Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Eliminate Snipe on Lunchbox Planers

Snipe's a dirty word.  In a class of its own: it has 5 letters!

Way long ago, I wrote about reducing snipe on lunchbox planers, but the planer in this video was all installed in a machine stand so the pictures required some imagination.  Tonight, I was replying to someone about how to reduce snipe with a lunchbox planer and realized the planer was in a for-sale pile and available for a last shot at (very very limited) fame!

The popular forum solution to lunchbox snipe is to elevate the two flip-down tables to compensate for the flex that happens in use.  That relies on a little black magic if you ask me... you can't guess the weight of the boards you are planning on running through and with an elevated table, the load is variable as the stock progresses through the planer.  Either that or I can't figure it out.

My solution consists of two feed tables, but their torsion-box construction and how they are used with the planer on an assembly table is the key.  The boxes can also be used in different ways for thin or short stock like box parts or drawer sides.

When I used this system before getting a big industrial planer, I never was concerned with snipe because it just didn't happen even on a set of 12 foot by 1 foot planks I ran through it for a large cabinet on my patio.

If snipe is making you use slightly shorter words to scare neighborhood children, give this a shot; I'm sure you'll like the results.


  • Georgio said...

    Paul, I'm curious as to how much you want for the planer and if it is pick up only as I live in NY? Email me at Thanks and good post!

  • nateswoodworks said...

    Great video. I love the idea of being able to use it a flat surface for clamping/drying with built in stickers as well for the planer. I also see you made it through the site changes with a full head of hair still intact!

  • Tony said...

    Paul, good video. Solid content and well shot.

    You mention your laguna j/p. Can you share your quick perspective on the unit? I'm looking at the same model and comparing it to the hammer version, which is quite a bit more expensive. I live in SoCal, so I can literally pick the Laguna up, but there are so many questions about their products...

  • JimReed said...

    Paul, just a construction question on the tables. Can you provide some details on how they were constructed. Did you use a top and bottom skin of MDF with solid wood spacers? Did you buy a sheet of Melamine topped MDF and then rout the channels. Sorry if this is a stupid question but from the video I had a hard time trying to tell how they were constructed.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Thanks for the compliments, guys (we need some girls here, too)

    Jim, the box is pretty easy to make; I should have added something to the video on that. I used 1/2" MDF. Cut two skins about an inch narrower than your planer can plane (12" for me). All the rest of the pieces will be vertically placed between the skins so set your fence and cut all the strips without moving the fence to ensure they are all identical. You'll want 2 long strips that go the length of the skin; these are the sides. Cut several more that fit between the sides; no joinery other than 'glue'. Cut yet more that will be placed between the cross pieces; these will be parallel to the sides and simply go between the cross pieces to form pigeon holes. You want the MDF to butt up against each other and have all joints glued. Top with the second skin.

    Once that's dry, take some Melamine and rip it into narrow strips the length of the box and glue them down with Melamine glue (from the TiteBond guys, but made for Melamine). Just remember the Melamine thickness when calculating the thickness of the actual torsion box.

  • Jarek said...

    And another good movie Paul!

    Im using HUGE machines (60cm width and 60cm high), and sometimes I need put some small part - and then I've a problem ;)))

    This one from movie is very nice ;) How much wood you can take in one pass? What is minimum lengh of material?

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, Tony,

    I looked at a Hammer model as well (can't recall the number). I liked that the Hammer tables flip to the back. Now that I have mine in place, the tables flipping to the front is no issue and actually seems better for me. Ultimately why I didn't consider the Hammer model I was looking at was the lack of a shear spiral cutter. The Shear-Tec head on the Laguna is what I wanted since I like curly grain. I already had (still have; wanna buy a PM20?) a straight-knife PM20 so getting this jointer/planer would make zero sense if it was straight knife (because my Veritas jointer plane is also straight knife :)

    The cuts it makes are fantastic; I'll be using it a lot on curly/Tiger Maple for my next build. I plan on recording some of that dimensioning for a review video on the Laguna j/p 16".

    There are some things I don't like about it, but none are show-stoppers and most can be very easily improved. So the review video will go over what was original and what I changed and how; some of the ideas will work for other brands as well.

    I don't think you'll be disappointed with it. Don't buy their mobile base. They charged me $230 for it so I thought, wow, expensive, but must be made for this. No, it is identical right down to the Chinglish translated instructions as the WoodRiver base routinely available for $49. Even the same Chinese product number. And I won't buy that line "well, ours are made with better steel; they run the WoodRiver's at night with lesser steel" pu-leeze. :)

    One thing... and I'll demo this in the review video. When you run boards through on my PM20, they feel dead flat. With the Shear-Tec, you can feel really subtle scallops. I'll always scrape or sand what comes off the planer anyway and the scallops disappear in a quick pass, but something to think about. Might be the case that simply running it through a second time at the same setting will eliminate it. I'll try that before the review.

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Thankfully, Nate, I still have my hair! The migration was easy; I just expected something to break so thought to send out a notice. Now I can host the videos for an iTunes podcast feed and some custom web apps I thought to put together.

  • Carl O. said...

    I like the idea of putting the torsion box on the bed of the planer for smaller pieces.

  • james said...

    As usual Paul, great video. Informative and fun. Couple of perhaps silly questions from a planer newbie (sorry up front if these are too obvious). I picked up a dewalt 735 recently to plane some 6/4 hickory I'm using to make my wife a farm style table with.

    The dewalt did not come with extension tables. Are they needed if I use the torsion boxes?

    Also, why the shims please? If I make the torsion boxes the exact height of the planer bed, are they still needed, or is there a reason for them I'm not aware of (probably the latter LOL )

    Thanks, and BTW, love your site! Check it daily and always excited to see a new posting!


  • HalfInchShy said...

    Thanks, James...

    I should have mentioned that the torsion box tables can replace the flip-down tables if you so choose. In my case, I left them on; they are set level with the planer bed. If your planer didn't come with extension tables, these boxes would work well.

    The reason for the shims is that it can be difficult to get the box heights exactly even with the planer's bed. To me it was easier to make them a little lower and shim up because I could always replace the shims. Remember they aren't like the shims you use on furniture (the wedges): these are single pieces made to the correct thickness so you don't have to use a straight-edge while pushing in the shims.

    Just use a hand plane or sanding block to lower the shim a hair if needed or apply a strip or two of packing tape to raise it a hair.

  • Brian said...

    I eliminated snipe on my lunchbox planer a little differently than described. I bought a Powermatic 15HH... just a thought :P

  • Raymond said...

    Paul - I love your videos - thanks. You mentioned something about straightening re-sawn boards. Can you please explain how you would tackle that as I have a slight problem with poplar boards. Thanks for your help

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi Raymond,

    Fixing a board that's been resawn is tricky, definitely! Generally you have to act after the boards come off.

    In a nutshell what I do is use boxes like those you saw in the video. Once the boards are off the bandsaw, I use a big sponge to get all sides wet enough that they drip. Sticker them, clamp them down (or weigh them down), and cover the pile with garbage bags and leave overnight.

    For an explanation of why I think it work, see this entry Sculpted Mahogany Vanity - Dimensioning Drawer Stock. The explanation is near the end.

    Two weeks ago, I resawed rather fresh construction 2x6s from the Borg. They moved right away as you'd expect from that stock. Wet, stickered, tented. They are now sitting as panels on my bench. They aren't perfectly flat... some boards took a mild cup that included part of the tree center. Perfectly workable as I'll plane the panels later. They would have been slop troughs had I let them dry on their own after resawing.

    In your case, your boards are likely moved and settled already. If that's the case, I've had success with boiled water. I had a 12"x6' piece of Walnut that was going all over the place (it was the first thing I tried to resaw long ago; did nothing right). I put it on the driveway and poured 3 liters of boiling water from an electric hot pot on it. Both sides. Covered with plastic until another 3 liters heated up. After the second bath, I stickered, clamped it, and tented it. It had been screwed up for nearly 2 years by that time. I won't say it came out flat, but a whole lot of evil was corrected and it didn't revert back. In this case of using boiling water, you are trying to do an ad-hoc steam bending by softening the lignan in the board.