Planers are not as expensive as they used to be. Today, many models will let you convert stock wood into boards of uniform thickness. So, you can think of planers as investments. Yes, they take a few months to break even. But after that point, the planer adds to your bottom-line every time you use it.
But, buying a planer could prove challenging. With so many models and brands, choosing one over the other after weighing all the pros and cons requires a lot of time and effort. But, we’ve done most of the hard work for you. If you’re ready to spend 10 minutes here, you will easily find out what is the best wood planer for you. So, let’s jump into the wood planer reviews.
(Best for the Money)
|DEWALT DW734||$$$$||Benchtop||80 lbs||4.4/5|
|PORTER CABLE PC305TP||$$$||Benchtop||65 lbs||4.3/5|
|PORTER-CABLE PC60THP||$||Hand||9 lbs||4.1/5|
Do you buy a lot of pre-surfaced lumber? Well, if you own a thickness planer, you can prepare the surface of warped or irregular wood to produce planks of even thickness. To understand how a thickness planer works, you must know the main parts of a thickness planer.
A thickness planer has three main parts — the in-feed roller, the cutter, and the out-feed roller. First, the in-feed roller pushes the wood towards the cutter at a uniform speed. Then, the cutter shaves the wood according to a pre-set depth. Lastly, the out-feed roller pulls the wood from the cutter.
When a thickness planer is correctly configured, the planks come out with minimal scallops and snipe. With some quick sanding, you can get lumber of even thickness and premium finish without relying on pre-surfaced wood.
The DEWALT DW735 is the best thickness planer on the market. Its three-knife cutter head rotates at a blazing 10,000 RPM and has no problem evenly cutting wood as wide as 13 inches. The three-knife assembly also reduces the load on each blade, thereby prolonging the blade’s life by 30 percent.
Another fantastic reason to buy the DW735 is its two-speed gearbox. You can set the machine to feed wood at 14 ft. per minute or 26 ft. per minute. At the lower speed, the machine makes 96 cuts per inch, and at the higher speed, this planer makes 179 cuts per inch. The variable speed setting allows you to optimize your workflow.
For instance, if you’re not in a rush, you can run the machine at the lower setting. Although this increases the number of final changes, running the machine at low speed can increase the blade’s life. However, if you have to rush a job, you can count on the high-speed setting, albeit at the cost of reducing the blade’s life.
The addition of an automatic four-column lock to the carriage prevents the material from moving. This in turn reduces snipe when planing the ends of the piece. This planer will also keep your shop floor clean because of the built-in chip ejection system.
The best part is that all this comes with a 3-year warranty. DEWALT has also thrown in one year of free service and a 90-day money back guarantee to give you the confidence to spend a premium amount on this wonderful product.
The WEN 6550 is an incredible thickness planer you can buy at less than half the DW735’s price. It is one of the best thickness planers for the money. But, whenever I see a low-cost product that superficially looks as good as a high-end model, I dig deep. After all, there has to be a reason that justifies the wide disparity in price. So, I looked under the WEN 6550’s hood and here’s what I found.
First, thing I noticed was that the WEN 6550 does not advertise its cuts per inch. Not directly at least. So, I had to calculate the whole thing from the values that were publically available. The input-feed speed for this machine is 26 ft. per minute. The WEN6550 makes 18,800 cuts per minute. From the two values, the cuts per inch for this machine comes to 60 cuts per inch. So, the WEN 6550’s makes 66 percent less cuts per inch than the DW735. There you have it – the reason why this product is priced the way it is.
When it comes to all other parameters, such as planing height, planing width, and planing depth, the WEN 6550 compares favorably with the DW735. The latter is obviously better, but the WEN machine isn’t far behind. If you’re okay with 60 cuts per inch, then everything else about this machine is wonderful, especially the pricing.
This is simply one of the top planers under $500 as of right now.
A benchtop planer and a thickness planer don’t vary much in purpose, function, and construction. Like the thickness planer, the benchtop planer also lets you produce lumber of even thickness. However, the two machines differ in capacity.
A benchtop planer does what a thickness planer, but to a lesser degree. For example, thickness planers deliver more cuts per inch than benchtop planers do. Thus, the finishing on the wood that comes out of a thickness planer is much more refined than the ones that come out of a benchtop planer.
However, not everyone would have the budget or room to buy a thickness planer. But, benchtop planers cost half as much as thickness planers do. Thus, a lot of people can afford to buy one. Now, let’s look at some of the top benchtop planers in the market.
DEWALT claims the top spot for benchtop planers as well. The DEWALT DW734 is the best benchtop planer on the market. This machine is exactly like its big brother, the DW735. However, the DW734 does not have two speed settings. It only operates at an input-feed speed of 14 ft. per minute. At this rate, the cuts per inch for this machine is 96. The absence of a high-speed setting is the reason why this machine is a benchtop planer and not a thickness planer.
Apart from this crucial difference, the two machines are nearly alike. For instance, both machines have the three-knife assembly, four-column carriage lock, and extra-long feed table. Even cutting parameters, such as planing height and planing depth are the same. However, at 12.5 inches, the planing width on this machine is half an inch shorter than the DW735’s planing width.
This machine also provides the attractive 3-year warranty, one-year free service, and 90-day money back offer. Now, you may be wondering, “should I go for a cheap thickness planer or a high-end benchtop planer?” That’s not an easy question to answer. But, don’t worry I’ve written in-depth about this in the buying guide.
The Porter Cable PC305TP is low-cost solution to your planing needs. However, it is wise to examine the reason why this product costs 22 percent less than the DW734. As was the case before, the difference in cost comes down to cuts per inch. Again, the PC305TP doesn’t state the cuts per inch anywhere. So, I had to do the math myself.
The PC305TP has an input-feed speed of 26.2 ft. per minute. Now, this is impressive because the DW734’s input-feed speed is only 14 ft. per minute. Next, the PC305TP makes 16,000 cuts per minute. This means it makes 50 cuts per inch. So, the PC305TP lets you plane lumber faster, but the finishing is poor. On the other hand, the DW734 lets you plane lumber with high finishing, but the speed is low. Depending on your preference, you can choose speed over quality or vice versa.
Since the matter of cuts per inch comes down to personal preference, I looked at some other reasons why the PC305TP is a budget model and I found a crucial difference in the planing capacity. While both models can accommodate a 12.5-inch stock, the cut depth for the PC305TP is 1/16 inches. But, the DW734 can cut as deep as 1/8 inches in a single pass. So, although the PC305TP has higher input-feed speed, it will need two passes to accomplish what a DW734 can do in a single pass. This rather neutralizes the PC305TP’s initial speed advantage.
Now that you know the nature of the compromises you must make for the sake of affordability, best thing to do is save money for the DW734. But, if you urgently need a budget friendly benchtop planer, the PC305TP is the best benchtop planer for the money.
Woodworkers use thickness planers and benchtop planers to produce lumber of even thickness. These machines are extremely good at what they do. But, they’re severely limited in terms of versatility. Thickness planers and benchtop planers can’t do anything else other than resizing the thickness of lumber.
Hand planers, on the other hand, are very versatile. You can use a hand planer for smoothening just about any wooden surface. They are light, portable, and cheap. The hand planer has been a part of a carpenter’s tool kit for centuries. Today, they are as relevant as ever. So, if you don’t have a hand planer, you ought to change that right now.
The prize for the best portable hand planer on the market goes to the DEWALT DW630K. So, once again, we have a DEWALT product at the top. Like all the other DEWALT products, the DW630K also comes with a 3-year warranty, one-year free service, and 90-day money back guarantee. So, what are the DW630K’s claims to fame? Let’s take a look.
Firstly, this machine is powerful for a hand tool. Drawing 7 A of electricity at 120 V, the DW630K draws 840 Watts of electricity. That’s powerful. And all that power gets channeled into a high-speed steel blade, rotating at 15,000 RPM. The blades can cut up to 3/32 inches. So, you can cover more ground in a single pass.
The calibrated depth adjustment knob allows you to set the precise depth without having to zero the depth every time. And if you want more detailed and accurate results, you can swap the default steel blades for reversible carbide blades that come with the package. The planer has a planing width of 3.24 inches and a rabbeting depth of 0.5 inches.
However, all this power and precision comes at a heavy price tag. So, as is the usual case with DEWALT products, I’d advise you to wait until you can afford it. However, if waiting is not an option, go for our budget product.
If you need a hand planer immediately, and the DW680K is out of your budget, the Porter Cable PC60THP is your best bet. The PC60THP can make cuts as deep as 5/64 inches. To put things in perspective, the depth of cut for the DW680K is 6/64 inches. So, the difference is only 1/64th of an inch or 0.4 millimeters. Now, I don’t think such as minor difference makes a huge impact of the performance. So, this budget product actually compares favorably with out top pick in this regard.
However, the depth adjustment mechanism on the PC60THP isn’t as high-tech or precise as the DW6980K’s. On the PC60THP, you have to set the depth using the 10-position depth adjustment knob. However, the adjustment knob isn’t pre-calibrated. So, you must make several test cuts on scraps to get the settings right. And whenever you change the blade, you must re-adjust the blade.
Now, this portable hand planer costs around $60 to $70. It isn’t a huge investment. For small to mid-scale operations, this will do just fine. However, if you work in a high-scale setting you will have to upgrade to a high-end model anyway. In this product’s case, the price reduction to performance reduction isn’t that high. So, if you want to get this one today, go ahead.
All in all, this is one of the top budget planers on the market right now. With this planer, you definitely get a lot of bang for your buck.
So, you have stepped up your production and buying pre-surfaced lumber is biting too much into your profits. What should you do? Easy, buy a thickness planer or benchtop planer. But, that’s where the easy part ends. The process that follows is complicated. With so many factors to consider, buying a planer becomes an intense mental exercise.
But, you can significantly reduce time and effort by whittling down the process to a few key decisions. Let’s look into these critical considerations.
A benchtop planer is essentially a mini thickness planer. Both planers perform the same function. But, a thickness planer has a higher rate of production. For example, the DW735, a thickness planer, has an input-feed speed of 26 ft. per minute. However, the DW734, a benchtop planer, has an input-feed speed of 14 ft. per minute. From this example, you can see that thickness planers work twice as fast as benchtop planers
As a result of the high input speed, the cuts per inch for thickness planers is much higher than the cuts per inch for benchtop planers. When you increase the number of cuts per inch, the quality of the finished product increases and the amount of post-operation finishing decreases.
Thickness planers also have better technological features, such as automatic carriage lock, that reduce scallops and snipe. So, you get better quality lumber at a faster rate. It’s a win-win proposition. But, thickness planers are way costlier than benchtop planers.
The most important factor to keep in mind when choosing between a thickness planer and a benchtop planer is ROI or return on investment. The next section will show you how to do a quick return on investment analysis.
Fundamentally, you’re buying a planer to save money on pre-surfaced boards. So, the first step in finding the return on investment is calculating your current expenses. Total the amount of money you spent on buying pre-surfaced boards for the last three months. Divide the total cost by 3. This will give you the average monthly expenditure on pre-surfaced boards.
In the same way, calculate the number of pre-surfaced boards you buy each month. After that, identify the stock wood that you will feed through the planer to produce lumber similar to pre-surfaced boards. Next, calculate the cost of purchasing stock lumber needed to replace the pre-surfaced boards.
When you buy pre-surfaced lumber, you don’t have to spend any time to prepare it. But now, you will have to spend some time on planing the wood yourself. Estimate this time to your best ability. Then multiply it with your hourly rate. This will yield the monetary equivalent of the time you spend on planing the wood.
Once you have all this data, you can calculate the monthly ROI as follows:
Monthly ROI = Expense with planer – Expense without planer
Expense with planer* = Monthly expense on stock wood + Money spent on planing lumber
Expense without planer = Monthly expense on pre-surfaced lumber
(*If you want to fine-tune your calculation, you can add factors like electricity consumption and monthly maintenance to the expense with planer.)
Once you have the monthly ROI, you can divide the cost of the planer with the monthly ROI to get the number of months required to break even. You can use the breakeven time to determine the viability of a thickness planer. If it takes too long to break even, you can increase the ROI and reduce breakeven time by buying a benchtop planer.
There are some quantitative parameters and some qualitative parameters. Let’s discuss the quantitative ones first.
Since hand planers cost very less compared to thickness planers, you don’t have to spend a lot of time debating the pros and cons of a portable hand planer. But, hand planers also have quantitative and qualitative considerations. Quantitative factors are weight, size, cut depth and cut width. Qualitative considerations include ergonomics, brand reputation, warranty, and safety. As long as you stick to these things, finding a high-quality portable hand planer is easy.
The product review section covers the top product in each category, as well as a budget product. So, that would be an excellent place to start. If you do not find what you’re looking for in the review section, you can search for products from companies like DEWALT, Wen, Makita, Delta, Porter Cable, Grizzly, and Jet.
Since we went through a ton of information, here’s a summary to refresh the main takeaways. In this article, we discussed three types of planers — the thickness planer, the benchtop planer, and the portable hand planer. Hand planers are versatile. You can use them to plane wood, chamfer corners, or rabbet edges. Therefore, a good hand planer must be a part of every carpenter’s tool kit.
However, thickness planers and benchtop planers perform only one function. You can use them only to transform irregular and warped stock lumber into boards of uniform thickness. The people who buy pre-surfaced lumber on a large scale will benefit the most from these types of planers. The decision to choose a benchtop planer over a thickness planer depends on return on investment and performance criteria such as production rate and finishing quality.
All types of planers have high-quality premium models and budget models. In all cases, DEWALT planers consistently outshined its counterparts. If our top picks are out of your budget, saving money to buy them is the best option. However, if you require a planer urgently, you can go for our budget picks. It is not ideal, but it will do the job.
All three types of planers have developed a lot in the past few years. So, there are many high quality planers in the market. But, to take advantage of this, you must be able to find them. Fortunately, this buying guide has all the information you need to find these products.
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