Too busy to read this entire article and simply want to know which benchtop thickness planer is the best? DEWALT DW735X is your best choice. Read on to find out why.
If you are like me, your time in the woodshop is limited. Dimensioning timber by hand wastes time that I would rather spend building. Buying S4S timber minimizes hassle, but it gets expensive in the long run.
Thickness planers can reduce both the costs and time spend dimensioning lumber. The question is, how do you buy one that gives you the most value for your money?
I want to help you save money and have more fun building. Let’s take a closer look at what makes the best benchtop thickness planer and help you choose one for your workshop.
Top-Rated Portable Planers Compared:
Best Planers Reviewed
DeWALT DW735X 13-inch Benchtop Thickness Planer
- Purchase includes one stationary 13" Planer, in/out feed tables with fasteners (attached to the base of the Planer base), extra blades and dust hose adapter. Stand is not included.
- Three knife cutter head of the thickness planer delivers 30% longer knife life and makes knife change faster and easier
- Two-speed gear box of the wood planer allows users to change feed speed to optimizing cuts per inch at 96 or 179 CPI
DeWalt was started in 1923 by the inventor of the radial arm saw, Mr. Raymond E. DeWalt. It was sold to Black & Decker in 1960 and became the brand name for that manufacturer’s high-end hand power tools.
The DW735X represents a professional-grade planer. This package differs from the DW735 by including infeed and outfeed tables that the DW735 does not. In other aspects, the tools are the same.
The DW735X is the first benchtop planer from DeWalt in this review. It varies from the DW734 (examined below) in several areas.
A stand out feature is the maximum width that the planer can handle. It provides users with more width, 13-inches, than most other benchtop designs. The additional .5 to 1-inch width over other models is worth the extra cost for some woodworkers.
This model also differs in that it provides users with two-speed settings. You can run the planer at 96 cuts per inch or 179 CPI. Fewer CPI will chew through wood faster, while more CPI should create a smoother surface.
The electric motor used in this unit can generate 20,000 RPMs, but its maximum is 10,000 RPMs on the cutter head. This rotational speed is effective on hardwoods and softwoods.
Another feature that differentiates this from similar models is the three-blade cutting head. The additional blade provides greater efficiency, and it can extend the life of the knives by up to 30-percent. That equates to fewer blade changes and more time dimensioning boards.
The base is cast aluminum and also twice as large as DeWalt’s standard benchtop base. It will provide a more rigid design with less flexing during cuts.
This benchtop planer is 24-inches L x 22-inches W x 18-inches H. That compares favorably to many designs from other manufacturers.
It must be pointed out, however, that it weighs 92-pounds. That weight makes it harder for you to move and may require assistance for some owners.
- This model can handle 13-inch wide lumber. That is a great width capacity;
- It uses three knives on the cutting head. Your blades will last longer;
- 10,000 RPMs no-load speed. That will chew through wood quickly.
- This thickness planer weighs 92 pounds. That is heavy for a benchtop design;
- It has a bigger price tag. The cost might be high for tight budgets.
DeWalt DW734 12-1/2-inch Benchtop Thickness Planer
- Powerful 15 amp, 20,000 rpm motor of the woodworking planer handles larger, deeper cuts in hardwoods.
- Three-knife cutter head with 10,000 rpm cutter-head speed of the thickness planer provides 96 cuts per inch, one of the finest finishes of any portable planer
- Disposable, reversible knives of the wood planer deliver 30% more knife life and make knife change fast and easy.
Consumers benefit from Stanley Black & Decker using DeWalt as the professional-grade brand in a couple of ways. The power tools are designed to handle the conditions found on construction sites. Also, Dewalt can provide more than one top-end model for the market.
The DW734 planer comes at a cheaper price point than the DeWalt DW735X. The 12.5-inch width capacity is less than the previous model. That is still wider than other benchtop models we will look at later.
You can still work with wood that is up to six inches thick, and it will take up to 1/8-inch with each pass. Those features should be standard for a benchtop planer.
This model provides a single cutting speed. You can achieve 96 cuts per inch. That will create a surface that requires minimal work to make it finish-ready.
A 15 amp electric motor moves the blade head up to 10,000 RPMs. This is faster than similar-sized models. That is more than enough speed for cutting into softwoods and hardwoods.
This DeWalt planer also uses a three-blade cutting head. Using more blades will allow them to last longer. It will also provide a smoother surface than a two-blade design in most cases.
The DW734 uses a standard base size. Its smaller base helps to cut down the price and provides a smaller footprint. This base is still rigid enough for most cuts.
The planer comes with extra-long infeed and outfeed tables. They provide 33.5-inches of material support. That will improve safety while you work as well as reducing possible snipe from sudden changes in material height.
Product dimensions come out to 24-inches x 17-inches x 21-inches. It weighs 80 pounds. That is less than the DW735X, but it weighs more than other benchtop models.
The manufacturer provides one of the better customer support systems in the market. This includes a 90-day money-back guarantee, one year of free service, as well as a three-year limited warranty.
- The mid-level price range. This model is cheaper than the DW735X;
- It uses the same blade and motor designs in the DW735X. That provides ample power and extended blade life;
- Good material support. DeWalt includes 33.5-inches of infeed and outfeed table length.
- This is a single-speed benchtop design. That is less versatile than DeWalt’s two-speed gearbox;
- A smaller width capacity. This model has a 12.5-inch width capacity compared to the DW735X’s 13-inch capacity.
Makita 2012NB 12-inch Planer
- Compact with less weight for easy transporting to the jobsite
- Engineered for faster, easier blade changes
- Low noise (83dB) for operator comfort
Makita Corporation was founded in 195 and is Japan’s largest hand-tool manufacturer. The brand is associated with precision tools and innovative cordless power tool designs. This benchtop model represents Makita’s planer product line.
Makita products are known for quality build materials. They are also known for big price tags. Both features are found in the Makita 2012NB benchtop planer and may prove inhibitive for new woodworkers or those on a limited budget.
Makita offers a bit more clearance, allowing wood of 6 3/32-inch thickness to be loaded. It does only handle boards that are 12-inches or less in width, however. That should still be plenty of width for most woodworkers using a benchtop planer.
This unit can take up to 1/8-inch cuts with every pass. The depth stop used for adjustments is easy to set for smaller passes as well as repeated cuts. It offers no-play as you crank on the handle, something that will produce accurate settings.
This model uses a 15 amp electric motor. You should note that the 8,500 RPMs are much lower than other models. That does help to reduce the noise output, and the 2012NB produces only 83dBs because of this.
This product uses a table that is made from cast aluminum. It will provide adequate rigidity but will not be as smooth as the granite used by WEN. Makita quality control provides tolerances that ensure a flat tabletop.
This model measures 30 3/8-inches L x 19 1/64-inches W x 15 25/32-inches H. It also weighs only 61.9 pounds. The compact size and weight will make it easier for you to move around and is a strong selling point for construction use and small shops with limited space.
A large paddle-switch provides a safety feature that prevents accidental power-up. The LED power indicator light lets you know that the planer is receiving power from the outlet.
- It generates only 83dB. That is less than other planers produce;
- The cross supports and four posts. this design offers increased stability during cuts;
- An LED power indicator light. A simple safety feature not found on other models.
- This is the highest-priced model reviewed. The price tag may be too large for some budgets;
- It can only handle boards up to 12-inches in width. That is less than the previous three models.
WEN 6550T – Best Budget Planer
Nick Anton founded WEN in 1951. This company made a name for itself by pioneering the random orbital technology used in sanders and polishers today. Like many corporations today, WEN provides competitively priced power tools through Chinese plant production.
The WEN 6550T is one of the lowest-priced benchtop planers on the list. This represents an option for woodworkers who are on a budget that precludes offerings from either DeWalt or Makita.
You can load six-inch thick boards with a maximum width of 12.5-inches. That compares to the DeWalt offerings above, but you should note that it will only take off 3/32-inch with each pass.
The electric motor is 15 amps, and WEN uses a favorable gear system. It can create up to 17,000 RPMs. The feed rate is impressive at 26-feet per minute.
The biggest stand out on this product may be the table. It is made of granite. Wood can slide smoothly across the table, and it will not mare the surface as it moves.
Combining the granite table with a metal base creates most of the planer’s weight along the bottom. That makes this a stable power tool to use. It also reduces vibration between the cutting head and the table that supports it.
This design uses two blades instead of three. These will not last as long as a three-blade design. They are reversible, allowing you to use both sides of the blade.
The WEN 6550T employs a fan in the dust collection system. That provides greater air-flow compared to the DW734. This system should handle the debris generated with the heaviest passes.
WEN has developed a network of North American technicians that can help with any potential issues. The two-year limited warranty is not as strong as DeWalt’s, but it does double the coverage of other manufacturers.
- A granite table is used. That surface will not mark the wood as it slides;
- It uses a fan to assist with dust removal. That design increases air-flow;
- A heavy base prevents wobble. The granite top and metal base combine for stability.
- This is the 2019 model. It may become harder to find once WEN updates its planer list;
- It uses heavy materials for the table. Granite provides a smooth surface at the cost of extra weight.
CRAFTSMAN CMEW320 12-inch portable Planer
- HARD AND SOFT WOOD MATERIAL REMOVAL: 15 Amp motor of the woodworking planer provides power for both hard and soft wood material removal
- MAXIMUM STOCK REMOVAL: The thickness planer features Poly-V Cutterhead drive for maximum stock removal
- SMOOTH OPERATION: The wood planer featuring two knife, quick change, solid steel cutter head mounted on ball bearings, assures smooth operation and long life
Craftsman was a house brand established by Sears in 1927. While Sears still holds limited licensing for the brand, Stanley Black & Decker now owns the subsidiary and uses the name to promote its budget-friendly tools.
That equates to the cheapest benchtop planer on this list. The package provides standard tolerances for dimensioning with limited features. It also means that the tool is made with cheaper materials, something that will reduce the overall lifespan of the power tool.
A 15 amp electric motor generates up to 8,000 RPMs under no-load conditions. The slower RMPS does not mean the planer operates at a lower decibel level. Using thinner materials and lower build tolerances will increase the overall noise level this product produces.
The cutter head has two-blades installed that will make 16,00 cuts per minute. The planer can handle hardwoods and softwoods. You will likely need to sand a bit before a finishing coat can be applied to your project.
It uses thin materials for the housing and the table. That could create some flex with high-torque cuts (taking maximum passes in difficult material). This benchtop model is designed to take up to 1/8-inch off on each pass.
It can take boards up to 12-inches in width, with a depth of six-inches maximum. Extra support may be required with longer boards on the infeed and outfeed sides of the cutting head.
High contrast marks (black letters on white background) are used on the machine. They are not large, however. Those with middle-aged eyes might find it more difficult to read.
The infeed and outfeed tables have grooves in them, a feature that is not completely smooth. This design can also create some subtle height differences between the folding table wings and the aluminum table below the cutting head.
The pillar design is also minimal. That could offer some flex as the knives cut into the board.
- This is the cheapest benchtop planer on the list. That makes it appealing to first-time shoppers and small budgets;
- It is fairly lightweight. This can be moved more easily around your shop;
- You will find it easy to use. A no-frills design made for quick dimensioning of lumber.
- It is cheaply made. There is a cost to the small price tag;
- A lack for features. Limited add-ons make this less versatile than other models we have reviewed.
PORTER-CABLE PC305TP 12-Inch Woodworking Planer
- Powerful 15 Amp motor of the woodworking planer is made for superior stock removal
- The thickness planer featuring two knife, quick change, solid steel cutter, head mounted on ball bearings, assures smooth operation and long life
- High Carbon Steel, double edged, reversible knives of the wood planer is made for twice the cutting life
Porter-Cable was founded in 1906 in Syracuse, New York. This manufacturer is known for creating technologies used for portable belt sanders and band saws. It is now a subsidiary of Stanley Black & Decker that produces DIY-grade power tools.
That equates to savings for us as consumers, and it makes this model appealing to woodworkers with limited funds looking for a larger benchtop planer.
You can feed boards up to six-inches thick between the cutter head and table. It can also accept boards that are up to 12.5-inches wide. That is wider than the Makita 2012NB can take.
Each pass can cut up to 1/8-inch off of the wood’s surface. The 15 amp electric motor can generate 8,000 RPMs under no-load. That is slower than many of the models we have looked at previously.
The lower RPMs combined with the two-knife cutting head will produce a surface that will likely need more clean up before a finish is applied. These speeds do produce 16,000 cuts per minute, though.
Lower RPMs should make less noise than faster spinning blades, but the decibel level will still be higher than that found on Makita’s 2012NB.
Another consideration will be the table. It is made from aluminum, but it is notably thinner than tables used on previous models. That will produce more vibration during the cut than thicker metals or granite.
This unit uses a drive head that employs the Poly V design. This provides a decent transfer of power from the motor through the gearbox. That keeps the two blades moving at optimal speed and cutting efficiency.
This product measures 23-inches x 15-inches x 17.7-inches. It weighs in at 64.8 pounds. Those statistics place it mid-range in size and will allow you to move and store this tool in smaller shops.
Stanley Black & Decker have provided a similar coverage package that they offer with the professional-grade DeWalt power tools. You have a 90-day money-back guarantee and one-year of free service. This also includes a three-year limited warranty on parts and labor defects.
- Excellent cutting stability. It uses precision ground colums for head support;
- Easy to read markings. You won’t need to strain your eyes during adjustments;
- One of the best coverage packages at this price point. That includes a three-year limited warranty.
- Limited features. This limits versatility to save money;
- Thinner housing materials. Another cost-cutting feature is lighter materials.
All you need to know about thickness planers
Why buy one in the first place?
- Save money in the long run;
- Create uniform thickness on lumber;
- Eliminate warps in the wood;
- Smooth rough surface textures.
Buying wood that is pre-dimensioned can be expensive.
Rough sawn wood will save you money, especially once you move beyond using framing lumber and plywood sheets for your projects. The problem is, you need to clean it up before you can use it.
A thickness planer (also called a planer or thicknesser, depending upon where you live) cuts boards down to a uniform thickness. It also helps to eliminate cupping, tapering, and twists.
You can also improve the texture of rough sawn wood, although it will need further clean up to remove planer marks.
This power tool can perform many tasks on a variety of wood sizes, with the right jigs. That includes altering pre-dimensioned lumber to the thickness required for smaller boxes or furniture.
Are Thickness Planer Knives Universal?
Many third-party manufacturers offer blades you can use on several planers. Thickness planer manufacturers often sell knives that are produced for them by these same companies.
The problem is that models come in different table widths. Connection points can vary between brands as well as between models from the same manufacturer.
The owner’s manual that comes with your planer will indicate which blades to buy. Third-party knives will list which products you can use them on.
Can You Sharpen Thickness Planer Blades?
Many planer knives can be re-sharpened once they become dull. You can buy task-specific tools or use other items used for sharpening. Methods will vary, and woodworkers often make their sharpening jigs.
Re-sharpening a planer knife set may not be an option for some products. These blades are cheap and intended for limit use before replacement. I prefer to save shop time by using this type of planer blade.
Things To Look For In A Benchtop Thickness Planer
- Price tag – A potential purchase has to fit your woodworking budget. Extra features will cost you more, while budget models will be limited in capacity and power;
- Capacity – Benchtop planers are limited to the maximum width of the board that fits between the supports. Try to aim for at least 12-inches of clearance;
- Power – Larger motors will remove more materials without bogging down. Get as much horsepower as you can afford;
- Material support – Infeed and outfeed tables support the wood. Having both on a benchtop model is a bonus;
- Type of blades – Some models come with spiral heads while others use multiple knives. Spiral heads are more expensive but perform better in most cases;
- Dust collection – The location of the port can make it convenient or put it in the path of the wood.
Planer vs Jointer
Start with a thickness planer.
If you are a power tool user, you will eventually want to have both in your shop. Jointers create a flat face or edge on your boards. It will not make the faces of a board parallel, however.
A thickness planer will provide more versatility and is considered a better choice to buy first by many woodworkers. It can create even surfaces on wood that is reasonably flat at the start.
The ability to make parallel faces is what sets it apart from the jointer.
Planer vs Drum Sander
Save your money; buy a thickness planer.
A drum sander is less-effective at dimensioning lumber. It removes small layers of wood, even with heavy grits. This tool is better for finishing than for squaring your stock.
The thickness planer will remove more material with each pass (saving time is what power tools are all about). The blades will not wear down as quickly as the sanding roll will when performing this task.
Another consideration for most of us is cost. Drum sanders are often more expensive than a benchtop thickness planer.
Thinning It Down To One
While each model offers its unique benefits to users, I would recommend the DeWalt DW735X for the best benchtop thickness planer on the list. Why?
- Reasonable price for the quality of the tool;
- 13-inch width capacity;
- 15 amps, 20,000 motor RPMs, two speeds at 96 and 179 CPI;
- Larger infeed/outfeed tables
- Three-blade cutter head
This model strikes a great balance between price and quality. It is a solid build at a cheaper price than either the Makita 2012NB.
You can feed six-inch boards that are up to 13-inches wide. That is something that the Makita or Black & Decker planers can not handle.
The larger infeed and outfeed tables offer 33.5-inches of material support. That is more than most other products can provide.
Three cutting knives provide a longer lifespan overall, and that means less frequent changes and more time dimensioning your lumber!