Best wood & thickness planers for the money: benchtop & portable

Suppose you are a hobby woodworker and want to upgrade your utensils to the next level of woodworking equipment. In that case, a benchtop planer can make a big difference to your next projects.

Understanding these machines

Wood and thickness planers are instruments for sizing roughly sawn timber to a specific thickness. They generate a flat, parallel surface on both sides of the board.

When a wood board is placed the flat side down on the input area, it slides directly into the machine. An infeed roller grips the board and pushes it into the rotating cutter blades to bring the wood to a specific, desired uniform thickness.

When processing multiple boards, pre-setting the thickness gauge allows the final thickness of more workpieces to have the same required cutting depth. It effectively smoothes out rough and jagged woods while providing easy work of excessively warped materials.

wooden planks

What is it used for?

Planer tools are used to flatten and taper the size of pieces of wood. At the same time, they provide a smooth surface to previously rough and unclean surfaces. It’s a potent must-have tool for efficiently working on a woodworking project.

Some woodworkers prefer to engage in wood shavings with a handheld option. This kind of equipment requires physical strength to force the cutting blade over the surface of the wood. As a result, using a handheld model is time-consuming and exhausting. It makes it only suitable for limited wood dimensions and relatively small jobs.

A powered planer is required for trimming boards with more significant linear dimensions. It produces a more consistent flat and shaved surface and a straighter edge. It eliminates excess wood from a solid rough material. It provides a uniformly smooth surface on all sides as the piece passes through the machine.

Both DIYers and skilled workers greatly appreciate this tool. It’s because they can achieve good results that other standard tools cannot. Even in broader materials, it delivers optimal performance without compromising the cutting results when handling significant cuts. Suppose you are building a deck or are interested in woodworking projects. In that case, this piece of machinery can make uniform boards with exact thickness.

It is also an excellent tool to give an aged, worn piece of wood a fresh look by restoring its natural beauty. It will transform the piece into a remarkable piece of wood with smooth sides and uniform thickness. At the same time, it keeps the patina.

To help you determine the best option for you, we have selected the best benchtop planers available. You will find it easier to determine your specific needs and see which solution best meets your needs.

Dewalt

In line with the trademark of Dewalt power tools, the 15-amp Dewalt model is another excellent solution from their catalog of products. This tool achieves a good surface finish for soft and hardwood types. Its strong 15-amp, 20,000 rpm motor is more than enough to perform more substantial cuts. It can quickly obtain the appropriate final thickness in broader materials.

The two-speed gearbox allows you to swiftly change your feed speed for optimal processing. The material removal gauge and the extra-large thickness scale guarantee accurate cuts with each pass.

The blades are self-setting—drop them in and lock them tightly to align on the cutter head. The machine includes a dust collection system that moves the debris from the cutter head and vents it away from the machine. It results in a cleaner cutter head area. Its automatic lock prevents dangerous movements and reduces the risk of accidents. It’s a great tool with a fast and smooth speed, minimal noise, and is easy to use.

Ridgid

The Ridgid solution is the best in its class.

This tool will be your best choice if you plan many rustic projects. It works well and has a precise depth setting. It’s also simple to use. For example, you can use it to create a stunning headboard out of several exotic planks. Its three-blade heads provide a smooth, flawless surface that simplifies final finishing. Its big in-feed/out-feed table is user-friendly and easy to work with.

In addition, it can handle items with a thickness of up to 6⅛ inches. Weighing only 73 pounds makes it easy to carry and easy to transport. The crank handle runs incredibly smoothly and allows you to raise and lower the cutter head quickly. Other than that, the blades are very sharp and long-lasting. It works excellent on hickory and most antique woods. Surprisingly, it retains its sharpness even after numerous passes. Overall, it’s an excellent planer for the money.

Ryobi

A Ryobi product is reasonably priced. It has it all in terms of performance and features while maintaining its simplicity. The Ryobi solution is the lightest planer on the market. It has an accurate depth scale and easy-to-use controls. It is suitable for any wood and provides good value for money.

What to look for?

Most important aspects to consider before buying one.

Things to look for
Knife insertsDust collection systemPower draw
Measuring toolsSnipe 

1) Knife inserts

Knife inserts come in two forms: the long knife and the helical-pattern knife.

  • A long-knife cutter is a long straight knife cutter linked to a cutter head. It features slots with elongated holes that allow you to move it slightly left or right if one of the blades gets nicked. When one side of the blade becomes damaged, flip it around to utilize the other edge. It is less costly and more forthright.

Most machines let you sharpen the knives numerous times before replacing them. The knives are inserted on planers that employ disposable blades. It makes it simple to replace them without resetting the height.

  • On the other hand, a helical knife pattern appears quite different from a straight knife design. Helical blades are segmented spiral blades that use carbide inserts to generate a shear cut. You can configure the knife to work with 2-sided segmented knives or 4-sided square inserts and mostly with various cutter alignments and placement configurations.

Other cutter head designs position the blades in a spiral or V pattern. It produces fewer tear-outs, especially when planing figured woods. There is no need for frequent fine-tuning because these blades are permanently indexed in place. Assume one of the blades accidentally strikes a nail and gets damaged. In such a case, you only need to spin each cutter once before replacing the blade. If all sides are damaged, you need to replace the damaged ones. You do not need to replace the entire set.

Check out our guide on lawn tractors, extension cords, and cassette toilets.

2) Adjustments and Measuring tools (gauge)

Before starting, read the instructions well and follow them when setting up the planer. You will need to position and align the planer. To know the gauge and familiarize yourself well with the planer. Those are critical steps in making the most out of your machine.

Before making any necessary adjustments, secure the machine’s position on a stable footing. It must be attached to a stable and level workstation with a fastener through the four holes at the base. You will want to ensure the machine is very well secured to ensure that it does not move throughout the operation. This could otherwise happen when processing big boards or making deep cuts. Clamping a piece of plywood over the workbench or table for the machine to be fixed is preferable. It ensures stability while still allowing portability.

  • Head Adjustment: the first thing to do is to adjust the head. The motor, the cutter head, and the chip deflector are all housed in the head. You can control the depth by raising or lowering the head using the crank handle. The adjoining cursor and gauge measure the distance between the cutter head blades and the main table surface. This determines the workpiece’s final thickness.
  • Cutting depth gauge: the cutting depth gauge controls the depth of the cut of a specific object. A gauge ball is aligned to the knives, and the gauge indicates how much material the planer can take.
  • Thickness gauge: Getting the thickness of an item precisely correct involves a lot of measuring. The gauge allows you to pre-set the final thickness. It is very helpful in achieving the same end thickness when processing several boards. You have to adjust the depth gauge correctly to get the precise final measurements you want.

Easy procedure:

  • Rotate the thickness gauge dial to the desired depth.
  • Lower the head for each pass until it stops.
  • Make a final pass.

3) Dust collection system

A dust collection system is both practical and necessary. It collects the wood dust and the wood chips in a stream of air and then deposits them in the collection area.

A planer includes a dust hood attached to the dust collection port. Connect the dust hose to the port. Secure it with a hose clamp after ensuring that it is angled upward and away from the outfeed table. Maybe the dust collecting system is not operating, do not install the dust hood. It increases dust accumulation around the head area.

4) Snipe

A snipe is a dip at each end of the board. They are created by an unequal force on the cutter-head while entering or exiting the planer. Snipe can occur when the board is not supported correctly or when just one feed roller makes contact with the board at the start or finish of the cut. In a situation where the snipe is deep, you should pay attention to how the board is supported. Always try to keep the board parallel to and level on the table. You can use extra support such as a roller stand at the infeed and outfeed ends as another alternative.

Prevent a snipe in another way. You can decrease the depth of the cut and feed different boards while joining them tightly in the upfront end of the workpiece. If a snipe is unavoidable, you can also produce the wood longer than necessary and adjust the ends afterward.

5) Power draw

The size of the motor defines the overall performance of any unit. A stiff workpiece requires a heavy-duty motor to operate correctly and not slow down things during the process. A 15-amp option consumes more power and lasts longer than a lower amp-rated device.

If you work with softwood materials, an option with less power of 1 to 1½ HP would be sufficient. A 2 HP engine will last longer and allow you to work in denser and rougher materials.

When using a 2 HP unit, always combine it with a 15-amp motor for optimal performance.

Safety warnings and instructions

Initially, these machines were developed and intended for use by well-qualified and experienced professionals only. Hence, you may not find this tool in a typical workshop or household.

It is highly recommended not to use it until you have acquired enough training and expertise. Suppose you’re interested in obtaining one, even though you’re unfamiliar with its proper and safe operation. It is essential to study its properties and how it operates to ensure safe operation. Continue reading to be informed!

Electrical connections

Keep in mind that using the same circuit for several machines or lights simultaneously will increase the electrical demand. Install a dedicated 20-amp circuit with a circuit breaker or fuse explicitly designed for the machine to prevent overloading. When connected to an outlet with other tools, a 15-amp benchtop option consumes a significant amount of electricity.

The use of extension cords is not advisable. Always keep your equipment near a reliable power source. Maybe an extension cable is necessary anyway. You should use one strong enough to handle the level of electricity that the equipment will draw. An undersized cable drops down line voltage, resulting in power loss and overheating.

Also, check our guide on amp wire sizes and various extension cord gauges.

Grounded installation

Using a grounded electricity outlet is essential when working with electrical equipment of this kind. It will disconnect the current in case of overload and lessens the risk of getting an electrical shock. In the case of a malfunction or breakdown, the electricity will be channeled to the ground.

The planer comes with an electrical cord, including a grounding conductor and a grounding plug. You must connect the plug to a properly fitted and grounded matching outlet. Always be aware that an incorrect connection of the equipment might result in an electric shock. In the worst case, you risk a severe or fatal injury. Suppose you’re not certain that you have the right type of outlet. In that case, you should consult a professional electrician to secure a safely grounded installation.

Knife inspection

The cutting-head knife inserts are razor-sharp and deadly. Manufacturers guarantee a secure position when you acquire a new planer. You should still test the tightness of each knife insert before working as a first-time user. Loose knife inserts can be released from the cutting-head in no time and at high speeds. If this happens, they can inflict severe damage.

Crank handle correct usage

You need a crank handle to do the job right to adjust the cutting head. The handle must be used correctly to avoid accidents.

While working on a wood board, remember not to turn the crank handle. You should adjust the depths to your desired position by only raising or lowering the cutting head using the crank handle.

Furthermore, do not force the handle after stopping the gauge. Otherwise, you could overstress the knives and the cutter-head. The motor and the whole machine could be damaged.

Additional safety guides during operation

  1. If you try to work with a warped board in its length, it may jam against the cutter knives causing kickbacks and damage.
  2. Maybe the board is narrow enough. Try ripping the top of the warp with a table saw, or band saw until the surface is flat before feeding in.
  3. Before using the machine, always inspect each piece of wood. If you try to work on a piece with nails or an embedded piece of metal, the knives will be nicked. Damaged or nicked blades can result in grooves down the length of the wood.
  4. Do not work on wet pieces of wood. Doing so might clog the machine and cause it to malfunction. Secondly, the dimension of wet wood differs from the same piece of wood after it has dried.
  5. Use the machine only for its intended use. Process your work at the proper speed and feed rate.
  6. Wear protective gear and remove ties or other loose clothing. Rings and jewelry should also be removed before starting the work, and sleeves rolled up to the elbow before operating. Always use safety guards.
  7. Above all, pay attention at all times and remove any distractions. One single careless act could cause severe damage.
wooden tools

FAQ

Is a benchtop planer worth it?

Although it may seem like a costly investment, a benchtop planer is worth the cost. Especially if you’re a professional woodworker, your work will be set up and prepared in a matter of minutes.

What can you do with a benchtop planer?

With a benchtop planer, you can smooth, cut, trim and modify the edges of wood pieces however you desire.

Why do I need a benchtop planer?

Your benchtop planer can be used to flatter wood before you start working on it. It can also be used to make the second face parallel to the first. It can also smoothen the wood right down to the exact thickness you require.

Will a planer straighten wood?

Planers can straighten out twisted, warped pieces of wood. It’s a miracle worker for those who don’t own jointers!

Last words:

A wood and thickness planer is a long-term investment where your work will be done faster and easier if you work in the wood crafting industry. Find the one that suits your needs the best. Consider the price and how much work and how heavy tasks you expect.

Want to keep reading? Check out our SAE to metric guide or our guide on welding glasses.

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