Updated: Dec 31, 2021
Thickness Planer Overview
Benchtop vs Industrial Planers
Benchtop planers are less expensive and less powerful than the larger, industrial versions. Their portability and price is their most valuable feature. They are popular amongst carpenters and great for beginning woodworkers on a tight budget. A bench top planer is best suited for softwoods and domestic softer hardwoods.
Industrial planers take up more space, are stationary and more expensive. But its worth the extra price because a powerful industrial planer can easily handle any type of hardwoods. The motor’s power here is key - a more powerful motor 5hp can handle much more strenuous use and demanding projects.
Tersa or Helical Cutter Head
Teresa and Helical cutter heads each have their advantages and disadvantages. However, most professional woodworkers will agree the helical cutter head are superior because they are quiter and reduce sniping.
Tersa cutter head
Tersa cylinders are the original style of cutterheads for planers and jointers. A Tersa cutter head has 3-4 long blades the length of the cylinder. One issue with them is that the long blade can chip at a certain point and the whole blade then needs to be replaced. However machines with tersa heads are usually less expensive and are less expensive to sharpen.
Helical (spiral) cutter head
Helical cutter heads have multiple 1/2" blades that spiral around the cutter head. Spiral cutter heads get rid of 80-90% of tearout. Helical cutters are more expensive but it is easier to change them, they last longer, and they cut quieter than Tersa blades. Helical blades are great for large-scale use as the blade takes much longer to wear down. When the blades become dull, they can be rotated 3 times to have a fresh sharp edge.
Best Benchtop Planers
The JET 13” is a benchtop planer with a spiral head cutter. Compared with other benchtop planers, it has more power and efficiency, making it a good choice for more rigorous work.
A helical-style blade cuts to a smooth and consistent surface better than most other spiral cutters due to its 26 inserts. Their rectangular design makes two passes on the wood per rotation, giving an overall smooth cut at a more efficient pace. In addition, these are easily replaceable with quick-change knife inserts. It’s also much quieter than other models, reducing the noise of its 2HP 15 amp motor through its design.
The maximum depth of cut is ⅛” with 6” height and 13” width capacity.
Other features include adjustable folding tables, two infeed speeds, a cast-iron base to help reduce snipe, and a sturdy four-post design. It also comes with a toggle switch with a removable safety key. This is a solid safety feature.
It is a bit on the expensive side for the quality you are getting, but Jet provides promos that can help with that. This is one of the more unique 13” planers, so for that alone, it is worth taking a look.
The two-speed Wahuda Tools 13” benchtop planer uses a spiral cutter head with a slower 18fpm smooth finish with minimal tear-out and a 26fpm fast finish.
Its 4-sided carbide insert cutter heads are both cost-effective and easily maintained. They can be rotated or swapped out with minimal effort when dulled. As a spiral design, there is less of a chance of sniping, so keep that in mind.
The Wahuda Tools 13” Planer sports a 120VAC 15amp motor for great power. It has 13” width capacity with 6” depth and ⅛” maximum depth of cut.
At 77lbs, it’s relatively easy to move around the workshop and comes with easy-to-adjust tables and extensions for maximum adjustability. It also includes a 2 ½”-4” dust port adaptor.
While it doesn’t stand out in too many ways, the price point and versatility of features make this a solid choice that meets in the middle of many other planers.
The Makita 2012NB is a 12-inch bench table planer with a simple, compact design.
Its lightweight portability is outstanding, as is its user-friendliness. It uses disposable double-edged versa planer blades that are easy to replace. They have one of the fastest and easiest blade replacement systems on the market, making maintenance on it a breeze compared with other models.
It sports a quiet yet powerful 15amp motor with an 8500rpm no-load speed. At 83 DB, its noise factor is relatively low for its class. This is a pretty good spot to be in for its class.
Makita has a proprietary “Interna-Lok” system that uses an automated head-clamp to stop all sniping. Especially when working with expensive woods, the system is a godsend.
This is an ideal planer for producing excellent finishing, including on cabinets, furniture, and staircases. The four-post design with cross support drastically improves overall stability, leading to less sniping overall. There are also large table extensions available for working at many different sizes.
Finally, the value for money on the Makita is excellent because while it is small, it is powerful enough to handle most onsite jobs. For example, it can handle 12” of width with ⅛” depth of cut.
The Laguna PX 12 is a powerful benchtop planer featuring the new QuadTec I cutter head.
The QuadTec I is a compact, quiet, yet powerful helical planer with 24 carbide inserts, delivering long-lasting performance.
It lasts much longer than traditional planer knives, and the 4-sided inserts provide new cutting edges at each rotation. This makes it both durable and sharp, providing for a long-lasting tool.
Also important is the 2 HP 15 amp motor with 10,000 rpm no-load rotation that has power at the top of its class. You are not going to find much more powerful benchtop planers.
Pull-out extensions provide maximum versatility when working and feeding stock, while the finish it produces is excellent. They weren’t exaggerating the power of the QuadTec I spiral blade.
Another great planer for the money, its high-end features work excellently for a variety of jobs.
The DEWALT 12 ½” benchtop planer is the best budget planer on the market and is ideal for planing softwoods. The tradeoff is that it is not ideal for hardwoods. Most planars at the benchtop level will find it challenging to plane hardwoods, so consider looking at the industrial section if this is your intention.
It features a 3-blade cutter head and 15 amp motor with a four post base to reduce snipe with greater stability. It’s truly the budget workhorse. The motor is strong enough to handle quite a few different jobs, and the blades are indexable and reversible for maximum use. The blades can wear out quickly, though.
It’s got a max width of 12 ½”, a max depth of 6”, and a max depth of cut of ⅛”. Changing the knife on the planer is easy, only requiring one tool to make the replacement. It’s about 80lbs, making it about average in terms of weight for benchtop planers.
This is a great budget planer whose best quality is your value for a decent working machine.
The WEN 13” spiral head cutter benchtop planer has 26 blades and a fast and powerful 15 amp motor with 18,000 cuts per minute. The spiral head cutter makes for smoother milling. They’ve also made it easy to change the blades.
While the WEN is a more inexpensive planer, it is also decently powerful. It has most of the features one expects from more expensive planers in its range. Its max cutting depth is a little short at 3/32”, but it has a max width of 13” and depth of 6”.
Made of quality materials, it doesn’t have as great wings and extensions as other models but still handles many board sizes.
It also has a fan-assisted dust port, which is a relatively rare feature in this range. Finally, it weighs a total of 79lbs, putting it in at around the average for weight.
This is a great middle-of-the-road option that is both budget-friendly and has a decent quick of power and smoothness.
Industrial planers move up considerably in power compared to their benchtop planer cousins. The JET 20” planer with a helical head has robust 92 indexable carbide inserts. It sports a 5HP motor with three V-belt transmission, giving it just about the best possible performance available for a full-size planer.
The table adjustments available on the JET are highly accurate with its large handwheel design. In addition, it can work on boards up to 20” wide and 8” thick, allowing it to deal with all the sizes smaller planers can’t handle.
At this size and power, you can also work with a much greater volume of boards. The infeed and outfeed tables are made from cast iron, while the 1-piece welded steel base increases stability. There’s also a 5” dust port that is excellent for keeping the workshop clean.
As one of the most potent planers on the market, the sheer joy of planing rough lumber can make it worth it. It can handle hardwoods easily, even red oak and rock maple. There’s no snipe as well. This planer is also made to be relatively quiet, which is a surprise for its level of strength.
Obviously, the big difference is the price. Industrial planers are up to ten times as expensive as benchtop planers. It’s also cumbersome. At 753 pounds, this is a truly industrial machine.
For those reasons, this is really meant for those who plane rough lumber regularly.
The Grizzly Industrial 20” 5 HP Planer is both powerful and high quality. Four high-speed steel knives form the 3-¼” cutter head and power is transferred from the 5 HP motor to the cutter head by a triple v-belt system. This ensures maximum power transfer.
You’ve really got one of the most powerful and robust planers on the market here, with many versatile features included for all sorts of different jobs. In addition, the polished cast-iron infeed and outfeed tables have a beautiful shine, measuring 58” in length for huge workpiece support.
The dual bed rollers allow you to move at either 28 fpm or 16 fpm. The first is best for feeding through rough lumber quickly, while the latter is best for generating a smooth finish. It also has a magnetic switch for thermal overload protection. Your area will also easily stay clean with the included 5” dust port.
The Grizzly is a great option for value for money, you get a seriously powerful planer for a reasonable price.
The Grizzly Industrial 15” has 3 HP and a helical cutter head. Although a little is less potent than other industrial planers on this list, it still has a four-row helical cutter head and can deal with most kinds of lumber, just perhaps not as quickly.
The 2-speed gearbox has the choice between 16 and 28 fpm for a smooth finish or a high-speed feed rate.