What Type of Planer Should I Buy?

Choosing the right planer type depends on whether you are new to woodworking or just starting.

To answer the question, “What type of planer should I buy?” you’ll need to consider things like what you are most likely to use, what you will use it for, your budget, and your storage space.

Generally speaking, though, there are several types of wood planers out on the market today, and they all do slightly different jobs.

Table of Contents

    Different planers fall under two categories, namely:

    • Manual Planers
    • Electric Planers

    To break it down quickly:

    A manual planer would be for small projects, while an electric planer, due to its speed, is for more extensive or regular projects.

    Here is a better guide on each category with their advantages and disadvantages explained in more detail:

    Manual Planer

    • Most affordable option
    • Available in different styles and sizes
    • Provides complete control using your hand
    • Ideal for small and detailed projects
    • Portable and easy to use
    • No cords or batteries needed
    • Time-consuming
    • Requires physical effort
    • More tiring to use

    Electric Planer

    • More powerful
    • Can complete a task quicker
    • More efficient
    • Versatile
    • Available in corded and cordless options
    • Requires practice
    • Hard to control small and detailed tasks
    • More expensive
    • Needs a power source
    • Noisy
    • Potentially dangerous

    Within these generalized categories sit a lot of different types of planes, which you can choose from 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?

    It shows just how long this type of woodworking tool has been around and how important it is to have one in your workshop.

    Different Types of Manual or Hand Planers

    If you are a beginner in woodworking asking, “What type of planer should I buy?” you will want to look at manual or hand planers first.

    Manual planers are categorized into different kinds depending on the required task. Here are some examples:

    Scrub Planer

    A scrub planer is ideal for removing large chunks of wood from a lumber’s surface. For example, when you want to reduce a board’s thickness or remove a twist when preparing rough stock.

    It comes with a short base, a narrow but thick blade, and a deeply curved blade, allowing you to create a deep and gouging cut.

    Although most hand planers are used parallel to the board’s length or along the grain, a scrub planer is more effective because you move it across the board for diagonal strokes.

    Jack Planer

    A jack planer typically measures 12 to 18 inches long and 2.5 to three inches wide. It is one of the most versatile hand tools for woodworking.

    It is ideal for dressing timber to a specific size for truing or edge jointing and other woodworking purposes.

    While a scrub planer is more effective for highly rugged wood, a jack planer is typically the first tool you need for rough stock.

    With its slight camber, the blade allows you to remove more wood without damaging the entire workpiece.

    If you want a more refined finish, you can grind the jack planer’s blade like a smoothing tool.

    It is best to use this tool to diagonally plane along the grain and level the workpiece roughly before following the grain’s direction.

    Jointer Planer

    The jointer planer is the longest hand planer, often measuring 20 to 24 inches long. Thus, it is perfect for straightening the edges or flattening the surface of a board.

    Due to its impressive length, a jointer planer rides over the waviness of an uneven board and removes the top part for a flatter surface.

    Smoothing Planer

    As the shortest tool among hand planes, a smoothing planer comes in handy when flattening board surfaces.

    It is the perfect tool for removing woodworking marks after using other bench planers like the fore, jack, or jointer.

    You can use a smoothing planer to remove finer shavings on your workpiece and prepare it for the finishing touches.

    Hand Planers With Specific Functions

    The following manual planers are designed to perform specific tasks for different workpieces and projects:

    Flat-Planer Bottom-Edged

    This flat-bottomed hand planer is a mini tool that allows you to handle your DIY projects easily.

    It has rectangular holes at the center of its wooden block, a sharp, durable blade, and no handles.

    This design makes it ideal for polishing and deburring woodworking surfaces, giving them smooth surfaces and fine details.

    Rabbet Plane

    Aptly named, this hand planer makes rabbets or grooves on the edge of the workpiece to create joint space.

    For example, you can make a rabbet into a window frame for glazing or a simple corner joint.

    A rabbet cut is straightforward and one of the first techniques most woodworkers learn to do, allowing them to use it in various ways.

    Also known as a rebate plane, it has a sharpened small metal attached to a plastic or wooden handle.

    The slightly-angled metal lets you cut sharply and crisply, creating an L-shaped groove. The depth of the cut will depend on how much pressure you put on the planer.

    Two-Handed Spokeshave Planer

    Here’s a little twist on the standard hand planer. As its name implies, it comes with two handles on either side, with the blade in the middle, securing the body.

    This design makes it more lightweight, so it is easier to control every planing motion.

    It’s the perfect tool for shaping corners using quick and delicate movements. The adjustable blade allows you to make the necessary alterations according to your required cut depth.

    Most spokeshave planes have a sole plate for fixing the blade’s angle according to your planing needs. Hence, the various edges and soles for different applications.

    Concave and convex spokeshaves are different varieties ideal for planing curves, concave, or convex surfaces.

    You will also find the combination type, fitted with convex and concave blades, that works well for different areas.

    Also, a flat-bottomed spokeshave is available if you are working on a project with a flat surface. Lastly, there’s the round-bottomed spokeshave for concaved surfaces and tight curves.

    All these spokeshave plane variations help shape and smooth wood for various projects, like bows and arrows, chair legs, cartwheel spokes, paddles, and more.

    Shoulder Planer

    A shoulder planer is a versatile tool for trimming the tenon shoulders and other joints. Although it has different variations, all of them offer a distinct feature.

    Its shoulder plane’s cutting edge extends across the sole’s width, allowing you to cut into a corner or a square edge as needed.

    Some woodworkers consider this tool as their all-purpose joinery-tuning device.

    Fillister Planer

    A fillister plane is perfect for cutting quick and accurate rebates along the grain but can also perform cross-grain cutting with a spur or nicker.

    It comes in two primary types: iron and wooden.

    An iron fillister plane is popular, inexpensive, and fitted with two mouths. The one in the middle is for fillister tasks, while the other near the front is for bullnose plane functions.

    This multi-purpose iron fillister plane is sometimes called a duplex because it has two mouths and functions.

    In comparison, a wooden fillister is a traditional rebate plane fitted with a depth stop, a dual-armed adjustable fence, and a nicker.

    A nicker is a pointed blade fastened in front of the primary plane edge and functions similarly to the spur.

    Molding Planer

    Another specialized tool is the molding plane used for creating complex shapes in wooden embellishments.

    Although generally considered outdated, some furniture shops still have a collection of these molding planes, which they use for restoration or reproduction.

    Grooving Planer

    A grooving or plow planer uses a narrow blade or iron, as small as three millimeters across, for cutting grooves in the wood.

    Traditionally, it creates grooves for box bottoms, cabinet backs, drawers, frames, and panel constructions.

    Most grooving planes can accommodate blades of different widths, allowing you to use them for other applications.

    Router Planer

    You use a router planer for leveling and trimming the bottoms of joint corners like shallow housings and mortises.

    It flattens the recesses in consistent depth, even reaching into hard-to-reach corners using a unique blade with a cranked-up bottom.

    Some router planers come with a bullnose configuration, allowing you to reverse the iron so it can reach the corner further.

    Chisel Planer

    A chisel planer is an excellent tool different from the standard variety. While it does not have a front support for the blade, it offers precise control.

    In addition to being an excellent cleanup tool, a chisel planer can flus-trim joints, remove dry glue, and reach into the right-angle joint or corner.

    Finger Planer

    A finger planer is a small tool with a brass body, generally used by guitar and violin makers for the final trimming after glue-up.

    You can use it to level inlays on a curved instrument’s tops and edges.

    It comes with a narrow blade width, making it perfect for trimming thin board edges or scrubbing small areas.

    A finger plane comes with two bases. The flat base is for convex work, while those with curved bases are for concave surfaces.

    Circular Planer

    You will need a circular planer in woodworking for smoothing and shaping curved pieces of your workpieces.

    Contrary to its name, the base of a circular plane is similar to an arc or a rocking chair, allowing it to work on convex or concave surfaces.

    It’s also a flexible tool, so you can modify its setting to accommodate the curve or roundness of the workpiece.

    A circular plane has an arc base, handle, and tension system generally used for projects like boat building and repair, cabinetry, furniture-making, and more.

    Toothing Planer

    A toothing plane, or a scraping tool, comes in a high-angled block plane fitted with a serrated blade.

    The blade angle and the teeth’s coarseness vary depending on the user’s preference.

    Basically, it works by scratching the wood surface instead of shaving it like a standard planer.

    Different Types of Electric Planers

    An electric planer is an excellent alternative to the manual varieties if you want to work quickly and not exert too much physical effort.

    Additionally, most electric planers are adjustable, giving you an accurate depth for each cut.

    Benchtop Planer

    This box-shaped woodworking tool snaps and cuts boards with even thicknesses on both sides. It has multiple high-speed blades for trimming tiny layers of wood.

    A benchtop planer’s design makes it the first electric tool to deal with small pieces of lumber. You can also adjust its cutting height to your required specifications.

    The consistent thickness feature of a benchtop planer allows you to create level tabletops and other projects.

    Handheld Planer

    An electric hand planer can remove small quantities of wood from your workpiece by trimming its surface and rough edges.

    Generally, it comes with two to three blades, allowing it to cut material from 1/8 to 3/32 inches.

    This electric tool works similarly to a manual hand planer, but the rotating blade between two metal plates cuts the wood faster.

    The spinning blade of an electric handheld planer can turn from 10,000 to 20,000 rotations per minute. It also comes with a contoured handle, giving you more control.

    Molding Planer

    An electric molding planer doubles as a dimensioning machine for professional woodworkers handling large projects.

    It’s the ideal tool for making baseboards, clean-shaped workpieces, crown moldings, elliptical moldings, and frames.

    A molding planer is an advanced tool for shaping and designing all kinds of lumber. However, you will need ample space to use this machine effectively.

    Stationary Planer 

    A stationary planer is an industrial-grade woodworking device for professionals and is used for heavy-duty projects.

    It doesn’t come cheap, so it’s ideal for professionals with plenty of large-budget work and a large working area for the machine.

    What Type of Planer Should I Buy?

    There are many kinds of manual planers that do different jobs, so your choice depends on what you want to achieve.

    If you do plenty of medium-sized projects without too much intricate detailing, you’d be better off looking at an electric hand planer.

    It has different shapes and sizes but is so flexible that you only need to buy one to meet all your woodwork needs.

    Ideal for projects like planing a tabletop, an electric hand planer is adaptable and can achieve most finishes.

    However, if you are planing planks of wood or doors regularly, you’d benefit more from choosing a benchtop planer. 

    Because of its design, it becomes inflexible for smaller projects and will require plenty of space to be efficient.

    If you are an average woodworker creating small furniture at home, you can have several specialized manual planers in your workshop.

    You can use them with a cordless electric hand planer with a medium blade width for your other tasks.

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