A thickness planer planes one side of a board at a time, giving a board of consistent thickness and with smooth surfaces. The cutter head is guided by the opposite surface of the board.

It is different from a surface planer, or jointer, where the cutter head is set into the bed surface. A surface planer has slight advantages for producing the first flat surface and may be able to do so in a single pass. However the thicknesser has more important advantages in that it can produce a board with a consistent thickness, avoids producing a tapered board, and by making passes on each side and turning the board, may also be used for the initial preparation of an unplaned board.

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