What Type of Planer Should I Buy?

Choosing a planer really depends on several factors – what you are going to use it for and how much room you have in your workshop to store it. Once you know that then you can look at the best type of planer to suit your requirements. Generally, there are really three main types of wood planers out on the market today, which you could choose to buy and they all do a slightly different job. The three main kinds are:

  • Manual planers
  • Electric planers
  • Stationary planers

In a nutshell, a manual planer would be for small projects, an electric planer for larger or regular projects due to its speed and the stationary planers are for heavy duty work and require a lot more space. But here is a quick guide to each type with all of their advantages and disadvantages explained:

1. The Manual Planer

  • The cheapest option
  • Comes in a variety of sizes and styles
  • Gives you complete control in your hand
  • Perfect for small and detailed projects
  • Needs to fit comfortably in your hand
  • Very portable so you can use it anywhere
  • Easy to use, doesn’t need any equipment with it
  • Powered by you so no trailing cords or batteries to charge up

2. The Electric Planer

  • Much more powerful
  • Gets the job done far quicker than manually
  • Much more efficient than using a manual version
  • Can be used for all kinds of projects
  • Takes practice to get used to it
  • Not so much control for small or detailed projects
  • Cord and cordless versions
  • More expensive than manual one
  • Will require a battery and charger if cordless
  • Noisy to use
  • Harder to control
  • More safety risks to take into consideration

3. The Stationary Planer

  • Much larger
  • Needs a table for it to sit on
  • Needs regular cleaning and maintenance
  • Takes up a lot of space
  • Can be used for much bigger projects
  • Not suitable for small detailed projects
  • More expensive to buy

Within these three generalized categories sit a lot of different specialist types of planes depending on the finish you want to achieve. Did you know that a pair of wooden planes were found on board the Mary Rose when it was raised, dating back to the 16th century?

Manual planers can be broken down into different kinds, depending on the task they are going to perform. For example, a typical series of uses for a manual plane would be:

  • Firstly – use a scrub plane to remove large amounts of wood quickly. It is larger and narrower than a smoothing plane.
  • Secondly, use a jack plane to continue removing rough wood, but with more precision and it flattens the piece out more.
  • Thirdly, a jointer plane would be used to flatten out finally
  • A smoothing plane starts to prepare the final finish on the wood
  • A polishing plane creates a really smooth final surface.

 

There are also some specialist manual planers which form particular roles, for example:

  • The rabbet plane which cuts out shoulders or steps into wood
  • The spokeshave plane which can smooth curved surfaces
  • The should plane which trims right up to the edge of the wood
  • The fillister plane which can cut shoulders or steps to a very specific size
  • The molding plane to create molding shapes on the edge of the wood
  • The grooving plane to cut grooves for joints
  • The router plane to clear out recesses
  • The chisel plane to remove wood from the inside of a box
  • The finger plane for very tiny pieces of wood
  • The bullnose plane for very tight spaces
  • The combination plane which has a variety of cutters and blades
  • The circular plane – for curved surfaces which are large
  • The spar plane – for smoothing rounded shapes
  • The tooth plane – for irregular grained wood
  • The match plane – for making tongue and groove

So What Type Is Most Suitable for My Home Workshop?

As you can see, there are many different kinds of manual planers which all do a different job so it really depends on what you want to achieve. However, if you are planning to do a lot of medium-sized jobs which don’t require too much intricate detailing, then you’d be better off looking at an electric hand planer.

These come in different shapes and sizes but are so flexible in how you use them that you’d only ever need to buy one to meet all of your woodwork needs. Ideal for projects like creating your own furniture, an electric hand planer can achieve most finishes and can be adapted.

They also don’t take up too much space in your workshop. However, for really big jobs or if you are going to be planing planks of wood or doors regularly, you would be better off opting for a stationery planer.

These clearly require a lot more space because they come fixed to their own table so you need to bear that in mind, and because of that, they are nowhere near as flexible to use on smaller projects. But if you do a lot of large plank work then this is the right type of planer for you.

The Ideal Planer Combination

It really depends on the space you have available and the projects you want to achieve but for the average DIY woodworker, who is perhaps upcycling and creating small pieces of furniture at home, the ideal combination would be to have a number of smaller, specialist manual planers aimed at the very tricky, small and delicate jobs, in combination with a cordless electric hand planer of medium blade width, which can be used for virtually everything else you need to do.

If you don’t have the room for a stationary planer, or you would only use it occasionally, then it’s probably not worth spending the money on it as you can always hire one out, or ask a timber shop to plane the planks for you before you actually take them away from the shop in the first place.

 

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