How to Plane Wood Without a Planer? (7 Ways)

What happens when you need to thin the wood, but do not have a planer to do the job? No problem, there are other tools at your disposal that can plane the wood effectively to get the results that you desire.

1. Plane Wood with Router

You may not think of a router as being a good substitute for a planer, but it does do the job quite well if you properly secure the wood. When you think about it, a wood router is a type of planer that takes away layers of wood to create specific designs. In this case, you are simply expanding that design to cover the entire top layer of the wood itself.

To flatten wood with a router you will need to make a router sled or jig. If you have a sled, then you are ready to go. Otherwise, you may need to build one or purchase one.

You will need to secure the wood with a jig or clamps so that the board stays securely to the platform. Be sure to position the board so that you can easily push the router across all the way. This means working in the direction of the grains for the best result.

Once the board is secure and the router set to the desired depth, the work may go surprisingly fast. But even the best result with the router is not going to be as smooth compared to a planer or table saw. So, be prepared to use a sander to smooth out the surface if you want a quality finish to the material.

How to Make a Router Sled

Here is a video that explains how to build a router sled to flatten large slabs of wood.

Tools used:

As you can see, the router method is also useful when you have a large piece of wood that you cannot pass through your thickness planer or jointer.

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2. Use a Drum Sander

Normally, sanders are used to get a fine finish to the wood and not thin the material in any great way. However, both the drum and a belt sander can do the job if you have a little patience and plenty of time. The advantage to using a drum sander is that you can control the process of thinning to a considerable degree. Plus, you do not have to learn any new techniques or use the drum sander in a manner different than you normally do.

Drum Sander to plane wood
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However, this will take a longer time to accomplish compared to using a standard planer or other methods that involve cutting tools. It is recommended that for even results you create a jig that will hold the material in place. This will allow you to sand it evenly using the drum sander and get the results that you desire.

Use heavy grit sandpaper at first and then feed the board the same way as normal. You should take off one thin layer after another until you get to the thickness you want.

Related info: Drum Sander vs Planer comparison.

3. Sanding with Belt Sander

A belt sander works the same way as a drum sander. It is recommended that you use a wide belt to cover a larger area so that the work will take less time. As with the drum sander, you do not need to use any new techniques or tools to do the job. It’s just like standard sanding only that it will take more time depending on how much material you want to take away from the board.
Belt Sander on wood

Like the drum sander, you should construct or use a jig to hold the board in place. This will ensure a more even result.

4. Table Saw. Can You Plane Wood with a Table Saw?

Plane wood without a Planer
Yes, you can plane wood with a table saw. In fact, a table saw is a good device to use when working with long, narrow pieces of wood. However, you need to make a modification or two first so that you can get the results that you desire.

How to Plane with a Table Saw

First, create a jig that will keep the board in the proper position. You will need a solid jig, one you can adjust, but also one that stays in place so that the wood will be evenly thinned. It will take time to create a proper jig but doing so will greatly speed up the process, so it is worth the time that is spent.

Next, use an engineering square to ensure that the saw blade is at a perfect 90-degree angle. Otherwise, you might see flaws in the surface of the wood is the blade is not perfectly set. An engineering square is a perfect tool to use to help set the position of the blade properly.

Finally, if you have never planed wood on a table saw before, you should practice on some scrap pieces first. Even if you have everything set properly, it is possible to get burn marks in the wood if you do not push the material across the blade smoothly. The key is to move the wood in a smooth, deliberate manner that results in not enough contact for the blade to heat the material and cause burn marks.

Once you have gotten the technique down, you are now ready to start thinning the wood with your table saw.

5. Vertical Band Saw

The band saw is a very versatile tool that can be used not only for ripping and cutting profiles, but also to reduce thickness. In fact, the versatility of band saws has made them a popular and trusted tool for many woodworkers.

If the board is not very wide, you can use a vertical band saw to slice through the thickness with the help of a fence. In fact, the band saw is the best too for resawing wood. Make sure that you are using a wide blade to get the cut straight.
Resawing on Bandsaw

The main limitation of the band saw is that it requires a reasonably flat surface that you can butt against the fence. Also depending on the size of the band saw, you may not be able to cut through extra-wide boards on a band saw.

6. Use a Jointer

A jointer is the best tool to flatten the face of wood boards. Now, I understand that if you do not have a wood planer, chances are slim that you have a jointer.

However, in case you have access to a jointer you can use it to reduce the thickness. But keep in mind that the jointer cannot make the thickness parallel, it can only flatten.

7. Manual Sanding

If you do not have any of these tools, then you can rely on old-fashioned sandpaper to do the job. Sandpaper is inexpensive and will work, providing for a smooth finish when you are done. However, hand sanding wood can take a long time, so be prepared to invest some physical effort in thinning the wood.

You should start with some heavy sandpaper of at least 150-grit or more. This will take off as much material as possible to reduce the time. Use smooth, even strokes over the wood when using sandpaper. Once you have taken off the desired amount, you can switch to a finer grit of sandpaper to smooth it out even further.

Of course, if you have any type of sanding device this will reduce the time and effort needed to thin the wood. As with using any other tool, be sure to firmly secure the wood to the platform using a strong jig. One of the best investments you can make is creating a jig that will hold various pieces of material so that any mistakes are kept to a minimum.

Finally, you can use a jack planer instead of a benchtop thickness planer to flatten and reduce the thickness.

By using these aforementioned tools, you can plane wood without having to use a proper planer.