Last Updated on September 5, 2023 by Barry Gray
Are you new to woodworking, or you’re a hobbyist that wants to sharpen his or her skills?
If yes, you must have come across a job requiring your shaping and designing skills.
But how do you go about it?
Of course! That’s where you need a planer.
With this tool, you can shape stock to your desired thickness. It also allows you to sharpen round corners or flatten warped wood as well.
That said, it could be tricky to pick a planer for your woodwork project, especially if you’re new to woodworking—because of the different types of planers available on the market.
In this article, I comprehensively discussed the 18 types of planers to use for your woodwork project—which should help your decision-making.
A manual planer is a cheap option that comes in different sizes and styles. It’s also perfect for small and detailed projects.
Electric planers, on the other hand, are much more powerful and efficient than a manual planner. Plus, it can handle regular or larger projects.
So, which planer should you pick?
Basic Hand Planer
A basic hand planer is a tool that requires muscle power for shaping wood.
So, the force you apply helps to push the cutting blade over the wood surface.
The tool has a firm body and sharpened metal plate that takes up uniform trims when you move it over a wood surface.
Plus, it offers a constant angle to its cutting edge—thanks to the nature of the tool’s body riding on the wood’s “high spots” and producing a smooth planed surface.
As the name suggests, it comes with two hands and a blade securing the stock or body. You can remove the blade to sharpen it or adjust it to vary the depth of the cut.
The early design of this tool looked more like a drawknife. It had a metal blade with pair of tangs attached to the wooden handles.
But, most spokeshaves comes with a sole plate, which drawknives lack, and it helps to fix the angle of the blade based on the wood surface it’s planing.
That said, we have different types of spokeshaves that work for various applications.
Based on the shape of the tool’s blade and sole, we have the following types:
- Convex spokeshave – useful for planing curves and convex surfaces
- Flat bottom spokeshave – it’s effective for planing curves, concaved, and flat surfaces
- Rounded bottom spokeshave – works perfectly on tight curves and concaved surfaces
- Concave spokeshave – useful for planing curves and concaved surfaces
- Combination spokeshave – it’s ideal for concaved and convexed surfaces—and it has a combination of concave and convex blade edges
You can easily spot a surform planer because of its perforated sheet metal that looks like a food grater. The tool comes with a cutting edge that consists of a steel strip with holes punched out. Plus, the rim for each hole is sharp—which makes it different from a food grater.
The tool usually has its strip mounted in a handle or carriage, and it helps make different shapes. Also, the smaller models are perfect for one-handed applications, while the more powerful tools are ideal for two-handed uses.
Aside from that, surform planers are easy to control. They remove wood rapidly from curved surfaces, have little or no dust, and don’t get clogged. Also, the surform planer helps to flatten and smooth the surface of your wood by shaving the top layer off.
This is a mini tool that can handle DIY projects conveniently. The device consists of a wooden block with rectangular holes in the center alongside a sharp, durable blade.
You can also use this tool for deburring and polish woodworking surfaces. Asides from being a sturdy tool, it gives fine details and a smooth finish. Also, it’s crucial to note that this planer doesn’t come with handles.
The hand scrapper helps you to tackle wild wood grains. This planer works without noise and saves you from the dust of sanding. It’s easy to use this tool on large surfaces as it requires less effort and holds the blade at a consistent angle.
With the hand scrapper, you can slightly round over the ends of the bevel—to ensure that the blade doesn’t leave marks with each pass. In addition, you can use the adjustment screws to fine-tune the angle of the blade.
Can you create a concave with this tool to remove edge marks?
Yes, you can. All you need to do is tighten the blade bow thumbscrew.
The block planer is a small woodworking tool with its bevel up—and blade fixed at a lower angle than other planes. It helps touch up and cut end grain. It ranges from 3 to 7 inches.
Plus, the standard angled block planer has its blades angled at approximately 20 degrees, while the low-angle block planers have their blades angled at about 12 degrees.
In other words, this tool is effective for removing thin shavings of wood—to ensure the components fit within fine tolerances.
The block planer has other functions like removing glue lines and angling square edges.
If you want to flatten the surface of a large board or straighten the edges of your board, the jointer planer is the ideal tool for the job. They are usually about 20 to 24 inches long, which makes this tool the longest hand planer.
The length of this tool is an advantage—as it helps to ride over undulations of an uneven surface and skim off the peaks to create a flatter surface.
A scrub planer is useful when you want to planer a large amount of wood from the surface of lumber. For instance, when you want to significantly reduce the thickness of a board or remove a twist in the first stages of preparing rough stock.
The scrub planer is the opposite of the jointer planer with its short sole, deeply curved edge, and relatively narrow but thick blade.
With this tool, you can be sure you’ll make a deep, gouging cut.
You can use most hand planers along the grain or parallel to the length of the board.
But, the scrub planer works better for diagonal strokes—across the face of the board.
This is the shortest planer available, and it comes in handy—after using other bench planers like the fore, jointer, and jack planer to flatten your board surface.
So, this tool can remove any marks that woodworking machinery leaves.
If you use other hand planers for your surfaces, you will need a few passes to remove shavings as fine as 0.051 mm or less. Plus, you can hold a smoothing planer with two hands—just like most of the planers.
Jack planers are usually 2.5-3 inches wide and 12-18 inches long. You can use this versatile tool for general woodworking purposes like dressing a timber to size—for edge jointing or truing.
Like I mentioned earlier, this tool is the first planer you use on the rough stock. But if your work is extremely rough, then you can use a scrub planer first.
The Jack planer has blades with a slight camber that allows you to remove more materials without marring.
Also, you can grind the blades like a smoothing planer for a more refined finish.
It’s ideal to start using this tool by planing diagonal to the grain to roughly leveling the workpiece before planing in the grain’s direction.
A chisel planer performs tasks that regular planers can’t. For example, the tool doesn’t have any support in front of the blade, but it has precise control.
Also, the chisel planer is a remarkable cleanup tool that performs functions like:
- Removing dry glue
- Flus-trimming joints
- Reaching into right-angle corners or joints
The fore planer is a tool that helps you prepare and flatten rough workpieces before you use other planers.
In other words, you can planer rough sawn timber and level a workpiece with a fore planer before using a jack planer.
If you want smooth depressions below the general surface or blend out sunken panels, then the router planer is the perfect go-to.
With the router planer, you can planer the bottoms of recesses to a uniform depth and handle corners.
Japanese Planer or Kanna
The Japanese planer has a different style compared to the other options on this list. Also, the style of using the tool is different (you pull the planer towards you).
The tool is made from hardwood—red oak or Japanese white. Plus, it has a stout iron blade and laminated steel that offers a smooth finish.
In addition, this tool has a chip breaker with a simple nail in place that bears down on the planer blade and a wedge that holds the blade firmly.
What Are the Benefits of Using a Manual Planer?
Whether you’re a professional woodworker or a DIYer, it’s essential to know that a hand planer has unique benefits you can’t neglect—when compared to electric planers.
So, I’ll be discussing the benefits of a manual planer in this section.
1. Eliminate Risks, Dust, and Noise
Power or electric planers are machines that emit a ton of dust during operation. That’s why some quality power planers come with dust collectors that help to reduce dust.
But not all power planers have that function.
Having a power planer without a dust collector means you’ll always have to deal with a messy workshop. Plus, it could be hazardous if you’re allergic to dust or asthmatic.
With a manual planer, you’d have a lesser amount of dust in your workshop—because you’re controlling the planing with your hand.
Choosing a manual tool also means you’ll be limiting the noise level in your workshop to the barest minimum.
But a power planer comes with a lot of noise, especially if you’re using a high-powered machine.
2. You Would Know Your Wood Better
Using a hand planer can help you understand your wood better. With a manual planer, you can discover the wood’s internal stress pattern, intricacies, grain patterns, etc.
But that’s not all.
Using a manual planer will help you read your wood, learn how best it works, and even predict the best outcome. A manual planer also helps you understand the workability and feel of various types of wood.
A manual planer helps you know your lumber’s hardness, springiness, and grain, enabling you to discover how and where to use it best.
3. Better Finishing For Small Projects
Most woodworkers may argue this point. But my experience with both manual and electric planers has shown me that the former usually has a better finishing for smaller projects.
Using a power planer for small projects could be tricky. But a hand planer does a better job because of its maneuverability and portability.
4. More Affordable
Of course, manual planers are way cheaper than power planers. Thus, you don’t have to break the bank to buy one.
The average price of a manual planer is about $15, and it depends on the type of manual planer you’re buying. You can get some as low as $6 and a few as high as $26.
So, if you’re a newbie woodworker or DIYer with a tight budget, you can start with the manual planer.
5. Excellent Tool for Learning
If you’re a newbie or DIYer with no knowledge of planing, it’s wise to start with a manual planer. So, you can understand its operations, techniques, etc., before proceeding to power planers that require more experience.
In other words, it’s best to learn, make mistakes, and gain more experience with the manual planer before moving onto more complex options.
In closing, here are the key advantages of using a manual planer:
- More affordable option
- The manual planer comes in different styles and sizes
- Puts complete control of the tool in your hand
- An excellent option for detailed and small projects
- It fits comfortably in your hand
- Very compact and portable (sometimes, small enough to fit your pocket), so you can move around with it
- Super easy to use, doesn’t require so much skill or technicality
- No need for batteries or trailing cords because you power it
One snag that limits the manual planer is that it’s relatively slow. As a result, if you’re not careful, you may make mistakes with your workpiece.
That’s where electric planers come in—they are excellent alternatives—thanks to the quick functionality and flexibility to cut the exact depth required.
Here are the four main types of electric planers:
An electric hand planer is a woodworking tool used to remove a small quantity of wood—by trimming off the rough edges and surfaces.
Typically, a hand-held planer comes with two or three blades, and the amount of material the tool can cut per pass is 1/8 – 3/32 inches.
An electric hand planer works almost the same way as a manual hand model. The main difference is the rotating blade of the electric hand planer that trims the workpiece faster.
A hand-held electric planer comes with rotating blades—usually located between two metal plates—referred to as the shoe.
So, the hand-held planer has both the front and back shoes—controlled by a knob. Plus, the planer usually comes with 10,000 – 20,000 rotations per minute.
This tool is also a thickness planer. That said, the benchtop planer is a box-shaped woodworking tool that cuts and snaps boards to an even thickness on both surfaces.
Like the hand-held planers, the bench-top planer has two or three high-speed blades that help to trim off tiny layers from a workpiece. Plus, it’s the first planer that can handle small pieces of lumber.
With a bench-top planer, you can adjust the cutting height to remove wood layers—until they reach your required specifications.
So, a bench-top planer enables you to produce level tabletops because of its consistent thickness feature. This type of planer also allows you to reveal the beauty of the grain in an old and abandoned workpiece.
If you’re talking about industrial-grade woodworking projects, stationary planers are your go-to.
The stationary planer is an excellent tool to consider if you plan to handle serious and heavy-duty projects.
However, it’s super expensive and made for professional woodworkers that handle tons of projects with a large budget.
You also require a large workspace to purchase a stationary planer because it comes in different sizes and shapes.
Like the stationary planer, the molding planer is another tool designed for professionals that handle large projects.
But the difference is;
A molding planer is a woodworking machine that doubles as a planer and a dimensioning machine—at the same time.
You can use this tool to create crown moldings, elliptical moldings, baseboards, frames, and other clean-shaped workpieces.
A molder planer is invariably a sophisticated tool for designing and shaping all types of lumber. However, you also require a large workspace to use this tool.
What Are the Benefits of Using an Electric Planer?
Here are the key advantages of using an electric planer:
1. Saves Your Time
Manual planing could be time-consuming, considering the tons of measuring and remeasuring you’d need to do to get the required wood thickness.
On the other hand, electric planers help to plane wood faster.
2. Depth-Adjustment Gauge
Having a depth adjustment gauge is one of the most significant advantages of electric planers. With the gauge, you can choose the specific thickness setting you want that best meets your needs.
In other words, you can decide to chop off 1/8 inch or take off 1/64 inch—based on the set gauge.
3. Handles Heavy-Duty Projects
If you’re a professional woodworker who handles serious projects, you need an electric planner that runs heavy-duty planing.
On the other hand, most manual planers can’t handle such heavy-duty projects, especially if it’s very rough lumber or hardwood.
In summary, here are the key benefits of an electric planer:
- Highly powerful
- Gets the planing job done faster than the manual planers
- More efficient than the manual models
- Suitable for most planing project
- Cordless and corded models are available
Type of Planers Based on Material Build
In this section, I’ll be categorizing different planers—based on the material build:
1. Wooden Planer
This type of planer comes from only wood, and it has a sharp blade it uses to trim wood surfaces. A wooden wedge is what the tool uses to hold the metal blade to the planer, and you can adjust it with a hammer.
Most conventional woodworkers make use of this tool because it’s easy to use. The main aim of this tool is to smoothen wood surfaces.
2. Metal Planer
This planer has a relatively simple look and feel. Plus, the tool has metal components—except the knobs or handles.
Thus, it’s composed of many metal items like:
- Iron bladder
- Chip breaker with cutting edge
- Steel sole on the base
- Lever cap screw
- Blade adjuster
- Lever cap
The primary purpose of a metal planer is to reduce, smoothen, or level your lumber.
3. Hybrid Planer
Also known as transitional planers, this hybrid model is a perfect combination of a metal and wooden planer.
The body of this planer is wooden—held by a metal casting that helps to adjust the metal blade. Plus, you can only use the tool on wood that has an excellent shape.
4. Side-Escapement Planer
The side-escapement planer is the longer version of the wooden planer. It has a thin and narrow wooden handle that uses an iron blade—with a wedge firmly holding it.
The mechanism of the side-escapement planer is way different from the wooden planer that expels wood from the middle and top.
So, this planer expels wood from its sides.
5. Infill Planer
Consisting of a metal body and wooden components that fit tightly to the interior voids, the infill planer comes in four varieties:
It has similar functions to the modern and antique cast planers. So, it possesses great mass, which enables it to power through cuts. Plus, it does an excellent job with smoothing rough grains.
The Different Types of Planer Machine
Here are the three types of planer mechanism used for woodworking:
- Open Side Planer Machine
- Pit Planer Machine
- Double Housing Planer Machine
1. Open Side Planer Machine
This machine comes with one housing—attached to only one side of the base—with a cross rail on its table.
You can mount three tool heads on this machine. Plus, it requires only one housing to take up the complete load. Thus, it’s robust and rigid enough to withstand forces.
Also, the cross rail of this machine slides vertically along the housing during operation. And it moves its tool heads in a vertical and horizontal direction while a second tool head attaches to the housing.
2. Pit Planer Machine
The pit planer machine is more extensive than most planer machines. In other words, its construction is massive, which is where you find the table—residing stationarily in a pit.
For this machine, the column holds the cross-rail counters on a horizontal rail. And the horizontal rail attaches to each side of the table.
So, the table’s planer is a level higher than the floor, making it easy to load heavy lumbers. Also, the cross-rail has two tool heads that move vertically and horizontally to cut wood efficiently.
3. Double Housing Planer Machine
This planer is pretty popular amongst many professional woodworkers.
The Double housing planer comes with a long heavy base merged with precise guideways where its table reciprocates. Thus, the length of the bed is two times greater than the table’s length.
Mounted near the center of the bed are two vertical housings. So, you can find each housing at both sides of the machine—connected to the anterior part by a cross-component.
Also, the horizontal cross rail helps to carry the two tool heads over the two vertical houses. In addition, these housings must move in a horizontal and vertical pattern to feed wood.
4. Divide Type Planer Machine
Also called a tandem planer, the divide type planer comprises two worktables—jointed singly. The design of the machine helps to save time.
Also, the machine is most suitable for heavy-duty planing, especially where identical machining happens. So, it involves loading the workpiece on one table for cutting, while the other table is responsible for adding finishing touches.
5. Edge Type Planer Machine
Another name for the edge type planer is plate planer. This machine is best for planing the edges of hardwood and has a ton of air clams—fastened to the bed’s plate.
Also, the cutting tool of this machine resides in the middle—connected to a carriage. Plus, with the help of the motor, the carriage moves backward and forward.
Closing Words—the Ball Is in Your Court
Understanding the type of planers for your woodworking projects can help you make the right decision when purchasing one.
That’s why I invested time to create this comprehensive article that shows the various types of planers—based on their material build, machine type, and operation.
So, whatever choice you make, ensure you’re going for a planer that best fits your specific needs.
Let us know; which planer type caught your fancy the most? Are there other types of planers you think we missed?
Feel free to air your thoughts in the comment sections!