Manual planer vs. tabletop power planer

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Forum topic by Fatherlewis posted 10-04-2016 01:31 PM 2825 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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31 posts in 1473 days

10-04-2016 01:31 PM

Topic tags/keywords: planer tool power hand wood question tip plane

I know there are a lot of very experienced woodworking enthusiasts on here, but this question comes down to a novice user. I know the value of a planer when it comes down to consistency of the finished product, but I want to know the pros and cons of power vs. manual.

Power Pros: faster, less labor intensive, more consistent(?), anything else?

Power Cons: more expensive, anything else?


-- Zach, Ohio

23 replies so far

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1623 days

#1 posted 10-04-2016 01:40 PM

What is a manual planer? A hand plane?

View Fatherlewis's profile


31 posts in 1473 days

#2 posted 10-04-2016 01:51 PM

That would be my take yes. A hand plane. Sorry.

-- Zach, Ohio

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1623 days

#3 posted 10-04-2016 02:30 PM

More expensive? No. It depends. You can spend a fortune on hand planes just like you can spend a fortune on a planer (or very little on both).

It comes down to whether you prefer noise and speed, or whether you prefer hand work at a much slower pace.

View Fatherlewis's profile


31 posts in 1473 days

#4 posted 10-04-2016 02:46 PM

That is the other thing. I am really looking for something that will provide the best results. Like I said, I am a beginner, so how do you control a hand plane, and get the desired uniform result?

While I can see myself enjoying the “hands-on” approach that a planer offers, I don’t see it as practical at my current level of work. I am looking for the best result in a timely manner, that will allow me to still achieve the end results.

-- Zach, Ohio

View diverlloyd's profile


3986 posts in 2705 days

#5 posted 10-04-2016 03:07 PM

Well I have both and prefer my hand planes. No noise no dust and the dog loves to play in the shavings and harder to screw it up. Also teaches you to read the grain.
Power planer is fast can be accurate but speed comes to a lot of dust noise and it sucks if you have to move it around. And snipe if you don’t have a in feed out feed table you will get snipe maybe not all the time but you will get it. Using either is fine but with a hand plane I can just go and zone out on it a power planer you can to but since it’s a power tool mishaps can happen. I’m thinking you are talking about a table top power planer and not the hand held version. I haven’t ever used the hand held version but I’m sure I could screw up something nice with one. Anyways my 2cents just enjoy either one you choose and make something worthwhile.

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 1495 days

#6 posted 10-04-2016 03:31 PM

I have to say manual. I like to stand back and admire what I did versus what I got some machine to do!

You can spend a fortune on hand planes …

- gargey

You can but you don’t have to … it’s akin to golf … a good golfer can drive a ball farther with a cheap club than a hack can with the most expensive club. The difference is that the good golfer has practiced more!

View Kirk650's profile


680 posts in 1596 days

#7 posted 10-04-2016 04:12 PM

All this demonstrated love for handplanes is admirable, and I use them too, but I highly recommend a power planer if a newby wants to build something. A new guy with a new or used handplane and no experience with blade sharpening and use of the handplane is only going to make a mess and be frustrated. I say to get the power tools for milling wood and a good handplane for light use and learning. Then he or she can move more toward hand tools if they decide they like that.

View UncannyValleyWoods's profile


542 posts in 2712 days

#8 posted 10-04-2016 04:19 PM

I haven’t read through all the comments, so I’m not certain if this is mentioned…but you will save an enormous amount of money in the long run if you buy a decent 12 inch planer (machine) and buy rough cut lumber instead of expensive, pre-planed retail lumber. A good Grizzly planer goes for about as much (maybe less) than a good quality hand plane that is big enough to handle large pieces of rough cut lumber.

-- “If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses.” ― Lenny Bruce

View Loren's profile


10576 posts in 4496 days

#9 posted 10-04-2016 04:22 PM

Thicknessing by hand with planes is a drag but if you
want to lose a gut it’s great exercise.

I recommend a jack, a smoother and a power planer
for thicknessing. Use the planes for flattening one
side when needed, the planer for the heavy
stock removal of thicknessing.

If you do get planes the sharpening gear can be quite
an investment. I recommend really looking into all
the available methods and making a choice to go
one way rather than experimenting. I use waterstones
and diamond stones but as a matter of acquiring
different stones over the years I have redundancies.

A lot of people use sandpaper but the method gets
costly over time while stones last and last.

View TFA's profile


10 posts in 1447 days

#10 posted 10-04-2016 07:06 PM

I started wood working within the last year too. My first project was to build a sturdy work bench, i was just using 2×4 douglas fir I had 32 2×4s and 4 2×6s that I needed to flatten and square off the corners so I could laminate everything. I started with a hand plane that was my grand father’s (started off with using sand paper to flatten then eventually got water stones) and after the first day of hand planing and not much done I decided a power planner would be a good investment so I bought one, saved a lot of headache and time. I try to use a hand plane when i think it’s applicable so i can learn to use them, they’re also great for small pieces that you can’t put through the power planer.
Moral of the story… both tools are great to have and know how to use.

View Robert's profile (online now)


3934 posts in 2328 days

#11 posted 10-04-2016 07:22 PM

I totally agree with what Kirk^ said. Millling lumber by hand is not that easy a task.

You will need at least 3 hand planes to mill lumber, a scrub, a 5 and a 6 or 7.

You can spend > $1K on these hand planes and $250 on a power planer. Or < $100 on the hand planes and >$2000 on a power planer.

It really all depends on what you’re doing, how much you’re doing and how strong you are.

Any decent size furniture project starting with rough lumber can literally take days to mill by hand versus an hour or two with power.

The choice is yours…...

But if you’re getting a power planer then you also need a jointer.

I use hand planes to flatten large panels and tops. For every thing else I use a jointer & planer with no remorse. For me, there no cache or satisfaction in laboring to flatten boards.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Don W's profile

Don W

19697 posts in 3415 days

#12 posted 10-04-2016 10:45 PM

it really depends on your perception of fun.

I’m a big advocate of hand planes, but I work with a lot of rough lumber (I own a small saw mill) so I wouldn’t give up my planer.

But if I worked mostly with dimensioned lumber, it would be the first to go.

A general question won’t give you an answer. It really depends.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View bondogaposis's profile


5838 posts in 3199 days

#13 posted 10-04-2016 10:58 PM

The downside of the power planer is noise and dust. Hand planes can be pretty expensive, I’m sure I have more money in hand planes than in my thickness planer. I would really hate to give up either. I use both a lot in my work.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View HokieKen's profile


15039 posts in 1986 days

#14 posted 10-05-2016 02:13 PM

I rely on hand planes for a lot of things but not for milling stock to final thickness. That job goes to the power planer every time. Hand planes are great for scrubbing twisted or cupped stock to minimize material loss on the jointer/planer and most every board that passes across the jointer or planer gets a swipe or 2 with a smoother to remove machine marks. I love my hand planes but, the heavy “eating” gets done by the electron killers in my shop.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Fatherlewis's profile


31 posts in 1473 days

#15 posted 10-05-2016 02:22 PM


Thank you for the feedback. It is great to read what you more experienced guys love. While I don’t think I would have any issue “operating” a hand planer, and in fact I am sure it would benefit me greatly(from a health perspective) that does sound like something more advanced than I want to do at my current state. I could definitely see having one to start learning with more for fun, than large projects.

From the sounds of it, I would benefit most by using a table planer as most of what I am doing is directly related to squaring and evening out, as well as thickness adjustment. I am all about the end product, but at this point, it would take me years to build one piece if I used a hand planer.

It is something I will be looking into once I am a little less green and have a little more under my belt. I think hand planing would be enjoyable, to just “get away” for a little while. You ROCK LumberJOCKS!

-- Zach, Ohio

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