Hand Planer vs. Belt Sander

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When it comes to woodworking, there are many tools that you will use. For example, some can smoothen and flatten a piece of wood, and different tools can perform this task.

Two of these tools include the hand planer and the belt sander. As you can probably tell by the names, they are different tools. One is a planer, and the other is a sander, but what exactly does this mean?

This article discusses hand planer vs. belt sander. We also want to talk about what makes them different from each other. Our goal in this comparison is to determine which of these two tools is best used for specific circumstances.

Hand Planers and Belt Sanders: The Basics

First, let’s determine what these tools are and what they’re used for.

What is a Hand Planer?

The hand planer is a relatively small and handheld tool. Most handheld planers feature a flat and rectangular base, usually made of wood.

A very sharp blade protrudes through the bottom of the base at a specific angle. Two handles are located on top.

You hold a hand planer with both hands and push it across the top surface of a board. The small blade shaves away very thin layers of material from the wood. Therefore, a hand planer is designed to flatten and smoothen a piece of wood.

Hand planers are ideal for shaving minor surface imperfections. For example, a hand planer is often used to shave down the edge of a door if it is slightly too large for the frame.

There are also electric hand planers that function in much the same way as manual hand planers, but there is a motor that causes the blade to move; you don’t need to use manual power to push it along. As a result, using an electric hand planer involves less physical labor than using a manual hand planer.

Moreover, a hand planer can also straighten and flatten a twisted or warped board. It’s designed to shave away thin layers to flatten and straighten a board to create uniformity and evenness.

What is a Belt Sander?

On the other hand, we have the belt sander, an electric or powered sanding tool. The base features two circular drums that spin in a circle.

A circular piece of sandpaper along these two circular drums forms a loop around them. The drums cause the sandpaper to spin in a continuous loop at very high speeds.

Therefore, a belt sander abrades thin layers of material from a piece of wood. It is a great tool to smooth out a relatively large and flat piece of wood.

You can also use a belt sander to remove minor surface imperfections or even cut down a board’s thickness. That said, cutting down on the thickness of a board is something that you would usually use a hand planer for, not a sander.

Hand Planer vs. Belt Sander: The Main Differences

Now that we know what hand planers and belt sanders are let’s determine what makes them different.

Size and Weight

One difference is that belt sanders are larger and heavier than hand planers. Depending on your model, the difference may be negligible, but generally, a belt sander is bulkier and heavier.

Sandpaper vs. Blades

Another difference is the way they function. A hand planer has a very sharp and large blade that shaves off thin layers of wood. Simply put, a hand planer uses a blade.

On the other hand, a belt sander uses sandpaper. Therefore, these are two fundamentally different tools, as one uses blades, and one uses sandpaper.

Hand Planer vs. Belt Sander

Powered vs. Manual

Moreover, a belt sander will always be powered; it can be corded or battery-powered, but it will always have a power source.

On the other hand, although some hand planers are powered, most are manual; hand planers require you to use your muscles as they don’t have any power.

Cutting Depth

If you want to remove material from a piece of wood, a hand planer will generally be the better option, especially if you have an electric one. Although it doesn’t shave away all that much wood, a hand planer removes more material at once than a belt sander.

If you just want to make a piece of wood a bit thinner, a hand planer is the better tool. A belt sander can remove material, although it usually won’t be as fast as a hand planner.

The Cleanup

A hand planer shaves off wood in small strips.

However, with a belt sander, wood comes off in the form of sawdust. Therefore, a belt sander makes more of a mess, whereas the mess created by a hand planer is relatively manageable and minimal.

Achieving Uniformity

Hand planers excel at creating uniformity over a larger area because of their design.

On the other hand, a belt sander smooths a surface; it removes some material, but there is no depth gauge, so achieving uniform thickness is difficult.

The Main Purposes and Functions

These two tools are used for entirely different purposes.

A hand planer shaves away thin layers of wood to remove surface imperfections. Moreover, it is also used to achieve a flat and smooth surface with uniform thickness.

On the other hand, a belt sander smooths out a piece of wood over a large area. So when it comes to removing some material, smoothing out a piece of wood, and achieving a good-looking finish, a belt sander is the tool of choice.

Belt Sander vs. Hand Planer: Which to Use

Let’s quickly go over some examples of which of these two tools you would use for specific purposes.

  • If you are looking to remove a good deal of material at once, the hand planer is probably the better option.
  • If you are looking to straighten or flatten a board, such as if it is warped, the hand planer is the way to go.
  • Both hand planers and belt sanders can remove minor surface imperfections. However, if the surface imperfections run deep, the hand planer is the better option. However, for shallow and cosmetic surface imperfections, use a belt sander.
  • If your goal is to create an extremely smooth surface ready for painting, you need a belt sander.


Now you should know the main differences between hand planers and belt sanders. With all this information, you should be able to decide which to use.

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