Planer Infeed Roller Marks

Advice on how to back off the pressure on a planer infeed roller in order to prevent marking of the wood. July 22, 2013

My work is mostly small in scale, involving both hard and soft woods, so I have previously worked with small planers with rubber feed rollers. For occasional wider work, I recently bought a Powermatic #209 20" planer with serrated steel infeed roller. For face planing it does a good job, but when I try to plane edges to finished width on this machine I am finding that depending on species, I must remove a certain minimum amount of material to remove marks made by the infeed roller. Is this simply the nature of such machines, or should I be able to reduce the feed pressure to minimize the required depth of cut without causing the feed to stall on wider/harder materials?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor W:
I have the same planer. You can adjust the pressure to the infeed rollers with an allen wrench. The wrench goes into same holes that you lubricate the roller bushings. You need to add a few drops of oil regularly. The planer sometimes leaves marks on rough boards where the planer is skipping over thin parts of board not high enough to be cut by knives. But, as soon as I am taking off any material (even 1/8 of revolution of crank, no marks).

I bought my machine used with condition issues. I bought it from a guy who makes custom drawers. He couldn't make it feed right and was forcing boards through with brute force. I replaced infeed and outfeed rollers and bushings, and bought the low speed gear and chain. The machine wouldn’t feed at all when I re-assembled it to the manual's specs. I think there is a misprint in the manual. It indicates that the infeed roller should be .004" below the knives and that is not near enough. I go .040 and back off the pressure to the rollers. I had a similar planer before and the manual for it indicated .040".

I also wax my table with Johnson Paste Wax regularly and make sure wax and pitch haven't built up on the lower rollers. Originally the planer had a smooth infeed roller which I still have. It has damage to the keyway and bearing surfaces which could be repaired by a machine shop for about the same price as a new roller. I keep it to remind me to oil my bushings! This planer is mostly known for random chip dent. You will find many long threads on that issue if you search.

From the original questioner:
Reducing the infeed roller's spring tension per your advice (without necessarily changing its height setting) seems like it will solve my problem for edges and softer species. I'm going to aim at minimal tension to suit my normal light work, since it shouldn't be difficult to crank the tension back up if necessary for rougher/heavier work. With your machine setup, are you able to remove less than 1/32" from an edge without leaving roller marks? (BTW, I notice that my manual has the same typo for the recommended infeed roller height; it should read ".040," not .004). Finally, I called Powermatic and the tech recommended .032".

From the original questioner:

To contributor W: Following up - Success: Reducing the infeed roller tension to the furthest possible extent has retained adequate feed strength for my normal work (both faces and edges, hardwoods and soft) while allowing removal of as little as .004" from a 3/4" softwood edge without leaving residual roller marks.

To reach the absolute minimum tension at the existing roller height setting, I first removed the adjusting bolts completely, at which point one can reach under and lift the roller by hand to assure that each end is free to slide up and down smoothly. I also removed the springs to be sure they and their housings were clean. I then re-inserted the springs and carefully tightened down the adjusting bolts until they just made contact with the (fully expanded) springs. I determined this contact by raising up on the roller from underneath until there was no play.

As a minor note, there was considerable difference in the thickness of the casting where the bolts are tapped on my machine. When identically adjusted for minimum tension per above, both bolts protrude significantly from the casting, one of them by almost 3/16" more than the other.