The 10 Best Benchtop Planers
This wiki has been updated 19 times since it was first published in October of 2016. Not only ideal for making sure that your pieces of lumber are all the same thickness, a high-quality benchtop planer, like the ones on our list, can also be used to get square stock integrated with beadboard for thickness and reveal, and for dressing out rough stock to prepare for gluing on furniture pieces. We've ranked the best here by build quality, accuracy, features, and noise level. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
November 11, 2020:
Providing more accuracy and deeper cutting abilities than a hand-held electric plane, these benchtop planers are compact enough to be portable when necessary, but are also sturdy enough to be a permanent fixture in a workshop. They are a versatile piece of equipment that can be used to flatten warped boards, smooth off rough edges, and shave wood to your desired thickness. The higher-end models can produce a furniture-grade finish that requires little or no sanding.
In this update, we replaced some items with the latest models and filled out the list with several new options that were recently released. We removed the Cutech 40200HC-CT due to availability issues, and replaced it with the Rikon Power Tools 25-130H, which is also a helical cutter, similar in design to the Jet JWP-13BT, although not as powerful or hard-wearing. The Delta Power Tools 22-555 was replaced with the newer Delta Power Tools 22-590X, which features an upgraded cutter head, promising up to three times longer blade life, and a patented locking system to minimize snipe and reduce waste.
At the cheaper end of the scale, we added the Powertec PL1252, the Porter-Cable PC305TP, and the Craftsman CMEW320. These are good choices for a home workshop or for DIY enthusiasts, as they are sturdy and durable enough to adequately complete the job without a problem. However, they are not as hard-wearing as the DeWalt DW735X, the Makita 2012NB, or the Jet JWP-13BT, which are all professional standard machines, suitable for everyday use.
November 21, 2019:
Removed the Rigid 13-inch Corded because of availability concerns. Added the Jet JWP-13BT and the Cutech 40200HC-CT.
The Jet is built well enough to be used daily in high-output woodshops although its width is somewhat limiting. This is an issue for any benchtop model, however. The surfaces it produces can save significant amounts of time (a bonus if you, like I, hate the sanding process). The Makita 2012NB comes with snipe reduction systems that are quite appealing because you won't have to cut the ends off of your boards - therefore reducing waste.
Working with wood creates fine dust particles that can be hazardous if inhaled for long periods of time. Always wear breathing protection to avoid health complications.
What To Consider When Choosing A Benchtop Planer
Units with a vacuum-assisted dust port that you can attach a collection bag to can help cut down on clean up and improve performance simultaneously.
The goal of using a bench top planer is to produce smooth boards that require minimal finish sanding, and boards of a specific thickness to fit whatever application you have planned. Because of this, any benchtop planer that can't produce smooth boards accurately at a specific thickness won't serve its main purpose.
The first step is to identify which models will most likely produce the least amount of snipe. Snipe is a noticeably deeper cut at the beginning and end of a planed board. It results from the board moving up and down as it passes through the planer. All models will produce some snipe — it is almost inevitable — but this can usually be removed with some simple sanding. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the infeed and outfeed boards, the less snipe a machine will create and the less sanding you will have to do. Models that automatically lock the cutter head can also significantly minimize snipe.
Board scallop is another common unwanted effect that poor quality benchtop planers produce. Scallop refers to a ripple-like effect carved into a board as it works its way past the cutters. The number of rollers, knife speed, and feed speed all play a role in board scallop. Since no one wants planing their boards to take forever, we must find a compromise between feed rate and scalloping. A higher number of rollers and cuts per inch allows for a faster feed rate, without causing noticeable scalloping. Motor power will also effect how quickly a machine can smoothly cut a board. Units with weaker motors may bog down if you try and cut too deeply on a single pass. They may also have trouble on wider stock.
Next, one should look at the depth gauges and stops. A clearly marked depth gauge helps you to more accurately adjust the cut to match your specifications. You should also choose a model that allows for fine depth adjustments to the cutting depth. This can help minimize the possibility of tear-outs. An adjustable depth-stop allows the user to set a minimum thickness to ensure a board is never cut too thin.
For convenience's sake, one should also look at the dust collection options each particular model offers. Some units have a fan that blows dust and chips away from them cutter to improve its performance, but these can be messy. Units with a vacuum-assisted dust port that you can attach a collection bag to can help cut down on clean up and improve performance simultaneously.
Helpful Tips For Using A Benchtop Planer
Following a few simple tips can help ensure that you get the best results from your benchtop planer. Many people new to using a planer often wind up with tear-outs in their board. A tear-out is what happens when a planers knife catches in the wood and rips the fiber upwards rather then cutting it. The two main causes for this are trying to cut too deep on a single pass and feeding the board into the machine the wrong way. Always feed a board so that the cutter head cuts with the grain and not against it. If you are still getting tear-outs when feeding with the grain, adjust the depth to make shallower cuts.
If you are still getting tear-outs when feeding with the grain, adjust the depth to make shallower cuts.
If working on reclaimed wood, always inspect the stock first and remove any leftover metal, such as screws, nails, and staples. Passing a board into your planer with metal in it is a surefire way to damage the blades. A single encounter with a screw head can be all it takes to nick an expensive blade. You should also clean reclaimed boards with a wire brush to remove dirt and grime.
Since snipe is almost inevitable, the best way to deal with it is to leave an extra couple of inches of length on your boards. Then, after they have been planed, you can simply cut them down to size, which should also remove any snipe. Another option is to feed an unneeded sacrificial board into the planer first. You can then press your next board directly against its end and continue this process board after board. When you get to the end, follow it up with another sacrificial board. The planer will treat everything as one long board and only snipe the first and last boards. The key to doing this is to make sure all of your boards are pressed end to end as they feed into the machine.
Staying Safe When Using A Benchtop Planer
Safety should be a top priority any time you use power tools, doubly so when using a power tool that contains a blade. To help you keep all of your fingers in place, we have complied a handy list of guidelines to help you stay safe when using your new benchtop planer.
This helps minimize the possibility of a child accidentally turning it on.
Always check to make sure your machine is switched off before plugging it in. You should also always switch off and unplug a planer when you are finished with it. This helps minimize the possibility of a child accidentally turning it on. You should also unplug a planer when changing out the blades.
When a machine is up and running, never look into the infeed or outfeed. It is possible that a chunk could come flying out, which could potentially hit you in the eye. You should keep your hands at least three inches away from the infeed and outfeed at all times. Boards that are shorter than the distance between the infeed and outfeed, or those that are less than 1/4" thick, should never be passed through a benchtop planer. If a board gets stuck for any reason, do not try and force it. Instead, switch off and unplug the machine. Then raise the cutterhead (or lower the bed) and remove the stock.
It is important to wear the proper clothing and safety equipment, as well. Always wear safety glasses, ear protection, and a dust mask. Clothing should not be too loose that it hangs down or it could potentially get caught in the rollers. One should generally refrain from wearing dangling jewelry, like bracelets and necklaces, when operating a benchtop planer.