Getting planer ridges out

The way I’ve been shaping my boards so far is to skin the entire bottom, flatten out bottom with big 24" flat block, get to desired thickness, trace template on bottom, cut out template, true up outline, then add any bottom contour or flatten out a tad more with 60grit. The I move onto the top, etc…I’m just wondering if you guys shape much more of the bottom once you’ve cleaned up the planer ridges, and if it’s normal to have some fairly “big” ridges left over from the planer after skinning…

Ideally there should be NO ridges at all after skinning. Sounds like your planer’s blades may be out of alignent or the jig used to align the blades may need calibration. Do your ridges always occur off one side of your planer? Once “dialed-in” you should be able to set rocker, and rough out your bottom contours with the planer… The planer is very sensitive to these adjustments so expect to do them a few times before getting it just right. hope this helps.

I’m using a standard Black&Decker planer, nothing fancy. Even with the depth set at “0”, it seems to cut fairly deep. Might just take alot of getting used to. If I really concentrate on holding it level to whatever surface I’m planing, the ridges aren’t so bad, but I always get them to a point, and they’re a pain to sand out and then try to get the bottom flat again.

I outline first. Cut out template with the jigsaw. Then I start planing with the power planer on the bottom till I get just about the right thickness and profile. Then I take a 24" level and wrap two pieces of 60 grit on that to true up any incinsitencies with the planer. I always have some planer marks but that’s what the level wrapped in sandpaper is for.


Get Master Shaping Video by Damascus Productions. Jim Phillips shows how he does it. He can practically get to the finished shape using only the planer using very shallow cuts and a very skilled hand. Most of us can’t even get close.

I also have this problem but I think it’s a matter of technique since I’m a beginner.

It seems that with each pass of the planer, I leave a ridge on the left and right of the board. Is it possible that my angle of approach needs to be changed?

I usually make each pass at a slight angle and follow the line from the previous pass but I still get ridges.


Let’s see- if the planer is cutting some at a ‘0’ setting then I think that’s a lot of your problem right there. If you have your rear shoe resting on an already cut surface and the front shoe on an uncut surface ( see ) , then what gets cut should be real close to even with the rest of the cut surface.

But if it’s cutting a fair depth at ‘0’ then all bets are off and you’ll get the ridges and more that you’re getting, plus you won’t really be able to trust the planer. I’m not familiar with the cutter-setting arrangement for the Black and Decker planers, but I suspect yours may be a little bent or out of adjustment.

Try setting a straight edge ( like a steel ruler or the blade of a square) along the rear shoe and if the blades do more than just touch it then they definitely need to be set shallower.

hope that’s of use



Many thanks. Your reply was just the common sense that I needed to better understand the planer concept. It takes understanding how a tool works for me to understand how to use it.

I think my brother has a cracked in half board in the shed that I may be able to use for planing practice.

Thanks doc, I’ll check the adjustment(s) today after work. I wasn’t sure if “0” on the planer was supposed to be “nothing” or just the shallowest cut…

Ridges… yeah me too.

The reason my Chinese planer leaves ridges (well one of them anyway) is that the front shoe (platen) is not in the same plane as the rear shoe.

To alleviate this what I did was put a layer of Saran Wrap on a flat surface (an old sheet of polycarbonate). I lowered the front shoe so one corner barely touched the polycarbonate, then mixed a batch of Devcon, smeared it on the front shoe, and set the whole thing down on the flat. When the Devcon cured, I peeled it off, rounded the edges of my newly formed front shoe, and went back at it.

Doc’s picture about blade depth setting is also significant, particularly if you’ve ever removed the blades for sharpening or whatever. The edge of the blade should just meet the plane surface formed by the rear platen.

When you guys are learning the finer points of planer use, One of the biggest mistakes is not putting pressure on the correct part of the planer. You should be applying pressure to rear of the planer a little behind the blades. You want to keep this surface flat against where you just cut.

DO NOT PUT PRESSURE OVER THE BLADES OR IN FRONT OF THEM. By keeping pressure in the correct spot of the tool, you will duplicate what you just cut perfectly. Once you get this figured out, then you can learn how pressure on diffrent parts of the planer can work to your advantage ( Planing sideways at the nose flip, etc.)

Happy mowing!

I had the same problem with my Chinese planer. I leveled mine on a belt sander. Still got uneven cut…sometimes???MMM… Slop in the locating cylinder from poor honing. Put a wrap of masking tape around the shoe cylinder to tighten up the fit and that helped a lot. The more you use the planer the better you get. Its a feel thing. I get ridges and they piss me off but will be a fact of life until I invest in a more precision machine. I hit ‘em lightly with the sureform and drag the 24" block a coupla’ times and all is well. They usually look a hell of a lot taller than they really are! Absolutely have to true the blades to the base or you are pizzin in the wind! If they are not perfect to the base you can make multiple passes @ zero shoe and still get a ridge from the blades being off true level with the base! A little devcon smeared around the receiver bore and a light hone with some 100 grit and that might tighten things up some too, probably better than masking tape. For $40 I can’t really complain all that much. I’ve shaped 12 boards with the one I have right now and if it died tomorrow I have gotten my training moneys worth out of it! Can you hear it cuttin???


Right, you need to get an idea of just how accurate your settings are: while this doesn’t really apply with the Chinese screw-thread-versus-spring depth settings, on other types it’s a good move to set the depth accurately and that starts from zero:

You can, of course, start at zero and calibrate with feeler gauges or a set of calipers for other depth settings. You will probably also find that the front shoe isn’t parallell with the rear shoe, especially on those planers that use a spring and screw depth adjustment. You might try shimming it, though you could also lap it on some sandpaper set on a very flat surface like a piece of heavy plate glass.

hope that’s of use



Here’s 2 cents from a guy who’s not an expert, but a few boards in front of you. I shaped my first five boards with a Makita planer. Or, I skinned them with the planer and shaped them with surform and sanding block. My skill improved when I bought the modified Hitachi. My advice is to buy the Hitachi and practice on a blank second or ruined blank. You can easily change the depth of cut as you plane. If you tip it side to side you get ridges. After a while you can tell how deep your cut is by the sound of your machine. Its just a question of practice. Mike

Doc, how in the hell do you do those neat graphics?

no shit. how do you make those graphics. in autocad it would take me 45 minutes to draw the planer you drew. and then i would have to print it, scan it, compress it, fuss with it…

Ditto on the graphics Doc. The message behind the diagrams cannot be over-stressed. Probably want to unplug the rascal while doing all that measuring…

Oops - unplug it, right… y’know, it’s a marvel how I still have all seven fingers…

For the graphics, I just do Windows Paint, and I figure it doesn’t have to be perfectly to scale or anything ( good thing, 'cos I suck at autocad or anything more advanced than KeyCad…or was it CadKey?? …and EasyCad back in the day ) . As for Photoshop and such - again, too tricky for me. I have 'em, but I don’t use 'em unless there’s an effect I really need that I can’t get from something much lower end.

Just whack out something that more or less looks right, made p of the simple shapes that Oaint does pretty well. There’s some other tricks -

For symmetrical objects, do half, copy it, paste it and flip it either horizontal or vertical, then drag it into place so the lines match up. Draw an odd shape, making sure the thing isn’t open by a pixel, fill it and call it good.

Never hesitate to steal something good from a previous drawing

Zoom in for as much of the job/dwg as you can - the little lines are easier to do that way

For instance

  1. draw the shoes using solid rectangular shapes slightly offset from one another
  2. Sketch in the body of the thing using straight lines
  3. With straight and bezier curve lines and some rounded cornered rectangles, draw a trigger group and a motor
  4. Draw half a knob up front - copy that little item with the copy tool, paste it back into the dwg and
  5. flip it and drag it to the right spot
  6. Add color using that pouring paint can looking thing to the body ( green) and handles and such, use black for the knob and trigger
  7. Add a cord ( bezier curve tool again ) with a thicker line setting
Less than perfect, it's a caricature of a planer, really. But it's close enough and I can exaggerate some things to show what I need to show. Hell, I draw badly too, but well enough to give myself an idea of what's what and maybe explain it. Remember, perfection is the mortal enemy of good enough.

that make anything like sense??


Doc is the “Rainman of Swaylocks”. 280,483,947 pixels, 280,483,948 pixels. Pictures turned out right before our eyes. A freakish gift if I ever saw one.

Keep up the good work, your pictures do speak a 1000 words.


Well, it’s really not that hard…

My great aunt Alice was a painter - she taught me the basics of drawing and sketching with pencil, pen and basic watercolors.

High school - art class and across the hall was Mechanical Drawing - two good instructors besides. While I’m useless with Photoshop or Autocad, I can be downright dangerous with pen and ink, a #1 pencil and decent drawing paper or drafting tools.

High school and later - Working for The Old Man, who would draw, sketch and doodle on bar napkins to illustrate what esoteric point he was trying to make or odd item he was trying to explain, for instance the proper way to use an adze or frame up a big wooden fishing boat. I had to be able to give him “Ok, but if we do it this way…” with sketches and explanations, 'cos otherwise I wsn’t gonna get a hearing. Which I came by honestly - my grandfather, The Old Man’s dad, was trained in and had degrees in Civil, Mechanical and Electrical engineering ( which he got in one three year stint in college after earning the money as a lumberjack ) and could take a swing at engineering and running stuff like power plants, street railway companies or innovative artificial fiber textile mills, all of which he had done. In my family, specialised experts are considered dullards with no imagination.

College, in my 30s - I discovered that my Chem Lab reports got better marks if I did 'em in Windows Write and Paint for illustrations and schematics - Windows Write 1.04, that is. Good thing, as my handwriting is nearly hieroglyphics.

College part 2 - BU engineering school, where among other things was a course called Visual Thinking and Design, taught by a guy with an MBA in addition to his Mech. Eng degree. The idea was that if you could draw it, you could understand it better and communicate your ideas better…which seems to be the case, no? That and engineering training puts a real premium on diagrams, notional drawings, illustrations of this and that… The course, it was based around Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which in turn was based on The Natural Way to Draw which in turn was the text that my high school art class was based on…the circle closed.

So…it’s far from a gift, just some training and practice and above all necessity.

Anybody can do it… hell, if I can do it, most definitely anybody can do it