Wagner Safe-T-Planer safely planes, rabbits, raises panels and more.

A recent post on one of my favorite blogs, http://toolmonger.com prompted me to leave a comment (See comment from July 28th from Scott). I've been thinking about it and finally scanned an article to share with you from an issue of Popular Science from the month I was born on the Wagner Safe-T-Planer. The Wagner Safe-T-Planer was and still is available in two variations; A drill-press mounted version and a Radial Arm Saw mounted version. I used one of these rotary planers every weekend for years as an instructor at Shopsmith, and without a doubt this was one of the most amazing and useful accessories a shop can own. We used them to raise panels for doors, rabbit boards for cabinet backs, cut flats on spindles for attaching legs (see photo below), and to safely plane rough blocks of wood flat prior to mounting on a lathe face plate. To accomplish this you simply clamp the block in a hand screw clamp and guide it under the planer with the handles of the clamp. Another popular use is for planing thin stock for instrument making (aka: luthrie). Traditional thickness planers are designed to thickness relatively stiff boards, and as the lumber gets thinner it tends to chatter and chip. I ran into this when making Shaker Oval Boxes and actually wound-up building a thickness sander for my Shopsmith Mark V for this task. But what if you don't have time to build or money to buy a sander? The Safe-T-Planer may be just the ticket, because it cuts by spinning across the stock, it's less inclined to lit the wood up. My technique for this includes using double-sided tape to hold the thin stock to a carrier. The other advantage to this is that your carrier can be much larger and perhaps even incorporate handles for extra safe planing. There are two concerns that some folks have with this type of tool:
  1. They say that a drill press quill isn't designed for the side-load encountered by this type of tool. True, but I believe that this is mostly an old pre-ball-bearing concern. That said, if your drill press quill has only a single bearing, I'd either upgrade, or pass on this tool as your quill will encounter chatter that will leave an undesirable finish.
  2. Some folks believe that a drill chuck isn't designed to withstand the twisting forces that are transferred to the jaws by this type of cutting tool. This is a legit concern, so Shopsmith owners are encouraged to mount these in a 1/2" router chuck. Problem solved.
In Shopsmith Inc's Christmas 1989 catalog they made a change from the Wagner tool to a new manufacturer whose name escapes me. It was a sexy red anodized aluminum clone of the Wagner, with the only functional difference being that each cutter had a second cutting edge. (See photos above) That's not to say that six cutters were at work, because only three cutters were cutting at any one time; but the second edge on each cutter was a nice back-up should the first edge become dull or damaged. Of course, that assumes that you keep both edges sharp.

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Safe-T-Planers for sale on eBay

Grizzly now offers the Safe-T-Planer for less than $50 through their web site and through Amazon.com. I'll ask my bride to add the patent for the Safe-T-Planer to her patent store, but in the mean time check-out the informative article below.

Click the pics to Biggie-Size them.  From there you can click them again to zoom in.