My planer is my apprentice. I like doing things with hand tools, but thickness planing is really a workout. I can do it, and when the wood is too wide for the planer, depending on the circumstances, I will handle the thicknessing by hand. For the other 99.9% of the stuff – its through my loud, dusty, and well loved lunch box planer.
About 4 years ago, the lot next to my parents was developed for several houses. We talked with the developer, and managed to go through and mark a number of cherry trees that we wanted to purchase. The developer cut down the trees, cleaned up the trunks, and hauled the logs to the side of the road. We had the wood milled at a local sawyer (Herbine Hardwoods) and split the booty between kiln drying and air drying in our driveway. I’ve put most of the wood (> 2K linear feet) through my planer. It’s taken quite a beating over the years.
This clean-up was something I do at least once a year – I start by removing the dust collection attachment, and the blower cover. Compressed air is used to blow out most of the build-up. Then I run the mechanism up/down to make sure the action is still smooth. I use
WD-40 to lubricate the columns and the raising and lowering mechanisms. Then it’s on to the blades. Like the joiner, my Rigid planer has indexed blades. These are reversible, and I know I have a chip at one point on the pair. I just have to remove the blades and the clamp mechanism, clean off the clamp, reverse the blades, and re-install. Again, because they are self indexing, I don’t have to mess with setting blade depth.
After the business end of things is taken care of, I wax down the platen. During normal use, when woods starts to bog down when planing, I know I have 1 of 2 things that I have to do – either change the blades, or wax the platen. The waxing tip I got several years ago, when I was about to replace the planer because it couldn’t take wood any more. I don’t know where that tip came from, but it was a life saver for my apprentice!