Running Phenolic in the Planer

Can planer knives survive being used on 1/4-inch phenolic panel material? April 30, 2009

I've got an opportunity to do some side work machining some parts for a local aerospace contractor. I'd be taking a 4x10 sheet of phenolic (1/4" thick) and slicing it into 48" x 1" strips, then putting the strips into a planer sled to turn them into what looks like a tiny version of the cheap baseboard trim used in the '70s. I need opinions on if this is going to kill my tooling. I've got carbide blades on my planer's tersa head and intended on using some low or negative hook blade on the sliding saw to cut the strips. Even though it's aerospace, we're not talking .000001 tolerances here. The angle is more important than the finish, since it's getting carbon fibered.

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surfacing Forum)
From contributor V:
I have never cut solid phenolic, in fact we stay away from projects that require Trespa (similar to solid phenolic) projects. I do know that the cutting life of a tool is cut in half when cutting a 3/4 pb-2 sided plastic laminate panel. I can imagine that solid phenolic would wear tooling out very quick. Have you considered diamond tooling?

From the original questioner:
I would probably decide to not get involved if I had to get special tooling. Plus I've not heard diamond as an option for tersa heads.

From contributor K:
I make pods for our CNC's out of 1 1/2" thick solid phenolic. I use solid carbide tools and it machines fairly well. You have to keep the speeds and feeds down and it still wears tools rapidly. I'm not sure how well it works on a saw but would think that a negative hook blade and a new throat plate may do the trick. Be careful, the material is very hard and brittle.

From contributor A:
I am with contributor K, and my experiences are the same. It cuts and machines very nicely with sharp, carbide tooling. However, it will probably take more than one pass through your planer. Given how thin it is, you may even need to run the pieces through a widebelt to remove chatter marks with a 60G belt. I have never sanded it so I don't know if it would load belts or not. You may not need too, but I just see it having a lot of chatter because it would have a tendency to bounce when you run it through. I would multiply the number of hours you think it will take by two or three, if you don't get the job because of it, no loss on your part. It is also very heavy stuff, much heavier than it looks.

From contributor L:
I would expect it to shatter in a planer at less than 1/4" thickness. I don't have any experience with it that thin though. I have however built cabinets and even locker room benches with 3/4" material. The thicker stuff is very hard on router bits. It seems to be hard and abrasive - both bad.

Back to my original comment. A guy in the shop where I work did run some Corian through the planer. It was loud and sounded very harsh/abusive the machine. He shattered several pieces before there was enough to build the box that he was making. I don't really remember what it was for though, silverware I think.