Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Planer Maintenance 101

(This post was sponsored by 3-IN-ONE-Oil, although the content, ideas, and presentation is all mine)

My trusty planer had been starting to act up: boards weren't feeding quite as easily as I expected, and the finished surfaces weren't as clean as I was used to.  And the crank that controls the height adjustment seemed a little gummed-up, too.  Sigh.  It was clear that I was going to have to spend some time on maintenance, despite the fact that it runs counter to my basic wiring.  See, my strengths lie in having a great imagination and enthusiastically dreaming up new project ideas.  I am historically a great Starter of Projects, and I have even learned to discipline myself into seeing things through and finishing them on the right note, too.  The lure of getting a paycheck at the end definitely helps with that.  But setting aside time for the decidedly unglamorous business of maintaining my tools?  No, I would never organically gravitate toward that.

         I'm guessing that many if not most people can relate to some degree, although I've met a few exceptions in my day.  Like my old buddy David Grace, in Madison, Wisconsin, for example.  That guy was born to set up tools.  During the four years that I occasionally visited his shop, I never saw him make one thing.  I guess he just liked to work on stuff in a different capacity.  For example, he was always tearing a machine apart to recalibrate something, or restoring a vintage handplane.  The prospect of a bad bearing in a jointer was to him a siren song that meant he could gleefully roll up his sleeves, break out his machinist's tools, and eventually get things humming like new again.  Or ideally, better than new.  David firmly believed that the factory setup on most tools was at best a suggestion, a flawed and untrustworthy starting point where those with real vision (and lots of free time) could really shine and take performance to a level that is unfathomable to us mere mortals.  You think your table saw's top is smooth?  Ha, give Dave a few days with a full range of abrasive powders, buffers, paste wax, some eye of newt.... well, he'd get that cast iron slicker than Teflon, and he'd be grinning ear-to-ear the whole time. 

         Not surprisingly, his chisels sure were freakishly sharp.  Frankly, he helped me to redefine just what I thought "sharp" was, although this was a bit of a mixed blessing.  It is like being shown the Promised Land but then never being able to actually set foot in it yourself.  He was a devotee of Japanese waterstones, which I admired in theory but quickly eschewed as too slow and too finicky for me.  I coveted his results, but I was not in search of yet another skill to have to master.  See, I looked at sharpening as an onerous distraction to be avoided for as long as possible, or better yet, farmed out to someone else if I could.  But Dave loved it.  He could lecture for hours on secondary bevels, and he loved to nerd out about the metallurgy of various tool steels.  I mean, the man even resharpened his own tablesaw blades- and he liked it!    

         But lest you think he is a total bad seed, he did introduce me to card scrapers, which are a nice weapon in my woodworking arsenal, and their maintenance requirements are minimal enough even for me.  Anyway, I'm being a bit rough on old Dave here, but it is partially because I am jealous.  And besides, I don't think he can help it- he was just born this way.  Part of me wishes that I had some of that meticulous drive to agonize over optimal tool setup for peak performance.  Sigh.  Anyway, even though we fall at different points on the maintenance continuum, we both recognize that tools and machines do need some TLC now and then if they're going to be at their best, and that it's always worth it when you take the time to clean, sharpen, and lubricate them as needed.  This blog post will detail the process that I recently undertook to get my planer working like new again.  It was twenty minutes very well spent.  I'd like to think that, knowing my lackadaisical ways, David would probably be proud of me.  

Attention wood chips and sawdust: I don't care where you go,
but you can't stay here.

My planer- the DW735 by Dewalt- includes a Torx wrench that
I used to loosen four bolts on the machine's cover.
The cover lifts right off and provides a look into the belly of
the beast.  A very dirty beast, in this case.

Again, the vacuum comes to the rescue.

The height adjustments of this model are accomplished with
the help of what most of us would recognize as a bicycle chain.
Mine was filthy.  I used 3-IN-ONE Dry Lube to get it moving
more smoothly. As it goes on dry, it is less of a sawdust magnet.

Three long, red bolts hold down the cover for the dust extractor.
I removed them.

This gave me access to the cutterhead and the the three knives
that are at the heart of the machine.  Shop vac time once again.

The Torx wrench also has magnets set into it to
make the knife changes trouble-free; your fingers
won't go need to go near the sharp blades.

Here's another look at the height adjustment
mechanisms: most of the weight of the planer
travels up and down these four threaded rods.
Were mine dirty and in need of some TLC?  Yes.

This is how clean they looked afterward!  And the
machine performed, as I mentioned earlier, just
as good as it did on the day I bought it.

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You can find it at Lowes, the Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and
many other stores

1 comment:

  1. I guess I can relate to this post even though I don't run big woodworking tools. I love sewing, hate maintaining my machine. I love to paint, but don't want to wash out those brushes and pans. Why can't we just create and not have to work? My husband loves tinkering with machines so we make a good pair.