If you plan to get into woodworking, you will need a few tools. One tool you may need is designed to flatten and straighten the edge or side. Tools you can use for this include a hand planer and a table planer, also known as a benchtop planer. Both tools serve the same purpose, although they function quite differently.
However, there are differences between hand and table planers you should understand. One of these tools is for smaller and more intricate work, whereas the other is for larger pieces of wood.
This article discusses hand and table planers. We will investigate the differences between these two tools to discover which is best for particular projects and tasks.
The Basics: What are Hand Planers and Table Planers?
Before discussing the differences between these woodworking tools, let’s first describe what hand and table planers are.
What is a Hand Planer?
A hand planer is a manual woodworking tool. Although it is a manual tool, it’s not really outdated. It’s been around for hundreds of years, but it still has many uses. It features a flat base with an angled blade protruding through it.
The job of a hand planer is to shave off very thin layers from a wooden surface by holding the hand planer with both hands and running it along a board to flatten and straighten the surface.
There are electric and manually powered hand planers. Manually powered planers use nothing but your own power to push them forward. On the other hand, electric planers are powered, so you don’t need to use as much force to push them forward.
With a hand planer, you can achieve a smooth wood surface, trim off swollen corners from a door, and accurately shave small layers from a small piece of wood.
Of course, hand planers are small, lightweight, and portable, so many use them. In addition, you can easily take them from one job site to another.
What is a Table Planer?
The table planer is also known as a bench planer. It is a much larger, stationary, and powered version of the hand planer. There is a flat surface, or table, on the bottom, on which a board rests. There is a square-shaped frame through which the board passes, and on top of the frame, there is a set of blades.
These blades protrude downwards through the frame and shave away thin layers of wood from the board. You push the board through the blades on a table planer. This is unlike a hand planer where you push the hand planer along the board.
Moreover, because there is a flat table for the board to rest on, a table planer can create a completely flat edge from one side to another. To flatten a board, pass it through the planer, and the machine will do the rest of the work.
In addition, a table planer, also known as a thickness planer, can be used to make a board uniformly thick from one side to another. For example, you can set the depth of the blades so that when you run the board through it, it will end up in uniform thickness across its length.
A table planer is a large and stationary machine; it is not something that you can easily take from one job to another. Smaller portable benchtop planers are available, but they’re not nearly as portable as a hand planer.
Hand Planer vs. Table Planer: The Main Differences
Now that we know what hand and table planers are let’s discuss their main differences.
Size and Weight: Portability
One main difference concerns their overall size and level of portability. A hand planer is a relatively small and lightweight tool that you can easily take from one site to another; this is a handheld tool, so it isn’t huge. It’s pretty convenient in terms of portability.
On the other hand, a table planer is much larger and wholly stationary, and in no way portable. However, there are also benchtop planers, which are slightly more portable. However, they’re still not as small, lightweight, or portable as a hand planer.
A table planer has much more power than any hand planer. However, there are both manual and powered hand planers, but they don’t compare to table planers in terms of overall power and blade speed.
With a manual planer, you are the only one powering it, which involves much physical effort.
A powered hand planer takes the hard muscle work out of the equation, but it still doesn’t have a great deal of power compared to a table planer. However, this higher power level also translates to more speed and efficiency.
Speed and Efficiency
Another difference has to do with speed and efficiency. A table planer is a fast and high-power tool.
You can easily plane a long board from one side to the other in just a few seconds; pass it through the planer, and the machine does the rest. However, with a hand planer, there is much more work involved.
Even if you use a powered hand planer instead of a manual hand planer, it will still take longer than with a table planer.
A table planer is ideal for planing wood with great speed and efficiency and is undoubtedly the better tool for large projects requiring you to plane several pieces of wood.
Another difference concerns the accuracy of both tools. If you are looking to flatten and straighten one long board, a table planer is better. The board rests on a flat surface, and you then adjust the upper blades to the precise depth you need.
This means that you can accurately level a board from one side to the other without much effort. However, achieving uniform thickness from one side of a board to another with a hand planer can be difficult. The longer the board is, the harder it is to do.
Moreover, if you just need to work on small boards and need accuracy for small sections, a hand planer is the way to go. A table planer will work on a whole board, whereas you can work on small areas with a hand planer.
When to Use a Hand Planer or Table Planer
Which of these tools you use depends on your primary purpose.
Examples of when to use a hand planer or table planer:
- If there are only very small imperfections on small board sections, then a hand planer is better.
- If the whole board is twisted, uneven, or just very rough, and you need to straighten the whole thing out at once, then a table planer is the way to go.
- A table planer will achieve uniform thickness and straightness from one side of a board to another, especially for a long board.
- Remember that table planers can also remove much more material from a piece of wood with a single pass than a hand planer.
- If you need something extremely small and portable to easily take from one job site to another, the hand planer is better.
- If you have many boards that you need to straighten and are looking for speed and efficiency, then a table planer is what you need.
- If you want to achieve a perfectly smooth finish on the first pass, then a hand planer may be better. However, a table planer may leave some slightly rough edges behind that need to be sanded after.
Remember that a hand planer is much more affordable than a table planer.
You now have everything you need to know about hand and table planers to decide which to use.