Plane & Simple: Do’s & Don’ts of Surface Planers

Surface planer operation requires multiple considerations, such as choosing the right equipment, using the correct flail, and plugging into the right power source.

January 2010, Government Fleet - Feature

by Dennis Von Ruden

Pulling the planer, rather than pushing it, will generally produce a smoother finish and minimize ghosting.

The popularity of small surface planers continues to grow as more and more markets find uses for these machines. Municipalities are no exception, as many continue to add surface planers (also called scarifiers) to their fleets. They do so to equip themselves for everyday maintenance projects, such as eliminating sidewalk hazards, traffic line removal, and any other task requiring the removal of excess concrete.

All surface planers share the same basic platform configuration, so how much is there to know about these machines? The answer may be more than many fleet managers would expect, however, as planer operation requires multiple considerations, such as what type of flails to use. Unfortunately, many fleet managers don’t take time to understand the concept, so they achieve inadequate results. But, by learning the do’s and don’ts of  choosing and operating these machines, fleet managers can meet their goals, because these machines are really quite “plane” and simple.

Do: Understand the Job
Before tackling any job with a surface planer, one must first take a step back and define the job at hand. Is the goal to remove a trip-and-fall hazard from a sidewalk? Remove traffic lines? Remove a coating from the concrete floor of the maintenance shop? Since the planing process is considered destructive and unrefined, it’s important to understand the desired outcome before going to work. In fact, after determining what must be accomplished, one may realize that a surface planer is not the correct solution for the job. Rather, less aggressive tools, such as a low-speed surface grinder or floor-covering stripper, may be the correct tool.

Don’t: Use an Incorrect Power Source

As obvious as it may seem, make sure the surface planer uses the correct power source for the location. Engine-powered planers are typically the best option for outdoor applications, since electric-powered units do not work at an outdoor location lacking electrical outlets. Electric-powered machines also won’t suffice at indoor locations without a correct electrical source available. For instance, if a 220-volt surface planer is plugged into a 110-volt electrical source, the machine will not work — the ­electrical system may be damaged or a fire may start.

Instead, a propane-powered machine might be the best choice when a compatible outlet is not available. And the worst scenario, of course, is attempting to use an engine-powered unit indoors where carbon monoxide poisoning could result.

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