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Hand Planer vs Bench Planer: Which is Best for Your Needs?

You’re working on a DIY project in your home, and you need to plane wood to a uniform level of thickness. Which tool do You use? The good hand planer or the powerful bench planer? Well, it all depends on you and what you want to use it for. The hand planer has been a “fan favorite” for decades, proving helpful in shaping, straightening, and smoothening woods.

On the flip side, bench planers can be used for heavy-duty tasks, which will be discussed later in this article. Unless you are a woodworking expert, all planers might be the same for you. But the truth is, they are not. There are at least 15 different types of planers to choose from, all with specific uses and applications, so there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all solution.”

We’ve condensed all the relevant information on this subject, and we’ll review both tools below. That way, you can reach a conclusive decision on your own.

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Hand Planer Overview

Naturally, the first question that should pop up is, “What is a hand planer?”

A hand planer has been used for thousands of years. The operator uses both hands and plenty of force to move a thin steel blade over the edges and corners of the wood. It can also be used to smoothen out frames accurately. The hand planer is to a carpenter what a wrench is to a plumber.

Hand planer

When using it, grab the knob with one hand and the handle with another. This provides the grip and steadiness required to drive it seamlessly across the wood. You can also adjust how deep its steel blade cuts through from the knob. The handle planer is handy and easily fits into a small tool kit.

hand holding planer
Image Credit: Pikrepo

When to Use a Hand Planer

There are two types of hand planers: a manual hand planer and an electric hand planer. With technology transforming tools in several industries, you didn’t think the hand planer would escape it, did you? However, most woodworkers still prefer the manual planer over the electric type.

handheld planer Here’s when you need to pull out your hand planer:

  • To achieve a smoother wood surface
  • To trim off swollen corners of a stuck door
  • To attend to smaller wood pieces with heightened accuracy
  • To make radius cuts
  • To create a symmetrical slope plane
  • On parallel wooden surfaces such as tables, doors, or frames

Apart from its multiple functions, the most significant advantage of a hand planer is its portability and ability to be used without electricity.


  • Easy to use and portable
  • The manual type can be used anywhere
  • Requires no prior form of installation
  • Injuries and accidents can easily occur from a wrong move
  • Requires tremendous physical labor

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Bench Planer

The bench planer, also called the table planer, is a tool that flattens uneven wooden surfaces. It is a perfect choice for bulkier wood. The bench planer easily smoothens surfaces, creating a better and much more even surface.

Unlike, the bench planer is not a pocket-sized tool. On the contrary, it is rather heavy and doesn’t have the portability of the hand planer. So, you might have to exercise more caution when attempting to carry one. Watch your back!

Stationary planer

The bench planer comes in different sizes and widths. The wider models can get more done in a shorter time. A bench planer can range from 9 to over 22 inches in length. The most vital part of its construction is the sharp blade beneath it, slanted about 45 degrees, which makes all the sharpening and smoothening possible.

a wood planer in action

There are three main types of bench planer: the jointer, the smooth, and the jack plane. The jointer is over 22 inches long, making it the biggest type of table planer. It is used for working on longer boards and tougher lumber work.

The smooth planer is 9 to 10 inches long and is used to remove uneven furniture spots. The jack planer is about 11 to 17 inches long, and it’s the best tool for taking out those twists and edges on boards.

When to Use a Bench Planer

Your most effective use of a bench planer includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Can easily double as a sander
  • Works perfectly on a chunk of lumber
  • Best used on rough edges or poorly shaped wood

It is one of the best tools for DIY woodwork projects or home renovation plans. Compared to the hand planer, it has a wider surface and can produce more accurate results.


  • Achieves more accurate results
  • Works on poor-quality wood and rough edges
  • Best choice for chunky lumber
  • It is heavy and cannot be easily moved about
  • Might leave some rough edges
  • Would cost you a lot more change than the hand planer

Other Factors to Consider

Apart from finding a suitable tool for your job, here are a few aspects that may be at the back of your mind before making the final purchase:

  • Expenses: Consider your budget. Bench planers are more costly than hand planers. So, if you must go with one, ensure you can afford it.
  • Maintenance: When improperly stored or exposed to moisture, rust will begin to eat up the efficiency of your tools. Lubricate moving parts regularly and sharpen blades for optimum precision.
  • Safety: Always use safety glasses and avoid working around children, pets, or people with allergies.

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So, Hand Planer or Bench Planer?

The choice, as well as the intent, is yours. The hand planer is ideal for achieving precision on smaller pieces of wood. On the other hand, the bench planer is a must-have for any significant carpentry project. They are both great tools and provide unique benefits. We hope that from the explanations above, you understand when to use a hand planer and bench planer.

Featured Image Credit: Pexels


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