Understanding Snipe

October 18, 2023 | 3 min read | By: Len Smith

Example of Snipe

What is Snipe

Snipe is a deeper-than-desired cut into the end of a board that happens during a milling process.

This issue occurs when an uneven force is created as the board passes through a planer, jointer, or flatbed sander.  This uneven force causes the cutting head (or sanding drum) to take a deeper cut into than desired by the operator.  It’s most likely to occur when using a planer or a flatbed sander that requires the wood to be fed through the equipment, wherein there are rollers that both feed the stock through the unit, while also applying downward pressure to keep the wood stable and flat.

In most machines, when a board is initially fed into the planer, only an infeed roller is exerting downward pressure on the board.  Similarly, when a board is exiting the planer, only the outfeed is applying pressure to the board.  As the board transitions through the machine, a lack of consistent and equal pressure on the board may result in snipe.  Additionally, snipe can also be caused when an exceptionally long and or heavy board is fed through a planer or flatbed sander without adequate support.

While rare, snipe can occur when using a jointer if the outfeed table is incorrectly positioned relative to the cutter head or as a result of how the operator is feeding the wood through the jointer.

Note: Use of the term flatbed sanders is intended to encompass both commercial wide belt sanding units as well as consumer-oriented drum-type sanders.

How to avoid Snipe

There are a number of steps you can take to help reduce or eliminate snipe.

  • Ensure that any infeed and outfeed extensions are parallel with the unit’s cutter or sanding bed.
  • Periodically examine that your unit’s infeed and outfeed rollers are clean and in good shape.
  • Ensure that your unit is properly configured according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Ensure that the inside of the unit is clean and free of any debris that could interfere with the board’s progress through the unit.  This is especially true if there is insufficient or no dust collection used with the unit.
  • If your unit does not have infeed/outfeed extension tables, consider adding these to your planer or flatbed sander.
  • Limit the amount of wood you are trying to remove (or sand), with each pass.  Overly aggressive cuts may not only lead to snipe but can cause all sorts of other issues.  Be patient.
  • Take care that the board has the necessary support as it transitions through the unit. Your planer’s or flatbed sander’s infeed/outfeed expansion tables may not be sufficient to provide the necessary support for oversized boards.
  • Be sure that the wood you’re feeding through the unit isn’t shorter than what the manufacturer allows.
  • Consider making a small upward adjustment to the outfeed table to help provide a small amount of lift as the board exits the unit.
  • When feeding oversized boards through the unit, be sure to move around to the outfeed side and support the board as it exits, giving it a little bit of lift.  Better yet, ask a friend to help you. 
  • When you’re working with smaller stock, consider feeding the stock through stock side by side, or back to front (like a train car).   When feeding stock side-by-side, add the boards incrementally as soon as each board enters the unit.
  • Finally, consider cutting your stock a little longer so that any snipe that does occur can simply be cut off.
Experience the Parkerville Advantage!

Do you need help with a woodworking or wood-related project and don’t know where to turn?   We’re here to help.  Whether you’re looking for consultation and advice, want help with design options or you’re simply looking for the right selection of wood for your project, we’re more than happy to assist you.  Need help when it comes to milling or other services?  We can assist you with that as well.