Hand Planer vs Bench Planer: Which is the Best Wood Planer?
As with most tools, planers were previously only available in manual, non-electric varieties. Today, there are lots of electric variations to choose from that are specifically designed to make every project easier and much faster. This brings us to the question, which is the best wood planer, hand planer vs. bench planer?
There are plenty of different things to take into consideration when comparing the two and it’s important to think about their purpose, how easy they are to use as a beginner, and the level of convenience they have to offer.
What is a Hand Planer?
A hand planer may be a manual tool, but it certainly isn’t an outdated one. In fact, there are plenty of woodworkers who prefer to use hand planers for a variety of projects. Most people will have several different types of planer in their toolkit and in many instances, there aren’t any tools that work as well as a planer.
Planers are specifically designed to help you trim slivers off the surface of the material you’re working on. However, they’re not the ideal tools to use for every type of material as using them on rubber, plastic or metal can cause the blades to dull and break, they are ideally created to be used on wood.
When choosing between a manual and an electric hand planer, remember that both are designed for the same purpose, but an electric model is more difficult to control without enough experience. Some of the most important benefits of a hand planer to consider include:
- Versatile Uses: Since they're available in both electric and manual varieties, planers are incredibly versatile tools that are phenomenal for industrial projects as well as more intricate projects. No matter whether you’re simply trimming wood down to a specific size or are interested in improving the exterior finish to your materials, a planer can be quite useful.
- Essential for Fine Woodworking: Fine woodworking is a skill that requires lots of different manual tools and years of experience. Using an electric hand planer wouldn’t be the best option for fine woodworking, though a manual one would be perfect. This is something that a bench planer simply cannot do, as it’s designed to work with the product in bulk, whereas a hand planer is perfect for intricate carving and cutting.
- Affordable: Saving money on tools is an advantage to choosing a manual hand planer as there are plenty of models that are available for as little as $40. This can be quite useful, especially for beginner woodworkers who don’t want to invest hundreds of dollars into an electric bench planer.
What is a Bench Planer?
A bench planer can be a phenomenal tool to use if you’re working on large-scale projects or if you’re responsible for refurbishing large pieces of wood. The entire premise behind the machine is to make it substantially easier to work through bulks of wood in half of the time that it would take to use a hand planer.
However, bench planers aren’t recommended for every woodworking project, as they don’t give you the customizable versatility as a tool that you can hold in your hand..
Bench planers, much like their name suggests, are designed to be placed on a flat surface or bench. They are bulky machines that you certainly cannot hold in your hand and are great for designated workspaces as they’re not the most portable tools to have at your disposal.
A few of the most advantageous features of a bench planer include:
- Easy to Resurface Wood: If you’ve ever had the opportunity to use a bench planer in the past, you undoubtedly know how easy they make resurfacing wood. This is particularly important if you’re more interested in salvaging reclaimed planks rather than purchasing surfaced wood from the lumberyard.
- Dust Collection: Another huge advantage that a bench planer has over a hand planer is its ability to collect dust after each cut. Cleaning up after a long project can be quite overwhelming and keeping debris off the wood you’re working on can be a task. However, with a bench planer, you’ll have the ability to collect dust after every swipe.
How to Choose Between a Hand Planer vs. Bench Planer
At the end of the day, the most important thing to think about is the project you’re going to be working on. Hand planers are phenomenal for more intricate projects or tasks where you want to have a lot of control.
On the other hand, bench planers are recommended for bigger projects where you’ll need heavy-duty equipment. Each has their own benefits, so it’s up to you to choose which style of planer will work best for you.
Other Factors to consider when choosing between a hand planer and a bench planer include the type of wood finish, the edges and surfaces, the flatness, wood measurements, and parallel surfaces. We will go into more depth for each of these below:
- Wood Finish. This is one of the biggest deciding factors when you are choosing which tool to use for which project. There are two primary types of wood being used. These types are the S2S which has two sides already surfaced with the other two surfaces being rough and S4S wood with all four sides smooth and surfaced which requires less work.
- Edges and Surfaces. With a lot of rough edges comes a lot more work so if you are using a rough surface that requires more work, then a table planer may be the best option for this kind of project.
- Flatness. A piece of wood can lose its flatness because of how it was stored and if it was exposed to humidity. Therefore, if the wood you have to work with has been warped or misshaped in any way because of these factors, then a table planer should be used to help smooth it out.
- Wood Measurement. Some projects may require more extensive focus on the smaller details and smaller wood may need to be used for this. In this case, a hand planer can offer more in the way of precision and control for a better quality finish.
- Surface imperfections can be removed more effectively with a hand planer. So, if you want to save some money and choose slightly imperfect wood at the store, then you can use a hand planer to help smooth the surface and get rid of the imperfections like holes, scratches, and dings.
Our Top Recommendations
The following are our recommendations for each type of planer. While it is in no way an extensive list with reviews, it is a good starting point if you have begun the journey of shopping around for a new planer for your workshop.
For more reviews and other planer selections, visit our list of some of the best planers currently available on the market today.
Makita KP0810 Power Planer
This electric planer is ideal for woodworkers who need more attention placed on the smaller and more intricate details. This tool shines in its high-quality build and versatility. It is easy to handle and has been built to last.
- Die-cast aluminum housing
- Lock on/off button that can be operated from either side of the handle
- Left or right chip ejection for convenience
- Rubberized handles for a better grip
- Very quiet to use
- Ideal for precision work and accuracy
- Doesn't include a hard case
- Does not have a chip collect bag
- No diverter shield
- May be too much if it is only used occasionally – best suited for heavier use