Tweaking a Segmented Infeed Roller on a Wide Planer

      A woodshop owner considers whether he can modify his infeed roller so it won't leave marks on the lumber. June 18, 2009

I've got a Bridgewood 24" planer, BW612-PV with a segmented infeed roll. Itís a lousy design, with very little give between the segments, and it has the bad habit of tearing a little piece at the edges of material, or at least putting a deep trail of striations when it passes over a joint in the segments. I tried replacing the rubber dowels that the segments ride on (a huge, pain of a job), but it's still lousy. As I thickness lots of small squares that need to be square at their edges, this is a problem. Iím considering trying to cover the segments with polyurethane rubber sheeting, spirally wound. Anyone ever tried this, or have another idea on improving this situation? I don't use the machine in a heavy duty production way - one man shop, making high end jewelry boxes mostly.

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor C:
A planer can kick back. Especially when planing strips that vary in thickness. That is one reason the rolls are sectional. The kickbacks are powerful enough to kill. I would be very careful about tampering with them. All sectional roll planers will leave the marks you describe. Itís a small price to pay for not having a strip through your guts.

From contributor R:
First, contact Bridgewood and determine the proper settings for the segmented rollers. Be sure that the machine is properly set up then see if the problem persists. Wood that thin is always problematic. Segmented rollers will always leave marks. The planing should remove them, but planing off a tiny amount will not.

A heavy duty planer (the type to have segmented rollers) is simply not designed for fine work. It is meant to take on rough sawn lumber and reduce it fast. A machine with rubber rollers is more suited to your sort of work. It is not uncommon for shops to have a big heavy machine for rough work, and another machine for finish smoothing. I like Woodmanter planer/molders. They can remove material quickly, but also create a very fine finish. The variable feed rate is also a huge help for wild grains.

From the original questioner:
Well I confess to wanting this machine to function as a multi-functional planer. My cramped shop doesn't really have room for another. I do the occasional countertop where the 24" width is invaluable, and I put a Byrd head on it to allow surfacing of the figured woods I work with a lot, and also run the feed off a converter which gives me infinite variable speed from 0-30 fpm. Itís awful close to the perfect planer for me, and I could imagine a thin rubber layer over the infeed roller would solve the planer mark problem, and still allow for some float between segments (though honestly, the design sucks - the amount of float is a joke).

I consulted with Curtis Wilke when I was renovating the machine. He did tell me some people like to cover the infeed rolls with rubber. I guess I'll try to get back in touch with him for details on that. And thanks for the note of caution about kickback. The segmented chipbreaker does work very well, and it has what seems like very effective anti-kickback pawls. I've never had a kickback with it. But when I send multiple pieces through, they don't all go through smoothly - some just sit part way through the planer until their neighbors have gone through. More float on the segments would solve that problem, but I don't think more float is to be had with this design. Thatís a big disappointment, as being able to simultaneously feed lots of squares in the .75 " range was one of the aims of my planer upgrade. I actually wonder about covering the segments with a soft rubber to effectively increase the float between segments.

From contributor M:
You might need to look in to an overhead or drum sander for final passes or even a good bench top planer. The segmented infeed roller is designed to handle rough lumber that vary a great deal in thickness. This is typical of a heavier duty planer.

From contributor C:
Rough planers have sectional rolls. The finest finishing planer in the world, the Whitney, also has segmented rolls. If you are going to plane narrow stock, you had better not mess with the segmented rolls. The chipbreaker does part of the anti-kickback protection, but by its nature it does not do the entire job. If you are taking a reasonable cut with the head, it should remove most of the damaged corners.

Also all material run through any planer should be angled 15 degrees or so. That will help. It also will make the planer last longer because if you angle the material and have several pieces in the machine at a time, the CB and the top rolls are not thumping. Lumber too dry will make the problem worse. There are a lot of things that need to be done before you redesign the wheel.

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