Last Updated on May 19, 2020
If you enjoy working with wood, you’re eventually going to come across a job that requires you to shape it by gradually taking a little bit off here and a little bit off there. In these instances, you’re probably either rounding sharp corners or flattening warped wood you want to use for boards. There are a lot of different tools (electrical and manual) for doing this sort of work. Knowing the strengths of each kind of tool will help you find the one best suited to your needs.
There’s no school like old school, and these tools are a throwback to a simpler time when people worked with their hands. An advantage of manual planers is that you can take your work nice and slow. These tools can deliver the best precision, making your end-product look like a true work of art.
This is a basic, no-nonsense planer. You can adjust the depth of its cut and use both hands to shape wood with strong, controlled planing. The design is largely unchanged from when your great-grandfather was talking trash about Kaiser Wilhelm while shaping wood.
A twist on the basic hand planer, this one puts handles on each side for a lighter, more controlled planing action. It’s perfect for shaping corners with quick, delicate motions, but its blade is also adjustable in case you need to cut a little deeper.
The action on this is less like a traditional planer and more like a cheese grater. It’s also more versatile than a traditional wood planer, allowing the user to also shape and whittle down other materials like fiberglass and soft aluminum.
This planer requires one hand to use, so don’t go this route if you have a lot of hard planing work to do. But it will allow you to shave off crating materials just a little at a time. An upshot is that this model is easy to get under so that you can see what you’re shaping while doing the work. It’s also the cheapest planer we found.
A traditional planer involves a pushing action, but this scraper, used to repair hardwood floors, uses a pulling action. It’s similar to a planer in that it helps you even out rough spots on a surface. So, if a planer’s pushing action isn’t quite what you need, this is an option.
One drawback to manual planers is that they work slowly. Sometimes so slowly that they wear out the user’s body and that person starts making mistakes. An electric planer is a great alternative—it works quickly, and most are adjustable so that you get cuts to just the right depth.
A spinning blade does the work of the static blade in the manual planer, with a contoured handle that allows the user to control it. The blade of the handheld electric planer works quickly, even if you set it for a shallow grind, so you’ll want to keep an eye on it to prevent drifting.
It’s called a bench planer because, while it’s too big to hold in your hand, it’s small enough to put on top of a workbench. It’s the first electric planer big enough to start handling small pieces of lumber, which also means that it’s not well-suited to doing small, detailed work.
Designed for molding but capable of handling similarly sized pieces of wood for other projects, the molding planer sits on the floor of your workshop. This piece of equipment is designed primarily for professionals, or really serious amateurs.
Serious jobs demand serious equipment, and the stationary planer is the most serious electric planer there is. It’s expensive and designed for professionals with a lot of work and a big budget. Anything bigger, and you’re talking about industrial grade.
Most people consider planers and jointers to be different because, while planers cut from the top, jointers cut from the bottom. Once you fully review everything, you might decide that you want that bottom-cutting action, so we’ll go through some of the different styles. One word of caution: Use push blocks—pieces of wood to push your stock—for safety.
This jointer planes from below with a spinning blade. The difference between this one and the other primary kind of stand jointer is that the stand in enclosed. This makes it more stable while you scoot smaller pieces of wood, especially lumber. If you need extra length, it can be more easily attached to a longer bench.
The open stand on this jointer makes it best for longer pieces of wood that might cause a closed stand to destabilize and possibly tip over. The angle of its legs, however, means that it’s not as well-suited if you want to lengthen the bench by attaching it to a standalone table.
The benchtop jointer is small enough that you can store it, and pull it out and put on a workbench when you need it. It’s not very well-suited to big jobs. One thing you can do, however, is build a standalone table to accommodate bigger pieces of wood.
The smallest of the jointers, the electric hand jointer is only suited to make planks for crafts like jewelry boxes. It’s also small enough that push blocks might be overly burdensome, so you’ll want to get a good pair of leather gloves for safety.
Some of the other planers can be used to trim up light metal strips. There are dedicated metal planers, however, they’re industrial grade machinery, and not intended for amateurs or even professionals who have to trim some metal. These are strictly industrial machines and, in fact, mostly obsolete.
Long and open on both sides for pushing through large pieces of metal, this planer is mostly intended to handle smaller jobs. It also occupies a smaller space. It’s still bigger than any of the wood planers, including the stationary electric model.
One side is open because this is intended to be installed next to a wall. This design allows it to handle bigger pieces of metal. Of all the planers and jointers we’ve looked at, this is the biggest and capable of handling the hardest work. It’s also sized and priced well beyond the space and budget of anyone but a tooling factory owner.
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!