My old man found me a DeWalt power planer at a pawn shop the other day. I have shaped five boards using a sureform and sanding block, but never with a planer. Please give any advice you may have on using this tool, especially how to do the compound curves found in doing railbands.
I have a couple of old unsurfable boards in the garage that I can use for practice. Any advice is greatly appreciated!
i would recommend keeping it at full depth since your planer will probably be a full turn if not two full turns to adjust depth, take your first pass at your rails following your outline, than take passes at a slight angle running slowly up the board, the nose of shortboards can be tough sometimes you may have to go completely side ways, or just do it by hand. take your time dont over shape it. their is a good thread on swaylocks where jim Phillips and mike Daniels talk about planning techniques. it takes practice to get good with a planner. but the good thing is it is always a true cut. for rail bands mark out where you want to cut and find your angle and take a slow pass keeping a constant angle. hope this helps a bit.
Also, the Master Shaper Series by Jim Philips has a great explanation if you're willing to shell out $70 or so.
Just like anything else, it takes practice. Don't be discouraged if your first experience with the planer doesn't come out perfect. Leave yourself some room for error and clean everything up with a block or surform. Each successive board will get better.
What I mean is, it's really important to know exactly where your blade is when looking at the planer in your hand. Like parking your car in a tight parking spot, you need to know exactly where your tires and corners of your car are. That only comes with practice.
Keep in mind the front shoe determines the depth of cut, so it rides along where you want to cut. The rear shoe rides on what's already been cut. So if your first pass along the rail is wobbly, that translates into your second cut, etc. A steady hand, a light touch, a smooth even pass... like your grip on the handlebars of your mtn bike. Control the tool; don't let it run away from you.
Don't push the tool too fast. Get to know how fast you can go before the planer starts to tear the foam. While each kind of foam is different, there's a general speed you'll have to get used to to go as fast as you can without tearing the foam. A lot of newbies have a habit of accelerating at the end of a pass. Keep the speed even from end to end.
Holding the planer at about 30 degrees helps make a clean, true cut.
Check the stringer before you start at the rail. If it's high, take it down flush with the foam first, then go to the rail and work your way inward.
Keep your blades sharp. If you can sharpen them, do it. If you can't, get new ones.
Blow the dust out of your planer at the end of the day, and make sure there's nothing clogging the works periodically. Old garage sale or pawn shop planers can hold secret surprises, so be careful. I had one that shocked the sh!t out of me. Even funnier than that... I just gritted my teeth and used it to do the whole board because I couldn't stop and didn't have another planer!