A planer is probably not the first big purchase a woodworker makes, but it’s one of the most important. Because of the substantial cost, it’s understandable to put off purchasing a planer until you feel like you absolutely have to. But if you’ve finally come around to buying one, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite picks below. But first, it’s worth exploring what you can — and can’t — accomplish with a planer.
Even people who have been woodworking for a while might not be totally sure what a planer is. Its functions are not as intuitive as, say, a circular saw or a chisel. But a planer is important for many woodworking functions, especially any setting where having an even surface is important. Planers often work in conjunction with jointers, and it can be kind of easy to conflate the two. A jointer is designed to smooth one side of a piece of wood and square an edge. A planer is used to make two sides of a piece of wood a uniform thickness. In fact, planers are often referred to as thickness planers. But without a jointer to remove bows and other imperfections, you may not get an ideal result from your planer.
Of course, this won’t be a consideration if you decide to buy pre-surfaced lumber. But once you get over the initial cost of a jointer and planer, you might find that there are a lot of benefits to surfacing your own lumber. For one thing, a jointer and planer will pay for themselves in savings. Pre-surfaced lumber is more expensive. Plus, isn’t the whole point of being a DIYer, well, doing it yourself?
There are a few different kinds of planers. Most of the options on this list are the benchtop variety, and they are intended for woodworkers who may not have access to a full workshop. We’ve also included some handheld planers. They don’t get the results of a thickness planer, but they’re affordable and portable. These are the planers to get.
1. DEWALT Thickness Planer
For those just starting to get into woodworking who are looking for a dependable planer that isn’t outrageously expensive, it’s hard to beat this option from DeWalt. It has a powerful 15 AMP-motor that is capable of rotating at 20,000 RPMs (10,000 RPM cutter head speed). The intuitive switch makes it easy to toggle between two speed modes: 179 cuts per inch for finishing and 96 cuts per inch for dimensioning. There are three blades in the cutter head. And, with three backup blades included, you won’t have to worry about buying blades for a while.
Pros: Top brand-name planer that can suit smaller benchtops. Has three blades, two speed modes, and backup blades.
Cons: The motor is very loud.
2. PORTER-CABLE Thickness Planer
Porter-Cable’s reasonably priced planer has a 15-amp motor, giving it the power to take on any number of tasks. Thanks to the dual blades, the 8,000 RPM cutter head can cut at 16,000 cuts per minute. The two knives in the cutter head are easily removable when it comes time to replace them. The knives also have dual cutting edges and are reversible, effectively doubling the life of each blade.
Pros: Reasonably priced benchtop planer. Dual blades that each have two cutting sides, effectively doubling the lifespan of each blade.
Cons: Can leave a snipe on the wood, meaning that the end has a deeper cut.
3. WEN 6530 6-Amp Electric Hand Planer
For simple, smaller jobs, a hand planer should not be counted out as a tool to keep in one’s arsenal. While they’re not as powerful and can’t cover as much surface at once, they’re versatile, portable, and — best of all — a lot more affordable. A common application for a hand planer is getting a door the right thickness to fit in the frame. This planer from WEN has a 6-amp motor that can provide 34,000 cuts per minute. The 16 settings allow you to cut between 0″ to 1/8th” of an inch. A portable dust bag is included, making wood dust collection easier.
Pros: Dust chute is reversible, making it easier to work at different angles. Dust bag is included. Affordable hand planer with a variety of depth settings.
Cons: Depending on the project, the small dust bag may fill up very quickly.
4. DEWALT 20V MAX Brushless Planer
A great companion to a DeWalt thickness planer would be this DeWalt hand planer. Its battery-powered motor has a maximum 20V output and can produce 32,000 cuts per minute. Best of all, the motor is brushless. That means that, with less friction in the motor, the unit can run for longer and at a cooler temperature. A poly-V drive belt provides increased durability, and the depth settings are easy to adjust with the hand knob.
Pros: Powerful planer that offers truly portable power, since it is battery powered. Brushless motor ensures smooth operation.
Cons: Battery and charger sold separately.
5. WEN Benchtop Corded Thickness Planer
WEN may not have the recognition or prestige of a brand like DeWalt, but the brand produces affordable tools that can still keep up. Like some of the other benchtop options, this thickness planer has a 15-amp motor and a three-blade cutter head. The blades are reversible, extending their longevity, and it can cut boards up to 13 inches wide and 6 inches thick. The hose attachment makes it easier to attach a bag or hose to the unit, minimizing the time spent cleaning up.
Pros: Affordable price for a 15-amp, 13-inch benchtop planer. Easy to make adjustments with the turn handle.
Cons: Some snipe at the ends.
6. PORTER-CABLE 6-Amp Hand Planer
If you’re looking for an affordable hand planer, it’s worth considering this option from Porter-Cable. The 6-amp motor is robust enough to tackle most handheld operations. There are dual-sided dust ports. That makes it easy to attach a bag to either side without the bag obstructing you. Plus, the dust bag is included. The depth settings are controlled using a positive stop dial. That means that, when rotating the dial, it will stop along set points. That makes it easier to make precise adjustments.
Pros: 6-amp motor hand planer at a reasonable price. Dual-side dust extraction makes it easier to collect wood without having the dust bag be in your way.
Cons: Blades don’t retain their sharpness for that long.