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Thread: Anyone plane UHMW polyethylene? Gotchas to watch for before I start?

  1. #1
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    Anyone plane UHMW polyethylene? Gotchas to watch for before I start?

    I'm making runners/ spacers for window sashes. I'm using 3/4" x 3/8" miter slot stock which is the closest I can get from McMaster-Carr, but it's just a touch too think...I'd like to plane it down about 3/32" to ~.300". Would this stock be too thin and flexible, maybe get picked up by the segmented head? I'd appreciate any thoughts....

  2. #2
    I've machined UHMW lot of ways but don't think I ever planed a piece. It tends to be "stringy-er" than HDPE which I have succesfully planed with a Byrd head and milled flat on conventional blade jointer. At that thickness it may want to move around before and after pressure rollers in planer, but I doubt it'd break. More likely it would snipe so I'd have some excess I could cut off ends to correct length and take light passes.

    Have you got a piece to experiment with? I've taken 1/2" HDPE to 1/4" successfully with planer.

  3. #3
    I've had similar problems and reservations about running it through a power planer. FWIW, a sharp block plane works great.

  4. #4
    I too use a hand plane.

  5. #5
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    I've routed and edge sanded it. Like Peter, I found it to be really stringy.

    For planing how about this - Leave it long to deal with snipe / Glue it to a stable piece of lumber - Maybe in a wide dado / Then run through the planer

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Meyer View Post
    I'm making runners/ spacers for window sashes. I'm using 3/4" x 3/8" miter slot stock which is the closest I can get from McMaster-Carr, but it's just a touch too think...I'd like to plane it down about 3/32" to ~.300". Would this stock be too thin and flexible, maybe get picked up by the segmented head? I'd appreciate any thoughts....
    I tried it once, it was pretty funny.

    After that I used a hand plane.............Regards, Rod.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Meyer View Post
    I'm making runners/ spacers for window sashes. I'm using 3/4" x 3/8" miter slot stock which is the closest I can get from McMaster-Carr, but it's just a touch too think...I'd like to plane it down about 3/32" to ~.300". Would this stock be too thin and flexible, maybe get picked up by the segmented head? I'd appreciate any thoughts....
    Never tried planing but have cut and trimmed on tablesaw and bandsaw.

  8. #8
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    Power planing it is next to impossible. I've often milled it on "Bridgeport" with an end mill.

  9. #9
    I cut some on my SS a while back and while it cut ok the shavings wadded up in the throat of the dust collection port right at the blade. I was fortunate to change the blade right after this, otherwise I would not have been aware of the problem until it became a bigger issue.
    I have planed it successfully. Long, thin pieces are pretty whippy. Think spaghetti...the cooked kind. Try to make a sled to support it along its length. Otherwise it will roll on you and you end up with inconsistent dimensions.

  10. #10
    Rip it down to on a tablesaw? (on edge -- need a good pushstick and featherboard set up)

  11. #11
    Never had a problem but a spray can of static guard is your friend. A light spray on the planer bed and kick on the DC and mist a bit up in around the cutter head and let it run down the DC a bit especially if you have any PVC in your DC run.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  12. #12
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    Wow, thanks everyone! Sorry for my delay in getting back, back-to-school night wore me out.

    Consensus appears to be that smaller pieces can be a bit finicky, particularly without preparation. (Thank you for the static guard idea, Mark.)

    I thought of the hand-plane route, but I may have 10-20 feet to do and holding such flexible and thin material may be a task in and of itself, at least with my limited work space. Hence my wondering if it could be done without risk to my planer. I'll hand plane the prototype and if it is satisfactory I'll try the long pieces on my planer sled with double sided tape. (Thank you for the heads up on that, Jack.)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hockenberg View Post
    I've routed and edge sanded it. Like Peter, I found it to be really stringy.
    I'm really surprised one can effectively sand UHMW PE, I rather assumed it would clog up the abrasive in very short order.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hockenberg View Post
    For planing how about this - Leave it long to deal with snipe / Glue it to a stable piece of lumber - Maybe in a wide dado / Then run through the planer
    Going to give this a try on my planer sled if the prototype works as intended!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Meyer View Post
    Thank you for the static guard idea
    It works wonders for anything static-y. PVC trim, Azek and the like, if your tooling breaks a chip (a planer does it by default) it lets it fly up the DC and not clog. Strings are only going to be an issue with an operation that makes long chips or chips that stick together. Anything plastic I keep a half dozen cants of static guard around and it seems to knock down the nightmare feeling like your working inside a snow-globe. Solid surface helps alot too.
    Sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures,... Thats when I go to the Turners Forum

  15. #15
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    I have planed dozens of UHMW plastic from Mcmaster Carr making my horiontal router mortisers. Straight knife planer. Typically 5/8" thick. Never had a problem. FWIW, you can sand it through a drum sander, too.

    John

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