If you own a benchtop jointer, then you probably already have an idea of how a planer works. Planers are basically similar to jointers but with one distinct difference: the cutter head of the planer is located inside the housing instead of at the base of the tool.
Check out this video to see how a planer works.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to buying a planer (or any tool for that matter) is the more popular the brand, the pricier it is. But not everyone can afford an expensive planer, and if you’re only going to use it occasionally, then there’s no sense in buying the priciest one you can find.
But choosing a planer just because it is the cheapest one you can find can also backfire in the long run. You might love it because you saved a lot of money in the process, or you’re going to loathe it because it leaves major snipes or it bogs down several weeks after you bought it. Find the right balance between durability and price when choosing the right wood planer. But if you really want a tool that you’re going to use for many years, then it’s better to save up for something pricey but sturdy.
A snipe is a very shallow cut made by the planer usually at the beginning and the end of the board. You might not notice it at first glance after you run a board through a planer, but look closely and you’ll see a subtle and noticeable cut on your workpiece.
Snipe happens when the cutter head tugs and lifts the front or end portion of board while the rest of its body is held down by the rollers. The blade removes more material at the beginning and the end of the workpiece, resulting in an uneven cut. Not using roller stands to support a longer, more cumbersome workpiece, or having a planer with uneven or too flexible infeed and outfeed tables, can also exacerbate the problem.
When buying a planer, always make sure that the infeed and outfeed tables are dead-flat with the planer bed. Visit the store if you can, and bring a bubble level with you to determine if the infeed and outfeed tables are level with the bed. To reduce snipe, you can also check if the unit has tables that you can adjust up or down.
There are certain models, however, that are built with features that can mitigate snipe. The Dewalt DW734, for example, reduces snipe with the help of a four-column carriage lock that holds the cutter head in place as the board passes through the planer.
To be clear, snipe is a completely normal occurrence, especially with smaller portable benchtop planers. Since snipe can’t be completely eliminated even if you use the most powerful and priciest planers out there, then it’s best to leave enough length on your workpiece and just cut the sniped portions later on to get a uniform surface. You can also add a sacrificial piece in the front and at the back of the board to save your workpiece.
Or you can do these to minimize planer snipe.
Whether it can produce a smooth and even surface or not is the most important aspect you should consider when buying a thickness planer. The planer should also have a heavy-duty motor that won’t bog down when you feed a heavy or tough workpiece into it.
Most benchtop thickness planers can accommodate boards with a maximum height of 6″, and maximum width of 13″. The DEWALT DW735X and the Ridgid 27263 planers, for example, can accommodate boards that have a maximum width of 13″. The rest of the planers in this review, however, can only accommodate boards with a maximum width of 12 to 12 1/2″.
Planers are notorious for ejecting a lot of sawdust and generally making a mess in your workshop. It’s best to hook it up to a dust collector or a shop vac to minimize the amount of sawdust in your work area. Some planers, such as the WEN 6550T and the DEWALT DW735X, are equipped with a fan-assisted chip ejection system to prevent your dust exhaust port from clogging up.