Not many tools can beat a benchtop planer when it comes to smoothing wooden boards and milling them to a precise thickness. In the past, you could find benchtop planers at millwork and cabinet shops.
Nowadays, you can easily purchase a benchtop planer for a couple of hundred dollars at tool retailers and home centers. In case you do remodeling, woodworking or deck building, you will not regret investing in a good benchtop planer.
What Is A Benchtop Planer?
A benchtop planer (also called a thickness planner in Australia and the UK) is a woodworking device or machine that trims wooden boards to a consistent, accurate thickness and smoothness throughout the length of the board.
If you have bought lumber, you may have noticed that they come in a variety of sizes and thickness. The purpose of a thickness planer or benchtop planer is to trim and adjust the volume or width of your lumber, making the surface smooth and even.
A majority of benchtop planer consists of three main components. A cuttinghead has knives; a pair of rollers, both at the rear and front end, which draw the boards through the machine; and lastly an adjustable table that controls the resultant thickness or size of the board.
A few models of portable planers tend to differ a little in that they have a fixed-table and the cutter feed/head roller assembly has to be adjusted.
Most industrial thickness benchtop planers can accept long wood boards and can remove a relatively more significant amount of material in just one pass. These industrial grade machines are great for heavy-duty work and are often driven by powerful electric motors. In the recent past, a myriad of portable and lightweight benchtop planers have become very popular.
Portable planers use universal engines which are less robust than those found in modern versions and are, thereby, more affordable compared to industrial bench planers.
Usually, a majority of benchtop planers can trim as much as ⅟16” in one pass; however, some models can easily double this depth. That means users can get nearly the same thickness ability as larger industrial machines.
But it will need more passes through the planer. For a lot of home users and workshops, this may not be much of a compromise as it is only going to take more time to achieve the desired thickness.
During use, the planer's table has an appropriate height, and the device is switched on. Then the wood board is gradually slid inside the planer until it touches the in-feed rollers that grip and secure the board and then draw it past the machine’s rotating cutting head.
On the way through sharp knives trim and remove material. Then the out-feed rollers pull the board through slowly, ejecting it from the planer and complete one pass. To correctly finish a wooden board that has a uniform thickness and is flat along its entire length, it is vital that you start with a similar wood board with one flawlessly flat or even reference face.
Then feed your board with the reference face flushed flat on your table. That will ensure the cutting head removes just the right amount of material from its opposite face and the board aligns with the reference face.
Difference Between Benchtop Planer And Portable Planer
A benchtop planer is similar to a portable planer in some respects. However, portable planers are slightly smaller in size compared to benchtop models. A benchtop planer also requires an even surface for operation.
Moreover, they are more powerful than portable planers and can make deeper cuts. Portable wood planers are miniature versions of stationary planers. You can carry them around easily; place them on a variety of flat surfaces, and plane wood.
As a result, benchtop devices can efficiently manage higher thickness levels, and often utilize induction motors that have higher power output. That is why a bench top version can handle a variety of wood, such as hardwood.
Due to their size and weight, benchtop planers are only moderately portable. Portable planers are ideal for small workshops, homeowners, and enthusiasts who tend to love DIY house repairs. They are dependable, inexpensive, and very easy to use. Besides, they are available in a variety of makes and models.
Some portable models even feature a removable table that can be set up and take down in just a couple of minutes. Another benefit of portable-planers is that they can also operate as joint planers and can help you cut down the number of tools in your workspace.
But there are a few downsides. Portable planers are not as accurate as benchtop planers. That is why they are not ideal for top-notch finishing and precision woodworking. On the other hand, benchtop planers are great for heavy-duty use - you will see them in professional woodworking shops.
Difference Between Benchtop Planer And Thickness Planer
As their name suggests, a majority of thickness planers are only designed to shave off a couple of inches in one go to level wooden planks for a specific depth. A thickness planer is often small in size which increases its portability; however, it needs a full area to operate.
Although many household workshops may not have a thickness planer, they are trendy in professional wood workshops. Thickness planers have three main parts: a roller, table, and cutter.
They have an adjustable stand that lets you cut through both thinner and thicker pieces of wood. When compared to benchtop planers, thickness-planers offer more control over the amount of timber the device planes off the surface.
Thickness planers are ideal for DIY enthusiasts and people wanting to save cash by buying unfinished wood in bulk. They are less expensive than benchtop planers and are easier to maintain and use. However, they are not as precise as benchtop models and tend to handle boards with a thickness of about four inches to six inches.
Difference Between Benchtop Planers And Hand Planers
A hand-held planer does a great job of combining everything that you like to hand plane with the several advantages of a high power tool. The most ergonomically designed models of hand planers feature a comfortable handle usually at the top. The handle lets users maintain a firm grip while moving the hand planer across their wood. Moreover, it also allows users to transport the planer with ease, hence the name hand planer.
A majority of hand planer feature blades with serrated edges. During operation, the knives are parallel to the wood board that you can move across the surface. The planer starts by trimming the end with lower thickness and moves toward higher width. That helps you shave off wood from your board's surface, neatly strip by strip till the whole surface is even.
Many hand planers are a bit more affordable compared to benchtop models. They also allow you greater control over work. Also, you may use the dials and buttons on the planer to change its speed and make a few other changes.
A hand planer can work well as a great side tool, especially for a variety of finishing purposes. As it requires no electricity and little specialization, you can always use a hand planer. However, it has a few drawbacks compared to benchtop planers. Firstly leveling wood with hand planers is more time consuming and they tend to leave plenty of wood chips and fillings.
Difference Between Benchtop Planers And Jointer Planers
Jointer planers are entirely different from benchtop planers. A jointer planer combines two separate tools. It works as a wood jointer and also as a wood planer. Because of its versatile nature, a jointer planer could help you save some money and workshop space at the same time.
Nowadays, purchasing a jointer planer is cheaper than getting two separate tools. That makes it ideal for many small workshops as well as DIY enthusiasts. The tool helps you create smooth, flat and even surfaces across nearly any type of wood.
Jointer planers are ideal for medium-sized workshops that require wood jointers for huge projects but do not have conventional planers. They are extremely powerful and can reliably perform multiple tasks at once. However, compared to bench top planers they are larger and bulkier and can cost you considerably more.
Wood Jointer Vs. Wood Planer
A majority of amateur woodworkers asks the fundamental question regarding the difference between wood planers and jointers. Well, the answer is very straightforward. The two machines do entirely different surfacing operations. Wood jointers are used to flatten a face or square up and straighten an edge, while a wood planer makes the second-face even and parallel to the first.
Given the fact that both these tools are quite expensive, most users can afford just one of them at a time. Therefore, it is essential to decide which one you should get. In our opinion, you should buy the wood planer first.
You are more likely to get more work done with a planer than you could with a jointer. Keep in mind that the jointer is excellent at making one flat/square edge and even face, but that is all it can do. Running the other face on your jointer may carve the wood evenly, but it is challenging to make it exactly parallel to the first one.
That will make your board thicker on one end compared to the other. That is where your wood planer comes in; the tool ensures that both edges and both faces of your board are parallel to each other, or are co-planar.
Anatomy Of A Wood Planer
A majority of wood planers have the following parts.
The stock is also known as the "body" or "block." It is the central or most significant part of a wood planer. The sole may be either flat or shaped depending on the specific function.
It is a metal clamp that secures the blade or iron assembly. A lever cap is often held together using a cam and a screw. The cam is usually protuberance under the lever that is used to press the lever cap against the bolts when it moves to its locked position, holding the chip breaker and iron in place underneath.
A chip breaker is fitted under the lever cap and atop the iron. It breaks the chips or shavings arising from planning the wood.
The iron on most wood planers has a big slot cut out of it to secure the screws and the blade. Often the metal is bedded in the plane, making an angle of about 45 degrees with the sole.
The rear or main handle of the planer is usually called the tote. It is shaped to fit your dominant hand easily and comfortably adequately.
You will find a lever and wheel for adjusting the angle of the machine's cutting edge and the blade's depth. It also called the lateral aspect.
The knob is the front handle of a wood planer. You grip it with your non-dominant hand during use.
The chip breaker, iron, lever cap as well as the iron adjustment mechanism are on the top of an iron wedge called the 'frog.' You can adjust the frog forward and backward to alter the gap between the front of the mouth and the blade. You will need a narrow gap for excellent cutting, and a wide one for deep-cutting.
The rear or back section of the planer stock is called the heel. That is where users strike, with a small mallet or hammer, to adjust or remove the iron.
Wood Planer Uses
The purpose of a wood planer is quite simple. By using a wood planer you could quickly create even and smooth boards with a constant thickness.
A wood planer is a vital tool as it lets you shape an irregular wooden board or other pieces of wood into a thickness level required for a project. The machine is also handy for many projects that need parts, sides or edges to join together.
For example, it could be useful when you are leveling off the sides of your drawer to make all the grooves fit nicely. You will find different sizes of wooden boards at the nearest lumber shop. In case of wood size does not matter on your project, then it may not be a problem. In most cases, however, this is not the case.
You can quickly plane and trim wooden boards using a wood planer to create consistently accurate and even sized boards for any project. Having the tool lets you keep many random wooden pieces such as old lumber and pallets.
Another important reason for buying a wood planer is you could purchase rough wood in bulk from any lumberyard at an economical price and use the planer to shape it to your desired size. In addition to correcting and forming the wood size, your wood planer can help you fix the wood by getting rid of water or paint damage.
Every woodworker and carpenter knows their finished project can be only as good as the input material. In case the board stock is bowed, cupped, twisted or uneven, it can be more challenging to make the project or product look its best.
How To Properly Use A Wood Planer?
It is essential to learn how you can use a wood planer. It would considerably enhance the quality and precision of finishing on all your woodworking projects.
Moreover, it can help you save both money and time by preventing spoilage of wood in both the final and intermediate stages of the task. Follow these step-by-step guidelines to work safely and accurately with a wood planer.
To make sure your wood planer is ready for the job, inspect its blade for sharpness. In case it is not clean, take some time to thoroughly clean the knife using a chamois or a piece of leather.
Disassemble your planer if the blade is dull and replace it with a new knife to avoid any rough cut on the wooden board.
Similarly, if you have a powered or electric planer, the battery has to be charged. Or ensure the product has a power source.
Hold your wood planer firmly using the back and front grip knob.
In case you are left-handed, set up the workbench and planer such that the left hand is at the rear end of your planer and the right side is guiding the front end.
Check the wood board before your ready it for planing. Look for any visible warp, lump or knots.
Use the vise grip or adjustable clamps to secure the board you wish to plane. There should not be any wiggle room.
Then put on your protective glasses and set or turn on the electric planer.
Carefully tilt your planer a little forward so that the planer blade comes in contact with your board’s surface.
Now start pushing firmly with straight forearms and wrists to move your wood planer along, peeling fine strips of wood. Use your lower body and legs to apply the force forward and upward to move your planer along.
After every cut, run both hands over the surface of the board and inspect it thoroughly to make sure you're wood planing where you want at a suitable angle.
Carry on planing until you get the surface texture and contours you desire.
Resurface your board using a couple of sandpapers to enhance its texture.
Maintenance And Cleaning
All tools and equipment need regular maintenance and cleaning to keep functioning at an optimum level, and a wood planer is no different. Follow these maintenance tips to keep your planer in top shape.
We have discussed what a benchtop planer is and how it works. We have compared different types of planers and highlighted the differences between them. These include portable planer, thickness planer, and hand planer, etc.
We have also provided a comparison of wood jointers and wood planers. We have looked at different parts of a wood planer such as stock, iron, chip breaker, tote and iron adjustment among others. We have also discussed the various uses of wood planers.
We have provided a step-by-step guide on how you can use your wood planer properly. We have also given tips on how you can maintain your planer. Our buying guide will discuss the different features that you should consider when buying a wood planer along with some recommendations.