Today’s tip is how to set up and use the Safe-T-Planer. I use this time saving tool to thickness my backs and sides. To get optimum results though, this tool must be setup properly. Start by squaring the table of your drill press to the chuck. Make an auxiliary table out of some scrap wood that has a fence on it with a cutout area for the tool to enter. I also place a quarter sheet of sandpaper folded in half under the leading edge of the auxiliary table that I’ve just made. When feeding the lumber into the tool, the tool will only be cutting on the leading edge. There will be a slight gap on the backside between the tool and the lumber. This will keep the Safe T Planer from heating up as much.
Use the drill press handle to raise and lower the table of the drill press until you have a gap as large as the desired thickness of your lumber. When locking the table into place you may notice that the gap will diminish slightly, so take that into consideration. With the tool running at about 1700 rpms, feed the lumber into the tool slightly to check for thickness. I want my final thickness on this guitar back to be about 2.5mm, so right now I’m setting the tool up to cut at about 2.9mm. This gives me a little excess for scraping and sanding after the backs have been joined.
If needed, adjust the drill press table to arrive at your desired thickness. Notice as I feed the lumber into the safety planer, I’m holding it down with a block of wood. This makes sure that I stay flush to the table. Also notice that I have a partner that is doing the same thing on the outfeed side. Although it’s possible to do this operation by yourself, an extra set of hands sure is nice. After each pass I like to check the thickness of the lumber with some thickness calipers to make sure that the tool is cutting consistently.
If the tool doesn’t need adjusting again, I go ahead and make a pass on the other side. Make sure that you feed the wood straight into the tool and that you hold it down flush on the table with your hold down block. It’s not necessary to apply a lot of pressure, just slight pressure. If you apply too much pressure, it’s hard to feed the wood into the tool. On wider pieces of wood like guitar backs, it’s necessary to move the fence and make two more passes with the Safe T Planer in order to thickness the entire piece. But before I do that, I’m going to make a couple of passes on the other piece of my two piece back.
Just like on the first side, I’m going to flip the piece around and make one more pass. Notice that I’m using just an ordinary 12 inch bench top drill press with the Safe T Planer. It’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on your drill press. We have made two passes, one on each side of the outer edges of the back. Now we need to bump the fence back so we can cut the middle section.
Move the fence back so that the tool will cut just over halfway of what’s left to thickness on your back. Then you can go ahead and clamp the auxiliary table back to the drill press table. I only slightly feed the piece of wood into the tool and check it with my calipers to make sure that I’m still cutting at the same depth. You may need to adjust the table if there’s a slight step between the first and second pass. Also notice that the tool is only cutting just over half of what’s left to thickness. Go ahead and feed the piece of lumber into the tool just like before. Flip the piece of wood around and feed it in to make a final pass.
The Safe T Planer is a great time-saving tool but it only works if it’s set up properly and sharp. Therefore, I need to talk a little bit about how to sharpen the tool. Start by using the allen wrench provided with the tool to loosen the set screws that hold the cutter heads to the tool. Attach the grinding wheel to the shaft. This is also provided with the tool. Don’t over tighten the screw that holds the grinding wheel to the shaft. Also, don’t drop it. It easily breaks. Put the grinding wheel into the drill press chuck and tighten it. Watch as I show how to grind a fresh edge on the cutter. As you sharpen the tool, you can rotate the cutter to keep the edge consistent. Be careful as you do this step and hold on to the cutter firmly. Notice how the cutter is shiny with the freshly ground edge. When reattaching the cutters onto the tool, make sure that the cutting edge aligns with the line on the bottom of the tool. Make sure to not over tighten the set screws, just snug them up. Knowing how to properly sharpen and use this time-saving tool will save you a lot of time and energy when comes time to thickness your backs and sides.