Sunday, March 22, 2009

Changing planer blades

There's something enjoyable, almost
meditative, about working on tools. I'm not sure why some people buy tools and then never tear them apart to find out how they work. Of course, I did that with a motorcycle when I was 15, and couldn't get the damn thing back together again. It had to be hauled back to the dealer so they could put it back together for me.

Lesson learned? Hell no!

I've been tearing apart most of my equipment for the past few weeks, changing blades, performing maintenance, and making them look pretty. And while some would groan at those tasks - for me, it is thoroughly enjoyable.

So I decided to let everyone in on one repair that I just tackled - changing the blades on my Bridgewood 24" wood planer. I bought this tool in 1994, and it's been a remarkable machine over the years. I had never heard of Bridgewood tools when I bought this planer, but
I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a wide planer at an affordable price.

Everyone always says that you should buy
the best tool you can afford, and it's true. I'm particularly reminded of this because I recently dug five different routers out of storage, only to find that all were in various states of disrepair. One was missing a screw, another missing a handle... you get the picture. Finding parts for some off brands of tools is a PITA; that's my major complaint. So buying a tool from a company that's been around a while (and will stock the parts for you) is the best arguement of all.

I've taken very good care of this tool, you can barely tell it's fifteen years old.

Here's something pretty funny, I had to call the company that sold me this planer , and they asked the model number. So I walked over to it, and read it to them - notice it says BW-200P. Well, that's wrong. Somehow, this planer got tagged with the wrong model plate. It's a BW-240P.

So much for quality control.

A good place to start would be unplugging the beast.

Another little tangent - let's talk about manuals that manufacturers supply with their tools. I'm very careful about my manuals, in fact, I have a huge binder in my studio, where all my tool manuals are kept. I also make a copy of the receipt, and staple it to the manual. Anal? You betcha! But very helpful.

Some tools come with special devices for their maintenance. In this case, the planer came with a tool for helping set the height of the blades. I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but even though I've never used it, I knew exactly where it was for this repair. If nothing else, there's an order to my madness.

The manual that came with this tool is almost worthless, so I was a little frustrated when starting this repair. Perhaps manuals are written a little vague on purpose, so you can't hold the manufacturer accountable if they tell you some misinformation. Or if they re-engineer the tool, they can keep using that same (lame) manual. Who knows?

But when a manual just says "remove the blades" and you're scratching your head and wondering where to start... well, that's a problem.

Getting to know your tools is important. I like to take my new tools apart just for the fun of it. Kitchen appliances, too. Haven't you always wanted to see the inside of a toaster? Or the motor on a blender? I even took our washer apart and repaired it. Sweet.

If you don't have that curiosity, maybe you should quit reading this right now.

The first place was to figure out how to find the cutterhead. I knew it was tucked inside, probably behind this dust hood.

Step one, pull off the hood. Just two bolts held it in place, so
that was easy enough to figure out.

They have handy little messages tucked all over the place. Those are sort of ominous.

While I was trying to figure out what to do next, I became very curious (and distracted) about what was under this big cover with all the stickers on it. (Someone went sticker crazy at the factory.)

I'm a sucker for big gears like these, so this felt like tool porn.

Honestly, I've had some furniture designs rolling around in my head for years, based on huge gears, and mechanical pieces and parts.

These gears were covered with fifteen years of grease and grime, so I took a wire brush and cleaned the schmutz off.

The good news is that the belts were in fine shape. If they had needed changing, I would have been in real trouble. There's no way the manual would have contained any belt replacement tips.

So the next step was how to gain access to the cutterhead. I sat there staring at the machine for about 15 minutes, looking at all the bolts, trying to decide which ones needed to be removed.

And then something dawned on me.
I noticed a couple of hinges.

Just lift the sucker up!

Yup, it was as simple as that, no bolts to remove. Of course, the piece that I had to lift up was extremely heavy. Still, just the fact that it hinged up was pretty sweet.

And here we are - twenty-four inches of lovliness.

This was the main reason for changing the blades - a medium sized chip in the blades that created a sickening ridge in every board I would plane.

Each blade is held in place by a dozen screws.

Metric screws, no less.

I swear - just as I was starting to loosen the first screw, I had a fleeting thought about putting on some gloves, to protect my hands.

No comment.

Thanks to two springs that are located under each blade, when all of the screws loosened, each blade pops right up.

There was a good deal of sawdust and crud built up around those screws, so I vacuumed all three blade slots.

That small hole is where the spring is held.

Here's one blade, laying on the bed of the planer, by my tools.

And here are all three, on their way to the sharpening shop.

While I'm at it, I'll take the blades from my jointer, too. Luckily, I have two sets of those, so I never have any "down time" when changing blades.

I'm fine with the fact that the blades won't be ready for a few days. It'll take that long for my hands to heal. Stay tuned for part two - re-installing the blades.

1 comment:

Stacey said...

Very Nice! Despite your incidence of blood, I have to say it's a sign of a good tool that they make things pretty accessible. Because they know it will be around for a while and you'll need to resharpen, clean or replace parts?

Waiting for the second installment.....