Electric vs Hand Planers | What Are the Pros & Cons to Each?

If you’re reading this article because of some confusion about the best option between manual vs. electric planer—you’re in the right place!

Manual or hand planers come with unique features that make them stand out. Likewise, electric or power planers—also have unique features that make them tick the right boxes.

So, knowing which of the planers is the better choice—could be tricky, especially if you’re a newbie woodworker or DIYer.

That’s why I’ve created this article to list the pros and cons of both tools. As a result, we can weigh the positives and negatives of each planer.

In the end, I’ll make an unbiased choice that best fits your desired woodworking needs.

Are you ready to go on this journey with me?

Stick around!

What Is the Difference Between an Electric Planer and Hand Planer?

In simple terms, an electric or power planer is a woodworking machine that runs on an external power source like a battery or electricity.

Power planers include benchtop planer, power-held planer, and stationary planer. These planers usually provide their merits, which I’ll be discussing later in this post.

On the other hand, the manual planer runs with no external source of power. Instead, it’s 100% controlled manually—with your hands. So, you need to apply pressure on the tool to slice or shave wood to your desired look and shape.

With a hand planer like the scrub or jack plane, you can reduce a workpiece to the desired size. Also, using a jointer or fore plane makes it easy to level the edges and surfaces of the wooden board—without stress.

If you’re looking for a tool that can run chamfering, consider manual planers like the hand block planers. You can also use this planer to get beveled edges.

We have other unique hand planes that can slice and level (external and internal) shapes—while others can create, decorate, and narrow channels along the edges of your wooden board’s strips.

But that’s not all.

Manual planers also have compass planers that slice, trim, and level different workpieces. Then, we have the smoother planer–which gives the board a final polish touch.

Talking about electric planers, they have almost similar functions to the manual planer.

However, you can handle more heavy-duty jobs with an electric planer. For example, trimming low-lying areas in joists and planing post corners are some of the essential features of an electric planer.

You can use power planers if you want to taper-cut filler boards to fit cabinets against a wall tightly. You can also plane a door that won’t close smoothly—with an electric planer. 

What Are the Advantages of an Electric Planer Over a Manual Planer?

Here are a few advantages that an electric planer has over a manual planer.

1. Features and Accessories

Electric planers come with certain features and accessories that give them an edge over the manual planer.

For instance, a hand-held electric planer can either be a corded or cordless model—with specificity that works for different woodworking situations.

If you want to plane an already installed door in your home, it’s always ideal to use a cordless hand-held planer. That way, the cord won’t get in your way while planing. But corded planers tend to generate more power.

So, that’s the thing with electric planers. They are a plethora of accessories and features to choose from—which is something you’d be missing with the manual planer. You can only control a manual planer with your hands—which is restricting.

2. Faster Operation

If you want to enjoy speed while you plane your lumber, then you’d have to stick to an electric planer. Since it’s machine-controlled, the operation speed is faster.

For instance, some planers come with features that allow them to cut wood at 20,000 rotations per minute—which is impossible with manual planers.

3. Depth Adjustment

The Depth Adjustment feature of electric planers is one of the most important benefits over manual planers. Electric planers come with a depth adjustment gauge that enables you to choose your desired thickness.

Thus, you can adjust the settings to slice 1/8 inch of wood when planing. With this feature, you can quickly pass tough grains of wood.

But it’s straining and stressful when it comes to manual planers—since it has no gauge. So you have to gauge and measure everything manually (with your naked eyes).

What Are the Advantages of a Hand Planer Over an Electric Planer?

It’s easy to tag hand planers as outdated because it’s a manual tool.

But, the truth is;

Hand planers have functionality that’s valid today.

In other words, the tool is quite helpful for a variety of projects like trimming slivers off the surface of materials.

No doubt you can’t rely on this manual tool for every type of wooden material.

That said, it’s difficult to choose between a manual and an electric planer—considering that they serve the same purpose.

For newbies, hand planers are ideal because they are easier to control without any experience—when compared to an electric planer.

So, here are other significant advantages of the hand planer over the electric planer:

1. Affordability

If you’re on a low budget and you want to explore the woodworking world, the hand planers are a good start—unlike electric planers that are pretty expensive. Plus, it has a lot of models you can choose from.

2. Versatility

A hand planer is remarkably versatile. So, you can use it for intricate projects or a few industrial and lightweight projects. In other words, this manual tool is helpful for different applications like enhancing the exterior finish of your materials and trimming wood down to a particular size.

3. Effective Option for Fine Woodworking

Before you can succeed in handling fine woodworking, you need experience and a manual tool. In short, an electric planer cannot handle the task of fine woodworking. So, the manual tool is more effective for carving and cutting intricate details—as it gives you more control.

4. No Noise

Since the hand planer doesn’t have a motor, you should expect to work with less or noise—at all.

5. Portability

Hand planes come in different sizes, which are portable. So you can use it on the go. Plus, it consumes less room for storage compared to the electric planers.

Hand Planer vs. Bench Planer: How to Choose the Best Tool

Now you know the advantages hand planers, and electric planers have over each other, you may still be puzzled about picking the best tool.

Not to worry, we’ve highlighted the best tools to use for different projects based on the following factors:

Edges and Surfaces

Are you working with a lot of rough edges? If yes, it means that your wood needs a lot of work to plane its surface.

In this case, it would be best to use an electric planer because it has the speed and capacity for material removal. The hand planer is only a better option if you’re dealing with fewer rough edges.

Wood Measurement

If your project revolves around smaller wood with extensive details, then the hand planer is ideal for the job. And it’s because the manual tool provides more control and precision for a better quality finish.

Flatness

If your wood got exposed to a lot of humidity because you didn’t store it properly, it might lose its flatness. So, if you must work with this type of warped wood, the electric planer is the ideal choice.

Why?

The electric planer will do a better job smoothen the wood.

Surface Imperfections

Does your wood have surface imperfections like dings, holes, scratches, etc., and you want to get rid of them? In this case, it’s best to opt for an effective tool that can handle the job conveniently—the manual planer.

Wood Finish

Wood finish is a significant factor that determines the tool you’ll use for your woodwork project. You either use the S2S OR S4S wood. The S2S wood usually has two rough surfaces and two smooth surfaces. So, you can use an electric planer for the S2S to handle its rough surface. The S4S has four smooth sides—which means it requires less work. Hence, a hand planer is ideal for the S4S wood.

Wrapping up—Who Is the Winner: Electric or Hand Planers?

Undoubtedly, hand planers will always have a place in most workshops due to their versatility and added value. Plus, it’s satisfying to use the tool.

But, we can’t deny that it has some limitations that the electric planers cover—when it involves handling large projects.

So, who is the winner; electric vs manual planers?

The Electric planers are winners for handling large projects with little detail. The hand planers also win for managing more intricate and detailed small projects.

On second thought, who says you can’t have both tools in your workshop?

What do you think about our evaluation of the electric and manual planers?

Which of them do you prefer for handling your projects?

Let’s keep the conversation going in the comment section—we’d love to know what you think.

James Thomas

James Thomas

Tool Enthusiast

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