The major noticeable difference between a planer and a sander is the size of the equipment. Many of us have not heard of or used a planer before as they are usually relegated to the inside of workshops. You may have used one during woodworking class at school to sand down that one tiny table you made. In general, we can think of a sander as a more portable version of a planer.
Planers are huge industrial size sanders to put it bluntly, they weigh many many kilograms and are immensely powerful. Due to their size and power, we usually think about using planers on the occasion we want to sand a large amount of wood or similar material down. Sanders are portable, cheaper, but far less powerful. The power difference could mean applications that take up to 30 passes of a sander will usually only require a couple of seconds of work on a planer.
What are the uses of a planer?
Removing the bulk
Planers are very powerful tools for removing layers of wood and thus are terrific for jobs that don’t require a delicate approach. Initial removal of large chunks of wood before coming in with a sander to get the measurements perfect is what planers do best. They are incredibly quick to remove wood, but this is also the exact reason they shouldn’t be used for jobs requiring exact measurements.
Making uneven wood workable
Planers happen to be such a strong tool that they can produce an uneven surface at the end, thus it is advised you never give a final pass of wood using a planer. With this in mind, wood from lumber yards will often be very uneven and thus using a planer is a great way to make these workable.
At the end of the day, saving time is the primary motivator for using a planer, the sheer power of a planer means you will never have to worry about it not being able to handle what you throw at it.
Is there an alternative to a planer?
Of course, simply using a very powerful sander is a great way to get the desired results from a planer, but there are more straightforward ways to remove large sections of wood.
Bladed tools such as band saws, table saws and routers will all provide the same end result as a planer. Remember to avoid hand tools such as saws because these will not give the precision needed, as well as being quite inefficient in terms of time.
You may look towards manual planers as an alternative to the industrial size powered ones we have spoken about. Remember that using these will increase the time required for completing work tenfold. Using manual planers provides a level of accuracy and fragility that is not provided by powered planers, these can be a viable option at times depending on the size of the job.
What are the uses of a sander?
Working with delicate woods such as plywood requires a delicate approach to removing the weight, this is where a tool such as a sander is perfect.
Finishing the top layer of wood is the perfect application for utilizing a sander, offering the chance to change your grit to be immensely light and ensure a smooth finish. This is a very aesthetic choice for most projects, sometimes this isn’t required.
Reaching tough areas
Sanders are also useful for getting surfaces inside bends and pockets which the flat surface of a planer can’t reach or will be too powerful for. Powered drum sanders can be terrific for this purpose, however, keep in mind due to their power if the wood isn’t very thick or strong it may snap.
Is there an alternative to a sander?
As with any power tool, sanders can be quite expensive, especially as you develop your collection of various grit sandpaper and batteries. Add to this the risk of needing a replacement and you are bound to develop a headache. You could utilize a scraper, which is basically a razor blade on a handle, but these don’t have the same finesse you get from using various grits of sandpaper. There are a lot of positives to embracing the old school approach of a block of wood covered in sandpaper and sanding by hand.
First off it’s incredibly cheap, requiring simply a block of wood and sandpaper, offcuts of wood from woodwork shops will usually be given away for free and make a great weight for sanding by hand. Meters of various grit sandpaper.
While it may sound like a stupid consideration, most recreational woodworkers cite low levels of stress from sanding for hours, free from deadlines and instruction. There are entire zen schools of thought founded on the idea of sanding and our connection to the earth. Give sanding by hand a try and you might just get wrapped up
Not to say that you won’t require any safety precautions when using sandpaper by hand, but the chance of being injured is very low compared to any power tools. Gloves are a great precaution just in case, especially if you are using a very rough grit. However overall sanding with sandpaper provides next to no safety worries.