From rLab

Axminster AT260SPT Planer-Thicknesser Induction

Some of the tools at the Hackspace are potentially hazardous to use, for these tools members are required to have an induction before they can use them. Inductions provide the most basic information on how to safely and effectively use the simpler functions of the tools, we appreciate that some members may have professional experience on some of these tools and in this case please tell your induction provider and the induction may be very reduced and just cover any risks or procedures specific to rLab. Some tools have multiple levels of induction in order to cover more advanced uses of that tool without making the basic induction take too long, higher induction levels will introduce some of the more advanced features of the tools but as with all inductions are only intended to provide basic information on the capabilities of the tools and how to use them safely. Some members of rLab may be willing to offer more detailed tuition beyond basic induction level or offer guided practice sessions in exchange for beer money or assistance on their own projects.

For all tools you are only required to take level-1 induction before use, after that you may perform any task that you feel confident you can do safely, higher levels of induction may be useful to you in performing more advanced operations but are not required before doing tasks covered in them so long as you're confident of your ability to handle those tasks without risk to yourself, others, or the tool.

PLEASE NOTE : All induction providers are volunteers who are providing inductions to the best of their ability but are NOT qualified instructors. Inductions are provided on a best-effort basis but you and you alone are responsible for your safety while using the tools and for satisfying yourself that you can operate the tools safely. There are professional training courses available from various providers in Reading and the surrounding area if you feel they are appropriate for the level of work you intend to undertake. Reading these notes is NOT a substitute for an in-person induction.

Note for wiki editors : Please do not edit induction pages unless you are one of of the people that gives that induction


The planer thicknesser is an Axminster AT260SPT. This is a combination machine, which can be configured to work as a surface planer (for the flattening of faces and edges of wood), and as a thickness planer, to dimension wood that has already been surfaced (“jointed”) on one face and/or edge.

Both modes of operation involve passing the wood over a circular cutter block which holds 44 tungsten carbide knives.

General Safety Information[edit]

Topic Detailed contents Rationale
  • Eye protection is a must when surface planing, but is unlikely to be needed for thicknessing (you shouldn’t be bent over looking at the wood going through).
  • Ear protection is optional, the machine isn't too loud but the dust extraction is so for longer session then hearing protection is probably wise.
  • Dust masks may not be necessary, as the machine produces chips rather than dust. Dust extraction is mandatory with this machine however as it makes a LOT of chips. Use of the overhead air cleaner is a good idea. The dust extractor is very prone to clogging, the likely clog points are the two ends of the hose.
  • Make sure you have no loose clothing that can get caught on the machine and long hair must be tied back
  • Consider moving the machine around to make sure you have safe paths for material into and out of the machine
    • Can use the rollers to support long material
Clothing and equipment to avoid injury

The planer thicknesser is designed to work almost exclusively with wood, and additionally, it’s effective operation depends on the direction of the wood grain as it is passed over the cutter block. It is not designed to work across the grain of the wood, or on the end grain of the wood, in either of the surface planer or thickness planer modes. For this reason it's not well suited to composite materials like plywood or MDF, it is not possible to plane the face of plywood, as the alternating grain direction in subsequent layers results in chips that are too large to evacuate, which clog the machine. It is possible to plane the edge of plywood, but this is quite hard on the knives, and in most applications the table saw would make more sense.

There are some firm modelling foams which can be processed by the planer thicknesser. This should be done with extra care, as they produce long chips which are difficult to evacuate and are known to clog the machine very rapidly, extremely frequent (every couple of passes) checking of the machine and extraction hose will be needed when using foams

The material must be free of any metal - screws, staples, nails etc. These will damage the blades. This is a special concern when working with reclaimed timber, also be aware that painted surfaces tend to wear the cutters faster so although they CAN be cut, please limit that as much as possible.

What stuff can be used on this machine
General Safety

Never pass your hands over the exposed cutter block.

Never push stock directly down into the cutter block.

Never manipulate the cutter block or knives with the machine plugged in. There are no interlocks to prevent the machine starting while it is being adjusted.

Long pieces of wood will require two people to handle them with this machine.

The HSE document on safe working practices for surface planning can be found here.

Other safety information

Surface Planing / Jointing[edit]

Topic Detailed contents Rationale

Surface planning (Jointing) is the process of machining a rough wooden surface to make it accurately flat and smooth, it's often done as a first step towards making an accurate angle or to ensure a block of wood is parallel across it's sides.

The procedure for surface planning involves passing stock over the in-feed table, into the cutter block, and out over the out-feed table. The out-feed table is set level with the peak of the cutting circle, and the in-feed table is set somewhat lower than the out-feed table. Therefore, as stock passes over the in-feed table and through to the out-feed table, the cutter head removes scallops of material, with repeated passes serving to smooth and flatten a surface of the stock. As passes are repeated then the surface is progressively leveled out and imperfections removed.

A fence should be attached to the machine when planing, to provide a reference surface for jointing two adjacent surfaces of the stock to some user defined reference angle (normally 90 degrees). Here, a typical process would be to flatten a face, and then, using this flattened face against the fence, flatten an edge at 90 degrees to the face. From here the thicknesser and table saw can be used to give stock that has 4 sides which are either square or parallel to each other.

There are some limiting dimensions to consider: You should not joint pieces less than 250mm long and 5mm thick. The maximum width is 260mm.

How the AT260SPT works in this mode

With the machine unplugged...

  • Attach the fence, it's normally stowed on the back of the machine, the blade guard must be all the way retracted and the fence clamp fully released.
  • Check dust collection port is connected to the extractor, the bin is empty and that the hose isn’t blocked (a common issue).
  • Check the height of the in-feed table relative to the out-feed table. Ideally it will have been left about 1mm below the out-feed table, but it may have been adjusted to take a heavier cut. The maximum allowed is 4mm but this is very hard on the machine and produces poor surface finish
    • Better results will be obtained by taking multiple passes with a shallower cut. Also, heavier cuts are harder on the knives and will dull them faster.
    • If necessary, Adjust the in-feed table by releasing the lock lever and turning the adjuster
    • The out-feed table is adjustable but will probably have been left about right
    • Be sure to lock it afterwards, and you can use the scale on the side to judge depth of cut
    • Heavier cuts can be made on softer materials but exercise caution
  • Set the guard. As much as possible of the cutter block must be covered by the guard during operation.
    • If possible, raise the guard above the work, and extend over the whole cutter block.
    • If the work is too tall for the guard, expose only just enough of the cutter block to process the stock, and lower the guard so it sits close to the cutter block.
  • If using the fence, check that it is securely locked, and that it is at the right angle to the in-feed/out-feed tables.
Setting up safely
  • The main start button is on the front left and also functions as an emergency stop, there's an addition E-stop button back right of the machine so if it won't start, check that one is released too
  • Set the mode lever on the bottom left of the machine correctly
    • Out and down (it locks in place) for planning
    • In and up (doesn't lock) for thicknessing
  • Start the planer and the dust extractor.
  • Consider the grain direction of your stock. For hardwoods or woods with very strong gain then results will be obtained when the knives are cutting with the grain (“downhill”), whereas in the opposite direction you are likely to get “tearout”.
    Down-hill cutting will give a better result on difficult materials
    • For most softwoods and hardwood where the gain lines up with the direction of travel, it won't matter
  • Pass the stock over the infeed table, with only enough pressure the keep the stock securely on the table, and moving forward at a steady rate.
    • Too much pressure may well deform the stock as it goes over the cutter block, and will not result in a flat surface.
    • Too little pressure will result in a chattery poor quality surface.
    • A consistent feed rate over the cutter block is very important – a varying feed rate will result in a varying quality surface.
  • When enough material has reached the outside the guard on the outfeed table, transfer the downward pressure used to hold the stock to the outfeed side, so that this serves as your reference surface.
    • Then, from the infeed side, there should be primarily a forward force pushing work over the cutter block. For the end piece of stock, pull this from the outfeed side. Your fingers should never go under the guard.
  • Work must only be fed across the blades from infeed to outfeed tables. Trying to go in the other direction will result in the machine throwing the stock across the room, trying to start in the middle of a piece of timber will result in the machine throwing the stock across the room and possibly throwing you into the cutters.....
  • It is common for there to be a slightly deeper scallop at the start and end of a piece of stock, called jointer snipe. It is hard to completely avoid this but the flatter and smoother your feed the less noticeable it will be. The easiest way is to leave a few extra cm on each end that can be trimmed off later if needs be.
  • Take repeated passes until the surface is flat.
  • Once the surface is flat you can either set up to cut the next face an at accurate angle to the one you've just done, or switch to thicknessing mode in order to make the opposite face parallel to the one that you've just done
    • When using the fence to make two edges perpendicular, the reference face that you've just made flat needs to be kept firmly against the fence, this may mean that the bottom surface isn't flat against the table
    • This is normal and expected, but does mean that you should take much thinner cuts than before in order to keep cutting forces low, at least until the material is laying flat against both fence and table
  • Around 10 minutes of work will completely fill the extractor so this needs to be checked regularly.
    • Also check any time there's a build-up of chips visible, the extractor hose may have been jammed with chips
Performing planning safely


Topic Detailed contents Rationale

Thicknessing will take a block of wood with one face already made flat by planning and make the opposing face flat and parallel to the other. Thicknessing is simpler than surface planing, as the machine does more of the work. In this mode, stock is passed underneath the cutter block and feeder generally pulls the stock through for you. In this mode, stock is passed through the machine in the opposite direction to surface planing (so that it still goes against the rotation of the knives).

  • The same considerations about grain direction apply, and you want to aim to be cutting with the grain/downhill if the timber has pronounced grain.
  • Do not try to feed the stock through in the other direction, the machine will not permit this
  • The crank handle raises the bed of the thicknesser, so that you place the already surfaced face down onto the thicknesser bed, and take repeated passes through the thicknesser, incrementally raising the bed, will make the opposite face flat and parallel to the previously surfaced face. You can stop when the face is flat and parallel, or continue until you reach a desired dimension.
  • If you want to remove more than about 5mm of material with the thicknesser, it might well be more efficient to get very close to this with either the band saw or table saw, and then take only a final few passes on the thicknesser.
  • If you want to process a batch of stock to be the same dimension, it can be more efficient and successful to put them all through once, then raise the bed, and repeat, as otherwise it is difficult to get the stock to be exactly the same size with a similar surface finish.
  • There are some limiting dimensions to consider: You should not thickness pieces less than 250mm long and 5mm thick. The maximum width is 260mm. It is technically possible to thickness pieces thinner than 5mm, with an auxiliary table added to the thicknessing bed, but care must be taken that the work doesn’t become so flimsy that the cutter block just destroys it.
How the AT260SPT works in this mode
Set up
  • Start by unplugging the machine, never attempt to change mode with the machine powered.
  • Remove the fence, remembering to fully retract the blade guard and fully loosen the fence clamp, put the blade guard back into it's normal position before moving the tables.
  • Release the lock on the out-feed table (which operates the same as the in-feed table lock)
  • Raise the out-feed table to it's upper position, then similarly with the in-feed table
    • The out-feed table must be lifted BEFORE in the in-feed or the blade guard will be damaged
    • Don't lift by the blade guard, it's not strong enough
    • The tables are HEAVY, be careful moving them not to trap fingers
    • The tables will lock in the fully upright position
  • Flip over the yellow dust extract unit into the upper position, ensure that the spring lock on the right has engaged
  • Check the dust extractor for any blockages, then connect it back to the dust extract fitting
    • Consider where timber will emerge from the machine and position the hose accordingly
  • Move the mode lever to the thicknessing position (up and in, doesn't lock in that position)
  • Unlock the table height adjustment and use the handle to move the table to a suitable height for your workpiece
    • The digital scale on the table is reasonably accurate (+/- 0.2mm)
    • Maximum cut depth is theoretically 2mm, but keeping below 1mm will give much nicer results and longer machine life
  • The bed does not have to be locked in order to cut and you might leave it unlocked if changing height often, but you'll get more accurate and consistent results if you do lock it
Setting up safely
  • Start the machine, and then the extractor.
  • Pass the stock into the machine in the left-hand side feed port, ensuring the surfaced face is flat on the thicknessing table – rotating the stock up or down will result in heavy snipe.
    • Once fed in about 100mm the machine will grab the material and pull it the rest of the way at a steady pace
    • If it does not feed correctly first ensure the mode lever is in the right position (up and in)
    • If it's feeding but poorly or erratically the bed probably needs refinishing and rewaxing, contact Mark, Steve or Adam
  • If you've started to put material into the machine and changed your mind the anti-kickback fingers will prevent you from removing it, in order to release your material turn off the machine, wait till the drum has come to a stop, then lower the table
  • Raise the bed and repeat. Aim for a cut between 0.5 and 1mm, This will give better results and is easier on the knives and machine.
Performing thicknessing safely
Resetting to planing mode
  • The machine should always be left in planing mode when you're finished
  • Lower the bed all the way
  • Flip the dust extractor back over (releasing the spring clip front-right of the extractor)
  • Lower the tables, in-feed first, then out-feed
    • You'll have to push aside the latches with one hand and lower it with the other
    • Take care, the tables and heavy and awkward and will injure you or the machine if dropped!
  • Reset the mode lever back to planing (down and out, locks in place)
Needs to be left in planning mode because that takes up less space

Cleaning up[edit]

Topic Detailed contents Rationale
Cleaning the machine
  • Clean the machine – hoovering the chips out, and making sure the extraction hose is clear.
  • The dust extractor bag fills quickly when thicknessing. Check it regularly and empty it if it is close to full.
    • It gets emptied into the main bins outside, sawdust is not recyclable
  • Clean up the floor around the planner/thicknesser as it will certainly have thrown chips around.
  • Push the machine back against the pillar, out of the way
  • Report and faults or issues to Mark
Make it nicer for others to use after you