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I have recently been using a table saw to rip cheap 2 X 4 pine for projects. However, it takes a long time to sand these down to a nice finish, and trying to keep them square is difficult.

I'm considering buying a cheap jointer/thickenesser. What are your experiences with them? Do you think it will greatly reduced the sanding needed and time?

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    Hi, welcome to Woodworking. "Do you think it will greatly reduced the sanding needed and time?" Hell yeah. Sanding was never really intended for taking wood from rough to smooth/flat, it's really only power tools that have made that a reasonable proposition (for flat surfaces). Planing is precisely what was used to do this. If you're just seeking to smooth off SPF for smaller projects a hand plane might easily do all you need for far lesser money (more sweat equity though of course), but if you're intending to take stuff down to given thicknesses then a planer is well worth getting. – Graphus Oct 14 '19 at 18:15
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I belong to a makerspace which has a really great wood working section. My favorite tool is the laser cutter but I got tired of the look of 1/4" thick plywood and wanted to experiment with other woods. So I asked some of the other members to teach me how to resaw and render 1/4" "Laser food" stock out of cedar and pine 2x6's.

We tried both the table saw and the band saw and I was more comfortable with the band saw. I cut the 2x6's into 3 foot sections (which fit in the laser cutter) and then use a marking tool to draw 3 equidistant lines along the narrow (1.5") side such that the wood is divided into 4 sections, each 3 foot by 6" by about 1/3" thick. Then I use the band saw to actually cut the wood along those lines.

Once I have all my sections cut, I feed them through the planner on both sides, repeating the process until they are all 1/4" thick. I then stack them in my garage with 1/4" scraps between them (like saw mills do) to let them dry. After about a month, they are ready to feed to the laser. Because of how thin I slice them, I get a bit of warping but also because of the thinness, I can easily clamp them back to flat within the laser.

So to answer your question(s)...

Flatness/Squareness? : The planner give me wonderfully flat and square sheets. When using the laser, small discrepancies in stock thickness can cause really odd results, and the sheets which I've produced in this way have no such problems.

Time? : Rendering a 12 foot 2 x 6 into 16 sheets each 3 foot by 6" by 1/4" takes me about an hour about equal time spent on the band saw and planner. When I have someone to plane while I resaw, we can usually process 3 12 foot boards in about the same hour.

Worth It? : Yes, but rather than buying a cheap tool, look into finding a used tool or better yet, an unused but previously owned tool. I bought a 14" planner for $150 at an auction once which was still in its original box and had no sawdust on it anywhere. I took a video of it in its original condition, then ran one pencil-marked board through it to demonstrate that it was functional and that the blades were not chipped. Posted it online and it sold for $350 (which was still 1/2 of retail) in less than a day. If you can get some time on someone else's powertools (as I have through my makerspace) it is pretty easy to learn how to vet used tools to insure quality, safety and functionality. ...and the savings can be substantial.

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    Re. warping in your cedar and pine 'laser food', if you don't currently weight you stacks it would be worth trying if you'd like to reduce it. Careful placement of your stickers and significant weight on top should yield noticeably reduced warpage, possibly eliminate it entirely. – Graphus Oct 18 '19 at 7:08
  • @Graphus, Thanks! You are absolutely right. I had noticed that the bottom of the stack was always flatter than the top but hadn't thought to add weights. I will add some today. – Henry Taylor Oct 18 '19 at 12:43
  • Welcome! Glad it might be of some help. A few concrete blocks is something you see used quite often, but old paint cans filled with wet sand is another (surprisingly heavy) option. – Graphus Oct 18 '19 at 18:11

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