Planing and Shaping Operations; Machines, Explanation and Differences

There are various kinds of machining operations out there such as turning, millling and drilling. We use different kinds of machining operations for different purposes. Two of these machining operations are planing and shaping operations. Here we explain the planing and shaping of operations and machines. Also, you can find the differences between planing and shaping operations.

What is Planing?

Planing is a type of machining operation in which there is a single-point cutting tool. The work part performs the primary motion for the cutting operation. So, with the movement of the work part, the cutting tool removes material on a planar basis.

We can obtain long planar surfaces with planing operations. So, the material removal rates are very high in these operations.

How Does the Planer Machine Work?

In the planer machine, the worktable performs the reciprocating motion. So because of this reciprocating motion, material removal takes place.

In a typical planer machine, there is a column and cross-rails that has sliding ways. The column can adjust the height of the cutting tool. Crossrail is attached to the column and the tool head moves on the cross rail to make the right and left motion of the cutting tool. So the secondary motion takes place with this mechanism.

Operators place the work part on the worktable. And worktable moves along the base which has sliding rails on it. So, this mechanism performs the speed motion for the cutting operation.

Types of Planer Machines

In general, there are two types of planer machines according to their constructions. Single column planer machine and double column planer machine.

Single Column Planer Machine

These machines have only one column, and the Crossrail mechanism is mounted to the column from one side. Also, we can mount multiple cutters to the single-column machines to perform multiple planing operations in each pass. This makes the planing operation much more efficient.

Double Column Planer Machine

So, you can understand from its name that, double-column machines have double columns on each side of the machine. Double column structure provides more rigid structures. And material removal can be higher in these machines. But the size of the work parts can be bigger in single-column machines. Because the second column will restrict the part size.

Pit Planer Machine

Pit planer machines are very useful for heavy work parts. They mount the table and the base inside a pit. So, the worktable will be on the same level as the ground. Placing and de-mounting from the table is very simple in pit planer machines.

Parts of Planer Machines

Planer machine
Parts of a planer machine(Image Source: Mikell P. Groover; Fundamentals Of Modern Manufacturing, 4th edition, pg 534).

There are different parts of planer machines to obtain an efficient machining operation.


The bed is a very important part of these machines. All the parts are mounted on the bed and it carries the main load of the planer machine. In general, they are making beds from cast irons. Because cast irons are best at dampening the vibrations or excitations coming from the ground. They can affect the machining quality.


Worktables of these machines are also very important. We place work parts on worktables to be machined. There are special fitting structures on worktables for work parts. Also, worktables can move on the sliding mechanisms of the planer machine. Electrical engines and chain or gear mechanisms provide this mechanical motion. So, it is possible for the primary motion of the work part with the worktable.

Tool Head

The tool head is the structure that holds the single-point cutting tool. Also, the tool head is attached to the sliding mechanism on the Crossrail. This sliding mechanism provides the secondary right and left motion of the tool head.


Crossrails are the structural members of planer machines that hold the tool head and tool. Also, a crossrail is attached to the column. And the sliding mechanism of the column provides a movement of crossrail up and down. So, the up and down movement of the cutting tool depends on this movement.

We can adjust the cutting depth with this mechanism.


As we stated above, the column is the structural member that holds the crossrail. And it has a sliding mechanism on it to that crossrail mechanism is attached. The column of planer machines is mounted on the bed. So, columns are a very important intermediate structural element for planer machines.

What is a Shaping Operation?

Shaping and planning operations are the same. The only difference in the shaping operation is, that the cutting tool performs the primary motion for material removal. And the worktable provides the feed motion right and left.

We call each back and forward motion of the cutting tool strokes. In each stroke, the worktable moves a bit. So, shaping operation takes place like this.

How do the Shaper Machines Work?

The structure of the shaper machines is quite different than the planing operations. Firstly, there is a ram and column mechanism for the primary motion of the cutting tool. So, we call this cutting tool a shaper. Ram can slide on the column back and forth.

Also, we mount the worktable of the shaping machine on a vertical Crossrail for the right and left feed motion. All of these mechanisms are mounted on the base of the shaper machine.

There are different kinds of drive mechanisms for shaper machines. Hydraulic and mechanical. Hydraulic mechanisms are more flexible and expensive than mechanical mechanisms.

For each type of shaper mechanism, the cutting operation is slower than the back motion of the cutting tool.

Parts of the Shaper Machines

Shaping machine
Parts of a shaper machine(Image Source: Mikell P. Groover; Fundamentals Of Modern Manufacturing, 4th edition, pg 534).

There are slight structural differences between the planer and shaper machines. This is because of the difference in the primary motion.


The bed is the structural member of shaper machines that carries all the load of the machines. The duty of the bed is the same and the structure of the bed is the same as the planer machines.


Worktable is the structural member that we mount the work part on it. The only difference is the worktable, it is mounted on the siling mechanism directly on the column of the shaper machine.

Tool Head

We use the same single-point cutting tools on these different two types of machines. So the construction of the tool head is the same as the planer machine. Also, the only difference is, that the tool head is mounted to a ram mechanism in shaper machines.


Ram is a different structural member that makes the reciprocating motion of the tool head. Because the cutting tool makes the primary motion in shaping operations. Ram is the structural member that holds the tool head. Also, the ram is attached to the sliding ways of the column. So, electrical engines stimulate the motion of the ram for the primary motion.


Also, shaper mechanisms have crossrails for the work parts. But these crossrails are attached to the columns. And they are not responsible for the primary motion of the work part. Only the secondary motion of the work part is around the responsibilities of crossrails.


Just like in the planer machines, columns are the intermediate structural member of shaper machines. The ram and crossrails are attached to the column. Also, the column is attached to the bed of the shaper.

Types of Shapes in Planing and Shaping Operations

planer machine for woodworking.
Image Source: Sciencedirect.

We can obtain different kinds of shapes with planing and shaping operations. Around these shapes, are V-grooves, square grooves, T-slots, dovetail slots, and gear teeth.

Gear Teeth

Gears are very important in mechanical design and mechanisms. And also, we use them extensively in different kinds of applications. We can produce gear teeth mechanisms with the shaping operations in an easy way.

V-Grooves and Square Grooves

In the slider mechanisms and other kinds of machinery, we use v-grooves and square grooves. So, we can obtain these kinds of geometries in shaper and planer machines.

T-slots and Dovetail Slots

Slot geometries have a very important place in mechanical design also. We use slots in different mechanical assembly operations. We can produce t-slots and dovetails with these machining operations also.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Planing and Shaping Operations

Planing and shaping operations are very discrete operations if we compare them with other machining operations. Because of these differences, they have advantages and disadvantages over other machining operations.

Major Advantages

  • Greater accuracy and good surface finish of the parts is the major advantage of these operations. Gear teeth, grooves, and other kinds of slots have a very good surface finish. So we do not require additional operations.
  • Working speed can be higher. Because, at one time, we can use several cutting tools. So, we can perform a bunch of planing operations at one time.
  • Maintenance costs are not high as other machining operations and machine tools.

General Disadvantages

  • If we compare it with other machine tools, the power consumption of planers and shapers is quite high.
  • Also, the initial investment costs of these machine tools are quite high.
  • In general, skilled operators are using planer and shaper machine tools. So, workforce costs are high when compare with other machining operations.
  • We can only use single-point cutting tools. So, we can not use other multiple-edge cutting tools in these machines.


So, planer and shaper machines are very important in machining operations. In essence, shaper and planer machines have very little difference. This difference is only for the primary motion. They use different kinds of machine structures in planing and shaping operations.

Also, we can produce different kinds of useful shapes from metals with these machining operations. Like other machining operations, they have advantages and disadvantages.

Finally, do not forget to leave your comments and questions below about the planing and shaping operations. It will be very useful if you leave pieces of information if you are working in this sector.

Your precious feedbacks are very important to us.

FAQs About Planing and Shaping

How do planer machines work? 

The working mechanisms of these machines are very simple. The reciprocating motion takes place with the gear and chain mechanisms of the worktable. These gears and chains are stimulated by electrical engines.

How to operate a planer machine?

The operation of these machines is not an easy thing. Placing work parts and control of the machining operation in these machines is not an easy thing to do. You need to learn it with an expert besides the machine.

What is a planer machine used for?

he use of planer machines for longitudinal cutting and grooving operations of surfaces of the parts. Also, gear teeth cutting is a major application of shaping machines.

What is a wood planer machine?

These are the special machines to machine the wooden work parts. Also, wooden grooves and slots are very important in the assemblies of furniture. Generally, they use glues in the groove assemblies.


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