Best Handheld Power Planers

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

25 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
171 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best handheld power planers

Last Updated November 2019

A good handheld power planer is a versatile tool that allows you to clean up rough wood, create rabbets, or ease a sticking door. One is an essential part of every toolbox, whether you're a weekend do-it-yourselfer or a professional tradesperson.

Manufacturers offer a wide range of solutions, from general-purpose tools like those we've recommended to function-specific models. The following shopping guide can help you refine your choice and pick exactly the right power planer for your needs.

Handheld power planers come with a shavings bag, but it can fill up quickly. Attaching a shop vac is a much more efficient way of dealing with waste.

Key considerations

Handheld power planer basics

All handheld power planers follow a similar format. An electric motor drives a cylindrical cutter block, which contains between one and three fast-rotating blades (two is most common). The base – or sole – is divided in two. The front part moves up and down, which defines the depth of cut taken. A large knob for this adjustment also doubles as a front handle on most models.

Sole: The sole can be chromed steel, aluminum, or, in a few cases, magnesium alloy. Aluminum is popular because it can be made quite thick, so it is flat and stable without adding excess weight. The downside is that aluminum is easier to scratch or dent, though this would have to be quite severe to impact performance.

Body: The upper portion is frequently (though not always) made of molded plastic. On low-cost electric planers, the material can be thin, which makes for a lightweight tool but affects durability. You could reason that a cheap handheld planer is all you need for occasional DIY jobs – and to an extent that's true – but a quality tool almost invariably feels nicer to use and usually leads to better results.

CAUTION

These tools are excellent for quickly cleaning up pallet wood and other scrap, but beware of nails, tacks, and screws that can ruin the blades.

Handheld power planer features

Power

As with most hand tools, you have a choice of corded or cordless.

Corded: The output on most corded models varies between 6 amps and 7.5 amps, though heavy-duty models go as high as 10 amps. If you're buying a corded power planer, it’s nice to have a good length of cable so you don't always have to reach for an extension. Unfortunately, that's not often the case. Six feet is common, but some can be shorter.

Cordless: Cordless models are either 12 volt or 18/20 volt. Some manufacturers quote initial voltage as 20, though the actual operating voltage is 18, so effectively there's no difference. A 12-volt cordless planer is fine for light-duty work, but it could stall under load. In general, we would recommend the more powerful models. Cordless tools should contain brushless motors, which make much more efficient use of battery power than the brush type found in most corded models.

Ampere hour rating: The other important factor with batteries is the ampere hour (Ah) rating. The higher the figure, the longer the tool will maintain peak performance. It's something you want to maximize where possible, though there is a cost penalty.

Cutter block speed: A cutter block speed is also provided, likely to be in excess of 12,000 rpm. Given that most electric planes have two blades, the actual cuts per minute is double that figure. As a general rule, more cuts mean faster material removal and a smoother finish when taking light cuts, though it also depends on overall machine build quality.

Capacities

Maximum planing width: The maximum planing width can be important because you'll get the smoothest results if you can plane in one movement, without overlaps. A very popular capacity is 3.25 inches because it combines decent width with manageable physical size. That said, we've seen tools as narrow as 2.0 inches and as wide as 7.0 inches, so you have plenty of choices if you're going to be consistently working on narrow or wide stock.

Depth of cut: This is another consideration, though the maximum in a single pass isn't necessarily the most important figure in our opinion. As important, if not more so, is flexibility. You want plenty of incremental adjustment so you can change the depth of cut to suit the work you’re doing: big, aggressive cuts when you want to remove a lot of material quickly, fine cuts to leave a nice, smooth finish.

Rabbets: Power planers should also be capable of cutting rabbets with the help of a guide (which may or may not be included). The maximum size of rabbet is worth checking.

Other features

Waste collection: A shavings bag is usually provided for waste collection, though handheld power planers can produce a lot of shavings very quickly, so a shop vac or other extraction method might be a better option. Sometimes these can only be fitted on one side, though being able to fit it on either the left or right is convenient.

Parallel guide: This is a very useful extra that is sometimes included, sometimes not. Again, it’s beneficial if it can fit both sides rather than just one.

Rubber grips: Power planers can vibrate, especially when taking substantial cuts. Rubber grip areas on the handle help isolate the user and increase comfort.

Weight: If you're likely to be planing vertically or overhead a lot of the time, the weight of the power planer will make a difference to how tiring it is to use.

Storage: A carry case or bag is nice and makes it easy to keep tools and accessories together.

Warranty: Warranties vary, with 12 months as standard, but some are longer, so it’s worth checking.

"Bare tool" means you don't get a battery or charger with your cordless handheld power planer, so make sure you take that into consideration.

Handheld power planer prices

Inexpensive: The cheapest handheld power planers are corded models. If you only want something for occasional use, you can find a perfectly acceptable basic model for around $40. It will likely be loud and not offer much in the way of precision, but it shouldn't be short of useful features.

Mid-range: An accurate, high-quality corded tool built for everyday use costs between $120 and $200. We would put the sweet spot at around $150. All the top brands offer planers in this bracket. You'll also find cordless tools offered at similar prices, though you'll have to pay extra for batteries and chargers. Depending on the type, that could add another $100 or more to your purchase.

Expensive: Few handheld power planers exceed the above prices, though specialist models can be as much as $600.

EXPERT TIP

Some handheld power planers have a kickstand that keeps the blades from coming in contact with your work or bench when not actively cutting.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Use protective eyewear, earplugs, and a dust mask at all times. Power planers can create a lot of dust and waste and are usually loud.
  • Don’t put the planer down until the blade completely stops rotating.
  • Know when to change the blades. If your power planer isn't cutting cleanly or is producing smoke or scorching the wood, your blades need changing. And always unplug the planer before attempting to change the blades.
  • Be careful when fitting new blades. If they aren't level, your planed surface won't be level. Some manufacturers provide gauges to make life easier. Don't try to save money by only replacing one blade; change both.
  • Empty the shavings bag frequently. If it gets full, shavings can spill back into the blade, creating additional wear and potentially spoiling your planed surface.

Other products we considered

While many handheld power planers have relatively similar specifications, there are some that offer focused solutions for particular tasks. The Bosch 12V Max Planer GHO12V-08N with its maximum 2.2-inch planing width might seem small at first, but not if you've got lots of doors to fit. Then this compact, ergonomic cordless model is exactly what you want in your toolbox. At the other end of the scale is the Triton TPL180 Triple Blade Planer. It’s a big, heavy-duty machine with a 1,500-watt motor and enormous 7.0-inch planing width. It's not all about power though, the ten-position depth control offers plenty of precision. At first we wondered why you would need the Makita 1002BA Curved Base Planer. You usually plane things to make them as flat as possible, but what if you want to fit round logs together? The Makita is the perfect tool for cabin builders to cut fast, accurate notches.

Trigger lock-on buttons are common, so you don't need to keep the trigger pressed while working. A trigger lock-off button is a useful safety feature that prevents the tool from being started accidentally.

FAQ

Q. What is snipe?
A.
Snipe is when the blades dig into the wood at the start or finish of your planing run, leaving a deeper cut than expected. It can ruin your work. Some woodworking experts suggest putting small sacrificial boards before and after your workpiece, or starting with an overly long board and cutting the sniped areas off. Both methods work, but they aren't always practical – if you're planing down a sticking door, for example. The best way to avoid snipe is to get plenty of practice with your tool. Snipe is more pronounced when you're taking deep cuts, so allow yourself thin cuts to finish. It's vital to make sure your planer is up to full speed before you start and that you keep it level right through the cut. Don't be tempted to lift it away from the job too soon.

Q. Are TCT blades better than HSS?
A.
That depends on your definition of “better”! Tungsten carbide-tipped (TCT) blades are considerably harder than high-speed steel (HSS), so they don't wear as quickly. However, they are more difficult to sharpen, and they cost more initially. HSS doesn't have the same durability, but it can be made sharper, thus giving a better finish straight from the tool. For general purpose carpentry and DIY, which is how most people use electric planers, you'll probably save money in the long run by choosing TCT. Many are designed to be disposable, so you won’t have the trouble of trying to sharpen them.

Q. Why does the planer base have a groove down the middle?A. Sometimes you want to plane a chamfer on a post or rail. The groove makes it easy to locate the planer on the corner and follow the material for that initial cut.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bob
    Bob
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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