How to Flatten Wood Without a Planer

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Written By AB Williams

Welcome! My name is AB Williams. Wood working is my passion.It became my passion after I’d finished college. Since then I’ve gained strong knowledge and skill set of woodworking and wood finishing.





If you want to flatten lumber or boards for your project but lack access to a planer then there are alternatives available that can be utilized in the shop or even at home. Thanks to new technology, flattening boards or lumber can be done without a planer as long as you have other tools and equipment on hand.

Finding ways to work around every other tool is part of the fun and challenge of woodworking. Even though there are many tools on the market today that make life easier by combining two or more functions into one tool, sometimes you don’t have access to the right tools at a given time for whatever reason—maybe it’s too expensive, you can’t justify the cost just to do some small job in your shop, or maybe it’s just not available for purchase locally.

A friend of mine recently asked me if it was possible to flatten lumber without a planer and I immediately thought of what might be alternatives that could work in the situation described.

It seems like you may have some solution options available that will help you accomplish the task at hand with minimal equipment.

Here are three suggestions that will help you achieve the results you want when working with wood without eliminating the necessity for a planer completely.

A belt sander

A belt sander may be just what you need to work with for this particular project.  You might not have a planer but most woodworkers have some type of belt sander in the shop, either bench-top model or mounted on the floor. Belt sanders are usually used for shaping longer boards into shorter ones, but they can also be used for shaping them into flats.

Safety tips while using A belt sander

  • Always wear eye protection
  • Watch the direction of the belt at all times to avoid accidents
  • Ensure that your work is not hanging over the edge of a table or bench so you don’t end up with any fingers or other body parts being pinched by the sanding surface.
  • Don’t use it on fragile woods like balsa, pine, and cedar
  • Make sure you have a dust collector at your disposal to help keep the mess under control.

If you think about it, belt sanders are actually planers in themselves but instead of using a blade, they use an abrasive surface to remove material. The one disadvantage is that they only work one side at a time, so if you need to flatten two sides of a board at once you’ll need to flip the board over and repeat the process, which can take some time.

 Drum sander

Use a drum sander and you’ll have even more control as well as less probability of sanding over the edges on the tops or bottoms of boards that are too long to pass through your planer. Drum sanders, commonly known as disc sanders, use discs (or drums) that are made of metal and sand the wood at a fairly slow speed. You’ll be able to get the job done without taking off too much material while also being able to achieve a good level of flatness on your lumber boards.

There’s another option for getting rollers involved in flattening out longer pieces of board or lumber. Drum sanders are capable of beveling edges and getting a stock to sit flat on the surface, but there’s another piece of equipment that is well-suited for this particular job.

Safety tips while using A drum sander

  • Eyewear
  • Gloves
  • Dust collector

Realizing that there are more options for getting long boards flatten than just using a planer is important—even if you do have access to one.  There are advantages and disadvantages for each of the tools, but it comes down to what type of material you’re working with, how much time you have to do the job, and whether or not you need flatness on both sides of a board.

Jointer/thickness planer

One tool that will work great in helping you achieve a nice level of flatness is a jointer/thickness planer combination machine . This particular machine will help you get boards and lumber straighter than ever before. A jointer/planer combo is the best way to flatten wood and can be adjusted by changing out one head and swapping in another, including a straightening (flat) head. The type of knives that are utilized in these types of machines cut on both sides of the board or lumber item, eliminating any ridges or waves.

The knives on a jointer/planer combination machine are coarse and can be adjusted to cut deeper into the wood if necessary in order to achieve the desired level of flatness. It’s important to keep in mind that this doesn’t eliminate all of the information from your lumber so you may want to keep those boards around for other types of projects. Having some pieces that are a bit heavier and thicker can come in handy when doing certain types of woodworking, including making furniture or something else at a later time.

Safety tips while using A jointer/thickness planer

  • Always wear eye protection
  • Watch the direction of the blades at all times to avoid accidents
  • Ensure that your work is not hanging over the edge of a table or bench so you don’t end up with any fingers or other body parts being pinched by the sanding surface.
  • If you think about it, jointer/planer machines are actually planers themselves but instead of using a blade they use knives to remove material.

With these three methods for flattening lumber that don’t require the use of a planer, you’ll be able to get the job done with minimal equipment and a little bit of extra effort.


If you’ve been struggling with getting boards to be flat, there are a number of ways that don’t involve the use of a planer.

A drum sander will work on long boards and can also bevel edges for those who want it both sides to be even or if your board is thinner than 1/4 inch.

A jointer/planer machine combination will help achieve an extra level of straightness without taking off too much material from your lumber stock while still being capable of flattening one side at a time in order to maintain some wood’s ability to hold information for future projects.

And lastly, just using safety precautions when working with either tool should keep anyone safe as well as make sure they get done faster.




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