The best machines produce smooth, parallel surfaces on your lumber
Synopsis: We test 11 benchtop planers that handle stock up to 13 in. wide and 5 to 6 in. thick, run on a 12-volt circuit, and have dust collection and indexed knives. The most important evaluations when it comes to a planer are whether it makes smooth cuts with both faces of the board parallel to one another. After that, it’s all about features: superior finish quality, easy knife changes, and convenient depth-of-cut adjustments. Models tested included the DeWalt 735X (Best Overall), Ridgid R4331 (Best Value), Craftsman 21758, Delta 22-555, DeWalt 734, General International 30-060HC, Grizzly G0790, Makita 2021NB, Rikon 25-130H, Rikon 25-131, and Triton TPT125.
I’ve had a benchtop planer in my shop for many years and it’s starting to show its age. So when the editors at Fine Woodworking asked me to test the current crop of benchtop planers, I saw it as an opportunity to do some comparison shopping. These models handle stock 121⁄2 in. to 13 in. wide (plenty for most furniture making) and 5 in. to 6 in. thick, so you can square up blanks for even the beefiest parts. The planers also run on a 120-volt circuit, so they can be used in any home shop.
There are a lot of benchtop planers on the market, but we limited our selection to the 11 models that have what we consider to be essential features: dust collection and indexed knives. Planers without a dust port will create a huge mess and flood the air with dust. Indexed knives have pins that guarantee that all of the knives project the same amount and are parallel to the planer’s bed. This feature takes the hassle out of knife changes, greatly speeding up the switch from old to new knives.
To test the planers, I looked at what matters most to woodworkers. I…