Working with wood and other materials to give them a certain shape, design and uniqueness could be tricky, you’ll definitely need a couple of tools to achieve all these and a wood planer is without doubts one of these tools that play a very important role in your craftwork journey.
A planer is a woodworking (or metal) tool with a flat blade attached to it, used to flatten out uneven surfaces and for shaping woods or metals to your taste.
It is basically used to make flat surfaces leveled enough to provide complete convenience, imagine if your chairs and tables weren’t properly leveled out, Tragic!
Planers are not only useful for leveling and shaping your projects, they also smoothen out and reduce the thickness of your projects. The planer takes up the job type of a saw and a jointer combined, where the saw can be used to reduce the thickness and a jointer to smoothen out rough edges.
If you’ve always wanted to know what planer to use for what project putting its efficiency into consideration, you have come to the right place. Pay close attention as I guide you through the world of planers.
Here we go!
In this post we'll cover:
Types of Planers
Planers are mainly categorized according to;
- Their power source
- Materials from which they were made
- Order of use
1. Manual Planers
These planers are basically powered and controlled by you. It trims and shapes according to the amount of muscle power you put into it.
These are the oldest forms of planers in the history of planers. It is usually made up of a metal blade and a rigid body. You can make it cut deeper and increase its effect by exerting more force on it.
They are more or less like the regular hand planers but they come with two handles like a motorcycle. Its handles make it easier and more convenient to grip and cut properly. They are mostly made of metals and are preferably used to work on sharp and delicate corners.
Combination RASP Planer
Otherwise known as Surform Planer. This planer is like a grater, not for food this time but soft metals, woods and plastics with its perforated metal sheet that smoothens rough surfaces and edges.
Flat plane bottom-edged wood hand planers
These planers rarely come with a handle and they require just one hand to work with. They are small and it is not advisable to use for large projects, but for little projects because they only trim in bits.
While other planers require you to trim by pushing, this planer requires you to pull like when you’re using a rake. It has a long handle with its blade attached to it at one end. They are used to repair metal and wooden floors to give them decorative finishes.
2. Electrical Planers
To help reduce muscular strains and extreme fatigue, electric planers are the right choice. These planers help in getting the job done even more efficiently than using manual planers.
With a nice handle for a firm grip and a motorized blade for smoothening your woodwork, the electrical handheld planer helps you get the job done without going through a lot of stress. It is good for large projects and it works quickly.
This planer is just the right size to place on your workbench. They are quite portable and can hold a small piece of lumber while smoothing and shaping it on both sides, taking one side at a time.
This plane is used for making designs that are quite complex, especially on the hardwood. Mold planers are not usually handheld or placed on the bench, they are placed on the floor. Not everyone needs one of these, they are for professional works and not regular DIYs
For a more professional project, the stationary planer is recommended. As the name implies, these planers are not portable and movable, they are heavy-duty planers. If you’re working on a large project with large sized lumbers, this planer is just about right for that job.
This includes materials that these planes are made from. These planes differ in the material used to create its knob, handle and other parts but the blades of these planes are most times made of the same material, usually iron.
All parts of these planes are made up of wood except for its blade. The iron is properly attached to this plane with a wedge and could be easily adjusted by hitting the plane with a hammer.
Completely made up of metal except for its handle or knob which might be made up of wood. It is slightly heavier and more durable than wooden planers and they require extra care, to prevent damages.
This plane is a combination of metal and wood together. Its body is made out of wood and its casting set used to adjust the blade is made out of metal.
Infill planes have bodies that are made up of metal which is filled with hardwood of high density where the blade rests. The handles are formed from that same wood.
These planes are quite different from other planes especially its way of ejecting shafts from wood. While other planes have an opening at the center for shavings to be ejected, this plane has its opening by its sides. It is also longer than regular planes.
Order of Use
This plane is used to trim off large amount of woods and has a wide mouth that can allow large shavings to be ejected easily. It is longer than the smoothing plane with a blade that is curved inwards.
The smoothing plane is used for giving your woodworks fine finishes. As the name implies it is perfect for smoothening out wood and it makes shaving more efficient with its adjustable throat.
A jack plane is used to shave a smaller amount of wood. It is most times used right after the scrub plane has been used. The jack plane is also a jack of all trades because it can partially function as a smoothing plane, jointer and fore planes
Check out the best jack planes here
Jointer planes are used for jointing boards and smoothening them out. It makes the edges of your projects perfectly flat so jointing them becomes easy to work. It can also be called a try plane.
Traditional Japanese Plane
The traditional Japanese plane, also known as Kanna is used to shave even smaller bits for smoother surfaces. It’s operated quite differently than other planes because while other planes require pushing to shave, it requires pulling to shave.
Special Types of Planes
This plane is also known as the rabbet plane and it is used to cut rabbets in wood. Its blade extends to about half a millimeter on both sides of the plane to make sure it’s cutting perfectly well, well enough to reach the side of your intended rebate. They are also designed to make shaving a large amount of wood easier with a mouth that lets these shavings escape easily.
The Router Plane
Cutting like a chisel, this plane smoothens and levels out recesses on your woodworks making them as parallel as possible to their adjacent surface. It cannot be used to shave a large amount of wood. Using the router plane after sawing and chiseling your woodwork is the only way you can notice its effect.
The shoulder plane is used to trim the shoulders and faces of a tenon when trying to make mortise and tenon joints. For precise and perfect joinery, shoulder planes are the best options yet.
Grooving plane as the name implies is used to cut grooves in wood. They make very tiny holes in wood that narrow irons of about 3mm can fit in. usually for rear walls and bottom drawers.
Fillister planes perform the same functions as the rebate plane. They are also used for cutting rabbets more accurately with its adjustable fence that cuts grooves too.
The finger plane has a small body that is made out of brass. It cannot be adjusted like other planes because of its size. They are mostly used by violin and guitar makers to trim curved edges after glue-up. Its mouths and blade are also fixed and held still by a simple wedge.
The bullnose plane got its name from the shape of its front edge that looks like a round nose. It can be used in tight spaces due to its short leading edge. Some bullnose planes also come with a removable nose section to make chiseling corners more effective.
This plane is a hybrid plane, combining the functions of the rebate, molding and grooving plane with different cutters and adjustments.
Circular or Compass Plane
It works perfectly for creating convex and concave curves on your woodwork. Its concave settings make it effective for working with deep curves like your chair arms and its convex settings work for chair arms and other parts too.
The toothed plane is used for smoothing and trimming wood with irregular grains. It is used to prepare non-veneer glue surfaces by taking off strings instead of full shavings and also prepares it for traditional hammering veneer application.
The chisel plane is also known as the trimming plane. Its cutting edge is positioned right at its front making it possible to remove dry or excess glue from internal corners like the inside of a box. It performs the function of a chisel and can clean the corners of a rebate properly too.
A match plane is designed to make tongue and groove joints. They are usually made in pairs, with one plane cutting the tongue and the other cutting the groove.
This is a boat builder’s favorite plane. It is used for smoothing round-shaped woods like the boat masts and chair legs.
This is the only plane whose shavings are the finish products. It creates shavings that are long and spiral which could be used to transfer flames, probably from your chimney to light up your candle or simply for decorative purposes.
This plane is commonly used by cabinet makers. Molding planes are used to create beautiful decorative molds or features at the edge of your boards.
It is important to know what planer is perfect for a specific project, as well as the convenience using it brings. Using the right planer makes working on a project more fun than stressful and in no time you’ve completed the project with lots of time and energy to spare.
I have carefully and briefly explained the variety of planers you can possibly find when shopping. So, you should be able to identify these planers when you see them without bothering the shop attendant or end up being confused or buying the wrong planer.
It’s time to get that project done in the quickest and most convenient way you can. All you need to do is purchase your preferred plane and get to work. You’ll be happy you read this article once you’ve successfully completed your project.
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.