Wood Planers: Planars vs Jointer, Types of Planars and Features

Wood planars are used to even out the wood to a uniform thickness throughout the board. In this article, you will learn about the differences between a planar, sander, and jointer. Additionally, you will learn about the different types and features of wood planars, and more!


  1. Planar vs sander vs jointer
  2. Types of wood planers
  3. Types of hand planes
  4. Which type of planer should I get?
  5. What to look for when buying an electric planar

Planar vs sander vs jointer

UseSmooths workpiece surfaceEvens the thickness of the workpieceMakes the workpiece completely flat
HowUses sandpaper to polish the surfaceHas infeed and outfeed rollers to cut the wood to thicknessCuts the high spots until the board is completely flat

1. The sander

Sanders are used to polish the surface of material by using sandpaper to scratch away imperfections.

The scratches for fine grit sandpaper are so small, that the material becomes very smooth.

Should I get a sander

Sanders are essential tools to get smooth final finish for your work piece. I believe that every woodworker should have a sander of some sort. To learn more about sander types and how to use sanders, then you should check out my “Sander Complete Guide”.

2, The Planar

Planers are used to create an even thickness throughout the material. If the board you are working with has a bow in it, then it will still have that bow after you plane the piece.

Planars work by having infeed and outfeed top and bottom rollers to press down the wood and cut the wood to the desired thickness.

Planars will not take the bow out of wood, because when the wood is being cut is it being pressed flat against the planar table.

You should get a planar if you are…

  • Edge gluing wood together
  • Want uniformity and consistency
  • have or plan to start a woodworking business

You do not need a planar if you are…

  • Working with particle board or plywood
  • Creating personal projects where small inconsistency is not important


You should get a planar if you will be edge gluing wood to create tables, dresser, or shelves for example. This is because varying thickness will be easily seen.

You will also need a planar if you want your wood to be a perfect thickness throughout the project. Many DIYers may not care if the wood is a few millimeters to centimeters thicker or thinner. However, I would recommend getting a planar if you plan to start a woodworking business, to create uniformity.

You do not need a planar if you are only working with plywood. Plywood is created in sheets with particle board in-between each sheet. When you plane plywood, the particle board will chip away and not give you a smooth and even surface.

3. The Jointer

Jointers cut a complete, flat edge on the wood in line with the jointer table or the jointer fence. Jointers only have cutters on the jointer table and trim the high spots on the wood.

With multiple passes, the jointer will trim down the high spots until you get a flat surface.

You should get a jointer if you are..

  1. Buying rough lumber
  2. Have a woodworking business
  3. Have the money and would like a jointer


You will only really need a jointer if you are purchasing rough lumber or if you have a woodworking business.

If you are purchasing dimensional lumber, then there is a way you can check the lumber for straightness before purchasing it.

Additionally, there are other methods to get a flat surface on lumber. Jointers are the quickest and easiest, as well as most expensive, way to flatten lumber.

To learn more about purchasing lumber and getting a flat surface on lumber, you should check out my article wood and “How to make a board flat and square” and “How to shop for wood”.

Read On

In this article, we learned about the differences between sanders, planars, and jointers. You now can understand which tools suite your needs. Below I will describe the types of planars and what to look for when purchasing a planar.

Types of wood planers

There are 4 main types of wood planars. You have handheld manual, handheld electric, benchtop, and stationary planars.

Handheld manual planersHandheld electric planersBenchtop planersStationary planers
Hand or power toolHand toolPower toolPower toolPower tool
Board sizeup to 4-6″ wide
up to 12-15″ thick
up to 20+ inches wide
up to 15+ inches thick
  1. Handheld manual planers
    • Handheld manual planers are hand tools unlike the other 3 types of planers.
    • Versatility
      • Hand planes tend to cost less than electric planers, however a hand plane is not as versatile. You will likely need several hand planes in your arsenal.
    • Board Size
      • You can plane an unlimited board size because you are using a hand tool and are not limited by the opening of the benchtop or stationary planers
      • You will want to have a hand planar of a wide width so that you can overlap passes
    • Efficiency
      • Hand planes take the most time and are the least efficient planers because you have to rely on manpower.
  2. Handheld electric planers
    • Efficiency
      • Handheld electric planers can shave off more material than manual hand planes, thus making them more efficient
    • Board Size
      • Just like hand planes, handheld electric planes can be used on boards of unlimited size.
  3. Benchtop planers
    • Efficiency
      • Benchtop planars can shave off more material in one pass than handheld planers.
    • Board Size
      • However, you are limited with the board size because of the opening on the planer.
      • Most benchtop planers have a maximum width of 4-6 inches and a maximum thickness of 12 to 15 inches.
  4. Stationary planers
    • Efficiency
      • Stationary planars are the largest and most heavy-duty planers.
      • Stationary planars can support the most material and they have the deepest cutting depth, thus making them the most efficient.
    • Board Size
      • Stationary planers can range from the size to benchtop planers up to 20 plus inches for wood width and 15 plus inches for the wood thickness.

Important consideration:

You may think, “oh bigger is better, so I will get a stationary planer”. However, you should note that you may never need all that space.

It is not common to buy wood wider than 8-12 inches. Most wood is sold 2, 4, and 6 inches wide.

If you are creating a table, desk, or any other wide project, you can plane the pieces before gluing them together. If you want to plane the pieces afterwards, then you will surely utilize the width of a stationary planer.

Types of hand planes

There are many different types of hand planes, along with specialty planes. Here, I explain the 3 most common and widely known planers for woodworkers. To learn about the 13 types of hand planers, then you should check out my article where I explain everything that you need to know about hand planers.

Block planesJack planesSmoothing planesShoulder planesJointer planes
UsesGeneral planerFlattening and squaring woodSmooth the woodPlane cornersFlatten wood
  1. Block planes
    • Block planes are the essential planer that every woodworker should have because it is the most versatile
    • You can plane to precision and adjust the angle of the blade for working with different wood types
  2. Jack Planes
    • Jack planes are ideal for flattening and squaring wood. It is also good for removing rough mill marks in the wood
  3. Smoothing Planes
    • Smoothing planes plane and smooth the wood to a silky finish.
    • Smoothing planes do not take off much wood with each pass like the jack plane
  4. Shoulder Planes
    • Should planes have blades that are ideal for planing corners that traditional planes cannot get to.
    • Shoulder planes are ideal for joinery like tenons
  5. Jointer Planes
    • Jointer planes are long planes that are used to flatten the surface of the board much like a jointer.

Which type of planer should I get?

You should get a hand planer if you..

  1. Want to be in tune with the wood
  2. Enjoy the act of woodworking
  3. Are on a budget
  4. Want to plane large boards
  5. Need portability
  6. Do not need efficiency

You should get a handheld electric planer if you..

  1. Need portability
  2. Want to plane large boards
  3. Do not need much power and efficiency

You should get a benchtop planer if you..

  1. Need efficiency
  2. Do not have much space
  3. Do not need the portability of a hand tool

You should get a stationary planer if you..

  1. Need the most efficiency
  2. Want to plane larger boards
  3. Do not need portability

To learn more about hand planes, handheld electric planers, benchtop planers, and stationary planers, then you should check out their specific articles where I explain the best planers, how to operate them and more!

What to look for when buying an electric planar

If you want to purchase an electrical planar, then you should consider 6 things.

  1. Maximum width & thickness
  2. Minimum planing length
  3. Feed rate
  4. Planar table size
  5. Planar table material
  6. Planar cutter head

Below, I will describe each feature in detail and help you decide which one is best for you.

  1. Maximum width & thickness
    • The maximum width and thickness of the wood is the maximum amount of wood that you can fit in the planar.
    • Handheld electrical planers do not have maximum width and thicknesses because you do not have an opening to feed the wood through
  2. Minimum planing length
    • The minimum planing length is the minimum amount of material that you can feed through the planar safely.
  3. Feed rate
    • The feed rate is how many feet per minute you can feed the wood through the planar
  4. Planar table size
    • The outfeed and infeed tables are important to know how much wood the planar can support before hanging over the edge.
    • Outfeed tables are not as important with benchtop planars since it is placed right above a workbench.
    • Outfeed tables are important for stationary tables and outfeed table extensions can easily be made or purchased.
  5. Planar table material
    • The planar table material is important for quality and durability.
    • Cast iron tables are the heaviest and the most durable
    • Most benchtop planers are made out of plastic or aluminum tables which are not as durable.
  6. Planar cutter head
    • The two main types of cutter heads are spiral and straight
    • Spiral cutter heads are better quality, lead to a better finish, and are quieter
    • However, spiral cutter heads cost more


In this article, you learned about the differences between a planar, sander, and jointer. Additionally, you learned which tools would best suit your needs.

Afterwards, you learned about different types of planers and which ones would be best for you.

Lastly, you learned about what features to look for when buying a benchtop or stationery planer.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this article and I wish you luck on your woodworking journeys!


My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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