Best Handheld Electric Planer? A Beginner's Guide...

Updated on September 20, 2016
Will Apse profile image

Will Apse spent many years renovating older homes and also ran a small construction company.

Electric handheld planers come in all kinds of sizes and can do all kinds of jobs.

They are essential for standard construction jobs like erecting stud-work.

They can help you reclaim old timber by quickly stripping away discolored wood and squaring up battered edges.

They can be small lightweight machines you can climb a ladder with and use in one hand to shave back a window frame that is too tight.

They can be high precision tools that a serious craftsmen will use to create fantastic furniture.

Are they Easy to Use?

If you are a complete beginner you will need to do some learning before you repair the Chippendale dining table. But all you will really need to produce top quality results is a quality planer and a patient disposition. Practice makes perfect.

What is a Buzzer?

Anyone who has ever used an electric hand planer knows why professional users often call them buzzers! They can make your ears ring...

A big, powerful beam planer.
A big, powerful beam planer.

Long or Short? Heavy or Light?

A typical, high precision, beam planer is the Makita 1806B pictured above. It is wide, long and powerful. At around six hundred dollars, it is also expensive. If you are serious about working with wood, and want to tackle big jobs, though, this is the perfect workhorse.

Cheap, under-powered, small planers can struggle to cut hardwoods and can burn out. Also, it is more difficult to get true, flat, square timber with a small planer.

At the same time, for easy repairs around the home and typical jobs like adjusting cupboard doors, making shelves, a quality small planer is all that you need.

A medium size Makita (pictured below) is ideal for erecting stud work and other essential construction jobs.

Smaller planers are ideal for working at any kind of  height.
Smaller planers are ideal for working at any kind of height.

Curved Base Planers

These can help you create arches or give a 'rough-hewn' finish.

Corded or Cordless?

There are times when a cordless planer is useful, most especially for smaller tasks. They can really help if you are working on a big property and need to repair sheds, fences or any kind of wooden structure far from a power outlet.

They can be a bonus on a construction site too when adding to the general mess with more cables is just a nuisance.

Blades?

You can choose between carbide blades (often called 'knives' by pros) or high speed steel (HSS) blades.

Carbide blades are double sided and slide into the planer's cutter head to be tightened in place with a wrench.

Carbide lasts much longer.

HSS blades can be sharpened a couple of times if you have a sharpening jig, making them better value, especially when working with older timber that might have nails.

Really sharp HSS blades give a better finish, too.

Quick-hone makes sharpening planer blades easy.
Quick-hone makes sharpening planer blades easy.

Fences

Anyone who has used a bench planer knows that they are perfect for producing absolutely square timber with precise measurements.

A hand held planer can do a similar job, if it has a rugged, adjustable fence.

Planer with fence
Planer with fence

Best Corded Planers

PORTER-CABLE 6.0-Amp Planer

As a first planer, for general purpose work. the Porter-Cable pictured above is ideal.

It is powerful enough to use on hardwoods and has a maximum cutting depth of 5/64-inch. The cutter steps in 1/16-inch increments so fine work is easy.

Grooves in the base plate allow you make chamfers.

They is a dust bag, but like all dust bags on power tools it can be hard to use in many situations. A face-mask is always recommended.

This is the kind of planer I would use to trim down windows that were sticking and hard to open or close. It is lightweight and rugged but not so powerful that you cannot use it with one hand (with practice).


The 1594K comes with useful accessories
The 1594K comes with useful accessories

Bosch 1594K

The Bosch is a more sophisticated creature than the Porter Cable, and, at a price of around $140 new, these days, worth considering if you want to do more precise work.

One of the features that it is best known for is the efficient chip ejection process. Some machines clog on deeper passes or 'chatter' producing an uneven finish but this Bosch will cut at maximum without issue.

It also has a chip vacuum extractor adapter that works! You will need the vacuum in the first place, though...

The fence is far more sophisticated than the Porter-Cable and all-in-all this is a good tool for a furniture making, boat building or anywhere that high precision work is required.

Best Beam Planer

Makita beam planer
Makita beam planer

Makita, 10.9 Amp: Big and Powerful, Beam Planer

Not many people will need a great brute of a planer like this one. They are great to use, though, and make light work of some serious construction projects like framing a house.

For hobbyists the great pleasure is using this machine to plane table tops or other wide pieces of timber.

This machine has a working width of 6-3/4 inches and cuts 1/16-inch in a single pass.

Best Cordless Planer

Cordless Bosch
Cordless Bosch

Cordless Planer from Makita, 18-Volt

Cordless planers come into their own when you need to do something small and do not want the trouble of running cables.

Makita say that their 18-Volt cordless is designed for remodeling work, door and window installation, finishing carpentry in general, and deck installation.

In other words, no one would want a cordless for shop work but if you just need to shave a little off a cupboard door here, or a window frame there, they are very useful.

The experience of using the Makita compares well with many corded models and at around $170 it is competitively priced .

The cordless Bosch PLH181, pictured above, is worth consideration but is closer to $200 (bare).

Most Important Accessories?

  • The most important thing is something to hold whatever you are working on, and keep it absolutley steady. This can mean a genuine woodworking bench, a workmate, or, maybe, just a set of clamps that can used in place of a vice.
  • A face-mask. Dust from boards manufactured with glues like MDF and plywood are especially harmful.
  • Extension cables for corded buzzers..
  • Squares and levels.
  • It might sound crazy, but it can useful to have a fan in your work room. Blow that dust away from you (and keep cool!).
  • Better still is a dust extractor.
  • Ear plugs or ear protectors.

Portable table from Keter
Portable table from Keter

Questions & Answers

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