Planers are extremely versatile tools that should be a part of every woodworker’s tool collection. These machines can resize and refinish wood, turning unusable, rough lumber that’s the wrong size into usable wood that fits right and has a fresh surface.
But stationary planers are very expensive, generally costing upwards of $1,000. For the average hobbyist or even many professionals, this price is hard to justify. Especially since you can’t even move these tools. But these budget planers are portable, more affordable, and still very capable tools.
We needed to replace our decades-old planer, so we set out to see what was available. After testing and comparing many different machines, we settled on five that we want to share with you in the following reviews. These were our favorites, but two of them really stuck out as top picks and we’ll make sure to revisit them at the end so they’re fresh in your mind.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||DEWALT Benchtop Planer||
|WEN 6550T Corded Benchtop Thickness Planer||
|CRAFTSMAN CMEW320 Benchtop Planer||
|Porter-Cable PC305TP Benchtop Planer||
|Grizzly Industrial G0505 Benchtop Planer||
The 5 Best Budget Planers under $500 – Reviews 2021
1. DEWALT Benchtop Planer – Best Overall
DeWalt is one of the leading names in power tools, and once you use their DW734 Benchtop Planer, you’ll know exactly why. This machine is a beast in a compact form. It’s small enough to fit on any bench or table but still heavy enough to stay put at 80 pounds. But where this planer really shines is its performance.
This machine is equipped with a three-knife cutting head, giving you more cutting surface than other planers. The cutterheads spin at 10,000 RPM, allowing them to create an impressive 96 cuts per inch. This results in an extremely fine finish that’s ready to go; no sanding needed. We haven’t found any competing planers that create such a fine finish.
As you’re pushing your material through, you’ll be thankful for the extended tabletops that provide 33.5 inches of total material support. And with a powerful 15-amp motor spinning the cutterheads, you’ll never hear this machine slow down, even when you’re cutting at capacity. Speaking of capacity, this machine can plane boards that are up to 12.5 inches wide and six inches deep. Granted, this machine is a bit more expensive than the competition, but its stacked feature set warrants the extra cost.
2. WEN 6550T Corded Benchtop Thickness Planer
You don’t even have to touch the WEN 6550T Corded Benchtop Thickness Planer to tell that it’s high quality. It looks solid, and once you get your hands on it, you won’t be disappointed. This machine has a heavy-duty base that keeps it firmly in place during use. But one of the nicest features is the non-marring granite tabletops that support your material. They slide easily and won’t damage any wood.
Like most of the planers we tested, this one is equipped with a 15-amp motor that makes enough power to plane wood that’s up to 12.5 inches wide and 6 inches thick. The cutterheads in this tool make a total of 17,000 cuts per minute, which equates to a feed rate of 26 feet per minute. However, we did notice that it slowed down quite a bit when we were using large cuts of hardwood.
The dust port on this device is fan-assisted. We were surprised at how effective it was since our area was practically dust-free when we finished working. But we did discover some disappointment with the blades. After just a few boards one of the blades got nicked and started leaving a groove in our wood.
3. CRAFTSMAN CMEW320 Benchtop Planer
The CRAFTSMAN CMEW320 Benchtop Planer isn’t the most powerful budget planer we tested, but it’s still a capable device. The cutterheads spin at 8,000 RPM, allowing for a total of 16,000 cuts per minute. This was noticeably slower than the DeWalt or the WEN unit, but the CRAFTSMAN still produced clean surfaces that were straight and parallel, which is what really matters.
Right out of the box, the tables on this machine weren’t level. We had to play with them a bit to get them to sit right, but once adjusted, we had no more trouble with them. We did notice that there’s a lot of play in the height adjustment handle though. It didn’t seem to have much effect on our boards, but it just doesn’t inspire confidence in this tool.
Still, there were other traits we liked about this planer. For instance, the knives are made of high-carbon steel and they’re reversible. They won’t go dull quickly, but when they do, you can simply turn them around and you’ll be good to go. We also liked the vacuum port that allowed for easy dust collection. But those weren’t enough to help the CRAFTSMAN overtake its stiffest competition.
4. Porter-Cable PC305TP Benchtop Planer
We’ve had good luck with a lot of Porter-Cable tools in the past, but the PC305TP Benchtop Planer wasn’t one of our favorites. It’s still a great tool, but it’s outperformed by the competition in many areas. However, the three-year warranty that protects this machine is hard to beat.
Like most of the budget planers we tested, this one has a 15-amp motor. But this one handles hardwoods with no problem and can even plane glued materials. The cutterheads only spin at 8,000 RPM though, allowing for a feed rate of about 26 feet per minute. It’s got a 12.5-inch width capacity and a six-inch height capacity, keeping it on par with much of the competition.
But this machine fell short in a few key areas. First, it vibrates excessively to the point that the machine actually moves. This is also probably part of why the height adjustment keeps migrating, changing the depth of cut after a few passes. Our final complaint is that the support tables are just too short. You’ll need to add some support at the outfeed for your board to rest on as it comes out of the planer.
5. Grizzly Industrial G0505 Benchtop Planer
Grizzly is known for making some seriously stout powerhouse tools, but their G0505 Benchtop Planer missed the mark. That said, it does have a few impressive specs. First, it’s got a powerful motor that’s pushing two horsepower. All that power results in a very quick feed rate of 32 feet per minute. The cutterheads in here spin at 10,000 RPM, matching the DeWalt that was our top pick.
But to get those specs on the Grizzly costs a lot more than the DeWalt. And this machine falls short in other regards. For example, the Grizzly planer only manages 52 cuts per inch, a much rougher finish than the 96 cuts per inch you get with the DeWalt. We also noticed that the motor didn’t perform as well as expected. It produces a slight burning smell like it’s being overworked, even when it’s not being used to capacity.
Unfortunately, we found more drawbacks. This machine wouldn’t hold the dimensions we set. So, after a few passes, we had to keep readjusting and resetting the proper dimensions. Even the blades were lackluster. One of them started cutting nick lines into our wood after just a few passes.
At this point, you could simply go out and purchase one of our top picks and start working on your next project. But if you’re wondering how we compared these machines and what factors played into our choices, then this short buyer’s guide is for you. In it, we’re going to discuss the most important aspects that you should consider to ensure you get the planer that’s perfect for you.
Planners are asked to cut both the top and bottom of a long piece of lumber in order to change the dimensions while keeping the edges straight and parallel. That requires blades on the top and bottom with enough power to keep them spinning without bogging down, even on hardwoods. If you attempt to run a board through your planer and the motor starts to slow down and show difficulty, you’re going to be disappointed.
Hardwoods and larger woods are harder for a planer to deal with. If you know you’ll be working with a lot of oversized boards that will push your planer’s capacity to its limits, then you’ll want to find one with a strong enough motor to handle all that wood.
Likewise, if you work with hardwoods a lot, power is going to be even more important for you since hardwoods are much more difficult for the motor to push through.
Capacity refers to the size of lumber that you can use with your planer. If you need to work with very large lumber, then you might need to upgrade from a benchtop planer. Most of these tools are limited to working with wood that’s under 12.5 inches wide and 6 inches deep.
Cuts Per Inch
Cuts per inch has a very noticeable effect on the finish of your wood. If you only do rough construction, then this might not matter to you as much. But if you want your boards to come out of the planer ready to be used in a finished project, then you’ll want to find a planer that can produce as many cuts per inch as possible. The more cuts per inch a machine can produce, the cleaner the finish of the wood will be.
Our favorite planers were capable of producing as many as 96 cuts per inch while others could barely muster 50. Obviously, that’s going to create a glaring difference in the finish of the face of the wood.
Feed rate is the measure of how much lumber your planer can plane in a minute. On average, most machines were able to plane wood at a rate of about 26 feet per minute. Some of the more powerful units could manage as much as 32 feet per minute, but with fewer cuts per inch.
If you take on large projects that require you to plane many pieces of lumber consecutively, then feed rate will likely be important to you. A slower feed rate means it will take much longer to prepare all your lumber before starting on your project.
As you guide the lumber through your planer, it’s going to be supported on a tabletop. Those tabletops extend to the front and rear of the machine, providing support to help prevent sniping. When you push a long board through the planer, if you imagine the far end not being supported, it goes down, lifting the end still in the planer, causing an uneven cut. This is sniping.
Longer support tables help to prevent sniping. But if you’re working with long enough material, you’ll probably have to improvise some sort of support on your own.
There’s one more thing to consider with support tables though; the material they’re made of. Most of them are made of some type of metal, which works well. But we really liked the granite table we found on one of the models we tested. It never marred the wood and was very smooth with our lumber gliding on top of it.
Once you set your planer to cut to a specific size, you don’t want that measurement to move. But not all planers are as sturdy as they should be. Some that we tested needed readjusting every few passes because they kept migrating out of place, changing the dimensions of our boards.
While you’re pushing your boards through the planer, the last thing you want is the planer moving with your boards. The machine needs to stay completely still and stable. To that end, many of these tools include heavy-duty bases that keep them firmly planted where you set them up. But others were less stable. These machines had vibration issues that would cause the machine to migrate while in use. This is incredibly frustrating and can result in a lot of lost time.
Planers are asked to perform a very difficult job. The more often you ask your planer to perform, the sooner something is going to wear out. Granted, these tools are built tough to handle these conditions. But things still happen.
If something happens, you’ll want a warranty to protect your investment. These aren’t cheap tools, even though we’re examining the lowest-priced planers out there. That warranty can provide some excellent peace of mind, ensuring that if anything goes wrong with your planer in the first few years, you’ll be able to get it replaced without having to fork over the funds for a new one.
More buying guides like this:
- A closer look at the best benchtop planers on the market
- A closer look at wood planers in general – Which are our top 5 picks?
There are many great planers on the market, but only a handful are priced below $500. We wanted to make sure that we found the absolute best options available, and after testing them all thoroughly to write our reviews, we think the mission has been accomplished.
For us, the obvious choice is the DeWalt DW734 Benchtop Planer. This robust machine is packed with power, 15 amps of it. All that power allows the cutterhead to turn at 10,000 RPM while performing a total of 96 cuts per inch. This results in the finest finish we’ve seen from a budget planer. Plus, you can use this machine with lumber as large as 12.5 inches wide and six inches thick.
If you’re looking for something that’s even more budget-priced than the DeWalt, then we recommend the WEN 6550T Corded Benchtop Planer. Like the DeWalt, this one is equipped with a 15-amp motor that allows for feed rates of up to 26 feet per minute. This one has a non-marring granite table that lets your wood slide smoothly over top. And we also loved our clean our workspace was thanks to the fan-assisted dust port that removes the sawdust as it’s created.
Pete has been working in the trades since high school, where he first developed a passion for woodworking. Over the years, he has developed a keen interest in a wide variety of DIY projects around the home. Fascinated by all sort of tools, Pete loves reading and writing about all the latest gadgets and accessories that hit the market. His other interests include astronomy, hiking, and fishing.
As the founder of House Grail, David’s primary goal is to help consumers make educated decisions about DIY projects at home, in the garage, and in the garden.
- 1 A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- 2 The 5 Best Budget Planers under $500 – Reviews 2021
- 3 Buyer’s Guide
- 4 Conclusion