The 6 Best Benchtop Planers
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. 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 of their class here by build quality, accuracy, and noise level. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best benchtop planer on Amazon.
What To Consider When Choosing A Benchtop Planer
A higher number of rollers and cuts per inch allows for a faster feed rate, without causing noticeable scalloping.
Since no one wants planing their boards to take forever, we must find a compromise between feed rate and scalloping.
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.
Another option is to feed an unneeded sacrificial board into the planer first.
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.
If a board gets stuck for any reason, do not try and force it.
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.
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