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

If you are a hobbyist woodworker and want to upgrade to some next-level of woodworking equipment, in that case, a thickness benchtop planer can make a big difference to your next project.

Understanding these machines

They’re an instrument for sizing rough-sawn timber to a specified thickness while generating a flat surface parallel to the opposite side of the board.

When a wood-board is placed flat-side down on the in-feed table, it slides right into the machine. An infeed roller then engages in gripping the board. Finally, it pushes the board into the rotating cutter blades to bring specific wood to a uniform thickness.

When processing multiple boards, pre-setting the thickness gauge allows the final thickness of a workpiece to generate the same required depth of cutting up to the last pass. It is effective for smoothing out rough, jagged, and even stained woods while providing ease of work, except, of course, for excessively warped materials.

wooden planks

What is it used for?

All planer tools, in general, are used to flatten and taper the size while still delivering a smooth surface to rough, irregular, and unclean specific wood pieces. It’s a piece of must-have tool for every woodworking project.

While some woodworkers prefer to engage in wood shavings with a handheld option, the equipment demands physical strength to force the cutting blade over the wood surface. As a result, using a hand model is time-consuming and exhausting, making it only suitable for limited wood dimensions and relatively modest jobs.

A primarily powered equipment, such as these pieces of equipment, is required for trimming boards with more significant linear dimensions. It produces a more consistent flat and shaved surface, as well as a straighter edge. It eliminates a specific amount of excess wood from a solid rough material, in particular, to generate a uniformly smooth surface on all sides as passed through the machine.

Both DIYers and skilled workers are now getting on board with this device simply because they can do several things that other standard tools cannot. It delivers optimum performance in handling significant cuts even in broader materials without compromising the cutting results. For example, if you are building a deck, or remodeling your homes, or are interested in woodworking projects, this piece of machinery can make uniform boards with exact thickness.

Moreover, it is an excellent tool for giving an aged, worn piece of wood a fresh look and restoring its natural beauty by effectively transforming it into a remarkable workpiece with smooth sides and uniform thickness.

We’ve selected a list of the best benchtop planers available online to help you search for the best option for you. You may also examine some of its features to see whether it meets your needs.


In line with the trademark of Dewalt power tools, a 15-amp Dewalt model is another excellent product one should never miss out on. In every furnishing project, this tool achieves a good surface finish both for soft and hardwoods. Its strong 15-amp, 20,000 rpm motor is more than enough to make more substantial cuts while quickly obtaining the appropriate final thickness in broader materials.

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

The blades are self-setting—just drop them in and lock tightly to align on the cutter head. It includes a dust collection system that moves debris off the cutter head and vents it out of the machine, resulting in a cleaner cutter head area. Its automated carriage lock prevents snipe movement without reducing vibrations across the shop floor. It’s a great tool to have, with a fast and smooth speed, minimal noise, and an easy-to-use interface.


The Ridgid solution is simply the best in its class.

If you do many rustic projects, this tool is your best choice because it works well, has a precise depth setting, and is simple to use. You can use this to create a really stunning headboard out of several exotic planks. Its three-blade heads provide a smooth, blemish-free surface that simplifies final finishing. Its big infeed/outfeed table is a user-friendly feature that aids in the elimination of snipes.

In addition, it can handle stock with a thickness of up to 6 and ⅛ inches. It weighs 73 pounds, making it a highly portable piece of equipment. The crank handle is incredibly smooth, allowing you to raise and lower the head quickly. Other than that, the blades are very sharp and long-lasting. It’sIt’s excellent for hickory, rock maple, purpleheart, and most antique woods. Surprisingly, it retains its sharpness even after numerous passes. Overall, it’s an excellent planer for the money.


A Ryobi product has it all in terms of performance, features, simplicity of use, and pricing. The Ryobi solution is the lightest piece of equipment on the market, with an accurate depth scale and easy-to-use controls. It is suitable for any species of wood. It provides good value for money.

What to look for?

These are the most important aspects to consider before buying one.

Things to look for
Knife inserts Dust collection system Power draw
Measuring tools Snipe

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

Most machines let you resharpen the knives numerous times before replacing them. Because knives are indexed on planers that employ disposable blades, it’s simple to replace them without resetting the height.

  • A helical knife pattern, on the other hand, 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, most of the time, 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 damages it. In such a case, you only need to spin each cutter once before replacing it. If all sides are nicked out in the worst-case scenario, you just need to replace the damaged ones, not the entire set.

As we’ve done with these types of machines, we’ve also made a guide on lawn tractors, extension cords and cassette toilets.

2) Adjustments and Measuring tools (gauge)

Starting with the basic principle is the first step. Then, setting up, aligning, positioning, and knowing the gauge are all critical steps in making the most out of your machine.

Before making any necessary adjustments, secure the machine’s position on stable footing. It must be attached to a stable and level workstation with a fastener through the four holes at the base. If desired, choose a better alternative as long as the machine does not migrate throughout the operation, which is common 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 for assuring stability while still allowing portability.

  • Head Adjustment: the first thing to do is adjust the head. The motor, cutter head, and chip deflector are all housed in the head. You can control the depth by raising and lowering th head using the crank handle. The adjoining cursor and gauge measure the distance between the cutter head blades and the main table surface, determining the workpiece’s final thickness.
  • Cutting depth gauge: the cutting depth gauge controls the depth of the cut of a specific stock. It features a gauge ball aligned to the knives. As a result, this gauge describes how much material the planer can take in particular.
  • Thickness gauge: Getting the thickness of a stock precisely correct involves a lot of measuring. If your meter is good, you will have outstanding accuracy. The gauge allows you to pre-set the final thickness. It is typically helpful in achieving the same end thickness when processing several boards. So you just have to adjust the depth gauge correctly to get the precise final thickness 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 a fantastic feature. It collects wood dust and chips in a stream of air and distributes them to the collection area.

A planer includes a dust hood that can be attached to the dust collection port. Connect the dust hose to the port and secure it with a hose clamp after ensuring that the port is angled upward away from the outfeed table. If the dust collecting system is not operating, do not install the dust hood; otherwise, it will increase 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 when the snipe is deep, pay more attention to how the board is supported. It is always best to keep the board parallel to and level on the table. Or you use another alternative by using extra support, such as a roller stand, at the infeed and outfeed ends.

Other ways for preventing a snipe include decreasing the depth of cut and feeding different boards joined tightly to the upfront ends of the workpiece. If a snipe is unavoidable, run the material longer than necessary and snip the ends after planning.

5) Power draw

The motor is what defines the overall performance of any unit. A stiff workpiece requires a heavy-duty motor to operate and not slow things down 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, say 1 to 1 1/2 HP, would satisfy. A 2 HP engine, on the other hand, may last much longer in shaving thick, rough wood boards for comparatively more comprehensive materials.

When using a 2 HP unit, always constitute 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. But suppose you’re interested in obtaining one, even though you’re unfamiliar with its proper and safe operation. In that situation, 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, tools, lights, and so on at the same time may 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 options, in particular, consumes a significant amount of electricity.

The use of extension cords is not advisable. Always keep your equipment near a reliable power source. If an extension cable becomes essential under any circumstance, use one strong enough to handle the electricity that the equipment will draw. An undersized cable drops down line voltage, resulting in power loss and overheating.

Regarding electrical components, make sure to check our guide on amp wire sizes and various extension cord gauges.

Grounding installation

A grounding is an essential link in electrical equipment because it lessens the effects of electric shock. In the case of a malfunction or breakdown, the ground offers the channel of least resistance for electric current.

It comes with an electrical cord that includes a grounding conductor and a grounding plug. And then connect the plug into a properly fitted and grounded matching outlet. Always be aware that an incorrect connection of the equipment-grounding conductor might result in an electric shock danger, and worst scenario, a severe and fatal injury. You may consult a professional electrician to secure a safe grounding installation.

Knife inspection

The cutting-head knife inserts are razor-sharp and deadly. Though manufacturers guarantee a secure position when you acquire a new one, you should 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 at high speeds, inflicting severe damage.

Crank handle correct usage

To adjust the head, you need a crank handle to this job right. However, there is a proper method to use the crank handle to avoid accidents.

Now, while working on a wood board, remember not to turn the crank handle. You can adjust the depths to your desired position by raising or lowering the head using the crank handle.

Furthermore, do not force the handle any further after stopping the gauge. Otherwise, you would overstress the knives, cutter-head, and motor, resulting in machine damage.

Additional safety guides during operation

  1. If you try to work on a warped board along its length, the panel will jam against the cutter knives, causing kickbacks and damage.
  2. If the board is narrow enough, try ripping the top of the warp with a table saw, or band saw until it resembles a flat surface before feeding in.
  3. Before attempting to use the machine, always inspect each board. If you try to work on a board with nails and an embedded piece of metal, the knives will be nicked. Damaged or nicked blades can produce grooves down the board’s length.
  4. Do not work on a wet piece of wood. That is because wet woods might clog the machine, causing it to malfunction. Secondly, the dimension of dry woods differs from that of wet woods, which might compromise its thickness.
  5. Use the machine only for its intended use. Make the necessary changes at the proper speed and feed rate.
  6. Wear protective gear, remove ties, rings, and other jewelry, and roll sleeves up to the elbow before operating. Always use safety guards.
  7. Above all, give your task your complete attention at all times. Remove all distractions and be in the right mood. A single careless act might cause the most severe damage.

wooden tools

Last words:

A benchtop thickness planer will make your life easier if you work in the wood crafting industry. It is a long-term investment to consider. Choose the best one that suits your needs.

Want to keep reading? Check out our SAE to metric guide, our guide on welding glasses or the one comparing MIG & TIG.

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