Any woodworking project calls for flat, straight lumber and planes/planers do just that. There are many types of planes and planers, each with it's own unique function. Many people often get planers and jointers mixed up or consider them the same type of equipment but they actually perform 2 seperate functions. We will go into the differences below but for now remember that thickness planers are used for smoothing rough lumber or reducing the thickness of a board while a jointer is used for actually straightening the board. The various types of planes and planers are the block plane, bench plane, trimming plane, pocket plane, spoke shave, shave, electric hand plane and power planer. There are combo jointer and planer machines that are more expensive but may save you space in your workshop which can be essential.
Buying Guide - A block plane is used for smoothing and flattening lumber, especially pieces of wood that are curly. Bench planes are similar to block planes and used on smoothing/flattening lumber. A trimming plane is great for detail planing as well as to smooth and flatten lumber. A pocket plane is used for one-handed speed cutting and trimming. A spoke shave, although not technically a plane, is still useful in chamfering edges and cutting convex shapes in lumber. You will often see a spoke shave being used when detailed wood shaping is required. An electric hand planer is much like a bench plane but you get the power of the motor to help with the work so it goes much faster. A power planer tool is used for thickness planing boards in the fastest way possible. As mentioned above, a jointer is used for squaring edges and faces of boards. As a rule of thumb, longer planes should be used on rough lumber and when the boards start to get flatter and smoother, use shorter planes. Buying rough sawn stock is one way to save money on lumber and having a planer to smooth out the roughness is what all woodworkers need. Planers are often referred to as thicknessers and the top brand names are Dewalt, Delta, Makita, Ryobi, Ridgid, Grizzly, Bosch, Hitachi, Jet, Craftsman, Powermatic. There are planer/molders, wood planers, surface planers, finishing planers, thickness planers, hand planers, and portable planers. A good Bosch or Makita electric hand planer will cost around $130-$150 while the Delta and DeWalt thickness planers start at $450 and go up to over $1000. We read reviews on all types of planers to come up with a short list in each category of the best products. Please keep reading to see which brands and models came out on top. You can browse the up-to-date list of best-selling planers here.
RECOMMENDED: best power hand planer -- is the Bosch 1594K 6.5 Amp 3-1/4-Inch Planer Kit ($140) - features a powerful 6.5 amp motor and a chip ejection switch which directs wood shavings left or right. The versatile 2-blade system is equipped with the Bosch Woodrazor micrograin carbide blades and a bevel fence guide. Users say the strong motor never bogs down and depth control is accurate and easy to use. Hand power planers are great for deck trimming, door/doorway adjustment, cabinet scribing, subfloor leveling and are often referred to as "door planers" or "edge planers". The Makita N1900B 3-1/4" Planer Kit with Case is about the same price as the Bosch and is both trim and lightweight but it needs a bevel guide to run properly. The Festool HL850E and Porter-Cable 9118 are other options for hand power planers that experts and professionals say are worth the money. The DeWalt DW680K 3-1/4" Heavy-Duty Planer Kit is another popular seller for $150 that can remove up to 3/32-inch in a single pass and has a 1/2" rabbeting capacity. Users say the DeWalt is precise, the depth adjustment knob is easy to set, the balance is good and the center of gravity is low. As with most planers we found, there is no dust bag or dust collection system so we recommend buying one with the DeWalt (browse and shop all top-rated DeWalt planers here). The Grizzly H3141 Heavy-Duty 3-1/4" Portable Planer ($50) is considered a "best buy" for the price and owners say "you will get your moneys worth".
For larger projects, a benchtop planer or finishing planer is needed. We recommend the Makita 2012NB 12-Inch Planer with Interna-Lok Automated Head Clamp ($530) or the DEWALT DW735 15 Amp 13-Inch Benchtop Planer ($650). The Makita is cheaper in price but reviews are much more solid on this planer that is both lightweight and very compact. Owners say it's easy to take it from job site to job site and they also mention that the blade change system is easiest you will find. The Makita 2012NB also runs quiet (83dB) and is very efficient and accurate. The Dewalt planer was rated very high by first time users of planers with one of the major complaints being that the planer knives dull fast and need replacing more often than other planers. For a high end planer, consider the Powermatic 1120003 PM15 - features a 5 HP motor with a 15" planing capacity, feed rollers, integral casters for mobility, 2 feed speeds, and a dust collection port. This heavy duty planer has both mold and plane capabilities. Other wood planers in this category are the Jet JPM-13CS / 708524 13" Planer/Molder with Enclosed Stand. Again, you can find most of these at the above Amazon link.
Jointer vs Planer:
As we mentioned up above, jointers and planers will actually perform different functions for you. There are combination machines for woodworkers looking to save space in their shops and still get all the functionality they need. We found the Ridgid JP0610 6-1/8" Jointer/Planer combo with a duel bevel fence with stops at 45, 90, and 135 degrees. The cost is about $350 and it sells at Home Depot. The long 45" bed gives greater support to large work pieces, it has a rabbeting ledge for precise rabbets up to 1/2" deep; adjustable front and rear tables. The Sof-Touch knobs and handle grips give operator comfort and high-visibility; magnifier depth scale indicator. We say why settle for one or the other when you can get 2 machines in 1 for a reasonable price.