in such a way to reduce the cutting angle, therefore preserving the blade for longer. With that being said, planing plywood usually just doesn’t go all that well.

How to Plane Plywood

For the most part, planing plywood just doesn’t go very well, but if you have to, using a block plane is best. This is also quite easy, although it will take a very long time.

All you really have to do is to put the plywood on a hard and stable surface, get your block plane, point the blade forward, apply some pressure, and move the plane forward. Just make sure you remove the wood chips and strips as you go, or they will get in the way.

4 Reasons Not to Plane Plywood

Let’s quickly take a look at the four main reasons why planing plywood really isn’t a very good idea.

1. You’ll Ruin the Blades

As we mentioned a few times now, one of the main reasons that you don’t want to plane plywood is because you are going to ruin the blades. All of the glue that is used to hold the separate plies together will damage the blades and require you to either sharpen or replace them far too often.

2. You Could Pull the Plywood Apart

Another reason why you want to avoid planing plywood is that you can actually pull the separate layers apart. If you hit the top the wrong way, it might actually cause the top layer to strip off and separate from the others. This will of course effectively ruin the piece of plywood in question.

3. You Can Clog Dust Systems

If we’re talking about a thickness planer or a power hand planer, another issue you will face is that may clog the dust systems. When you use planers, you often have strips that come off of the plywood instead of neat little chips, and these will clog the dust systems. This will therefore require you to constantly perform maintenance on your tool.

4. You Are Weakening the Plywood

The other reason why you probably want to avoid planing plywood is that you are actually weakening the plywood by doing so. When you remove that hard outer layer of wood, you expose the softer interior, and that’s just asking for trouble.

The Alternative Way to Reduce Your Plywood’s Thickness

Besides planing, which is obviously not a good idea, the only other way to reduce the thickness of plywood is by sanding it. Yes, this is a very labor-intensive process, but the result will be much better than when using a planer, especially as far as damaging the planers go.

That said, you can always buy thinner plywood to begin with.


As you can see, plywood is just something that you don’t really want to plane. However, if you have to, using a block plane is probably your best option.