What to Look For When Buying a Wood Planer? (Helpful Tips)

Wood planers are a valuable tool in any carpentry workshop, whether you are a professional carpenter or a DIY enthusiast. These handy tools are available in many different formats and sizes. Planers range from primitive hand-operated planers for small intricate planing jobs to large industrial stationary planers for massive projects. 

When buying a wood planer, consider the size of the project, comfort, and cost. Planers can be handheld, electric, or battery-powered. When purchasing an electric or battery-powered model, choose a quality brand with a strong enough motor to deliver consistent planing results.  

Many types and models of wood planers are available, making buying the best one for a job confusing. Tools are an investment, and selecting a versatile planer that can fit several applications might be better than choosing one for just one specific project. Let’s look at what you should look out for when purchasing a wood planer. 

What to Look For When Buying A Wood Planer?

The 6 Factors To Look For When Buying A Wood Planer

The scale of the project and the desired result should be the most important considerations when buying a wood planer. There are, however, also some additional critical points that you need to think about that will make completing your task less daunting. 

Considering the below points will guide you to make the right decision when choosing a wood planer.

1. The Quality Of The Wood Planer

When it comes to quality, do your homework before buying a bargain. An Internet search will very quickly show up any problems with specific brands.

It goes without saying that well-known brands with decent warranties are a better buy than cheap imports that may let you down.

2. The Motor Size – Power To Get The Job Done 

Electric Wood Planer?

The most popular DIY wood planers are handheld electric planers. Their power rating is generally measured in Amps,  with the most common sizes being between six and seven amp motors. This motor size provides sufficient power to the planer to perform the most common planing jobs in and around the house. 

Hand planers are available in motor sizes of up to fifteen Amps to drive massive blades. These are unnecessary for the average woodworking enthusiast, so don’t get caught by an over-enthusiastic salesman. 

3. Wood Planer Knife Type and Size 

The most common knife diameter for electrically powered hand planers is three ¼ inches wide. The planer can cut a single strip of that diameter with a single pass over the wood.

Most lumber used in DIY projects is seldom wider than three inches hence this popular sized blade choice.

The knives themselves are attached to a drum driven by the motor. The drum rotates at high speed, on average between fifteen to sixteen thousand five hundred revolutions per minute. Each blade cuts with each drum rotation, removing a layer of lumber from the surface to create a smooth finish.

Electric Planer in Use

The quality of the knife will determine how long the blade stays sharp. The cutting blades or knives are usually made from hardened steel or tungsten carbide for higher-priced planers. 

Wood planers may be fitted with helical cutters, but these blades are usually only found on desktop or stationary planers. Most DIY-type planers have two knives that work effectively and are replaceable.  

4. Corded Or Battery Operated

Most reputable planer manufacturers offer at least a few cordless models, meaning the wood planer runs off a battery. Battery-powered planers provide advantages in portability, no cord to get in the way, and are great for use in areas with no electricity.

Battery-operated planers use brushless motors, which means the motor brushes never need replacing. 

In terms of power delivery, the battery-operated planers are just as capable of getting the job done as their corded counterparts. 

Cordless Electric planner

When buying a cordless planer, some manufacturers do not sell the battery as standard with the planer. Many manufacturers use the same interchangeable battery to power various power tools such as drills, angle grinders, and more.

If you already have one of the cordless power tools in their range, you may not need to buy an additional battery.   

5. Special Features

Handheld planers all have some form of adjustment knob that varies the depth of the cut. When buying a planer, have a good look at and test the adjustment knob operation. The stops should be clearly visible and adjust positively when the knob is turned. 

Some planers come with a dust collection bag; some do not. If you require this feature, choose a planer that meets your requirements.   

6. Additional Cost Of Extra Features

When choosing the right planer for your needs, make sure that any accessories you require are included in the model you select or that your budget accommodates the extra cost of the items not included.

What comes to mind is a battery for a cordless planer or items such as a dust collector or vacuum attachment.

Types Of Wood Planers

Wood planers are available in various types, brands, and sizes. This can make choosing the right planer for your needs quite tricky. 

Below is a listed the most popular types of wood planers available and a breakdown of their uses. The two main headings are manual wood planers and electric wood planers

1. Manual (Non-Electric) Hand Wood Planers

  • The Hand Plane
Using Hand Plane

The Hand Plane is the most commonly found planer in most carpentry workshops. This planer is about as basic as they come but does get the job done. The planer consists of a frame, a blade that protrudes from the sole of the planer, and two handles with which to grip the tool.

Manual planers lend themselves well to areas that do not have an electrical supply. This planer relies solely on the user’s strength to push it forward over the surface of the lumber to shave off slivers of wood.

  • Two Handed Wood Planers

The two-handed planer, or spokeshave as it is known in some countries, is basically a blade attached to two handles. Working similarly to the hand plane, the two-handed planer is either pulled towards the user or pushed away from the body while planing the lumber. 

The two-handed planer is also used for removing slivers of wood from lumber and is better suited to the planning of thinner pieces of lumber, narrower than the width of the blade.

Carpenter Using Spokeshave

Being a very basic tool, the carpenter needs to ensure that the correct angle is maintained while planing as you are basically only scraping a knife along the lumber’s surface. 

The two-handed planer is used for relatively small planning jobs, such as removing a high spot from the edge of a cupboard door.

  • Combination Rasp Wood Planers

The combination rasp planer is a very basic type of wood planer. Some models look more like rasps or wood files, while others take the shape of a hand plane. The cutting edge is provided by what is best described as a cheese-grater-type blade. 

The rasp planer is used for the coarse sanding of wood. The multiple small blades formed by the protrusions and recesses in the blade individually shave thin strips of lumber off the surface and leave a relatively smooth finish. These planers are inexpensive and always come in handy in any woodworking shop.

  • Flat Plane Bottom Edge Wood Hand Planer

The flat plane bottom edge wood hand planer is available in many sizes and is a version of the hand plane. The flat plane is used for fine detailed work such as de-burring wood surfaces. The frame of the planer is crafted from wood and contains a blade.

Many woodworkers would agree that the flat plane itself is a beautiful piece of woodworking art.

  • Hand Scraper Wood Planers

The hand scraper is basically a handle with a blade attached to the end. Unlike most other planers, the hand scrape is drawn towards the user along the surface of the lumber while applying light pressure to the blade. Hand scrapers were designed to plane, or rather, scrape hardwood floors in hard-to-reach spaces.

Being a specialty tool, you may only need this tool when resurfacing a hardwood floor. 

2. Electric Wood Planers

For home projects and small DIY tasks, a regular handheld wood planer is the go-to item of choice for most woodworking enthusiasts.

Electric wood planers significantly speed up the process of creating smooth wooden surfaces. It is also a lot easier to create a consistently flat surface using an electric tool than with a manual wood planer. 

  • Handheld Electric Wood Planers
Handheld Electric Wood Planer

The handheld electric planer is most likely the most helpful planer in any woodworking shop. Featuring a motor-driven drum fitted with sharp blades, the planer makes short work of smoothing down rough lumber surfaces or just trimming lumber down to size.

The blades rotate at about sixteen thousand revolutions per minute, resulting in an ultra-smooth surface finish.

Because this planer is handheld and portable, the handheld planer is very versatile. Newer models now sport battery-powered planers, which further enhances their practicality. In the past, working in an area without an electricity supply forced woodworkers to use manual hand tools; fortunately, battery-powered options are now available.  

Electrically powered planers are available in various models delivering sufficient power to deal with all types of wood. Your specific project will dictate the size of the planer and the power required for the job. Hardwoods require more power to cut than softer wood types.

  • Bench Planers

Bench planers are relatively large planers used for planning down big wooden boards or lumber. As the name implies, most bench planers are either placed on a bench or come on their own stands.

The lumber is fed through the middle of the planer, which has a rotating drum blade mounted within the feeding channel. Some models of bench planers are fitted with a self-feeder which is infinitely safer than manually feeding the lumber through the planer and results in very consistent wood finishes.

  • Molding Planers

Professional carpenters use a molding planer to create decorative designs or even tongue and groove joints in large boards or lumber. The spindle is vertically mounted in the table of the planer. Interchangeable blades can be fitted onto the spindle to create various molding designs.

  • Stationary Wood Planers

As the name implies, stationary planers are permanently fixed in a specific position. Stationary planers are made for the planing of large lumber. With wide blades, rough lumber can be easily prepared for carpentry projects. Like the bench planer, the planer feeds lumber through the machine in a controlled manner.

Stationary planers can have very large motors that drive the cutting blades. The blades are much larger than regular handheld planer blades. A twelve-inch diameter blade is considered average for these planers, and many are much broader. 

The space required to accommodate a planer like this is significant, bearing in mind that long lengths of lumber are fed through the machine. Additional space is also needed for the planer’s table and lumber supports on either side.

A stationary wood planer is generally only used by professionals, but this may be the planer for you if you’re planning to embark on a massive project.

Which Are The Best Hand Held Wood Planers?

Given that motor-driven hand planers are by far the most popular planers today, the following ten planers are worth considering for the average DIY woodworker, hobbyist, and professional.

Make and ModelMotor Size – AmpsCutting Width# of bladesBlade Speed -RPM
Makita KP08107.5A3 1/4216 000
Bosch PL16326.5A3 1/4216 500
Dewalt DW680K7.0A3 1/4215 000
Makita 1806B10.9A6 3/4215 000
Ryobi HPL52K6.0A3 1/4216 500
Skil PL2012016.5A3 1/4216 000
Triton TPL 1801500Watt7.0315 000
Porter-Cable PC60THP6.0A3 1/4216 500
Dewalt DCP580B20V DC (Battery)3 1/4215 000
Makita KP31215A12 1/4212 000

As can be seen above, most hand planers have motors of between 6A and 7.5A, blade width of 3 ¼ inches, and a blade rotation speed of between 15 000 and 16 500 revolutions per minute. 

When Using A Wood Planer

Wood planers, both handheld or stationary types, kick up a lot of dust and shavings. Good eye protection and a thick dust mask must always be worn when planning wood.

Planers are also well known to be incredibly noisy and may be even louder if the planer knives are starting to dull. Therefore, wearing proper hearing protection is also necessary to avoid unnecessary hearing damage.

Conclusion

When buying a wood planer, the type and size of the planer will depend on your individual need. Most good mid-sized planers will get the majority of jobs done well. When buying a planer, focus on the brand and stick with the well-known manufacturers who provide reliable warranties. 

Additional considerations are; the size of the cut required, the motor strength measured in Amps, the number of blades or knives that the planer has, and lastly, whether you need a manual, corded, or battery-powered unit.  

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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