Even if you aren’t a professional woodworker, your workshop can still benefit from the use of a wood planer. Old models had a basic design that featured some type of sharp blade on the base and a handle on the opposite end that you used to run the tool across the wood. Modern models come with a motor that allows the tool to remove more wood with each motion that you make.
Before you begin looking at models from top manufacturers and deciding which one to buy, you may want to know: how does a planer work? We compiled a list of other questions that you might have and some tips on shopping for a planer. You can use all our information to make a smart choice.
What is a Planer?
One question you might have is: what is a planer? This is a type of woodworking tool that features one of more sharp blades, which manufacturers call blades. Those blades remove a small amount of wood from the surface of a board, plank or sheet based on the depth setting you selected.
The two different types of models that you need to know about are the benchtop and the hand-held or power. A benchtop model is one designed for using on a cabinet or table. While some manufacturers will recommend using one on a table that you buy directly from them, you can use one on an existing cabinet or base.
A hand-held model is a type of power tool that usually has a universal motor inside. These usually have a cord that you’ll need to plug into an outlet in your shop. Some models come with a universal rechargeable battery that fits inside that tool and others from the same manufacturer.
You may want to consider table models too, especially if you have more room in your workshop and more money to spend on a tool. These models come with an attached table that does a good job of supporting your boards. You might find that you can use larger or wider boards with these models as well sheets that are flexible and move as you try to make cuts.
Looking at this tool definition is just one thing that you need to know. You’ll also want to find out how one works and what these tools actually do.
What Does a Planer Do?
This tool designed to remove a thin layer of wood from the top of a sheet, board or plank. These tools work on all types of boards, including hardwood, MDF and plywood. Some will even work well on laminate and composite boards. Both benchtop and table models have one or more depth adjustment knobs on the side that let you change the depth of the cut, which refers to how deeply the knives cut into the board. As long as you use the tool on a flat and even surface, the boards will come out with a smooth surface. Planers can remove just a fraction of an inch from that material or cut to a larger depth.
While one of these tools won’t replace your table saw or any other saws that you use, it will help you create projects with a more professional look. The wood comes out so smoothly that you may not need to use sandpaper like you will when making other types of cuts. Planers also allow all of the wood grain and pattern to come through.
Many models have a maximum width that tells you exactly how much wood the tool can strip from a piece in one pass. With benchtop and table models, the width also refers to the exact width of the boards and sheets that you can push through the tool. If you select a hand-held or power model, the width lets you know how many passes you will need to make to remove wood from the surface.
How Does it Work?
As someone with limited woodworking experience or limited experience using one of these tools, you may wonder: how does a planer work? The answer is that it depends on the type that you select. You can take a look at how benchtop and table models work in comparison to hand-held models to figure out which one is right for you.
Benchtop models have knives and a cutting surface located on the base of the tool. When you set one up, you’ll need to use knobs on the top that look like screws to adjust the cutting depth. There should be some type of marker that tells you the depths that you can select.
Once the tool is ready to go, you’ll put your board flat on the cabinet or table before turning on the power. Some models have a bright green switch or button that turns on the tool, but others have a knob that you turn in one direction to turn it on. You’ll then need to apply some pressure to push the board through the tool and under the knives.
Cabinet and table models often work in a similar way, but these planers may come with extension tables that allow you to make shallow and even cuts that are more level, even if the table itself is fairly small. A table planer will come with a knob that you use to adjust the maximum depth and a safety stop to bring the motor to a complete stop. Some table models are significantly taller than benchtop models and designed to help you work without bending over, but manufacturers may package benchtop models with a cabinet and call those products table planers.
You can also use a power model or a hand-held model. Most of these tools have an ergonomic handle on the back that helps you move the model across a wood board without experiencing any discomfort or hand cramping. A dial or knob on the front tells how fast you want the motor to run and gives you a second handhold to keep a grip on the tool.
Some prefer a hand-held model because it gives them more control. With other types, you need to send the board through before you see what the finished product looks like, which can make it hard to figure out the depth that you need. Hand-held models let you see the work that you do with each pass to show you whether you need to make any adjustments.
While you need to decide which one is best for your needs and projects, you may want to look at both surface planers and thickness planer. This gives you an idea of what these tools can do.
Surface Model vs. Thickness Model
Many companies and manufacturers use surface and thickness interchangeably when selling planers because both types of tools work on the surface of a wood piece. The biggest difference between the two is that one works on all surfaces and one works only on thickness.
A thickness model features a cutter head, also called a cutting head, that uses several sharp knives, though the exact number varies across manufacturers. It also has rollers that allow the wood to move smoothly across that cutter head as you push. Some models have an automatic feeder that pulls the board in and then pushes it out automatically without requiring any pressure from you.
The third part of this tool is some type of tray or base. With a table model, you’ll have a table that you can sit the wood on, though some have metal trays that require you put the wood on the metal. Those trays may extend out to give you more room for working.
When you use the tool with a board, that board moves under one roller and across the cutter head, which uses its knives to remove wood down to the depth you set. A second roller then catches the board and pushes it out. These tools are more consistent than a surface planer because it remove one consistent piece from the surface with each pass.
A surface model is one that works on small areas of the surface of the wood at one time. These products can include both manual models that require you use some pressure to cut across the surface and electric models that come with a motor that exerts the pressure that you need.
Surface models are generally hand-held models that let you remove a specific portion of the wood as you pass the tool over the surface. Though most feature sharp knives on the built-in cutter head, the tools may not go as deep as thickness models can.
Why Not Pick a Manual Model?
Manual models are really only good for basic projects and those who like working with old-fashioned tools. These designs, also called hand planes, have just one sharp cutting area that you’ll need to sharpen to use on future projects. You’ll need to use so much pressure that your hand may hurt or begin cramping after just a few passes, which is why most woodworkers prefer using one of the electric or power tools in place of a hand planer.
Learning about the different types of power tools and checking out a planer definition is the best way to find out how one of these tools can make your life easier. Not only can you remove as much of a board or sheet as you need, but you’ll get a smoother surface that is free of splinters too. Check out some of the top models on the market to find the best one for your professional or hobby workshop.