Avoiding Planer Snipe

Snipe is that annoying way in which a planer cuts a little deeper on the first and/or last few inches of a board. The reason for snipe is very simple. If only one end of the board is being pressed down by the feed rollers, the other end lifts off the bed of the planer and contacts the cutterhead. This can happen at the beginning or end of the process, or both. Thickness planer manufacturers have tackled this problem, and one of their solutions is to have the four cornerposts of the machine work in unison.

The easiest way to avoid snipe is to butt the ends of the boards tightly together as they are fed into the planer, avoiding any gaps. The first and last board can be relatively short sacrificial ones. However, that's a lot of work when you're only planing one board.

We have used an old shop trick on our planers here at Woodezine for several years. We added a longer bed - a waxed MDF or plastic laminated insert - to each machine, like the MDF one on the old jobsite Delta shown below. It reduces the maximum thickness you can process, so make sure it can be removed easily. We did that by screwing a couple of cleats to the bottom that almost grip the edges of the factory table, and then just dropping it in place. You'll need to decide what's safest for your planer. We also attached a thin guide to each edge, to avoid any binding issues. Those limit the minimum thickness to 3/8".

The theory is that the factory bed is very short, so a longer bed might give boards less chance to "lean" - to rise up into the cutterhead. It works rather well to reduce snipe, but falls short of eliminating it.

Another way to fight snipe is to lay some scrap (the same thickness as your board) to either side of the workpiece. The scrap pieces should be at least a foot longer than the board (6" on each end) and they are not attached - they move with the board. A single piece of scrap seems to work well, too.

At right, the Delta planer is running a piece of Spanish cedar, which is flanked by a couple of scraps of aspen. Don't use metal fasteners such as finish nails or screws to attach the scraps: if they hit the knives, it could be expensive.


Back to the techniques index
Back to WoodEzine's home page