3. Thickness Planer
Have you ever had your thickness planer bind up when you go to change the thickness setting? By that, I mean that you go to rotate the handle, and either the handle is hard to turn or just will not turn period. Well, so have I. And, what follows is how you can go about troubleshooting and fixing this problem.
This post will go over troubleshooting and fixing a DeWalt DW735 thickness planer. However, the troubleshooting and fixing information could be applied to pretty much any thickness planer that is similar in design.
Here’s a brief history of my thickness planer issues. In the beginning, I was directing the wood chips from the thickness planer into a garbage can by way of a 4” plastic duct. However, the chain and four sprockets of the thickness planer stayed clogged up with wood chips pretty much constantly. Hard to see, but I imagine the threads for each of the four horizontal threaded rods (elevation screws, one for each of the four sprockets) were also getting clogged up with wood chips.
So next, I installed a 2 hp Grizzly dust collector. I was confident that this would put an end to the thickness planer clogging but au contraire.
3. Thickness Planer
But, before getting into troubleshooting and fixing the problem, let’s look at some of the main parts of a typical thickness planer. The following sketch (Sketch 1) shows the chain, sprockets, and elevation screws (threaded rods).
If excessive amounts of wood chips accumulate on the chain, sprockets, and elevation screws (shown in Sketch 1 above) – then expect the thickness planer to bind up when you go to change the thickness setting.
What follows are the steps to take in troubleshooting your thickness planer:
1. Remove the thickness planer cover as shown in the following photo (photo 1):
2. Next, you want to determine where exactly the wood chips are escaping from the ducting designed to eject the wood chips from your thickness planer.
So, with the thickness planer cover removed, run your thickness planer and look to determine how wood chips are escaping from the thickness planer ducting and finding their way to your chain, sprockets, and four threaded rods (elevation screws).
Now run a piece of wood thru the thickness planer with the cover removed, you will need to keep the safety switch (shown in Photo 2 below) closed in order to run the thickness planer with the cover removed.
Photo 2 above shows the rig I came up with for keeping the safety switch closed.
Regarding the above photo (Photo 2), I took the small piece of wood shown and inserted it into the slot above the safety switch. Next, I took the steel angle shown and placed it on top of the small piece of wood. The steel angle pushes the small piece of wood down onto the safety switch, thereby keeping the safety switch closed.
So, now the thickness planer will run with the top cover removed: be careful.
3. What I observed (while running wood thru the thickness planer) was airborne wood chips in the area between the blade shroud and the fan shroud. Airborne and swirling wood chips can be seen in the following YouTube video. (The blade and fan shrouds are labeled in Photo 5.)
4. At first, I felt the problem was leakage at the blade shroud, so I removed and inspected the gasket on the bottom of the blade shroud. You can see the gasket on the blade shroud in Photo 3 below.
The gasket was not in the best of shape. It was not uniform in thickness, but noticeably thinner in some places along the perimeter of the blade shroud. And, you can see a noticeable difference in thickness in the above Photo (Photo 3).
So, I figured this is the problem and changing the gasket out will solve this problem.
I removed the gasket which seemed like it took forever. The gasket was shot but dang good adhesive; I tore off what I could and carefully used a chisel to scrape the remainder of the gasket off.
Next, I replaced the blade shroud gasket with a “Sponge Rubber Weatherstrip” after applying Contact Cement around the blade shroud perimeter where the weatherstripping would be applied. Cost for the weatherstripping (which I purchased at my local Home Depot) was about three dollars for a 1/4” x 3/4” x 10 ft. length of weatherstripping.
Unfortunately, the blade shroud gasket change out didn’t solve the problem of airborne wood chips inside the thickness planer interior. It appeared to have probably helped a little. However, the wood chips are still escaping from somewhere else also inside the thickness planer ductwork.
5. Well, if the blade shroud is not the problem (at least not the only problem), than the only ductwork left is the fan shroud. The fan shroud is shown in the following photo (Photo 4).
At first, I thought possibly, there is leakage where the blade shroud and fan shroud are connected together. So, I tried rolling up a paper towel and packing it around where the two shrouds connect together as shown in Photo 5 below, however this proved to not be the problem. (Photo 5 is an after the fact shot, since I forgot to take a photo during this phase of troubleshooting. And, that is why the tape gasket is present.)
Next, I examined the fan shroud. Since the fan shroud consists of two halves which are bolted together, I reasoned that there might be leakage of air and airborne wood chips somewhere along where the two fan shroud halves are fastened together.
I didn’t notice this at first. But, just below the bottom of the fan shroud, you can see where sawdust has caked up. The caked up sawdust is shown below (Photo 6).
Anyway, that caked up sawdust tells you that the sawdust and wood chips are leaking from the bottom side of the fan shroud. However, you cannot visually see this area (underneath the fan shroud) until you unfasten the two halves of the fan shroud.
What follows are the steps to take in fixing the fan shroud leakage problem:
1. Draw the outline of the fan shroud (the half shown in Photo 7 below) on a scrap piece of wood (I used a scrap piece of OSB). And, I used a Sharpie to draw the outline of the fan shroud.
2. Next, although there was no gasket between the two halves of the fan shroud, I decided to add a gasket, and it worked!!!
3. To make the gasket for the two fan shroud halves, I used two-sided tape. Photo 8 below shows five strips of two-sided tape that I taped over the outline of the fan shroud, which is shown above in Photo 7. I roughly centered the tape over the outline of the fan shroud (shown in Photo 7 above).
4. Now, place the fan shroud half on top of the two-sided tape, as shown in Photo 9 below. Also, shown in Photo 9 below is the Sharpie I used to trace the outline of the fan shroud and box cutter I used for trimming the two-sided tape.
5. Photo 10 below shows the tape gasket after having been trimmed with a box cutter (shown in Photo 10 also). I trimmed the tape gasket to approximately 1/4” width around the inside outline of the fan shroud and to approximately 3/4” width around the outside outline of the fan shroud.
The blue plastic film (shown in Photo 10 below), which is peeled away from the two-sided tape before using the tape, is handy for helping to secure the tape while the tape is being trimmed.
6. This next photo (Photo 11) shows how to wrap the tape around the removed half of the fan shroud. In addition, the blue plastic film shown was handy for applying the tape to the fan shroud without having it stick to your fingers.
7. Photo 12 below shows the final product, not pretty but it works, and that’s all I care about. What the heck, it is out of sight after the thickness planer cover is reinstalled. And, the following video shows the thickness planer in operation planing wood: no wood chips flying around inside the thickness planer now.
Now it was somewhat of a struggle to get the two halves of the fan shroud bolted back together but doable.
8. Before reinstalling the top cover, I used compressed air to clean the chain, sprockets, and threaded rods (elevation screws) of any wood chips on them.
After cleaning with compressed air, I used WD-40 on the threaded rods and between the threaded rods and sprockets. And, then I used paper towels to wipe the threaded rods clean of WD-40, thereby leaving only a thin film of WD-40 on the threaded rods. And so far, this method of using WD-40 has worked out well.
As you’ve seen by reading this post, troubleshooting a thickness planer binding problem is a relatively easy task. You just have to be patient and systematically work thru the possible reasons (discussed in this post) for the binding problem.
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Until next time, Take care