Wood planers, also known as thickness planers, are handy tools for shaving down materials to the proper size needed for construction furniture. With a wood planer in your shop, you can ensure that both sides of your material are completely parallel to each other. Both professional craftsmen and simple DIY-hobbyists can find value in having a wood planer available since it can make quick work of shaving down numerous boards into a uniform thickness.
In this article, we’re going to briefly discuss the important specs and features of a high-quality wood planer. We’ll also give you our picks of the best five wood planers available today.
What to Look for in a Wood Planer
When researching the best wood planer, there are several features and specs to take into careful consideration.
The feed speed determines how much time it takes for the wood planer to smoothen the surface of the material fed into the machine. The best wood planers should generate two different cutting speeds: one quick speed for initial dimensioning and another slower speed for a smoother finish.
There are several types of knives used in a wood planer. They can be straight, segmented, or spiral-shaped. They can also either be disposable or sharpened. They each have their own uses and pros, so make sure you find a model that utilizes the type(s) of knives you need for your thicknessing tasks.
Cutter head Speed (CPI)
The cutter head speed, measured in cuts-per-inch (CPI), indicate how many cuts are made on the surface of the material per inch that is fed into the machine. The higher the cutter head speed, the smoother and more prepared the board will be for further processing. In addition, a quicker cutter head speed generally means an increase in feed speed, though it’s always better to prioritize cutter head speed over feed speed.
Chip Ejection Port
Like most woodworking power tools, wood planers produce a heck of a lot of debris that could potentially burst into flames when left resting under an overheated machine. One of the most effective ways of eliminating this risk is by getting rid of wood chips, shavings, and dust straight from the source. Make sure your wood planer comes with a chip ejection port which is compatible with your shop vac or dust collector.
Unless you’re a serious furniture builder who makes a living off of building high-quality furniture in an efficient manner, then you’re most likely in the market for a portable bench-top wood planer. In that case, find a model that’s easy to carry but can be mounted on your workbench without needing a huge amount of clearance in the outfeed.
Although portable bench-top planers are considerably more compact than industrial planers, this doesn’t mean that they can’t support large boards. Some of the best wood planers can support materials of up to 6 inches tall and 12 inches wide. To help support super-long boards, you may need the help of infeed and outfeed tables.
Top 5 Wood Planers
Now that we understand the basics of what makes a good wood planer, the only thing left to do is decide which model to get. As you already know, the market is saturated with wood planers, both good and bad. To help you with your purchase decision, we’ve compiled a list of our picks for the best five wood planers available on the market right now.
5 DEWALT DW735 13-Inch, Two Speed Thickness Planer
Our first pick is one of DEWALT’s most famed wood planers: the DeWalt DW735. Its 15-amp motor is able to deliver cuts of up to 1/8-inch thick in boards of up to 6 inches tall, 12-1/2 inches wide, and 19-3/4 inches in length. It also comes with two cutter head speeds – the first for dimensioning that delivers 96 CPI and a higher gear for finishing at 179 CPI.
The DW735 comes with a three-blade setup for superior finishes. The blades are disposable but are marketed to last for at least 30% longer than traditional disposable straight blades. This is a portable 80-pound unit that can be mounted to your workbench if needed.
4 PORTER-CABLE PC305TP 12″ Thickness Planer
PORTER-CABLE is another popular power tools manufacturer that produces some of the best wood planers. In our opinion, their best workbench model is the PC305TP. This planer packs a 15-amp motor that delivers 96 CPI for the initial smoothening and 179 CPI for super-fine finishes.
This machine comes with the standard dual-blades setup. You can utilize both sides of each blade before needing to purchase and install replacements. The machine can support boards of up to 12.5 inches wide, 6 inches tall, and more than 3 feet long. However, you need to take extra care when setting up the infeed, and outfeed tables since even the slightest wiggle can render several inches from the front and tail ends of your boards utterly useless (snipe).
3 DEWALT DW735X Two-Speed Thickness Planer Package
The third-place spot goes to the DW735X from DEWALT. Honestly speaking, DEWALT’s DW735 is so good that it deserves two spots on our list. The only true difference between the DW735 and DW735X is that the latter comes with infeed and outfeed tables which can support materials of up to 6 inches tall, 13 inches wide, and 33-1/2 inches long.
In every other respect (motor, cutting depth, cutter head speed), the two are completely identical. Because the DW735X comes with two aluminum tables for supporting longer material, the overall weight of the unit will increase to 95 pounds. If you’re going to get the DW735, do yourself a favor and pay a little more for the X version since buying the feed tables separately will cost you more than getting them in a single package.
2 DEWALT DW734 15 Amp 12-1/2-Inch Benchtop Planer
It’s no surprise that DEWALT makes a third appearance on our list due to their expert craftsmanship and design of their products. The DEWALT DW734 is similar to the previous DEWALT models, but it doesn’t come with a second cutter head speed for extremely fine finishing. Instead, you get a single gear (96 CPI) for both dimensioning and finishing your material.
It comes with both infeed and outfeed tables that support material of up to 33-1/2 inches long, 12-1/2 inches wide, and 6 inches tall. Another unique feature is the four-column carriage lock that virtually eliminates the risk of snipe.
1 WEN 6550 Benchtop Thickness Planer
The final product on our pick for the best five wood planers is the 6550 from WEN. This amazing machine features a 15-amp motor that produces 96 CPI and 176 CPI for dimensioning and finishing, respectively. It can support material up to 6 inches tall and 12-1/2 inches wide. The foldable infeed and outfeed tables are made of solid granite, meaning that their shape won’t warp over time, ensuring high-quality finishes as long as the machine is functional.
It has a dual-blade setup, and the blades can be reversed to give you twice as much use out of each blade. Adjusting the depth of each cut is simple to do with the help of the rubber handle. A full rotation of the handle adjusts the height of the blade by 1/16 of an inch, and it has a maximum cutting depth of 3/32 of an inch.
Both DIY-hobbyists and professional woodworkers can find value in a wood planer. Wood planers are a must-have tool to have in the workshop if you regularly need to adjust the thickness of multiple large boards. Instead of using a hand sander or a table sander to adjust the thickness of your board – a process which is both time-consuming and inaccurate – feed your boards through the machine and watch as the blades shave fractions of an inch off the top for a clean finish.
There are several factors to consider when looking at wood planer models. The most important features are feed speed, number and shape of the blades, cutter head speed, chip ejection port, weight and portability, and material support. Bench-top wood planers are limited in cutting capacity compared to industrial-grade machines used in professional woodworking factories, but for the common man or professional furniture builder, a portable bench-top wood planer will do just fine.
In this article, we’ve provided you with our picks of the best five wood planers you can buy today. Three of the five best models are made by DEWALT, which is no surprise since DEWALT basically dominates the power tools industry. However, the best-performing model is the WEN 6550. What sets this machine apart from the rest is that the infeed and outfeed tables are made with solid granite that won’t warp over time and perform extremely well in preventing snipe.