Because of space and cost considerations, I am thinking about buying a power hand planer to bring boards down to certain thicknesses. My questions concern whether these are appropriate and work well for limited planing tasks, and whether people have had good experience using them. Do you have any suggestions in terms of models, best value, advice for purchase, and versatility in the shop? Thanks for any help. – Ron Paque
Tim Inman: Your question makes me think of my grandfather. When confronted by similar questions he often could be heard to say, “Don’t send a boy to do a man’s job.” I think that’s my best answer for you, too. Planing wood to thickness is a pretty brutal task, and a precision task as well. I’d either use the real thing, or get my wood planed by somebody who had a real thickness planer.
Chris Marshall: Ron, if you want to learn more about handheld power planers, we covered them in our “Shop Test” department in the August 2011 print issue of Woodworker’s Journal (page 50). You can read the article online, for free, as part of our new premium content, provided you’re a paid subscriber. (All of our back issues of the magazine are now online and available to paid subscribers with an account number.) Click here to learn more about that.
But taking a step back, I agree with Tim. The better tool for thicknessing stock is a dedicated benchtop planer (see photo, above). They don’t take up much storage space, even in a small shop, and they work great for reducing boards up to about 12- or 13-in. wide (depending on the planer) down to whatever thickness you need them to be. Once you have a benchtop planer, I bet you’ll never regret the decision – you finally won’t be limited to paying pre-planed lumber prices or using just ¾-in.-thick stock anymore.