Different Hand Planer Uses

"This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links."

Photo of a factory worker using a large Industrial Electric Planer

What Can You Do with a Hand Planer? 10 Uses and Tips for Manual Planer

A good planer in the right hands can create some gorgeous works of art. No matter what woodworking project you’re working on, a hand planer might be useful.

A lot of people don’t know how much a hand planer can do. Our experts are here to tell you 10 uses for your hand planer, and some helpful tips to get you the best results.

What is a Hand Planer?

First and foremost, we should explain what a hand planer is. It’s a handheld tool that can be manual or powered.

“Hand planer” is the general term that refers to a number of different planers. Sort of like how “car” is the general way to talk about either a Ferrari or a Ford.

It’s used for smoothing out material. It does this through a fixed blade or blades in the body of the hand planer.

For powered planers, the blades will quickly rotate and cut the material underneath the tool.

We discussed how to use a power planer in detail in our other post How to Use a Power Planer, so make sure you check that out.

Types of Hand Planers

There are two major types of hand planers: manual and power. Within each category, you can find a ton of different options. Even so, they can be fairly put into one of the two categories.

Each option has its own pros and cons, and it can sometimes just boil down to personal preference.

Manual Planers

A manual planer is the oldest and easiest type to visualize. There are dozens of different styles of manual planers, but the idea is the same between all of them: you push the tool against the material and remove a thin layer from the top.

The blade is fixed and angled so as you run the tool across a board, the blade is constantly shearing off the top layer.

Manual planers date back to the early 1800s and were a staple in the woodworking community. You’ll find plenty of purists or craftsmen reach for a manual planer — even today.

The perk of manually operated planers is that you can be more precise with your work. It definitely takes a lot more practice to perfect the craft, but it’s well worth it (in our opinion).

Image
Top Pick
STANLEY Hand Planer, No.62, Low Angle Jack (12-137)
Great all rounder
WoodRiver Standard Block Plane with Adjustable Mouth
Low Angle
STANLEY Hand Planer, Low Angle, No. 60-1/2 (12-139)
Great Value
Taytools 469607 Jack Smoothing Bench Hand Plane #5, 14-1/4 Inch Sole, Ductile Cast Body, Lapped Sides and Bottom, Blade RHC 55-60, Sapele Handle and Tote
Trade Quality
WoodRiver No. 1 Bench Hand Plane V3
Product
STANLEY Hand Planer, No.62, Low Angle Jack (12-137)
WoodRiver Standard Block Plane with Adjustable Mouth
STANLEY Hand Planer, Low Angle, No. 60-1/2 (12-139)
Taytools 469607 Jack Smoothing Bench Hand Plane #5
WoodRiver No. 1 Bench Hand Plane V3
Price
$139.99
Price not available
$100.80
$109.99
Price not available
Prime Availability
-
-
-
-
-
Top Pick
Image
STANLEY Hand Planer, No.62, Low Angle Jack (12-137)
Product
STANLEY Hand Planer, No.62, Low Angle Jack (12-137)
Price
$139.99
Prime Availability
-
Buy On Amazon
Great all rounder
Image
WoodRiver Standard Block Plane with Adjustable Mouth
Product
WoodRiver Standard Block Plane with Adjustable Mouth
Price
Price not available
Prime Availability
-
Buy On Amazon
Low Angle
Image
STANLEY Hand Planer, Low Angle, No. 60-1/2 (12-139)
Product
STANLEY Hand Planer, Low Angle, No. 60-1/2 (12-139)
Price
$100.80
Prime Availability
-
Buy On Amazon
Great Value
Image
Taytools 469607 Jack Smoothing Bench Hand Plane #5, 14-1/4 Inch Sole, Ductile Cast Body, Lapped Sides and Bottom, Blade RHC 55-60, Sapele Handle and Tote
Product
Taytools 469607 Jack Smoothing Bench Hand Plane #5
Price
$109.99
Prime Availability
-
Buy On Amazon
Trade Quality
Image
WoodRiver No. 1 Bench Hand Plane V3
Product
WoodRiver No. 1 Bench Hand Plane V3
Price
Price not available
Prime Availability
-
Buy On Amazon

Power Planers

Power planers use electricity to spin blades in the body of the tool. Theoretically, it can be run using a gas-powered engine, but manufacturers almost exclusively make them electrically powered instead.

These planers can plug right into the wall or use a battery pack to get the required power.

The blades are oriented in a very specific way. As they spin around, they cut off material in a smooth fashion.

Japanese Planers

It’s also worth talking about Japanese hand planers. These are almost always manual planers, and they are presented very elegantly and beautifully.

In Japan, woodworking is a very prideful activity. You’ll find that Japanese hand planers can achieve a very precise cut and experts say that this form of planer can help you achieve better control of the tool.

Traditional Japanese planers are made with Japanese oak and the blade is flipped the opposite way. That means that instead of pushing the planer, you actually pull it towards yourself across the board.

If you’re interested, there’s a fascinating book that talks more about Japanese woodworking tools.

10 Uses for a Hand Planer

Here are 10 of our favorite uses of a hand planer. Of course, there are a million creative ways to use one, but these are some of the most common.

Removing Material (Precisely)

Sometimes you’re making a piece for an assembly and you just need to shave off a little material. This is one case where the hand planer comes in handy.

It’s one of the most precise ways to shave off a fraction of an inch precisely. This means if you need to get rid of a 1/4-inch of material from the whole board, you should reach for a planer and do a few passes.

Smoothing a Flat Surface

Perhaps the most common use, a planer can smooth out a surface. For making the perfect tabletop, a smooth surface is essential.

Every pass that the planer makes will create a smoother, more level, and more uniform surface.

Removing Face Defects from a Board or Plank

Every woodworker wants their final product to look smooth and perfect. Natural face defects in a plank of wood are a quick way to ruin that mission.

That is, unless you grab a hand planer. Since planers uniformly remove material, they will get rid of surface-level defects that would otherwise ruin the final appearance of the wood.

Commonly, this means removing a big knot or mar from the top of your board.

It can be done before or after the final piece is assembled, but before the final paint or coating is applied.

Leveling a Floor Joist

Low points in a floor joist will result in squeaky and sagging floors. For any sane homeowner, these problems will drive you to insanity.

Take the problem joist and run a power planer over it a few times. This will remove high points or move a bowed section of your joist.

In the end, you’ll have level floor joists which result in perfect flooring above.

Making a Board Flat

Another very common use is to create truly flat pieces. When a hand planer is run across a piece of material, the finished product has a uniform flatness.

For pieces with bumps, knots, and mars along the face, a hand planer will remove these and give a flat product.

Adding a Chamfer

If you want a quick way to throw a chamfer along a board, an electric planer will come in handy. The tool would run along the corner of a piece and create a professional chamfer along the edge.

Creating Crown Molding

A miter saw can cut crown molding, but a hand planer can actually create the molding. This is a traditional method of making molding and it still holds up.

For this project, the woodworker would use a “molding plane”. This has blades arranged in specific geometries that cut a blank board into a gorgeous piece of molding.

Smoothing a Round Surface

A place where you might want to plane a round surface is your railing. Your railing is composed of a baluster, top rail, and a post cap. As railings get more decorative, more round surfaces are introduced.

You can use a piece of sandpaper for this project, but the final product won’t look precise or tidy enough for some peoples’ standards.

The solution? Use a spar plane hand planer.

Making Quick Rabbets

Rabbets are a technique of joining multiple pieces of wood together.

You can make a rabbet using a table saw or a hand router, but a hand planer will also do the trick. Specialized rabbet planers are used to make precise rabbets.

Clean Out Grooves

If you decide to make a groove with a table saw or hand router, you can be left with some imperfections. Material might not be uniform, corners might not be exactly 90-degrees, and the bottom of your groove could be rounded instead of squared.

It’s a common practice in precision woodworking to clean out a groove with a hand planer. A grooving, router, plow plane are examples of specialty hand planes to get the job done.

Tips for Using a Hand Planer

Now that you know what you can do with your hand planer, we’ll explain some tips to keep in mind. These tips will help you stay safe and will assist in making the perfect piece.

Remember: Safety First

As innocent as a hand planer might look, you have to remember to stay safe. The blades should be incredibly sharp, and they’re unforgiving.

This is especially true with power planers. Keep your fingers away from the blade and make sure they come to a complete stop before moving the tool after a cut.

Keep your safety glasses and respirator on whenever using a power planer. It’s also a good idea to work in a well-ventilated area whenever possible.

For hand planers, it’s a good idea to keep a sturdy pair of gloves on the whole time.

Sharpen Your Blades

A sharp blade will work wonders for your tool. Dull blades will ruin the finish of your product, create unevenness, and might get jammed up during a cut.

If you’re not sure how to sharpen a blade on your own, you can always purchase new blades and replace them as you notice the blade dulling.

A perfectly sharp blade will glide through a plank like a hot knife through butter.

Slow and Steady

With a hand planer, the speed is dependent on what you’re doing and what type of wood you’re cutting. For power planers, it’s common for beginners to go too fast through a cut and mess up the piece.

As you’re starting out, focus on going slow and steady through the cut. There’s no race to get the piece planed — it’s all about control and staying even across the board.

With more experience, you’ll get into a natural rhythm and you’ll know exactly how fast you can go. Until then, focus on going slowly.

Conclusion

At this point, you should understand how to use a hand planer. We included some tips to keep you safe and make sure every project turns out perfectly.

For more woodworking tips and advice, explore the rest of our blog. Our woodworking experts are here to help with your big project.

Different hand planer uses

Help us out by spreading the word!!
  •  
  • 30
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    30
    Shares

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Three planers to consider - The Best Power Toolz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*