How To Plane Wood Without A Planer – The Best Methods

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How To Plane Wood Without A Planer

The most common way to reach the desired thickness of a plank of wood is with a planer. But the question often arises: what would a craftsman do if they don’t have a planer? How do you plane wood without a planer?

There are two options which are the most common and most effective, and it is up to the woodworker to determine which method would be the best option. The craftsman can reach the desired thickness of plank by either hand sanding or using a power sander.

A Closer Look At Hand Sanding

Hand sanding is done with sandpaper, a piece of coarse paper that can be rubbed back and forth across the plank to remove dust and other unwanted material from the surface.

This process is slow and requires a meticulous craftsperson who is knowledgeable about sandpaper thickness and coarseness of the granules.

How To Plane Wood Without A Planer - Sandpaper


It is recommended to use, 80, 120, and 220 grit sizes (which is the coarseness of the grit on the sandpaper), as this will prevent the plank of wood from being scratched too much.

  • Grit size 80 can remove any unwanted wood from the plank.
  • Grit size 120 will remove scratches from the wood.
  • Grit size 220 will smooth the wood’s surface.

Hand sanding can be quite tiring, but the use of a sand block will help reduce the amount of manual labour required. Pressing harder and sanding faster will remove excess wood, decreasing the thickness of the plank and helping to plane the plank faster.

Mechanics of The Power Sander

A second way to plane wood without a planer would be to use a power sander.

There are pros and cons to using a power sander. The potential drawbacks of removing thickness from the wood plank using a power sander are:

  1. Trying to press to hard on the power sander will slow the machine down, and there is always the potential to remove too much thickness from the plank, or like with a planer, cause the wood to splinter.
  2. It is normally loud and creates a lot of dust. It is recommended that the sander use a dust mask or dual cartridge respirator, especially if the wood being worked with is painted or varnished. Some power sanders come with a dust collection bag or a port for a wet/dry vacuum attachment.

The use of a power sander can remove the thickness of the plank quickly, allowing for an alternative means of planing a plank of wood without the use of a planer, and with less physical labor involved for the craftsman.

How To Plane Wood Without A Planer - Power Sanders

Power Sanders

There are three types of power sanders that can be used:

  1. Belt sanders
  2. Orbital finishing sanders
  3. Random orbit sanders

1. Belt Sander

A belt sander is a good tool for smoothing large flat surfaces. This type of sander would come in handy for the woodworker who has a large plank that needs to be planed down.

A belt sander utilizes sanding belts; these are reinforced abrasive cloths that are fitted over two cylindrical drums. It is recommended to sand parallel to the wood’s grain to avoid scratches. Wood grain is the angled direction the wood fibers grow in the wood.

When sanding with a power sander, it is important to always keep the sander moving so that depressions aren’t made in the wood.

Belt sanders come in many sizes and can be used for removing thickness in wood, especially if the wood has been previously painted or varnished with many applied layers of material not originally a part of the wood.

2. Orbital Finishing Sander

An orbital finishing sander is a small, lightweight sander which is quiet and not heavy duty. It can be used to remove thickness from wood, but is more a finishing sander than one that will remove heavy stock from a large plank of wood.

An orbital finishing sander moves in circles with a square sheet of sandpaper attached by clamps, and emits a low volume of wood dust. Its small size allows for sanders to maintain precise control over the sander and the areas that it is concentrated on.

3. Random Orbit Sander

The random orbit sander, in many ways, falls between the belt sander and the orbital finishing sander. It has a circular sand paper attachment.

The random orbit sander not only vibrates in tiny circles, but it spins in small circles, allowing the craftsman to focus the sander to plane woods with various thickness levels.

It doesn’t remove wood as quickly as the belt sander, but the benefit of it is that it is the most versatile sander of the three.

Top Brands For Planing


There are seven sandpaper brands that are considered to be top in the woodworking industry:

  1. Klingspor
  2. Norton
  3. 3M
  4. Mirka
  5. Hermes
  6. Rhynogrip
  7. SIA

Hand Sanding

Other brands worth mentioning for hand sanding that will aid in planing a plank of wood are:

  • Sandeze
  • Prager KMCA
  • Supergrit house brands (Zirconia and Red Resin papers)
  • Abranet sandpaper
  • Gator Sandpaper

Power Sanding

Some of the top power sander brands that will aid in planing a plank of wood are:

  • Black & Decker 5-inch Random Orbit Sander (BDERO100)
  • Black & Decker 1/4-Sheet Orbital Sander (BDEQS300)
  • Genesis Grey Corner Palm Sander (GPS080)
  • Black & Decker Mouse Detail Sander (BDEMS600)
  • Black & Decker 5-Inch Palm Grip Orbit Sander (RO100)
  • Makita 4-1/2-Inch Finishing Sander (BO4556K)
  • BOSCH 120-Volt Random Orbit Sander Kit (ROS20VSK)
  • DEWALT Orbital 1/4-Sheet Sander (D26441K)
  • DEWALT 3-Amp 5-Inch Random-Orbit Sander (D26451)
  • Festool RO 150 FEQ Rotex Sander (571810)

Final Thoughts

How To Plane Wood Without A Planer 1

In conclusion, there are several ways to successfully plane a plank of wood without a planer.

It is worth noting that in the event that there isn’t a power planer available, using a hand planer, a hand tool specifically made for planing wood, is the next best hand tool to use.

However, in the event that even a hand planer isn’t available, power sanding or hand sanding a piece of wood will successfully plane the wood, and give the craftsman the desired thickness.

Thanks for reading this article. If you have any questions, feedback or comments, drop them in the comments! Feel free to share the article if you liked it using the buttons below. Check out our previous article on straightening warped wood.

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2 Responses

  1. Keith says:

    I’ve tried using sandpaper to plane wood, and it ended up being way too much work for me. If you don’t have a planer (and you should really strive to have one, as it makes things a lot easier), you’re better off using a power sander. Overall, this covers everything quite nicely.

    • Scott says:

      Right, it’s normally a lot of work for most people, so I would only do it if it’s your only option. Note that when you don’t use a planer, it’s more difficult to get a flat finish across the entire surface. Before anything else, I would try to get access to a planer, as it makes things much quicker and easier, as you say. Thanks for the comment!

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