Electric Planer Vs. Hand Planer (Pros and Cons of Each)

Last Updated on August 31, 2022 by Barry Gray

Many people have a hard time choosing between hand planers, which are manual tools for scraping thin layers of wood away to create a flat surface, and electric planers, which use a motorized blade for the same purpose.

Some beginners think that the electric version of the tool is automatically better. But that’s not always the case, depending on what you want to do with it. Instead, you should pay close attention to decide which planer you should use in different situations. 

Electric and hand planers differ in power, portability, price, maximum depth, speed, precision, and ease of use. With so many differences, it’s no wonder that many woodworkers choose to keep both on hand!

electric and hand planer


As you could probably guess, electric planers are stronger than hand planers, but it’s important to understand why. They have motors that forcefully push the blade through the wood in order to cut as smoothly and evenly as possible.

Planers work by removing thin layers of wood from the surface of a board so that it’s completely even. This can be done manually with a hand planer or using an electric planer, depending on the level of power you need. 

electric hand planer

Hand planers typically have blades that can remove wood down to about 0.5mm thick. This is great for regular use, but when you’re in a high-pressure situation, you might need something that can go just a little bit deeper.

Because hand planers are powered by your own effort, how much they can cut and how quickly they cut is determined by your own strength. Unfortunately, that just won’t match up against an electric planer’s motor.

The limited power of a hand planer can also mean that very dense hardwoods pose a problem for some woodworkers. While it might surprise you, hardwoods, especially those containing knots and burls, can be too tough for a hand planer. That’s especially true if your planer’s blade hasn’t been sharpened recently.


working with hand planer

Electric planers are designed to be lightweight and easy to move around. This makes them great for people who have to travel a lot with their tools, as well as people who have multiple work areas and move between them frequently. That’s why most electric planers weigh around six pounds, and won’t ever exceed ten pounds.

Even still, hand planers’ lack of a motor or any moving parts lets them reduce their weight below even the most lightweight electric planers. Most hand planers weigh less than a pound, with some as light as two or three ounces.

Both electric planers and hand planers are highly portable. But they’re in completely different tiers of portability: hand planers are often small and light enough to carry in your pocket, whereas electric planers are comparatively quite hefty. 


electric planer close up

With their moving parts, it’s no wonder that electric planers are more expensive than hand planers. This is because the motor that drives their blades requires a much more substantial investment than the simple pieces of a hand planer. 

Electric planers are fairly inexpensive as far as power tools go. They usually cost around $45, but can run as high as $100 or as low as $30. That considerable range reflects a wide range of quality and features, which you should consider if you’re buying an electric planer of your own.

You might be surprised to find that although hand planers are certainly less expensive than electric ones, the price difference isn’t enormous. Hand planers usually range from $10 to $30 in price. It’s not hard to find a cheap one, and the best hand planers don’t cost much more than the worst ones.

However, hand planers have a reputation for wearing out more quickly than their electric counterparts. If you intend to use your planer frequently, investing in an electric model might be a better idea. If not, you should also buy replacement blades to make sure your planer stays sharp.

Maximum Cutting Depth

The maximum depth of wood that a hand planer can remove is limited. You can use it to shave off some wood, but you can’t use it to flatten a board to its full thickness. 

Electric planers can completely remove much more of the wood from a board, but hand planers can’t. Depending on what you need to do, the max cut depth is an important factor to consider when choosing between the two tools.

Having a deeper maximum depth means that it’ll be easier to plane especially uneven surfaces without multiple passes. That makes electric planers great for when you’re recycling scrap or roughly-cut wood. Unfortunately, the same process would be much more difficult with a hand planer.

Cutting more deeply also makes your work much faster. What would require multiple passes with a hand planer becomes fast, simple work with an electric planer.


electric planer jobsite

Electric planers are much faster than hand planers, but the difference in speed is largely due to the fact that hand planers have to be pushed manually. With an electric planer, you turn on the motor and the blades go to work. 

This means that they’re very quick and don’t require any specific effort on your part to move them back and forth. Hand planers have to cut with the force of your own effort, which makes the entire process much slower.

With electric planers, you can even set a speed control to make the blades move faster or slower. This allows you to customize your planing speed to fit your needs.


making precise work with hand planer

Electric planers have a wider cutting width than hand planers. This means that you can use them for wider boards, as well as for finishing a board that has a number of different sizes and widths. 

Hand planers are great for finishing off a board that’s only been scraped by a jointer or a miter saw. If you want to use a single tool to handle all of your finishing tasks, an electric planer is the better option.

However, that width comes at a price. Electric planers are less precise than hand planers due to their wide blades. If you’re looking to do fine woodworking, you may want to consider using a hand planer in order to more exactly cut the wood where you want to.

Ease of Use

electric planer working outside

Electric planers are easier to use than hand planers. They don’t require a lot of physical effort, but are still versatile enough for a wide range of tasks. 

Hand planers are tiring to use and require a lot of strength and stamina to keep going. While hand planers can be an asset to someone who is just starting out, they can also be overwhelming and discouraging. An electric planer is a much better beginner tool.

This might seem counterintuitive. After all, it’s reasonable to think the simpler tool without any moving parts would be easier to use. But after a little bit of sweat from the hard work of manual planing, 

If you’re still having trouble deciding between electric and hand planers, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to narrow the field down a bit. What type of boards do you plan to work with? What is your budget? And what are your expectations for the tool?

By paying attention to the details, you can make an informed decision about which planer is right for you.

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Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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