Canadian Woodworking
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Build a sturdy thickness planer cart

Author: Rob Brown
Photos: Rob Brown
Illustration: Len Churchill
Published: June 2024
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This project provides solid support and an easy way to move your thickness planer out so you can use it efficiently and effectively. It’s not flashy, but it’s very practical.

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  • DIFFICULTY
    2/5
  • LENGTH/TIME
    2/5
  • COST
    2/5

Some shop improvement projects aren’t flashy or fancy; they’re often just simple, practical solutions to everyday challenges we have as woodworkers. Some woodworkers treat their workshops almost like a project itself, while others (me included) see their workshop and its contents as the tools to get woodworking projects done. If you’re like me, and just like good, solid solutions to common challenges, you’ll like this project.

The thickness planer might be the most underrated machine we have. Just about every time I turn it on and see chips fly out its dust chute, I’m thankful I don’t need to do this by hand. This is espe­cially true when I’m dressing 10″ wide planks of hard maple.

You may have seen these fancy carts that have a pivot mechanism that allows the user to easily rotate between the thickness planer and another similar machine, like a bench grinder or large sander. I’m sure it’s handy, and it will also impress visitors, but I like a sim­pler approach. I don’t use my thickness planer every day, so keeping it out takes up too much space in my small workshop. At first, I lifted my planer from the floor up onto my table saw’s outfeed table each time I needed to plane something. My lower back quickly let me know that lifting over 70 pounds on demand wasn’t going to happen for too long. A long-term solution that would allow me to easily move the planer to where I could use it, as well as out of the way when it wasn’t needed, was the answer. My solution also resulted in a fair amount of storage below, which was a bonus.

Overall dimensions

A cart like this must support the thickness planer, have a large enough footprint that it doesn’t topple over, yet be small enough that it can be stored easily and doesn’t take up too much space. I made this cart 24″ wide and 16″ deep. I wouldn’t go any shal­lower, as it will start to get tippy when moving it around. As for the height, that will depend on where you’re going to use it. My cart butts up against the 34″ high outfeed table on my table saw, so the planer’s outfeed surface needs to be higher than 34″. I decided to size the cart so the lumber coming out of my planer could clear my rip fence by about 1″. This allows me to not worry about the rip fence getting in the way during use.

I used a pair of rigid 2-1/2″ high casters under the infeed side of the cart and a pair of swiveling 2-1/2″ high casters under the out­feed side of the cart. These had to be accounted for before cutting the gables to length.

Simple construction

Like most of my shop improvement projects, joinery is sim­ple but strong. The sooner I can get these projects completed, the sooner I can work on furniture projects more efficiently. I used 3/4″ melamine for the majority of the project, but plywood would also work well. I ended up using plywood for the shelves, as that’s what I had on hand. Mixing and matching materials is fine.

The main force acting upon this cabinet would be the downward pressure from the planer itself. Unlike typi­cal cabinet construction, the top and bottom run the full width of the cabinet, while the gables run up and down between the top and bottom. I ripped the gables, top and bottom to width, then machined shallow 1/8″ deep rab­bets in the left and right edge of the top and bottom panels to accept the gables. I kept the rabbets shallow to ensure the top and bottom were as strong as possible.

Next, a 1/2″ wide × 1/8″ deep rabbet was machined along the back edge of these four panels to accept the 1/2″ thick back panel. These rabbets were machined fairly shal­low, so the material that remained was strong.

Simple and Strong
Simple and Strong – Rabbet joints cut into the top and bottom accept the gables. The shelves can be installed after the main cabinet is together. Bolts keep the thickness planer from moving during use. Brown used a round over router bit to heavily ease the front edges of the particleboard parts.

Assembly

Assembly was simple. I readied my pin nailer, glue and clamps, then added glue and brought the bottom and one of the gables together. A few pin nails to keep it aligned, followed by the other gable, and it was coming together fast. Some glue on the top rabbets, a few more pin nails, and it was time for clamps between the top and bottom of the assembly. Ensure the assembly is square before you set it aside to cure.

I usually recommend not going overboard with the glue during assemblies, as it just makes a mess. In this situa­tion I opted for extra glue, as this shop fixture is all about strength and longevity and glue squeeze-out doesn’t bother me.
Once the glue was dry, I cut and installed the back panel to provide a very stable cabinet.

Time for shelves

You could have run dadoes across the gables to accept the shelves, but that would only make the assembly harder. Nobody wants that and it wasn’t necessary. Cut the shelves to fit inside the cabinet, leaving them slightly short of the front edge of the gables. Small metal L-brackets or shop-made wooden cleats can support the shelves and fix them to the gables. Place them at a height that will allow you to store some of your other less-often used power tools or accessories in this cart. Another nice thing about fixing the shelves to the gables with brackets or cleats is that if your size requirements ever change you can adjust the heights of both shelves with ease.

Future Considerations
Future Considerations – Strong L-brackets will keep the shelves and their contents in place for a long time. If your storage needs change down the road, simply remove the L-brackets and move them to another height before reinstalling the shelves.

You could add a drawer between the two gables, though I find the protruding bolts directly under the planer (I’ll get to those in a moment) make it easier for me to grasp the cart and move it around the shop. Adding a drawer to the upper area of this cavity would hide those bolts from my hands.

Ease the edges

I’d usually apply iron-on edge tape to melamine cabinets, but in this case it wasn’t needed. Instead, I used a small round over router bit to heavily ease many of the edges. It eliminates the chances of me cutting myself on a sharp edge and creates a nice visual.

Feet to stand on

Casters on the underside of the bottom panel allow the cart to be easily moved around the shop. I screwed them in place now, mak­ing sure to keep them as close to the outside edge of the base as possible for a more stable cart.

Easy Movement
Easy Movement – Castors allow you to easily move this cart to wherever it’s most convenient to dress your lumber. Brown used two fixed castors on the front of the cart and two swivelling castors at the back so he could steer the cart.

I didn’t use locking casters, as I’m not generally a fan of these. The thought of pushing a board through the planer too hard, and having it fall over because it’s not able to move, isn’t a good thought. As I mentioned, I butt my planer cart up against my table saw’s outfeed table when I dress lumber, in part so it can’t tip over. You could even use some sort of simple latch or hook to keep the cart fixed to the outfeed table or other stable work surface your cart could butt up against if you wanted to.

Bolt it on

Thickness planers vibrate quite a bit during use. The last thing I want is for the planer to vibrate itself off the cart and land on my foot, breaking both. I bolted it to the top of the cart so it doesn’t budge.

At this stage it’s ready to use. Roll the cart into place, line up your jointed lumber, grab your hear­ing protection and enjoy the great wonder that is the modern thickness planer, all without hurting your back.

Accessorize Your Planer Cart

I have two thickness planer accessories that I keep attached to the cart: an aux­iliary surface to assist with dressing thin pieces of wood and a support for keeping the leading end of a longer board from dropping down as the board is dressed.
The first one is a length of 1/2″ thick melamine cut slightly less than the width of the planer will accept. This auxil­iary surface will assist with dressing thin pieces of wood, as the cutter heads on thickness planers often don’t get closer than about 1/2″ to the table, meaning you can’t dress material thinner than that. I used melamine, as it’s more slippery than most other materials and won’t add any friction to the materials being dressed.

Plane Thin Pieces
Plane Thin Pieces – A piece of 1/2″ melamine, with a screw driven into its underside to stop the melamine from moving in use, will allow you to dress thin pieces of material. There’s still a practical limit to how thin you can dress material before it shatters, so don’t push your luck too far.

There are limits to how thin you can dress a piece of wood. If you orient the wood in the right direction, so the grain is running “downhill”, it should be easy to dress material down to about 1/4″ thick. If the grain is oriented the wrong way, or it’s undulating, heavy chipping or breakage could occur even when dressing material over 1/4″ thick.

Give Your Work Support
Give Your Work Support – This accessory will provide support when dressing longer pieces of material. A screw driving into its underside fits into a hole Brown bored in his table saw’s outfeed table so it remains in one place during use.

A screw should be driven into the base, ensuring it doesn’t protrude through the other face. This screw will butt up against the infeed edge of the table and stop the surface from moving further into the planer. A hole can be bored into the base so it can be hung on a screw on the side of the planer cart. If you’d like, another pair of screws can be driven into the planer cart to stop the auxiliary sur­face from swinging while the cart is being moved.

Keep It Close
Keep It Close – A hole bored into the side of the cart provides somewhere to store the support

The second accessory is used to support longer lengths of wood while they pro­trude out the outfeed end of the planer. I attached a wedge to the base to ensure the end of the board lifts upward while it’s moving through the planer. A wider piece of solid wood is attached to the dis­tant end of the support base to support a wide board. A large pan head screw driven into the underside of the support fits into a hole in my table saw’s out­feed table so it stays put directly behind my thickness planer. A hole bored in the side of my planer cart keeps this support nearby while I’m planing.

Illustrations

planer cart illo

planer cart


Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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