Electric Planer vs Hand Planer: Which Is Better?

Woodworking is a craft that requires precision and skill, and selecting the right tool is essential to achieving the desired result. Electric and hand planers are two of the most commonly used tools for shaping and smoothing wood.

While both have similar primary purposes, their power source, speed, ideal use, and convenience differ significantly. Hence, let’s explore the differences between electric and hand planers and their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Whether you are a professional woodworker or a DIY enthusiast, understanding these differences will help you make an informed decide what tool to use, an electric planer vs hand planers, for your next woodworking project.

What Is an Electric Planer?

These power tools used to shape and smooth the surface of a piece of wood are also known as power planers or electric hand planers. Note that electric planers are different from bench planers, thickness planers, manual planers, joinery planers, cordless planers, and molding planers.

Electric planers use double-edged blades to cut away material from the layers of wood. These blades are usually quite sharp, perfect for quickly removing rough edges and twists on boards, leaving a smooth and flat finish.

They are also adjustable, allowing you to take off as little or as much material as you need.

Additionally, you can use electric planers on rough lumber and rough surfaces. They also usually have rear shoes to help guide the planer, keep your planer level on the surface, and prevent it from digging into the wood.

You’ll also find an adjustable fence to create shapes and curves.

Cutting depth and width can also be adjusted. Some electric planers also come with a honing guide that allows you to make radius cuts.

Benefits of an Electric Planer

Electric planers offer several benefits that make them popular among many woodworkers. Here are some of the most notable advantages of using an electric planer:

  • Speed and Efficiency: Since they’re powered by electricity, electric planers can shape and level layers of wood quickly and efficiently.
  • Precise and Accurate Cuts: Electric planers are designed to be highly precise and accurate, allowing woodworkers to achieve the desired results with minimal effort.
  • Consistent and Uniform Results: Electric planers offer consistent and uniform results, ensuring that each pass over the wood produces a similar cut and finish.
  • Wide Range of Depth of Cut: Electric planers can create shallow to deep cuts, making them suitable for a wider range of woodworking projects.
  • High Amount of Power: Electric planers can handle dense and hard wood and high amounts of wood without causing too much fatigue on the user.
  • Versatility: Electric planers can be used for a wide range of tasks, including leveling, smoothing, and shaping wood, as well as planing doors, windows, and other fixtures.

Disadvantages of an Electric Planer

Electric planers are powerful and efficient woodworking tools, but they also have some disadvantages that may be important to consider before using them. Here are some potential disadvantages of electric planers:

  • High Cost: Electric planers can be quite expensive, which may be a factor for those on a budget.
  • Operating Noise: Electric planers are generally quite loud, especially when cutting through dense or hard wood. This may be a concern if you are working in a shared space or a residential area.
  • Can Be Dangerous: Electric planers can be dangerous if not used properly, and the high speed of the blade can cause serious injury if the tool is mishandled.
  • Generates High Amount of Dust: Electric planers generate a lot of sawdust and debris, which can be messy and difficult to clean up.
  • Limited Mobility: Electric planers require a power source and can be quite heavy, which may limit their portability and use in outdoor settings.
  • Steep Learning Curve: Electric planers can take some time to master, and it may be difficult for beginners to achieve the desired precision and accuracy.

What Is a Hand Planer?

Hand planers are some of the oldest and most basic power tools designed to smooth and flatten a piece of wood. They are ideal for quickly removing rough lumber, smoothing rough surfaces, and cutting grooves.

Like electric planers, they have double-edged blades which are sharp and designed to cut away rough edges and twists on boards. They also have rear shoes, which help keep the planer stable, and an adjustable fence to help make straight cuts.

You can also purchase a honing guide and a radius cutter to help make curvy cuts. With a hand planer, you can adjust the cutting depth or thickness of the cut.

Benefits of a Hand Planer

Hand planers offer several benefits that may make them a good choice for some woodworking projects. Here are some of the reasons why choosing a hand planer is a good decision:

  • Portability: Hand planers are lightweight and portable, making them easy to transport and use in remote or outdoor settings where electrical power is unavailable.
  • Quiet Operation: Hand planers produce minimal noise compared to electric planers, making them a good choice for use in residential areas or other settings where loud noise is undesirable.
  • Greater Control: Hand planers offer greater control and precision, allowing woodworkers to make fine adjustments and achieve a smoother finish than they might with an electric planer.
  • Affordability: Hand planers are generally less expensive, making them an attractive option for those on a tight budget.
  • User- and Maintenance-Friendly: Hand planers are simple to operate and require minimal maintenance, making them a good choice for beginners or those who prefer a more hands-on approach to woodworking.
  • Easy to Sharpen: Hand planers are easy to sharpen, which can be done using a sharpening stone or other tool, making it simple to keep the blade sharp and in good condition.

Disadvantages of a Hand Planer

Hand planers are versatile and portable woodworking tools that can be very effective in shaping and smoothing wood, but they also have some potential disadvantages that may be important to consider, such as:

  • Requires Physical Effort: Hand planers require physical effort to operate, which may be tiring for some users, particularly for extended periods of use.
  • Slower Pace: Since you don’t get assistance from electricity or battery, you’ll usually finish projects in a slower pace when using hand planers. This may be a factor for those with larger or more complex woodworking projects.
  • Limited Precision: Hand planers require greater skill and technique to achieve precise cuts and finishes, which may be difficult for beginners or those with less experience.
  • Limited Cutting Depth: Hand planers have a limited cutting depth, which may not be suitable for some projects that require deeper cuts.
  • Unevenness: Hand planers can sometimes produce uneven surfaces and even depth of wood cuts if not used properly. This results in less presentable finishes or rough spots on the wood.
  • Tedious to Maintain: Hand planers require regular maintenance, including sharpening the blade and keeping it free of rust and corrosion.

Electric Planer vs Hand Planer Comparison

Based on the information above, we can say that comparing an electric planer to a hand planer is like comparing apples to oranges. That said, let’s break down the main features that differentiate each type of planer:

Power Source and Speed

Electric planers are powered by electricity, while hand planers are powered by manual labor. They are usually bench planers that use double-edged blades to plane a piece of wood quickly.

Hand planers also use double-edged blades to plane a piece of wood, but the results are not as consistent as the results from an electric planer.

Ideal Use

Electric planers are well-suited for large-scale projects, such as planing entire pieces of wood to create a flat surface. In addition, they are typically used for more complex tasks, such as thickness planing, joinery planing, and molding planing.

Hand planers, on the other hand, are well-suited for smaller and simpler projects, such as planing a single piece of wood to create a flat surface.

Electric planers can quickly and easily remove rough edges and twists on boards, while hand planers are better suited for removing rough lumber.


With both types of wood planers, you can find a model with rear shoes and adjustable fences to help create more even planing results.

However, electric planers are typically larger, heavier, and more expensive than hand planers but usually have a honing guide to create accurate radius cuts and control the cutting depth of the planer.

On the contrary, hand planers are lighter, more portable, and affordable, but you won’t usually find one with a honing guide. They are also more challenging to maintain than electric planers.

Which Should Type of Planer Should I Choose?

Electric and hand planers are essential tools used to create a smooth and even surface on wood.

However, electric planers are more powerful and offer more features and benefits than manual hand planers. In contrast, hand planers are easy to use and carry around, making them great for smaller projects.

Both electric and hand planers have advantages and disadvantages, so it is important to consider your needs, budget, and types of projects you do regularly when deciding between electric planer vs hand planer.

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