How to Plane Wood with a Router: A Step-by-Step Guide

Woodworking enthusiasts know that there are many ways to shape and smooth wood. One of the most versatile tools for this job is a router. Although routers are often used for cutting decorative edges, they can also be used to plane wood. In fact, using a router to plane wood can be faster and more accurate than using a traditional plane.

To plane wood with a router, the woodworker needs to attach a flat-bottomed bit to the router’s collet. The bit should be positioned so that its cutting edge is flush with the router’s base. The woodworker can then move the router over the surface of the wood, taking off a small amount of material with each pass. This process can be repeated until the wood is smooth and even.

While using a router to plane wood may seem intimidating to beginners, it is actually a straightforward process that can be mastered with practice. With the right bit and technique, woodworkers can achieve professional-quality results in less time than it takes to use a traditional plane.

Understanding the Basics

Plane and Router

Woodworkers use planes to smooth and shape wood surfaces. Planes are handheld tools that remove thin layers of wood to achieve a smooth finish. However, using a plane can be a time-consuming process, especially when working on large pieces of wood. A router can be a great tool to speed up the process of planing wood.

Router Bit

A router bit is a cutting tool that attaches to the router. The bit rotates at high speeds and removes wood in small increments. When planing wood with a router, it is important to use a straight bit. A straight bit has a flat bottom and is ideal for removing large amounts of wood quickly.

Planing Technique

To plane wood with a router, the woodworker should start by securing the wood to a workbench. Next, they should adjust the router bit to the desired depth and attach it to the router. The woodworker should then hold the router firmly and move it along the surface of the wood, taking care to move it in the direction of the grain. It is important to keep the router moving steadily and avoid stopping in one spot for too long, as this can cause unevenness in the surface of the wood.

Router Base

The router base is the part of the router that rests on the surface of the wood. When planing wood with a router, it is important to use a base that is flat and stable. A base that wobbles or tilts can cause the router bit to cut too deeply or unevenly, resulting in an uneven surface. Many routers come with a base that can be adjusted to ensure stability during use.

In summary, planing wood with a router can be a quick and efficient process when done correctly. By understanding the basics of router planing, including the use of a straight bit, proper planing technique, and a stable router base, woodworkers can achieve a smooth finish on their projects in less time than with traditional hand planing methods.


Before starting to plane wood with a router, it is important to properly prepare the wood and the router. This section will cover the necessary steps to prepare the wood and the router for the planing process.

Choosing the Wood

The first step in preparing for planing is to choose the right wood. It is important to select wood that is straight and free of knots or other defects. The wood should also be of sufficient thickness to allow for planing without cutting through the stock. The grain of the wood should be considered as well, as cross-sections of the wood fiber can affect the outcome of the planing process.

Setting the Depth

The next step is to set the depth of the router. The depth should be set to remove only a small amount of wood with each pass. This will ensure that the wood is not damaged and that the planing process is smooth and even. It is recommended to start with a shallow depth and gradually increase it until the desired result is achieved.

Prepping the Surface

Finally, the surface of the wood should be prepped before planing. This involves cleaning the wood and removing any debris or dirt. The wood should also be sanded to ensure that the surface is smooth and even. This will help to prevent any snags or catches during the planing process.

In summary, proper preparation is essential for successful wood planing with a router. Choosing the right wood, setting the depth correctly, and prepping the surface will help to ensure a smooth and even planing process.

Creating the Jig

Materials Needed

To create a jig for planing wood with a router, you will need the following materials:

Material Quantity
Plywood 1 sheet
Screws Several
Hot-melt glue 1 stick
MDF 1 sheet
Blocks of wood 2
Shims Several

Building the Jig

To build the jig, follow these steps:

  1. Cut a piece of plywood to the desired size of the jig base.
  2. Cut two rails out of MDF to the length of the base and glue them to the base with hot-melt glue.
  3. Cut two blocks of wood and attach them to the base at the end opposite the rails, making sure they are square to the rails.
  4. Attach a piece of plywood to the blocks of wood to create a vertical surface.
  5. Cut shims to the desired thickness and attach them to the vertical surface with screws, making sure they are level with the rails.
  6. Attach a piece of MDF to the shims to create the planing surface.

With this jig, you can easily plane wood with a router and achieve precise results.

Planing Process

Setting Up

To begin the planing process with a router, one must first set up the workpiece and the router. It is important to make sure the wood is wide enough and thick enough to be planed with a router. The wood should also be parallel to the fiber to ensure a smooth and even cut.

Once the wood is set up, the router should be equipped with a bit that is the appropriate diameter and bit depth for the job. A straight bit or a mortising bit can be used for planing. The router plane should be set up to the appropriate height for the wood thickness.

Making the Pass

To make a pass, the router should be moved in a pull stroke along the wood. The pass should be made in a single direction to avoid tearing out the wood. The router should be moved in a slow and steady motion to ensure an even cut.

Checking the Thickness

After each pass, the thickness of the wood should be checked to ensure that it is being planed evenly. If the wood is not being planed evenly, adjustments should be made to the router plane or the wood should be repositioned.

Final Step

Once the wood has been planed to the desired thickness, the final step is to sand the wood to remove any machining marks and to smooth the surface. A power tool or hand sanding can be used for this step.

When planing large slabs or a tree trunk, a router sled can be used to flatten the surface. Carpet tape can be used to hold the wood in place on the sled. The sled should be moved in a back and forth motion to ensure even planing.

When planing tenon cheeks, a jointer can be used to remove the excess wood before using a router to finish the job.

Overall, planing wood with a router is a useful technique in woodworking. With the proper set up and technique, a router can be used to surface and flatten wood quickly and efficiently.

Safety Measures

When it comes to woodworking, safety should always be a top priority. Using a router to plane wood can be a dangerous task if not done correctly. Here are some safety measures to keep in mind when using a router to plane wood:

Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is essential when working with a router. PPE includes safety glasses, earplugs, and a dust mask. Safety glasses protect your eyes from flying debris, earplugs protect your ears from the loud noise of the router, and a dust mask protects your lungs from inhaling sawdust.

Secure the Wood

Before starting to plane the wood, make sure it is securely fastened to the workbench or table. This will prevent the wood from moving around while you work and reduce the risk of injury.

Use the Right Router Bit

Using the correct router bit is crucial when planing wood. Make sure the router bit is sharp and in good condition. Dull bits can cause the router to jump and increase the risk of injury.

Start Slowly

Start the router at a low speed and gradually increase the speed as you begin to plane the wood. This will give you more control over the router and reduce the risk of the wood jumping or the router getting out of control.

Keep Hands Away from the Bit

Never put your hands near the router bit while it is in motion. Keep your hands at a safe distance from the bit at all times.

Turn off the Router When Not in Use

Always turn off the router when you are not using it. This will prevent accidental injury and prolong the life of the router.

By following these safety measures, you can safely and effectively plane wood with a router.


In conclusion, using a router to plane wood is a great technique that can save time and produce smooth, even surfaces. It is especially useful for smaller projects or when working with delicate or thin pieces of wood.

However, it is important to note that using a router for planing requires some skill and practice to master. It is important to take the time to properly set up the router and make sure it is securely attached to the work surface. Additionally, it is crucial to use the correct type of bit and to make sure it is sharp and properly aligned.

Overall, with the right tools and techniques, using a router to plane wood can be a valuable addition to any woodworker’s toolkit. It is a versatile and efficient method that can produce high-quality results.

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