How to Plane Wood Without a Planer

How to Plane Wood Without a Planer

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In case you didn’t know, a wood planer is a tool that is used to ensure that a board is of uniform thickness from one end to another, and also so that both sides are totally flat. It’s all about getting wood ready for use. With that being said, what happens when you don’t have a wood planer?

After all, these machines can be quite big, and yeah, pricey too. However, the fortunate reality is that there are other ways of planing wood without a planer. Sure, they might require a bit more effort and attention, but it is possible. Let’s figure out how to plane wood without a planer.

Can You Plane Wood Without a Planer?

The simple fact here is that yes, absolutely can you plane wood without a planer. After all, electric wood planers have not been around for all that long. Indeed, people planed pieces of wood long before the invention of electricity, and moreover, even if power tools are involved, there is more than one that can be used for this task.

Sure, some tools might technically not be designed for planing, but it certainly does not mean that some tools are not capable of doing so. There are a few manual wood planing options to go with, as well as some other power tools that will work. With all of that being said, planing many pieces of wood with any of the methods that we are about to talk about will take some time, not to mention that recreating results across many pieces of wood is not going to be easy either.

There’s also the fact that a planer is of course the fastest and easiest way to get it done, plus, if you are planing manually or with other power tools, there is only so much that can be done. In other words, if you are planing very thick boards, especially if you need to remove a lot of material, and you have a whole lot of boards to work with, it’s probably best to just invest in a decent benchtop planer.

4 Ways to Plane Wood Without a Planer

Now, before we get into talking about the various tools you can use to plane wood in lieu of a planer, it is important to note that all of the tools you can use will still require the same first step. Planers of course allow for easy depth adjustments, so you really don’t have to measure much.

However, with the below methods, you will first need to measure your board and mark the places where material needs to be removed. In other words, get a T-square, a measuring tape, and a pencil, and make the appropriate markings according to what the final result should look like. Once you have marked your board, you can then choose any of the following planing methods.

#1: Use a Manual Planer

Block Planer OK, so when we said that you don’t have a planer, we were talking about an actual electric planer, a large power tool, not this one, the Jack or manual planer. This is the kind of planer that people used for hundreds or even thousands of years before power planers were invented. It’s really just a large piece of metal with a thin blade affixed to the handle, along with handles for pushing it along.

There are three main types of manual planers, the scrub plane (designed to remove lots of material at once), the jointer plane (designed to remove less wood), and the smoothing plane (the type designed to finish things off and to create a smooth finish). It is recommended that you start with the first, then move to the second, and finish things off with the smoothing plane.

However, if you don’t want to use all of those, then use a Jack planer, which is like a middle-ground option between all three of the other ones we just talked about. For this purpose, go for a size number five or six base, as it will be long enough to deal with imperfections. All you have to do is to identify high spots and then plane them away.

#2: Use Sandpaper or a Sander

Sander The next option that is at your disposal here, especially if you only have to remove a little bit of material, is to use some good old sandpaper and those biceps of yours. When it comes to sanding away material for planing purposes, you do want to use coarse sandpaper, something that can remove a lot of material at once. Smooth sandpaper will not remove enough material at once, especially if there is a lot to be removed. You will spend hours on a single board and you’ll give yourself carpal tunnel syndrome too.

Now, if you have multiple boards that need to be planed, especially if there is a lot of material to be removed, you will want to use a power sander. What type of power sander you use is totally up to you. You can use a normal power sander, an orbital sander, a drum sander, or a large belt sander.

That said, a large belt sander doesn’t take up less space or cost less than a full-size planer, so if you have a lot that needs doing and you want to use a big machine, you’re better off getting a planer than a large tabletop belt sander. Whatever the case may be, all that you need to do is measure how much material needs to be removed, and then use coarse sandpaper to grind it away.

#3: Use a Table Saw

Table Saw Yet another option at your disposal here is to use a table saw. Now, in order to plane wood with a table saw, you will first need to build a jig, something that will hold your board in the proper position as you move it through the blade.

Chances are that you need to plane the wide sides of the board, which means that the board needs to stand on the narrow sides as it passes through the blade, and holding it in your hands is not an option here, so you will need to make a table saw planing jig. No, it’s not overly easy and it will take time, but that said, once you have made a jig, you can then use it to plane multiple pieces the same way.

In terms of speed and efficiency, especially when it comes to the repeated planing of multiple pieces, this is a good way to go. Make sure that your table saw blade is at a perfect 90-degree vertical position, and make sure to move the board smoothly against the saw. If you don’t keep things moving smoothly, you’ll end up with burn marks on the wood. With the jig made and the wood measured, all you have to do is to move the board through the blade.

#4: Use a Router

Wood Router The fourth option that you have at your disposal is to use a wood router to sand or grind away the excess material. Just like with the table saw method, you will need to construct a jig to ensure that the wood passes through the router bit at the right location.

It’s really just a wooden frame used to hold the board in place. All you have to do is to push the board through the router, ensuring that you work with the grain of the wood, not against it. Sure, making a jig requires effort, but it will make it easier to make repeated cuts.


The bottom line is that if you don’t have a planer, you can still find other ways to plane wood. However, if you need to plane a lot of wood on a regular basis, then you are best off buying a planer.