- What is a Planer Thicknesser?
- Confused by the Names?
- What do you use a Planer Thicknesser for?
- So how to decide on the best Planer Thicknesser to go for?
- Features to look out for on a Planer Thicknesser
- ‘Portable’ Planer Thicknessers
- Planer Thicknesser Reviews:
- Further Information: Improving on the Budget Design
So you are looking for a planer thicknesser. More likely than not you already know what it is, how it works and what you want it for, but for the less woodworking-savvy out there, it can be a little confusing when trying to decide the best planer thicknesser to get. That’s where we come in, hopefully, with our planer thicknesser reviews, we will lay things out in front of you and make things just that little bit clearer, so that your decision on which one to purchase will be just that little bit easier!
What is a Planer Thicknesser?
So what is a planer thicknesser and how does it compare to a planer, a thicknesser, a thickness planer, a jointer, a bench-top planer, a planer-jointer combo, or a jointer planer? Some of these names refer to the same thing with some of them used more in the United States while others are more often used in the UK. This can make things quite confusing to the woodworking newcomer. To help you get a grip on what’s what, the following table should help clarify differences.
Confused by the Names?
Essentially, there are 3 types of machine in this woodworking category, Fortunately, they are most easily differentiated simply by their look:
- The Thicknesser – The thicknesser is also called a planer or a thickness planer in the US. It is easily identifiable by its ‘box’-like square-ish appearance with the cutting mechanism doing its business on the top face of the workpiece. The thicknesser is used to create a level surface on uneven or old wood stock but it is not designed to ‘straighten’ out any bowing or cupping curvature that might be inherent in stretches of wood.
- The Jointer Planer – The second type of machine is the jointer planer which is also known more simply as a jointer. This jointer is easy to identify by the large surface and exposed cutting blades on the top of the machine (assuming the blade guard is pushed to one side). Stretches of wood are then passed over the cutting blades to level the wood from below. The jointer planer also incorporates a fence which allows the operator to create right-angled adjacent faces on the workpiece.
- The Planer Thicknesser – Finally, we have the planer thicknesser (also called the planer-jointer combo (US mostly)). This is simply a machine that incorporates both of the two previous machine types, a jointer planer on the upper surface and a thicknesser underneath.
What do you use a Planer Thicknesser for?
So the planer thicknesser is essentially 2 machines in one, each with a different primary function. The jointer planer or jointer on the upper surface of the machine is used to ‘straighten’ out any bowing, cupping or twisting that might be present in wood stock. To do this, 2 adjacent longitudinal sides of a piece of wood are passed over the jointer sequentially, while using the integrated fence as a guide to create an exact 90 degree angle between them. This is better understood with a demonstration.
Once the 2 adjacent sides of the workpiece are perpendicular to each other, the 2 remaining longitudinal sides are then levelled off using the thicknesser part of the machine. To do this, the perpendicular sides just created are used as a ‘guide’ for the thicknesser to make each opposite side parallel. The end result is an exact rectangular cross-sectional profile along the length of the wood stock.
So how to decide on the best Planer Thicknesser to go for?
Well that all depends on what your budget is. In general, as with any other power tool, the more money one is willing to spend on a planer thicknesser, the better the quality and design of the machine. Since this is a website more for the do-it-yourself-er, only the models that won’t break the average DIY-er’s bank account are considered below. Most of these models of planer thicknesser are quite small in size and are even small enough to be considered somewhat portable. However portability here really means that they can be quite easily moved around the workshop or garage without too much fuss, but are not really designed for easily lugging around to friends and relatives when they are in need of your DIY-ing abilities. As with almost any other power tool, looking under the hood at the technical specifications of different brands can go some way towards helping make the final decision on which one to choose.
Features to look out for on a Planer Thicknesser
- Planing width: this refers to the width of the wood stock passing through the planer or through the thicknesser. This is a critical parameter, so knowing the largest size of material widths you will likely be working with is preferred so that you don’t end up being held back by too small a machine. In general, the planing width is the same for both the jointer part of the planer thicknesser as well as for its thicknesser facility.
- Thicknessing capacity: As with the planing width, knowing the maximum thickness of material that you are likely to be working with is crucial so that a thicknesser capable of accepting the wood of that size can be selected. Obviously, the thicknesser can only allow the passage of a workpiece up to a certain thickness otherwise it will simply not be able to fit inside the opening of the machine.
- Planing depth: Planing depth refers to the amount of material that is removed from the workpiece as it passes through the machine. This is likely to be a less important characteristic to determine your choice of machine unless speed and efficiency is of paramount importance to your woodworking operation. This is because workpieces can simply be passed through the machine more times to get the desired cutting depth required. In addition, the job of the planer thicknesser is primarily to make workpieces true and/or clean up and level the surface of wood, so making very deep cuts is usually unnecessary.
- Fence: The fence is essential to the jointer planer as it is required to make the sides of a workpiece perpendicular. Some fences have the ability to tilt which can provide an easy way to bevel the edge of workpiece, although if this comes at the cost of the sturdiness of the fence in its fully upright position, then it’s not worth it. A sturdy 90 degree fence should always be prioritised.
- Power: The input power of the unit in Watts gives some idea of the versatility of the machine, with more power usually meaning that it is able to cut deeper on wider pieces of wood stock. These days most machines of a particular category all have similar power and cutting depth capabilities. In the case of the ‘portable’ planer thicknesser, this tends to be around the 1500W mark.
- Brand: As with any other power tool, the big brand names are usually more sturdy, reliable and more accurate. Unfortunately, this usually means that they come with a heftier price tag.
‘Portable’ Planer Thicknessers
These planer thicknessers are described as ‘portable’ not because they are designed to be carried around from workspace to workspace, but because they are small compared to their more professional brethren, and they can more easily be moved around the workspace. This can be useful in a small workshop or garage where space is at a premium and the machine might need to be stowed away until it is actually needed.
As you will see in the reviews below, one overriding characteristic of the majority of portable planer thicknessers on the UK market today is that many of the machines are made up from identical components, and in a lot of cases, the machines actually look identical with the exception of their colour scheme and branding. However under the hood, things can be a little different.
Planer Thicknesser Reviews:
Erbauer Planer Thicknesser ERB052BTE
The Erbauer planer thicknesser from ScrewFix is a popular option for consumers who are looking to buy a planer thicknesser for the home workshop. It has a number of good features but also a couple of caveats. First and foremost, it does an excellent job of planing and thicknessing a variety of different soft and hard woods (including Oak, Beech, Mahogany, American Black Walnut, and American Hard Maple just to name a few) producing very nice cuts often obviating the need for sanding, and giving more professional machines a run for their money. The machine itself is very solidly built and weighs very similar to other competitor planer thicknessers in its price category, making it heavy enough to be a sturdy machine while operating, but light enough to be moved around the workshop. Setting up the machine is a little fiddly and the operating manual is not as clear as it could be, however if you are the patient DIY-er type this should present very little trouble and you should have the machine up and running in 20 minutes or so. The Erbauer ERB052BTE is reasonably well powered with a 1280W motor, it can take up to 204mm wide workpieces removing up to 3mm on the planer and up to 2mm on the thicknesser with each pass through the machine. The maximum thickness of wood that can be passed through the thicknesser is 120mm, typical for this class of planer thicknesser. One of the nice features of the ERB052BTE is that the cutting blades are easily replaceable and readily available, although if you are not too heavy a user of the machine the ones that come with it should last a couple of years at least.
A couple of points to note are that one needs to do a little bit of fiddling around when changing from planing mode to thicknessing mode, as the dust extraction port needs to be unhooked and reattached in a different location for each mode taking up a couple of minutes to do so each time. In addition, the dust extraction port is best used with a vacuum system particularly when in planing mode as the port projects upwards allowing sawdust to collect within it if the debris is not quickly aspirated away.
One particular dislike of the machine is that the fence is a little bit on the flimsy side but this is easily rectified with a little bit of DIY hacking by making one’s own more sturdy fence (see towards the bottom of this page for a couple of suggestions on how to do this on these types of machines). In addition, there is no mechanism to move the fence across the blades as with more expensive machines therefore blades will tend to wear out faster closest to the fence and they will need resharpening or replacing earlier than would have otherwise been the case if the fence was movable.
More recently in 2017, the Erbauer ERB052BTE has suffered from what seems to be a quality-control issue where the motor housing appears to be quite fragile and with prolonged use of the planer thicknesser can result in cracking at the mounting points for the motor – so this is something currently to watch out for. Fortunately with ScrewFix’s two-year warranty and their excellent customer service, getting a faulty machine replaced is a cinch (just remember to hold on to your purchase correspondence and / or invoice).
Erbauer UK is a dormant company that is wholly-owned by ScrewFix (whose parent company, incidentally, is Kingfisher which also owns B&Q). In other words, Erbauer tools are made abroad for ScrewFix and then are imported and sold in the UK. This may raise eyebrows for some, however apart from the occasional quality-control issue, ScrewFix seems to pride itself on providing good own-brand tools to tradesmen and consumers alike, and so Erbauer tools tend to have a reputation for being good quality while at the same time being quite economical to purchase.
Clarke Planer Thicknessers CPT600 and CPT800
The Clarke planer thicknessers, CPT600 and CPT800, are almost identical machines save for their dimensions. The CPT800 is able to cut a slightly wider board and, as a result, it is also slightly heavier than its smaller sibling. The Clarke planer thicknessers are good hobby-level machines that are designed for the DIY-er, although a professional woodworker might get away with using them as long as they are not overworked. They are compact machines that take up very little space in the home workshop or garage where space is invariably in short supply. As with other portable planer thicknessers, they are light enough to be moved around the workspace as needed, with the smaller of the Clarke machines weighing in at only 22kg. The fence on the upper jointer planer is probably the only disappointment with what otherwise are decent hobby machines. The fence is inconvenient to take off (to use the thicknesser) and put back on again, and it is also a bit flimsy. In addition, as with all the portable machines discussed here, the fence can not be moved laterally, so one has to watch out for excessive wear on the cutter closest to it since this area will naturally see the most work. Overall, taking into account a reasonable build quality and the price, these machines end up being a good deal.
As for Clarke the company, Clarke International is a UK business marketing a wide range of tools and equipment to the British consumer. Although Clarke itself does not deal directly with consumer purchasing, it does get involved with the after-sales servicing and spare part needs of consumers. The sale of Clarke power products to the consumer is facilitated through a number of distributors. Clarke has been around since 1969 and although it started off as a manufacturer, it now sources its products from abroad. Quality is checked thoroughly though to uphold the Clarke brand’s reputation, through both in-house scrutiny and via external organisations. In addition, consumers can also contact the company for any after-sales service support via a dedicated section of the company. Consequently, Clarke products are generally regarded as value for money and buyers of Clarke equipment are generally very satisfied with their purchases.
Charnwood Planer Thicknesser W588
Like the Clarke machines discussed above, the Charnwood W588 is another of the ‘generic’ planer thicknessers, with many of the parts of the machine identical to other competitor products. The W588’s construction strongly resembles that of the Draper 09543 and the Fox F22-564/250 (reviewed below) with the obvious exception of colour and branding. Clearly, most of the parts for these machines are sourced from the same suppliers. The W588 is quite noisy, and the machine needs a little bit of fiddling to get things working accurately. Unlike other ‘generic’ planer thicknessers, Charnwood has opted for a sturdier fence to improve the accuracy of the jointer. This fence can also be tilted up to 45 degrees from the vertical to allow the operator to make bevelled cuts.
Charnwood is a family-run business that has been around since the 1970s and focuses on providing woodworking machinery for both DIY-ers and professional users. They are located in Leicester and as you might expect from a small family-owned business, the company prides itself on offering quality products and after-sales technical support to customers. In addition, they are easily accessible if a replacement part is needed for the machine at a later date. Although in the past, Charnwood was more deeply involved in the actual manufacture of the equipment they sell, in more recent years, the company has switched to procuring products from the Far East to remain competitive. But fear not, the company has kept a watchful eye over the quality of the products that they sell to ensure that their reputation remains unblemished. So, although the W588 clearly has a lot of generic parts, one can rest assured that the machine has been sufficiently vetted to make sure that it is fit-for-purpose.
Draper Planer Thicknesser BPT200 (09543)
Draper is a well known brand amongst many-a-UK DIY-er, selling both hand tools and power tools to the general British consumer. In general, the Draper brand is a trusted brand, and most of the time their tools are of decent quality. In the case of the Draper Planer Thicknesser BPT200, Draper has cut a few corners, presumably to remain competitive within the budget planer thicknesser space. The machine is clearly sourced once again from many of the same suppliers as the Fox F22-564/250 and the Charnwood W588, as the machines look almost identical especially from the outside (other than for their branding). As with the other machines, the majority of the Draper BPT200 is robustly built however, like other machines, some of the parts, like the fence and the blade guard are a bit on the flimsy side. As with other budget planer thicknessers, the Draper BPT200 is very loud, so ear plugs or ear defenders are required for any extended cutting. In addition, a vacuum system is a must if you don’t want the wood clippings from clogging up the machine and wearing out the rollers with each job. In general, a reasonable machine for the price, and OK for the irregular use of a DIY-er, but unlikely to stand up to the heavy use of a professional.
Scheppach Planer Thicknesser HT850 (HMS850)
The Scheppach HT850 (also sometimes referred to as the HMS850) is once again one of the machines that has been manufactured in the Far East using many of the same suppliers that have been involved in the making of it’s competitor machines. In fact, if you look at the HT850, it looks very much like the Clarke CPT800 construction-wise. Indeed, its technical specifications mirror closely those of the Clarke CPT800. As with the Clarke machines, the HT850 is a solidly built machine but suffers from the same issue of some of its parts being a touch flimsy. Otherwise, as one would expect from a German company, the machine works well and is very sturdy. The Scheppach company is a medium-sized German company that has been around since 1927. For a long time, the company specialised in providing consumers with purely woodworking machinery, but in recent years, as the company has grown, it has diversified into other tools for both the amateur DIY enthusiast as well as trade professionals, and in the last couple of years has started to delve into selling equipment for the home garden market.
Fox Planer Thicknesser F22-564/250
The Fox F22-564/250 planer thicknesser yet again falls into the generic East Asian model category that the majority of these budget planer thicknessers fit into. The Fox F22-564/250 is particularly similar to the Charnwood W588 and the Draper BPT200 (reviewed above). Like its competitors, the Fox F22-564/250 is a reasonable machine for the DIY-er and possibly the trade professional who is willing to spend some time making some tweaks to the machine to improve its functioning. For instance, take Bill Warmisham, who had to spend some time adjusting the machine to fully eliminate snipe from the thicknesser when he first got it. Compared to most of its direct competitors, the Fox F22-564/250 has a wider planing width capacity of 254mm. In addition, it comes with its own stand, so there is no need to clear a space on the workshop table if you don’t want to. As with the Charnwood W588 the fence is of better quality than seen on some of its other competitors, and also tilts up to 45 degrees from the vertical for bevelled cuts if so desired.
The Fox brand is an Italian one owned by Femi, which is an Italian company that specialises in providing power tools for both wood-working and metal-working do-it-yourselfers and as well as trade professionals.
Record Planer Thicknesser PT260
The Record Planer thicknesser PT260 falls into the ‘portable’ machine category even though it weighs a hefty 80kg. This is because it is a relatively small machine fitted with a leg stand and pedal-operated wheel kit that allows it to be rolled around the workspace relatively easily. The PT260 is a sturdy machine that is accurate and reliable, and unlike most other ‘portable’ planer thicknessers, the thicknessing bed is made of cast iron which is part of the reason why the machine is so heavy. However, some of the heftier weight also comes from a more powerful motor drawing 1.8kW of power allowing it to cut deeper into workpieces than its budget competitors. The PT260 thicknesser can also accept a thicker block of wood than the other planer thicknessers in its category making the machine yet more versatile. The less-than-clear operating instructions are probably the only let down with the PT260, but then again, the machine is designed for the expert user who probably would not pay much attention to the manual anyway. The PT260 is a robust machine backed up with a 5-year guarantee, illustrating the level of confidence the company has in its longevity. Unfortunately higher quality means a higher price tag and the PT260 is not cheap, coming in at more than double the price of the budget machines. However, on the plus side, at least it is not going to need replacing any time soon.
Record Power, the company behind the PT260, is a UK-based company with a reputation for high quality hand and power tools. It is focused primarily on the expert DIY-er and the trade professional. The company also owns the Startrite brand, which covers a line of power tools that is specifically designed for industry. Like other competitor companies, Record procures tools manufactured in the Far East, but is also involved in some manufacturing in the UK. Unlike some of the companies in this sector, Record power does sell directly to the consumer from their website and their products are also available from a number of distributors.
Further Information: Improving on the Budget Design
Since most of the portable planer thicknessers are in the budget category, and use many of the same structural components, it is not surprising that many of them suffer from the same inadequacies. But all is not lost if you don’t have the cash to drop on a more expensive machine. If you are handy with a tool or two, then you might want to have a go at tweaking the machine as Cosmas and Marius Hornberger have done in the videos below: