This is the infeed side of an American No. 5 Single Surfacer or Planer. It is a 24″ square head machine. Two knives at about 4000 rpm. It is a double belted machine that has been adapted to run from a motor at the rear base of the machine. I would like to put it back to lineshaft at some point in the future. But for the time being, it is nice have this and the 444 working together. I have this running at a fast feed and it’s feed works are adjusted for rough work and heavy cuts. The 444 is set for finish. It is a luxury to have them both in the shop.

The No 5 was available with round heads and, later in the run, direct motor drive.

The crank elevates the bed. The bed is vertically way-ed, gibed and raises on two threaded rods. The feed works are driven by around the block shafting and reducing pulleys and gears. The two weights are rod connected to the upper feed roll which is monolithic and corrugated. The hand loop engages the feed. The ratchets are a little worn so a little extra weight is useful. All four feed rolls are driven. It is fairly easy to adjust the rolls.

This machine has performed very well for the shop. It is fairly easy to tune up. requires a square allen type wrench. Adjustments to rolls are intuitive.

This is the outfeed end. The knobs adjust the pressure bar. The domes have springs for upper outfeed roller pressure.

This the beginning of the feed works drive, and the end. It starts from the cutterhead spindle by leather belt shown. then to the otherside to another speed reduction. Then to a gear under the iron cover shown here. And through gears to top and bottom feed rolls. the belt is endless to avoid the slapping of metal lacing.

The cutterhead carries two slotted knives and is t-slotted. This is nice as one can make sets of knives from other machines with different slot spacing work here. Many planers have drilled and tapped heads which require correct slot spacing.

I am considering going from slotted knives to thin HSS under custom caps. I have not had much luck replacing my slotted knives for reasonable cost. I am kinda waiting for someone to start bringing in Chinese HSS inlay steel. That would be the safest. It would be good for tenoners too.

I am thinking the caps will be 4140 steel heat treated to a moderate hardness. Still studying the issue. Kinda on one’s own with hundred year old equipment.


This is an example of really spent knives. they have been ground to the slots. In the foreground is a new knife bolt I am trying out. One danger with knives like this is chip packing under the ends of the knives.

New slotted knives are extremely expensive. If the planer is puchased at high scrap value, the new knives can easily cost two or three times the value of the planer. My quest for knives has been long. I was ripped off on line by one seller. Then I was back burnered by two other suppliers.

Another guy in need of knives gave me set of spent paper cutting knives. I had my knife shop cut them hand hardness test them. They are Chinese inlay steel. I only want inlay steel in this machine.

This shows a spent knife used as a template for locating the slots. The object was to take out as many paper machine holes as possible. And, if there are remaining holes, they need to be the same on each knife. the set above, bright are from overseas, and the rusty ones are domestic (and real old).

We hardness tested the inlays and the bodies on all the knives. Then the machinist milled the slots and surface ground the pairs. Then back to the shop for sharpening at a reduced angle than that required for paper.

This looks a lot better. But, the inlay is RC 53 in hardness. I am told that’s a little low. The others are 59 and 60. And, I am watching real close for body deflection. So far so good. I will pull them soon to see if they took a set so the head or not. Hopefully this will be good set.

This how the older pair came out. They are harder.


The Chinese steel has proven to soft, the Simonds old stuff seems OK. But I did throw out an old set that had an irregular looking forge line from the high speed to the mild body.

But the best source has been to buy another planer, take the knives, and give the rest away. I have now a nice Simonds set in the machine which are holding an edge well.




The solid in feed roll with weights is quite heavy. I had been having issues with crushing the fiber in narrow softwoods. It finally occurred to me to remove the weight. Turns out the weight of the roll alone is adequate to drive the part and without crushing the narrow section.


8 Responses to “AMERICAN No. 5 24″ PLANER”

  1. Jamison Hiner Says:

    Did you ever end up finding blades for your planer? I have an American 1 1/2 24″ and would like to find more blades for it.

    • awwm Says:

      I have plenty for the No 5.
      The head is slotted so knives from any 24″ machines will usually fit.

      I also have a 11/2 in need of knives.
      Harder to find because the heads are tapped.


  2. Andy Anderson Says:

    What do you know about the American No# 3 24″ planer?

  3. Rob Says:

    I have found a 1923 american saw mill 24” pony planer. Curently tryting to set this machine up, but am having trouble seting rollers and knives correctly. I can feed a board into the machine up to the outfeed rollers and then it spits off a belt. Any info you have on setting up and trouble shooting this great planer would be great.

  4. Rob Says:

    Yup it has rollers in the bed. They are adjusted .002 -.004 above the bed. Adjusted infeed and outfeed rollers .03 -.035 below bottom dead center of knife arc.
    I have noticed the small pulley that connects to the large pulley driving the top rollers is wrapped with something like duct tape.
    Is there supposed to be a coatin on that small pulley or is it supposed to be bare steel thats crowned like all the other pulleys

    • awwm Says:

      Ideally you would want to correct the source of resistance in order not to spin off the belt.
      Short of that, tightening the belt or adding a flange may help keep the belt on and overcome the resistance.

      But the slip off is a safety as it were indicating that something is wrong and protecting the machine from damage.

      The diagnosis is best found by eliminating factors.
      The first I would do is lower the bed roll. A bed roll will lift the work and can bind it against the pressure bar. If the pressure bar has spring pressure, lessen it.

      Another elimination is to lift the pressure bar clear off the material.
      That will tell you that it was too low if the problem goes away.

      And yet another factor can be the spring pressure on the upper out feed roll. If very resistant, the material will stop at the rolls because the upper roll is not yielding.

      Your numbers sound good but they can vary across the width of the bed on a machine that has had many miles of boards run through it. These differences can cause out of spec situations that could create resistance in the feed.


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