Hand Planer vs Bench Planer: Which is Best for Your Needs?

  • November 28, 2018

If you need to get wood to the certain uniform thickness, the planer is your friend. There are a couple of different kinds of planers, chiefly the bench planer and the hand planer. The answer to which one is right for the job ultimately comes down to whether you need to do your work in your shop or in the field.

Power and consistency in bench planers

If you’re prepping wood to a uniform size for a home DIY project, the bench planer is a better choice. It has a wider planing surface and if you can account for sniping — gouging created when the board is grasped by only one feed roller — can produce much more accurate results.

bench planer

Image credit: Letiha, Pixabay

If you buy a bench planer, you can think of it as an investment, especially if you plan to buy a lot of lumber. You can shell out less money for unfinished lumber and use the bench planer to cut it down to your desired specifications. The more lumber you buy, the more it reaps in savings.

In a pinch, a benchtop planer can also do the work of a sander, using fine blades to smooth a piece of wood almost to the quality of a sander.

Needless to say, because of the size and power of the motor, a bench planer will cost you a nice chunk of change. On a positive note, this is a tool that has largely become available to home workshops the last few years as prices have come down.

Hand planers let you take your tool to your work

You can use a hand planer on the go, taking your tool to where the work is. You need both your hands to operate it. What you don’t have to do is lug around an ungainly bench.

hand planer

Image credit: Burst, Pexels

Hand planers are often best with work that doesn’t have a great need for specific accuracy because the nature of being portable means they are also more subject to sudden, unintended movements.

Trim those stuck doors with hand planers

Where it excels is in maintenance projects around the house rather than prepping boards for a DIY project. Trimming the sides and tops and bottoms of doors that have swollen and can’t be opened is a particular specialty of this tool. But, where the paint is rough and the board is swollen, these are good to flatten those out.

They can also be used for chamfering and making rabbet joints and radius cuts. They are also, compared to bench planers, more affordable.

Concluding thoughts

The difference between the bench planer and the hand planer really comes down to that bench planers are best prep tools and hand planers are superior maintenance tools. Which one is best for you depends on which role you need it for.

Bench planers exist to get a board to a desired width in preparation for using it for something else. It can deliver a consistent planing down the entire length of a board, a great improvement over the inconsistent delivery of the old-school hand planers. You do need to account for sniping, a natural outgrowth from uneven cutting on either the leading or tail edge.

Hand planers can do that, but carry the same drawbacks of those old-school hand planers. They are only as consistent as the hands using them. Where hand planers do excel is in slimming down things like boards and window frames that are swollen and need a little off the edges for free movement. You can take the planer with you to where those doors without having to pop them completely out of their frames.

Even though the two are pretty different, they do have something in common. They both involved rapidly spinning drums of sharp teeth. No matter which one you buy, you’ll want to pay close attention when using them and wear the proper safety gear. No job can be considered a success if you wind up hurt finishing it.

About the Author Adam Harris

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!