You like to think that among your fellow ogres that you are urbane and sophisticated. While they are kicking in doors and stealing children, you are reading Chaucer and contemplating life as if The Enlightenment had never happened. They use gnarled tree limbs to club and capture their human prey. You use a sleek, smoothly finished length of ash wood with a shaped handle. In fact, you consider your club to be a perfect example of what has set you apart from the other ogres.
The story of how you made your club starts with that one time you read reviews of electric wood planers on the Internet. Perhaps even this one, which looks at a handful of wood planers and then offers tips on how to purchase them. And if you aren’t an ogre? We also hope you find valuable information in our reviews and buyers’ guide in how to make a great electric hand planer purchase.
|Makita KP0800K ||10 lbs||4.7/5|
(Best for the Money)
|PORTER-CABLE PC60THP||9 lbs||4.4/5|
|Bosch PL1632RT||6 lbs||4.2/5|
Our top pick went to the DW680K, and it wasn’t a hard decision. This one does everything. It costs more, yes, but every dollar you spend is returned to you in something to produce better, more consistent work.
Among the hand planers we tested, it was the lightest and most comfortable to use. The importance is often overlooked as people look to sexier things like features and the number of revolutions per minute by the motor. But, comfort and weight are features that make the user better at using the tool. And since a big part of hand planing is a patient tool user, making the tool user as happy as is possible is critical.
One thing we didn’t like was that the waste collection was pretty terrible. If you bring this to a job site, you also better bring a broom, because you’re going to have cleaning up to do.
Still, all in all, the DW680K was our pick of the litter.
We could have gone with the Makita KP0800K as our top pick. We could have done that and been perfectly comfortable in our selection. It is indeed a great electric hand planer. With a user that pairs it with some patience, there is nothing that can’t be achieved. It is as effective on hard wood as it is on soft, and works quickly and fluidly enough to keep up.
The neck-and-neck competition remained even when it came to price. Both are pricey compared to most electric hand planers, and both are good values despite it because of how they perform. Pay for quality, get quality.
What set the DW680K apart from this was weight. This one comes in at a honking 10 pounds. That wouldn’t make much difference if we were talking about a stationary tool. But this is a hand tool, and every pound of weight means a pound that the user has to hold up. Ten pounds is a hard thing to hold steady for long hours of work.
That weight is the difference to us between a top pick and a runnerup. Both are great tools and great values, but one is simply easier to use.
For the majority of people, the WEN 6530 is the electric hand planer you can get by with. It’s very affordable and to be perfectly honest it’ll do basically anything an average home user will ever want. The WEN 6530 will unstick it. Want to customize an art frame? It’ll do that. Has the trap door to your oubliette swollen shut? With the WEN 6530, you can once again imprison your neighbors with confidence. And if you’re patient enough, you can use it to do more difficult jobs, too.
What we didn’t like about it was stuff at the edges, not quite direct performance but things that support performance. Swapping out blades was a trial, which for a tool that relies on sharp blades doing smooth work means more frequent maintenance pauses than you probably want. Also, you may as well not even use the waste bag. It fills quickly and then fills the room with sawdust.
It’s a great starting point for electric hand planer shopping. You can spend a basic amount of money and be confident that you can do most things with it. Or you can begin pricing extras and performance-related features to see what fits into your budget or what you’re willing to spend extra on.
The Porter-Cable PC60THP is an ogre among hand planers. It’s big, brutal and once you push the trigger it comes out swinging. If you leave this thing out at night, we are confident in saying that it will steal up from your basement and try to throttle you in your sleep. So, if you buy this one, be prepared to kill it before it kills you.
On the plus side, it’s fast and aggressive. It runs the fastest of any of the hand planers we tested, like 17,000 RPM to 15,000 RPM faster. It has little trouble with hard wood and can slide effortlessly across soft.
But, an ogre it remains and planing wood demands finesse and patience on the part of the user. Brute strength will pound a nail into place, but in evening wood there’s a real risk that if you aren’t careful that you’ll take a nice straight 2×2 and make it look like driftwood.
It’s also bigger than the other hand planers. That creates a very real risk for user fatigue, which is where safety issues start. And, when it comes to planing wood, quality starts to decline.
Usually, we like Bosch tools. Usually they’re good. The PL1632RT? Nope.
It did an okay job on small, soft wood. If you need to repair kitchen cabinets or take a little off a stuck door, it’ll do that job pretty effectively for you.
If you have needs that would put greater strain on it, you’ll want to pass on it. Our blade chipped on an oak plank. We also noticed that the shoe was made from aluminum, a nice soft metal prone to warping when exposed to heat.
For all that, you’d expect this turkey to be light and cheap. It is neither. It is nearly 10 pounds and it comes with a Bosch price tag without delivering any of the traditional Bosch quality. We recommend that you pass on this model. Go look at something else. Go look at a different Bosch hand planer, if you’re really attached to the brand. Spare your own sanity, however, and give this one a miss.
Okay, so you’ve read what we have to say about these electric hand planers and while you found it helpful you really prefer to make up your own mind. We’re down with that, and have some handy tips to help guide your decision making.
Your first step is pairing the tool to the job. Ask yourself just what you will do with it. If you’re going to build shelves or repair frames, you’re okay going small and portable. If you’re going to repair that set of antique oak furniture you inherited from Aunt Bertha, you’ll want to invest in a large, powerful planer. In fact, you should ask yourself whether a hand planer is the right tool for the job. A portable planer might work better for what you need. If you’re going the time and trouble to research which tool is right, leave no stone unturned.
Normally, we would start talking about the construction of tools at this point. With electric hand planers, however, you get to that by being frank that the first, best way to guarantee good results is by understanding that quality starts with patience. You can drop a few hundred dollars on the most powerful electric hand planer on the market but still wind up with uneven, rough results if the user expects the tool to do the work.
That’s not the case. Truthfully, most electric hand planers are capable of doing a perfectly acceptable job. Success and failure starts with the person using the tool, understanding that the job doesn’t get done merely by pushing a button. Most electric hand planers are truthfully perfectly capable of handling most jobs. The same can’t always be said of the hands using it.
It’s a no-brainer tip to say that hand planers with a higher cutting speed and more power provide smoother results. This not only matters in the finished product but also in tool wear and tear. The easier a job your tool has, the longer it’ll last. You can invest extra to get buffed out power and speed.
This also includes being honest about what kind of wood you’re going to work. Small underpowered planers work just fine on softwoods but have difficulty getting traction on denser hardwoods. Cutting hardwood puts additional stress on your tool, and if you underinvest you can burn through your money replacing them.
To address that, look at the number of cuts per minute. The higher the number, the easier it will work the wood.
Because the quality of your results hinges on the user’s ability to remain patient, the most important thing an electric hand planer can offer is consistency. You want your planer to cut at the same rate the entire time you are using it. This creates an instant dilemma: going cordless is really in fashion these days, but as a cordless tool’s battery loses juice it just gets slower.
For that reason, you should consider the consistent output of a corded electric planer over a cordless one. Cordless hand planers have their advantages. They are more nimble to use and it’s easier to take them to the job. Plus, having a bunch of cords plugged in to a bunch of outlets at a job site creates no end to trip hazards. But, it’s also important to remember that the tool is a secondary consideration when it comes to the quality of planning. If you have to swap out batteries in the middle of working, it’s like starting from scratch.
We looked entirely at hand planers with cords primarily for that reason. And while we’re at it, we’d like to suggest that if you follow our advice that you find a model with a power cord of at least six feet. That’s a pretty standard cord length, anyway, but if you’re getting in close and personal with something you’re working you don’t want an extension cord connection to get in the way.
Keeping with the idea that user patience is primarily what determines success, weight and ergonomic design are underappreciated features. If we’re talking about a stationary planer, one that you set up and bring to the wood, too, it’s much less important. But, hand planers are by design portable so user comfort is key.
Bulky, clumsy, heavy electric hand planers induce fatigue. A fatigued user is a less careful user. You can see where we’re going with this. The primary consideration in handing our top ranking to the DeWalt DW680K over the Makita KP0800K was the 3.5-pound weight differential.
Part of comfort is waste management. Electric hand planers create a lot of waste. A lot of it. Managing wood chips and dust is critical to safe and comfortable work. We liked the WEN for its for-dollar value. We didn’t like it because it requires a special adapter to really get rid of waste. At the very least, get a model that directs waste instead of letting it spray all over the place. Although we gave it the top rank, DeWalt’s DW680K was knocked because its design doesn’t account for managing shavings.
Because consistency is so important in planing wood, you want to control over as many variables as possible. That includes making sure the fencing is precise and built to stay in place. A poorly constructed fence that won’t stay in place necessarily creates a greater chance that what you’d hoped was a flat, smooth surface is uneven.
This also applies to depth gauges. A high-quality depth gauge helps guarantee that the steady, patient hands of the tool user work to a desired depth. A depth gauge that isn’t high quality requires constant attention and fussing with.
While we’re at it, look at a hand planer’s ability to cut excellent chamfers and rabbets. You might never foresee yourself needing to do either, and you might be right. On the other hand, you’re already looking at hand planers, and both those tasks are specialized. So, if two models you’re looking at are in every other way mostly equal, their ability to go over and above a simple planing might help tip the scale.
By the very nature of their work, electric hand planers are a rough-and-tumble tool. Operation requires that they remain constantly and entirely in contact with your working surface. That’s quite a bit different than a saw or a drill that are in contact only at the tip of the cutting edge.
That means two things: lots of heat, and wear and tear. We’re talking about thousands of cuts per minute for a good electric hand planer. All that motion puts out quite a little bit of heat, which can damage or warp parts of your hand planer over the long haul. Look for a model with cast metal plates, which maintain their shape better in a heated, rough environment than a stamped metal one.
The WEN 6530 was our choice for best for the money not because it’s the least expensive, but because it delivers the best for-dollar performance. For a job where the tool matters less than the patience of the person using it, that’s kind of a big deal.
Of course, that’s not the end of your decision making. But it is a great starting point, where you take a look at how much money you’re willing to spend, how much upgrades on each feature will cost and whether you are willing to pay for them.
For us, DeWalt’s DE680K was the best electric hand planer we took a look at. Despite a waste management issue, it performed excellently and can stand up to the work. Also, it was more than three pounds lighter than the Makita KP0800K, our runnerup. We also really liked that model, and in fact were it not for the weight would have probably gone with it as our “Best of”. The WEN 6530 was our best for the money choice, and truthfully it’s a model that most homeowners could get by on. Porter Cable’s PC60THP was too aggressive for our tastes, making it difficult for occasional DIYers to create smooth surfaces, and it was too big. And we were disappointed in Bosch’s PL1632RT, which has an aluminum sole destined in many cases to warp and make the tool less precise.
We hope you found these reviews useful in evaluating electric hand planers. We hope that they help you find just the right tool for your needs. And, if you felt like we didn’t review enough of the models in the marketplace, we hope you read through our buyers’ guide to pick up tips on what to look for yourself. We wish you the best in fortune and purchase acumen.
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