• Can Your Shopbot Replace Your Planer?

    by  • May 27, 2014 • Featured 100k Users, furniture, shopbot • 2 Comments

    When we think of CNC routers and their capabilities we often go right to the feats of complexity and precision. Impossible inlays, hundreds of exact copies of parts, complex shaping and carving, and perfect joints but not everything you use your bot for needs to be so complicated.
    Flattening table tops is by far my favorite “alternate” use for my bot. I make a lot of tables and I used to haul the tabletops to a shop to have them flattened on a 4ft belt sander. They would turn out beautifully flat and smooth. On the other hand it would take time to make the trip and the shop would have at least a 2 day turnaround. There is also the risk of damaging that gorgeous glue-up in transit.

    Amana Tools RC-2251
    I decided to try to keep the work in my shop so I picked up a nice 2.5″ flycutter and laid a rough sawn board on the table. After a little tweaking to make the z axis perfectly perpendicular to the table, I was very happy with the results. I’ve done several tables this way. I’ve even experimented with ball-nose bits with large radius ends to create a scalloped finish.

    oak_spiral_table 002

    One tip to keep in mind is to pay attention to grain direction and bit rotation. Set your stepover to a small percentage like 10% and be sure you are following the grain of the wood with your cuts. With a 10% stopover you can get very close to cutting only along the grain. Larger stopover settings will result in more cross grain cutting. This will leave swirls in your material and require you to spend a lot more time sanding.

    You can accomplish this same thing with smaller bits as well. Give it shot and let me know if you have other “alternate” uses for your ShopBot.


    Growing up as the son of a shop teacher and a home economics teacher sparked Greg's curiosity for building and making things by hand. This lead to his current passion for exploring cutting edge technology in both the digital and physical. Greg has trained people on and used CNC routers, CNC plasma cutters, 3D printers, laser cutters, and all types of woodworking equipment. Check out his work at Tree On A Hill Workshop.


    2 Responses to Can Your Shopbot Replace Your Planer?

    1. John Coryat
      May 27, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      I often use my SB to flatten rough lumber. It works better than a planer and works to the end of the board. I’ve used it mostly on boards but have done tabletops too.

      Instead of using a flattening routine, I use a simple program that does a raster cut so I can control the grain issue better than using the flattening routine.

    2. ian
      August 21, 2014 at 11:00 pm

      great idea. i have definitely considered this method for planing pieces larger than the planer will allow.
      do you think you could use a similar method to mill a log into a niece piece of stock like a beam?

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