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Depends on the level of precision you are trying to work at.
If you're building "rough" pieces, you can get by without a planer.
When you start working with 32nds and even 16ths, the pieces need to be uniform in thickness. A planer, used in conjunction with a jointer will allow you to start with perfectly square stock. There are workarounds for both the jointer and the planer, using router sleds, router table for jointing, table saw jigs, etc., but they will work you out. Can be done. It's just a matter of convenience.
I worked without a planer for years with no problems. During this time, I purchased all my lumber through Home Depot and built everything with ¾” thick boards. I have several projects around the house built this way.
Then, one day a friend asked if he could store his planer/jointer combo in my garage. Not being an idiot, I said yes, as long as I could use it.
I am now able to buy wood at a local hardwood supplier. Hardwood suppliers sell wood that have rough surfaces, not like the sanded surfaced wood at Home Depot, and it needs to be run through planers to bring the wood to finished thickness.
It sounds like more work, but the benefits are that the wood is much cheaper this way. Depending on the volume of your projects, the savings could pay for the planer in a short time. You will also be able to use a much wider variety of wood. Home Depots usually carry oak, pine, and poplar. In some of them you might even find maple. However, with a hardwood supplier you’ll have access to quarter-sawn oak, rift-sawn oak, white oak, red oak, walnut, cherry, cedar, mahogany, etc. The only catch is that they’ll require a planer.
Hardwood suppliers supply woods that have one smooth edge. The other edge is rough. You’ll need to rip the board with the smooth edge against the fence to get two straight edges. For most projects these two edges should be clean enough, but if you’re building fine furniture you might also consider getting a jointer to guarantee perfectly straight and flat edges. I really like mine.
no offense taken Dave....I have the planer now but with my setup I doubt I will reach the point some of you guys have by working with good hardwoods and building fine furniture...besides that, my love of birds has led me in the direction of building birdhouses and feeders in mostly my own designs...not planning on making too many of those out of red oak...and I do appreciate your input whether its my topic or someone else's