Thickness Planer

If you are in the market for the best thickness planer, you probably are familiar with its uses, features, and benefits. But do you know how to choose one that suits your particular needs?

There are many important considerations to factor in once you decide you want to own a thickness planer, whether for your personal use as a woodworking hobbyist or for a business where you either have a shop or work on jobsites, or both.

The woodworking industry is a growing field and therefore woodworking equipment is likewise vast. For milworking and furniture making, your decision on which thickness planer to purchase can be a critical one.

General Planer Components

  • Cutter Head – high velocity blades housed within a cylindrical head are the key to the effectiveness of the cutter head. This design is standard on virtually all thickness planers.
  • Blades – look for reusable and disposable.
  • Feed in Rollers & Feed out Rollers – these settings are key in order to insure precision cuts.
  • Adjustable Table – a feature for a thickness planer, as opposed to a portable thickness planer.
  • Motor – since this component is responsible for pulling the wood through the machine, you will want to determine the size of the motor, and the ratio of rate (slow) verses cutting speed (high). A 2-3HP is reccommended to adequately run both the feeders and the cutting head at the same time.
  • Speed Settings – hardwoods, which are fed on fast speeds and softwoods on slow speeds make you reliant upon speed settings, but not all thickness planers have multiple speed settings.

Additional features

Added features are not present on all planer models.

For example, to allow you to determine the exact depth you desire, some planers have a depth lock indicator that tells you exactly how much wood will be removed once it passes through the feeders. This omits having to do more than one pass through by eliminating the guess work.

Secondly, planers with motors that have two speeds (for example 96 inches per cut and 179 inches per cut by DeWalt models) can provide options when dealing with hard and soft woods. An important note here is that the higher cut speed reduces wear on the blades and produces a finish that is smoother and/or more fine than the lower cut speed.

A third option is a folding table verses a regualr platform. The folding table can extend the feed bed to up to 3 feet.

Most popular brands

Everyone has their favorite brand of heavy equipment and machinery. This at a glance list names a few and what they are best known for.

  • DeWalt – most popular for durability, quality, and performance.
  • Ridgid – smooth finishes.
  • Makita – wanted by midrange to high level woodworkers, tend to run quieter, some to all models use disposable blades (as opposed to reusable).
  • Craftsman – reliable and cost effective.
  • Powermatic – powerful and long life of cutter blades.

The “proof is in the pudding,” and only you know the criteria that will meet your expectations of your thickness planer. Prior to visiting a store, online research will best serve you for two reasons: (1) you can cost compare models, brands, price and retail venue from one spot and (2) you can read reviews from your peers in the industry. While the “guy” at Home Depot may know the specs, prices, features and benefits of the planers they sell, it’s the guy that is also a woodworker that would best serve you and if you don’t find that, at least you have done your homework.

Additional Aspects & Equipment to Consider

  • Adequate Space (home or job site).
  • Vacuum System (key for shavings and dust-free woodworking).
  • Electrical Outlet Accessibility (virtually all thickenss planer motors are electric).
  • Cast aluminum steel paired with high quality plastic parts are the best materials to watch for when considering the construction of your thickness planer.
  • A sander is also a consideration to insure the smoothest finish if not completely achieved by your thickness planer.
  • Separate dust hood (not all models provision for dust and shavings).

Thickness Planer Cost

Depending on the brand, where you go, and special offers in play, plan on spending anywhere from $300 to upwards of $600. Even more if you plan to purchase added features such as a dust hood.

When shopping for a thickness planer, your desires, budget, and necessities pilot your decision. You will be most effective using your experience and researching the topic to make the best choice.