Using a wood planer at home is a great way to create some amazing woodworking projects any time that you would like. But as you get to work, you may notice that something known as wood planer snipe is showing up on the end of your boards. This type of snipe is devastating whether you’re a serious woodworker or a weekend warrior working on a home woodworking project.
There are a few things that you can do to avoid wood planer snipe. While these are not always full-proof and there are still times when you will find snipe on your boards, they can help make the project look better. Let’s take a look at what you can do to prevent wood snipe and what this problem is to start with.
What is Wood Planer Snipe?
Wood snipe is basically a deep cut that will show up on either end of the wood when you pass it through your planer. The amount of snipe that you see depends on the type of planer that you use and how much you follow the proper tips for avoiding this. This is a phenomenon that can happen on a benchtop planer as well as on stationary planers. The type of snipe I’m talking about here doesn’t typically show up when using a hand planer.
Depending on the specific board, and if the snipe is minor enough, you may only notice it when it comes time to apply the finish. Other times the snipe is severe and you can see it right away. Sometimes it is bad enough to cause irreversible damage to the piece of wood you’re working on and there’s no other choice but to start over.
Wood planer snipe can be disappointing and frustrating, especially when you are a beginner who has worked really hard on the project. Getting more familiar with your wood planer and learning how to use it well can help limit how much wood snipe occurs.
What Causes Wood Planer Snipe?
To understand what is causing the snipe on your wood, it is first important to look at how planers work. Planers will basically have two pressure rollers that are located on each side of the cutter head that you use. These rollers will hold the board down so that it is always in contact with your blade as the board makes it through the machine.
The problems can potentially occur when your board is fed into the planer to start with. At that time, the board is only held down with the infeed roller. This is going to allow the workpiece to lift up just slightly to the cutter head blade. This will basically make the first about three inches of the board appear thinner than all of the rest.
During this process, when your board gets to the other side and leaves the planer, you run into the same problem. At the end, the outfeed roller, which is located after the blade, will help hold the board in its place. This will lift the tail end of the board into the blade, which will make this part turn out thinner than all of the rest.
Here’s a really good video explanation of how thickness planer snipe occurs.
Tips on How to Avoid Wood Planer Snipe
Now that we know more about what wood planer snipe is, it is important to learn the steps that will help you avoid this problem in the first place. Besides making sure that you are using a high quality wood planer like DeWalt or Ridgid and quality sharp wood planer blades, here are some additional things that you can try to avoid thickness planer snipe.
The following tips work just as well on a benchtop thickness planer or stand alone stationary thickness planers.
Butt One Board Against The Next
When I’m running multiple boards through the planer, my go to method of eliminating planer snipe is to simple butt one board up against the other as they go through the planer infeed. Just before the first board goes all the way into the planer, push the next one up against it. Keep pressing against the first board until the second is inside and has the planer grabs it. Just remember to be quick to grab the first piece of wood from the outfeed table before it falls!
Cut off the Snipe
If you start to notice there is some wood plane snipe on your piece, the easiest way to solve it is to cut off the ends where the snipe is present. This is a bit wasteful though because you will end up losing about two inches off both ends if not more. However, if snipe is already present on the board, then this may be the best option. This is a tip that you can also keep in mind when using your jointer.
Adjust the Tables Up
Another option to use is to make some adjustments to your tables. Both the outfeed and infeed tables for a portable planer are easy to adjust. You just need to use some of the mechanisms for adjustment to raise up the front and the back edges of these tables based on how to avoid it. Your goal is to lift up the back end of the board so that it enters the planer in this way. It also helps to make sure that the front edge will not raise up into the blades.
Use a Test Board
One thing to try out is to take out a shorter scrap piece that you can use as a test both before and after the piece that you actually plan to work with. This smaller board will get all of the snipe and then the board you use in the middle of the two tests will not. You do need to make sure that both of the boards are pushed through one right against the other so it seems like there is just one big board going through. It takes a little more planning, but it is an efficient way to reduce how much snipe is there.
Use a Test Side Runner for Your Glue Ups
When you have a small glue up, similar to what you will do with a cutting board, you can choose to glue on a few test side runners to help out with this. The side runners are often going to be thin and this is fine, but you should have them extend past all of the other boards you plan to use by around three inches. This works because it allows the snipe to happen on the runners rather than on the boards that you glue up. The results are not always perfect with this, but it does reduce the snipe by quite a bit.
Run Through The Planer At An Angle
The next method is to take your rough lumber and send them through your planer at an angle. This will help the rollers to ease onto your board rather than having the planer knives hit the wide blunt edge of the board. You do not need a large tilt to make this happen. Tilting it about 15 to 30 degrees will work just fine. This doesn’t take away all of the snipe each time, but it does make a big difference.
Lift the Board from the Planer
The final suggestions you can use for reducing the amount of snipe on the project is to lift the board, both as it goes into and when it goes out of the planer. When you lift the end that is furthest from the planer, you are basically pushing it so the other end is down on the planer bed. This moves it away from the head of the cutter. This makes a big difference compared to just pushing the board through on its own.
Snipe can naturally happen when you work on any project with your wood planer. It can leave an unsightly look to the board and to your final project. By following some of the tips above, you are able to help limit or even eliminate the amount of snipe that is present and can give your project the finished look that you need.