Do I need a planer?

Hi all,
I am looking at good workflow practices. Should a hobby cnc’ist (my new term) have a planer? I see some people mention planers. I see some people use a surfacing bit.
What are the pros and cons for the greater wise cncists, cncers?

If you need more throughput, and you have access to rough cut lumber at a price which makes sense, and you’re comfortable running a second machine while the CNC is running, it might be workable for you.

If you have time for longer machining times, then it might be better to surface stock on the machine as part of the making of the parts.

Part geometry and size will affect this as well. I’d suggest surfacing on the machine until it’s an obvious bottleneck/concern, then looking into a planer.


I have been using a surfacing bit. If you are doing high volume work or hardwoods maybe a planer makes sense, but for low volume and/or softwoods… I can rip through 1 side of pine with a 1.125" surfacing bit in about 3 minutes. It’s how I’ve been making some thicker work pieces, plane both sides on two pieces of old pine shelving kicking around, glue em together.


First, what @WillAdams said.

As a hobby woodworker, I’ve had a planer for…a long time. As a hobby cnc’ist for the past 5 years, I didn’t use the planer much for CNC projects. Until I got involved in a few “production” runs of inlaid coasters.
If you need 6 sticks of 5 1/8” wide x 3/8” thick stock of various/same species to fill the work area, they all better be the same thickness. A planer is handy.


I have found right now with the current price of wood and my inexperience level, I use my planer quite a bit. Scrap wood, cut, planed, and glued is how I am surviving right now. I have to look hard but can find hardwood pallets. Completely changes the game when I run a job with hardwood.

So, depending what a hobby cnc’ist is doing or going to do… If you have the room, resources, and cash it will give you another avenue to explore. This machine is a continual learning experience and only limited by our imagination.

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Good point. Not much luck for me though.

I’ve tried some reclaimed wood projects but I can never get all the nails, broken off screws etc out. My planer has conventional knives. Don’t stand up too well to such abuse. Managed to ruin one set of knives, spent a lot of time grinding a second set back to acceptability.

Possibly carbide Shelix would be more durable?

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The answer to maybe. If you can use the planner for other things then get one. If the planner is only for cnc work you already have one with the Shapeoko. For 4s wood the planner is waste of time for cnc but if you are getting rough lumber it is a great tool. However rough wood needs to be jointed on one side before you run it through a planner or you just get smooth wavy wood.

I recently made a glue up of a table top. it was 30 inches round. I put it on my XXL and flattened the bottom side then flipped and surfaced the top. Even with a Dewalt 735 I could not have put that through my planner.

As others said if you have the time the Shapeoko does a great jog of surfacing your wood but you have to surface both sides. As a prerequisite you have to have your router tram’d and your waste board surfaced. If you do not have the tramming and surface flat you just get a smooth wavy surface.

So the answer is maybe about a planner. If it is only for the Shapeoko then no. If you will use it for other things then yes.

Planners will make your wood smooth but not flat. A jointer and planner will give you smooth and flat. A Shapeoko can give you smooth and flat on big pieces that a jointer and planner cannot unless you can buy industrial machines.

Sorry I cannot be more definitive but each woodworker has to evaluate the cost benefit and make a decision based on return on investment. Cheap tool produce cheap results. Expensive equipment may not make perfect results unless you know how to operate them and have the money and shop space to accommodate them.

No, carbide is not more durable. Actually more brittle.

The advantage of shelix heads are you can replace or rotate a single cutter.

Generally pallet wood is not that great after all the nails, dirt, knots, etc as mentioned above.


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As @gdon_2003 explained, jointers will make one side of a piece of wood flat. But I would like to modify the definition of what a planers do - planers will make a piece of wood a thinner piece of wood.

Story time. . .

I bought a nice little Makita 12" planer and picked up some nice 6/4 cherry pieces about 18" long. They varied between 7" and 11" wide. They had been kiln dried and they sat on a pallet for at least a decade in a garage. Apparently they were bought by the guy at an auction for a door manufacturer that went out of business. Most of them were perfectly flat. I just had to plane them a bit to get them to the thickness I was looking for, and boom, perfect stock for my SO3.

Well, I finally ran across a piece that was not flat. It had a slight curve to it, and one corner sat up about 3/16". No problem, I put it in my planer, and ran it through a few times, and got it to the thickness I wanted, and boom. . . I had a thinner, curved piece of cherry. That’s when I had to go to the great interwebs and learn about planers, jointers and the like.

I learned that jointers will - given that they are set up correctly - give you a piece of wood that is flat on one face. Jointers will also give you a piece of wood that is flat on both faces - but those two faces may not be parallel.

To get a flat piece of wood, with parallel faces (i.e., the same thickness) you need to run it through a jointer to get a flat face, then run it through the planer with that face opposite the cutters to get the other face to be parallel to it.

I mainly make cribbage boards, and some are fairly large. I have been wanting a really wide jointer, and I finally bit the bullet and bought this little monster here. I spent about two hours or so getting the outfeed table, then infeed table dialed in, and I have only made one pass with a piece of 8" wide maple, but I can already tell I am going to like it.

If anyone is interested in my opinion of it, I will report back once I’ve used it a bit. I am not too excited about the non-shelix head, but right now, I am ecstatic about having the carbide inserts. And the width. Oh man, this is the shortest 10" wide jointer I have seen, and it’s perfect for the short but wide pieces I work with.



  • Quick smoothening/thicknessing.
  • Can be used in lieu of a jointer with a jig/sled.


  • Thickness not as accurate as CNC milled (may be negligible depending on project).
  • Expensive.
  • Another machine to maintain and calibrate.
  • Takes up space.

A planer, for me, is the best and proper tool for the job, especially if used with a jointer. (A jointer provides a perfect 90% intersection of two plane surfaces.) This guarantees the planer will create a reciprocal plane opposite.

A CNC will do a fine job of surfacing and dimensioning material accurately, but, requires multiple passes- if your aim is precision dimensioning. Is THAT your goal? Really? In a “wood working” environment? If so, then sure, spend the time and cost to use your CNC for it.

HOWEVER, if you are a typical woodworker who does NOT require dimensioning, and planing down to the “nat’s ass”, then use a planer to do the job it is named for. You can plane a work piece using a “planer” (if creating a plane is your goal) in seconds- literally. If more precision and perfect parallelism between sides, use a jointer in conjunction to precisely dimension.

We have both machines available and IF you have them, these tools are by far the most efficient, in regard to time and results for the job.

A CNC is a special type of tool designed to do more than basic prep work- and while it “can” surface material for this process, it is NOT the best tool for the job.

Expect the going in cost to be anywhere between $600-$900 for both- or half of that for just a planer.

Buying new is great but used can be a great value. Most used equipment be a good budget option. I buy and sell on craigslist and have gotten some great stuff. Plus as soon as you use your new equipment it is used.

Educate yourself on what you have a requirement for and and look until you find what you want. Craigslist is always negociable and offer substantially less than offered. You can always go higher. Just set a limit and stick to it and pass and give the seller the option to reconsider and call/text you back.


what size is the board that you are able to surface it in 3 minutes?


Having a planer is great for repurposing wood from various projects ( scrap ) - just make sure there are no nails or rocks in the wood. I cut up oak pallets and I do home construction and keep the cut off ends of 2 x 4- 2 x 6 lumber, plan the edges and then glue together to make larger boards. From the glued up boards I can cut signs or other cnc pieces suitable with soft / hard woods. A small table top planner is fine such as a dewalt or other brand.I have a 3 hp behemoth 220v planer, thickness planer combo.

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