A benchtop planer is used for smoothing and milling woods to the exact thickness you need. If you are doing remodeling, deck building or any kind of woodworking, then getting it can make your life easier and you’ll probably be wondering why you didn’t get yourself one earlier.
Back in the days, you can only purchase planers from cabinet and millwork shops. But today, you can easily get one from online stores like Amazon or via local home centers or tool retailers for several hundred dollars.
In this review, we’re going to take a look at three of the best benchtop planers currently available on the market.
|Makita 2012NB||View on Amazon|
|DEWALT DW734||View on Amazon|
|WEN 6550||View on Amazon|
Makita 2012NB 12-Inch Planer with Interna-Lok Automated Head Clamp
- Extremely durable, can last more than ten years
- Produces very smooth finish
- Lower noise output compared to other brands
- Easy blade replacement
- No assembly required
- No dust hood included
This portable 12-inch planer from Makita is certainly one of the best benchtop planers that you can obtain.
It’s extremely portable and lightweight, enabling you to bring it wherever you want.
It also comes with a disposable double edged planer blade that can be easily replaced if needed and is probably the only part that you’ll have to replace over time. These blades are also very economical because you can just turn a blade over once its other side begins to get dull.
It can still perform flawlessly even after a decade of use. Overall, blade replacements and probably a few sessions of lubes and dust cleaning for maintenance will keep the Makita 2012NB in its top condition for years to come.
It comes with a powerful anti-sniping technology with its exclusive Interna-Lok automated head clamp technology. It efficiently keeps the cutter head firmly locked in place during wood shaving to prevent the occurrence of sniping, giving you a smooth and flawless finish from end to end.
Benchtop planers are very noisy tools and most of the time you will have to wear a hearing protection in order to optimally use them. The Makita 2012NB’s quiet 15-amp motor only makes 83 dB noise, about as loud as the noise of a passing diesel truck. Well, that’s still noisy but if you compare it to other brands, you’ll hear a big difference in loudness.
DEWALT DW734 15 Amp 12-1/2-Inch Benchtop Planer
- Produces extremely smooth cut
- Comes with a 4-inch dust hood
- Comes with an accurate depth gauge
- Heavier than planers of other brands
- Can produce occasional sniping issues
- Table folding can be a bit annoying
Another portable benchtop planer, the DEWALT DW734 is almost the same to Makita 2012NB in terms of technical specs but at a lower price.
It’s quite heavier compared to other benchtop planers. You will have to assemble the unit after unboxing which will usually take around 10 minutes to finish. It’s fairly easy especially if you follow the manual carefully.
One of the best thing about this planer is that it has a depth gauge that allows you to put in exactly how much material you want to remove from your board. The gauge goes up to 1/8 of an inch. Also included is a 4-inch dust hood that makes dust collection and maintenance easier. It can be easily attached to your dust collection system and you’re good to go.
It cuts smoothly and unless you closely inspect the wood under a very bright light, you’ll never notice any trace of blade marks at all. It comes with a disposable and reversible steel knife that can be easily replaced. It has a maximum cut depth of 1/8”, depth capacity of 6” and width capacity of 12 ½”.
One of its downsides is its weight. It’s extremely heavy, coming in at a weight of around 80 lbs., so you may want to consider buying a cart for it. You can also get a little snipe when attempting to take more than 1/32 inch in a pass and it can also introduce snipes to limited ends of the board.
WEN 6550 12.5-Inch 15A Benchtop Thickness Planer with Granite Table
- Cheap, but highly efficient and gives excellent performance
- Comes with a granite table for wood support – eliminating sniping
- Doesn’t have a very high durability
- Occasional blade/knife issues
The cheapest on our list, but that doesn’t mean it’s the least in terms of performance per price. One of the best features of this planer is that it comes with a 15-amp motor and 3 cutting blades for the fraction of the usual price. If you are looking for a cheaper version of the two above, this one is your best bet.
Its powerful motor can generate up to 18,800 cuts per minute at a 26 feet per minute feed rate, making it as fast and as efficient as the other products in this review. It has a smooth granite table that provides stable and sturdy support to your wood while shaving for accurate precision and less snipe.
It also comes with a rubber adjustment handle, giving you an easy way to adjust the planer’s height by 1/16 inch per full rotation, thus allowing you to have precise measurements. However, it can be annoying especially if you’re looking for a fast and efficient way of changing measurements.
The blades are fairly easy to replace. But keep in mind that you must be careful and detail oriented to make sure that no issue arises. Sometimes, the blades will bend and will result to a large hump, so you must be careful with the blade installation.
We all know the old saying, “you get what you pay for”, and as an example, don’t expect this planer to last as long as the other brands above. In terms of performance, speed, reliability and efficiency, however, it can still match the top brands for half the price.
Why Choose Benchtop Planers?
Benchtop planers have several advantages over stationary planers as they are smaller, lighter and portable, making it a perfect tool for contractors who wants to be able to get the proper stock thickness on-site.
You’ll also gain more floor space in your workshop as they are relatively smaller compared to a stationary planer, especially those that comes with infeed and outfeed extensions. In addition to that, you can easily adjust and replace knives on a benchtop planer.
However, keep in mind that this isn’t the perfect choice if you are frequently doing big projects. If you require speed for a regular job that involves a bulk amount of wood shaving, then consider getting a stationary planer instead.
Things to Consider When Buying a Benchtop Planer
Cutting Width and Depth. Most benchtop planer comes in 12″, 12-1/2″ and 13″ cutter head widths. But the general idea is that the wider the cutter head, the better. Maximum cutting depth isn’t a big issue as all planers can mill up to 6” thick.
Depth of Cut. Most of the time, manufacturers specify the maximum amount of material that can be removed in one pass. If you are usually finishing soft woods, you can follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. But if you are finishing hard woods, then you’ll get better a much better finish if you take shallow cuts measuring from 1/32” to 1/16″.
Knives. Common planers come with two knives, though three knife planers are becoming more and more popular. More knives equal longer knife lifespan as there will be less stress on each knife. It’s also a good idea to choose planers that use disposable reversible blades – this will save you money because when the knife edge turns dull, you’ll just have to turn it around and you’re good to go again. They’re also recyclable and competitively priced.
Knife Changing Difficulty. You can easily change knives in today’s modern benchtop planers. Most manufacturers use quick change knives, which comes with elongated holes that allow you to drop them onto registration pins on the cutter head. However, it can be time-consuming to swap out cutters on a helical cutter head as there are 26 cutters that you’ll need to deal with.
Feed Rate. This is the speed that the wood passes through the planer. It’s measured in feet per minute, abbreviated as FPM. The common feed rate is 26 FPM, but you need to understand the optimal FPM for your needs. If you are primarily dealing with hard woods, consider choosing a planer that has a lower FPM or those that have the ability to switch to a lower FPM (dual feed rate feature).
Cuts Per Inch. Abbreviated as CPI, this is one of the things that you’ll need to pay a careful attention. The CPI is affected by three factors: the FPM, the number of knives and the motor speed. But you don’t need to be concerned with those three things. The rule: the higher CPI your planer has, the better your finishes are. No matter if they using 2 knives or 3 knives or a feed rate of 25 or 20 as long as they have the same CPI, they will have the same finish quality. So choose the one with highest CPI.
Motor. All planers use 15-amp universal motors. As overheating is a common issue on benchtop planers, choose those with thermal overload protection. It’s an important feature that you don’t want to overlook as it can protect you from possible injury and your motor from possible damage.
Anti-sniping. If you aren’t aware, snipe is the deeper cut that is typically found on the leading and/or trailing end of the board after it passes a planer. This is usually caused by the board’s front or rear end being elevated upon entering the cutter head or via cutter head assembly’s vibration. Planers that come with anti-snipe locks stabilize the cutter head to prevent sniping. In addition to that, there are other brands that also include an in-feed and out-feed tables that provide wood support to prevent sniping.
Dust Collection. Many planers generate a lot of sawdust, therefore, having the ability to efficiently manage dust is a great feature to have.
Safety Tips When Using a Benchtop Planer
Benchtop planers are quite safe and easy to use, however, there are safety tips that you need to follow in order to get the most out of your planer.
- Always wear ear protectors or ear plugs or any hearing safety gear. Most benchtop planer runs very noisily and constant exposure to extremely loud noises can damage your hearing. Even the quietest of benchtop planers still produces about 85 dB which is still very loud and requires ear plugs.
- Always use safety goggles or safety glasses with side shields.
- Stand to the side of the machine to avoid any potential wood shattering or kickback from the planer. This can occur even with the feed roller pressure.
- Do not wear gloves while operating the machine.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing and/or jewelry.
- Do not plane a board less than ¼ inch thick or a board that’s shorter than the distance between the feed rollers inside the machine.
- Disconnect the planer from the power source before changing blades.
- Never peek or look into the machine while it’s running.
- If your wood or board gets stuck in the planer, don’t push it. Turn off the power, disconnect it, then lower the bed or raise the cutter head to remove the stock.
- If you are going to mill a recycled lumber, use a metal detector to check for metal objects.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a benchtop planer used for?
They are primarily used to smooth and mill boards to an exact thickness for your needs.
What is the difference of a benchtop planer to a handheld planer?
They provide a smaller footprint and usually produce better finishes.
Why would I get a stationary planer instead of a benchtop planer if it’s more convenient?
Benchtop planers are only good for occasional wood smoothing and milling purposes. They can easily overheat if used for a continuous and extended period of time. If you need heavy duty work, use a stationary planer instead.
How long will a benchtop planer last?
If properly maintained, they can last more than ten years.
About The Manufacturers
These three manufacturers are currently the leader in developing different kinds of power tools, industrial tools, and construction tools. If you’re looking for good quality benchtop planers or related products, then look for these brands. Why?
Makita is a century old company founded at Nagoya, Japan in 1915. They have been developing power tools, woodworking machines, and other related products since its inception. Their wood planers are known to possess extreme durability and customers love the simple, yet efficient craftsmanship that they have to offer.
DeWalt is an American company formed with plants and offices in Leola, Pennsylvania. Like Makita, their products have been tested through time and are among the most popular in the world of power tools. Their products are also known for extreme durability and customers love their excellent and friendly customer support.
WEN is the newest in the field, having been formed in 1951. They have a dedicated research and development team allowing them to create innovative products at a lower price. Customers love how they managed to balance quality and price, allowing small woodworkers and workshops to jumpstart their career.
If you are looking to make your woodworking life easier, these three are among the best benchtop wood planners that you can get. Even though they come with a hefty price tag, their durability, efficiency and speed will usually pay off. Pair it with proper maintenance and information, you can get the best out of them, despite some shortcomings that you may encounter.
In the end, if you are looking for a good investment for your workshop, these three products are your perfect choice for the perfect price and will pay-off in the long run.