4 Effective Ways To Flatten Wood Without a Planer

Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Barry Gray

A planer is an essential woodworking tool to make the rough surface of the wood smooth and reduce its thickness. It is not always possible to have all the tools you need for a DIY project, especially if you are a woodworking newbie. Not having all the tools, I needed was exactly the predicament I faced when I had a woodworking project and was left pondering how to flatten wood without a planer.

With the various options available to flatten wood, there is no need to despair if you do not have a planer. A table saw, router, a wide belt, or a drum sander could quite easily achieve the same desired results compared to a planer. Suppose you are not happy with these tools; you can opt for the more traditional sandpaper method or get a cabinet maker to do the job.

Are you keen to gain more insight into the various options you can use compared to a planer? Let’s explore some of those options, including the pros and cons.

 Can You Flatten Wood Without A Planer?

If you do not have a planer, there should be other tools that would serve the purpose. Below are some of those tools and their level of effectiveness,

Table Saw

using table saw to flatten the board

This woodworking tool mounted on an arbor with a circular saw blade is known to be quite versatile. However, the question remains, will it be an effective planer? Let’s find out.

In the beginning, it may seem like quite an effort, especially if it is one of those modern saws where the depth of the cuts varies according to the movement of the blade. The deeper the number of cuts on the material, the higher the protrusion of the blade above the table.

If the wood has an uneven surface, this abundance of flaws will eventually lead to a lengthier, time-consuming process to prepare the wood. You must follow through with this process to ensure that you effectively flatten the wood.

Practice with smaller pieces of wood will ultimately lead to success. A table saw is more effective in planing larger wood pieces. To keep the wood in position, you will have to build a jig, which can be time-consuming. 

If you are flattening and squaring off on all four sides of the wood, you will need a jointer. Secondly, to reduce the likeliness of kickback and avoid the wood rocking during the process, you must ensure that you use a table saw with a riveting knife or a splinter.

If you still find that you are not making much progress, then it might be advisable to check the blade’s position. Often it is due to the table saw not being at a perfect 90 degrees. You can adjust the positioning by using an engineering square, which works magic in eliminating this problem.

Pros Of Using A Table Saw As A Planer

  • Effective when used to plane large pieces of wood.
  • Table saws can save you time when working on smaller projects.

Cons Of Using A Table Saw As A Planer

  • A table saw is limited to wood with a width of approximately 6 inches.
  • You must keep moving the wood, or failure to do so will result in wood burns.
  • Using a table saw to plane wood can sometimes be time-consuming.
  • Many blades are exposed on the table, and because you are working with relatively small pieces of wood, they can get stuck in between the fence, which can pose a safety hazard.


With just $20 worth of material, you can flatten large slabs of wood. Ensure that you have a heavy-duty router with a cutting bit of one-half inch in diameter. Although there is an availability of many bits on the market, the smaller ones tend to require a lot more passes over the stock to flatten the wood. It is advisable to use a bottom cleaning bit designed for this purpose.

You can fasten the wood to the bed and mount the router to the gantry, which is the part that rests on the top of the bed’s surface. You also need to ensure that the rails are higher in length in conjunction with the piece of wood you want to plan, as the router sled needs to ride on the rails. 

To avoid yielding an inconsistent result, use straight flat, and straight stock to make the rails.

Pros Of Using A Router To Plane Wood

  • You can make a planer easily by converting a router into a planer in less than a minute.
  • Routers also work well with maintaining the grain of the wood and not against it.

Cons Of Using A Router To Plane Wood

  • There is an ideal operating speed of the router and bit; if you try to go beyond that speed, you can cause damage, sometimes beyond repair.
  • Operating speeds are more significant than 100mph but stress on the bits, resulting in vibration.
  • The high speed of the router also results in burn marks on the wood and tends to dull the bits.
  • A router set on slow speed will end up with rough or rippled cuts.

A Drum Sander

A drum sander, although a great tool for sanding and fine surfacing, you would have to make several grit changes before seeing the smooth results that you require. Since the drum sander is less aggressive when flattening wood, it might not be a worthy substitute for a planer. 

Removing too much stock at once can often result in heat build-up, resulting in blown fuses, burnt sandpaper, and damaged wood.

Perhaps you can use an orbital sander for the actual planning and a drum sander for the finishing. If you run out of options and all you have available is a drum sander to do the job, I suggest you shy away from the heavy thickness and instead focus on the tinner wood. Ensure that you use 80 to 120 grit paper on the drum.

Pros Of Using Drum Sander To Plane Wood

  • Drum sanders work well for fine resurfacing and sanding of wood.

Cons Of Using Drum Sander To Plane Wood 

  • Drum sanders are not as practical for large projects when smoothing out glued surfaces or rough cuts.
  • It can be time-consuming; it will take up to 25 passes through a drum sander to get the job done effectively compared to one pass used by the planner.
  • You would have to make several grit changes to get the desired smoothness that you require. 

A Wide Belt Sander

Although used chiefly for resurfacing drywall, a belt sander is quite a versatile tool to have at your disposal to sand any irregular wood stains or wood deterioration. A wide belt sander fits with a sanding belt on a pair of rollers above a feed table.

To effectively plane the wood, you will have to place the wood between the sanding belt and the top of the feed table. The space in between must be set slightly less than the wood thickness, the result is a flat smooth surface in a fraction of the time.

Pros of Using A Wide Belt Sander As a Planer

  • The wide belt sander is fitted with sound level reduction that helps keep noise levels to a minimum.
  • It is easy to change sanding pads.
  • The belt sander is compactable with most wide paper grits.
  • This sander has an adjustable sandbag for efficient dust collection.

Cons Of Using A Wide Belt Sander As A Planer

  • It is not cost-effective.
  • Often using a belt sander to plane wood can result in a very gritty texture. 
  • The belt sander does not have any variable speed management.
  • If you do not have much experience in handling a belt sander, the result may be lots of high and shallow spots on the wood surface. These spots occur mainly due to the position in which one holds the sander when in operation.


Although other tools can be used as a temporary solution to plane wood, you must realize that the manufacture of tools occurs by considering the tool’s purpose. There is often a misconception amongst beginners that most tools carry similar functions. The results often speak volumes. 

You may be able to mimic similar effects, but in my opinion, if you are getting into woodworking, instead invest in a planer that is worth the investment. This worthy investment will allow you to reduce the wood down to the exact thickness you need, make the board’s second face parallel to the other, and smooth down the rough surface. This process will be to fine art in comparison to other tools.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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