Honing and Setting Jointer and Planer Knives - DVD
with Hendrik Varju

Produced by Passion for Wood, Ontario, Canada

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As reviewed in The Australian Woodworker Issue 177

This is the 12th DVD set from professional Canadian woodworker, Hendrik Varju. All of his sets are intended to be a woodworking class 'in a box', ie. he presents each topic in the same manner as he runs the student classes in his workshop.

Hendrik calls a Honing and Setting Jointer and Planer Knives class 'the world’s most boring seminar', yet he has no trouble finding woodworkers to attend his classes because their planers and jointers simply don’t work the way they should.

While the topic is very dry, it is also a very important one if you want your machines to work properly. Hendrik endeavours to make his presentation interesting as well as informative.

He uses the American terms for these machines. The Australian terms for the jointer and planer are the planer and thicknesser respectively (we’ve kept the American terms for the body of this review).

He points out that not only must the knives be sharp but they must also be installed at the same height to each other. Another important relationship exists between the bed heights and the knife height.

Other aspects addressed in the tutorial are snipe and tapered cuts and what causes them. The outfeed bed needs to be set to the optimal height relative to the arc of the knives and this may vary according to the density of the wood.

In the bonus material Hendrik shows how to hone the knives while they are still installed in the machine, saving the time and effort involved in removing and replacing the knives.

After an introduction covering machine safety, Hendrik starts with the sharpening of the knives. While you can do this yourself, he prefers to use a sharpening service to remove the large nicks. However, his experience is that the sharpened blades always require further honing to produce a truly sharp edge.

He discusses the tricks involved in assessing the state of the blade and determining the further work required. The blade is then honed on a variety of sharpening stones and blocks.

The next segment covers the relationship between the knife and bed heights, how these should be measured on your machine and how they might be adjusted, depending on the model.

On a jointer Hendrik shows how to remove the knives (safely), do a general maintenance, clean the cutter head and then fit the sharpened knives.

Safety is a primary concern because the knives, particularly the newly sharpened ones, will cause a severe injury if your hand slips over them during the removal or installation procedure. Hendrik provides simple tips to minimise the risk of injury.

The outfeed and infeed tables are set relative to the cylinder of the cutter block. This is done before the first knife is adjusted. The setting of the first knife must fulfil some criteria but the height is not critical. However, it is essential that the remaining knives are adjusted to the same height as the first. Hendrik shows how this is done.

After the jointer is cleaned and the fence checked for square, a test piece of wood is fed over the cutter block. In this segment he demonstrates snipe and how to minimise it by altering the height of the outfeed table. However, overcompensating will cause a tapered cut.

If the infeed bed has a stop system, this can be used to set a final pass (minimum depth removal) and a coarse pass (maximum desirable depth removal). Once these are set, simply using the release handle enables the operator to switch from one setting to the other very quickly.

Having set up the jointer (planer - Aust.), Hendrik goes through the same steps with the planer (thicknesser - Aust.).

The planer knives are similar to those on the jointer, though he notes that in some cases the replacement knives cost little more that having the existing ones sharpened professionally.

On the planer the cutter block is tucked away and there is more disassembly required to access the knives.

When reinstalling the knives, the height cannot be easily referenced to the feed tables, so Hendrik uses a knife setting jig. He says that all of his planers came with such a jig but that some of his students have had models without one. Aftermarket 'universal' knife setting jigs are available from some woodworking outlets if required.

The planer knives are installed, the machine cleaned and the dust collection reinstalled.

In spite of the tips in this video, it still takes a couple of hours to change the knives on a machine. In the course of his professional woodworking, Hendrik was changing the knives on his jointer and planer every 4-6 weeks. After he developed a method of honing the knives on the machine after they had dulled, he was able to get 3-4 times the life out of them before they had to be replaced/ resharpened.

Hendrik hones the knives with a diamond plate, creating a secondary bevel on the cutting edge. The process with the jointer is relatively quick but there are a number of steps involved. The cutter block must be locked at the desired position and the cutter block and outfeed table must be protected from any abrasion.

On the planer the method is more involved and requires a special jig to hold the diamond sharpener but it still works.

In his very first DVD set, Jointer & Planer Secrets, Hendrik explained in detail how to use these machines to produce straight dimensioned timber (some of the tips from this first DVD appeared as an article by Hendrik Varju in AWW #170 August 2013).

In this latest DVD he covers a lot more than honing and setting the knives. The information provided will allow you to set up the machines to their optimal operating condition. As such the DVD set is the perfect companion to Jointer & Planer Secrets and should interest anyone keen to get better performance from their planer or thicknesser.

Duration: 373min, 3 discs

DVD - English - NTSC