Guide written by:
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton
Like the hand plane, the electric plane is a crucial woodworking tool used for planing.
Planing involves placing a flat, smooth surface on the wood, either a piece of raw wood or a piece of planed wood.
In addition to its primary role, the electric plane makes it possible to create edges or grooves - to break up lines edge. The electric plane can also trim - about 25 mm, basically making a notch that runs down the entire length of the edge of a piece of wood.
The operating principle of an electric plane is very simple. The plane's blades, also known as irons, are attached to a drum driven at a speed ranging from 10,000 to 16,000 revolutions per minute (rpm) by an electric motor. A handle, located on the front of the plane, is used to adjust the depth of cut, ie the amount of wood material to be removed.
Ranging from one to a few millimeters (generally 4 mm), the depth of cut depends on the power absorbed by the electric plane, the efficiency of its motor, the quality of the irons and the width on which you're working.The planer blades, fixed on the drum, are housed in the back shoe in a retainer - the table resting on the wood to be planed. The basic and cheapest electric planes are only equipped with one iron.
Standard electric planes are equipped with 82 mmwideirons. This planing surface, combined with a low weight, makes it possible to achieve chevrons (60 x 80 mm), battens (from 20 to 40 mm) and trim any piece of wood with a width less than 82 mm. Note that two passes on a single piece of wood with a width greater than 82 mm will leave a noticeable mark on the entire planed surface - any planing should be done in one single pass.
With power from 600 to 1000 W, electric planes are ample enough to make an edge, trim a door or to thin out small planks with a little practice. The power is dimensioned according to the width of the planing irons and consequently of the shoe.
There are, however, carpenter planes with shoes measuring 100, 150, 170, 180 mm or even more to plane large pieces of wood such as joists, purlins, crossbows, entryways etc.While they are very powerful, the carpenter's planes' weight makes them less manageable. These planes are generally reserved for heavy duty lumber work.
High-speed steel or HSS plane blades are suitable for working soft woods such as pine.
The HSS planing irons can be reshaped, making them economical, provided they have the necessary tools for sharpening. HSS irons tend to be upgraded by tungsten carbide irons, suitable for working hard or synthetic wood - the glue of which is very abrasive. The reversibleirons have two cutting edges, very economical, just return them and go for another turn!
The coiled tool holders and those wielding two irons more evenly distribute the cutting force for a nice even finish. Something to take into consideration when choosing your plane!
Many manufacturers offer battery operated wireless planes - it's important to remember, however, that for a small planing job, the hand plane offers cuts up to 50 mm.
Very practical for small mobile work, battery-operatred planes are very handy and can be used without depending on any electrical outlet.
Conversely, a wired electric planer will never fail you. If you opt for a wireless planer, go for fastcharge lithium batteries. Any wireless plane delivered with two batteries would be highly recommended, as this will allow you to work continuously by alternating batteries.
The capacity of a battery is measured in Ampere hour (Ah) and Volts (V); The higher the values, the more batterypower and autonomy.
This may seem like a strange idea but it is possible to sand with a plane! A plane equipped with a sanding cylinder is transformed into a real, effective sander. With the right depth adjustment, there is no risk of digging too far into the wood. Forcing that edge or groove through without a sanding cylender is a tricky operation that can generate major chips!
Having V-grooves under allow smooth indentations to be made with your plane. This gesture requires a certain know-how, as the grooves guide the shoe along the length of the piece of wood. Perfect for finishing your interior wood fittings, some models have several grooves to make indentation more or less big!
Creating an edge without a guide is a challenge! The use of a guide, or square, makes it possible to create an edge perfectly perpendicular to the surface.
Some high-end brands offer a stationary support to transform an electric planer into a mini rough plane. Ideal for moving work on small pieces, these stationary supports are of course delivered with safety devices to avoid any accident.
Electric planes equipped with bags allow for the efficient collection of chips if the plane is not already connected to a vacuum cleaner.
The quality of finish of an electric plane is relative to its intended use, namely whether its for occasional, regular or intensiveuse. Electric planes are available at all prices and for all types of work.
Prices for basic electric planes are less than 50 €. As you can imagine, at this price, these are configured with rough, low-performance settings. They are rather noisy and quite tiring to use. This is the primary reason they are reserved only for occasional use.
Between 50 € and 150 €, this range's grip is improved, the soft-grip handles being more pleasant, while the adjustments easier and more precise. A chip bag or a connection for an external aspiration allows you to work in a healthier environment. Electric planes equipped with a retractable foot or an electric brake are very safe, as they further reduce the risk of accidents - it is not uncommon to put the plane down while the drum is still rotating. Imagine injecting an electrical wire or worse, a limb! In this price range, a wireless planer is possible, but without a battery. Ideal if you already have other wireless power tools you can reuse the same battery and charger.
Going over 150 €, these are professional electric planes. More comfortable to use, more enduring, these planes will never fail you no matter what the job. Their electronic control is powerful, they are precise, reliable and offer a perfect finish.
To choose the right electric advice, consider the following characteristics:
An electric plane is a powerful and dangerous tool. Only work on properly secured pieces of wood and do not go too fast on your passes.
Do not use your electric plane on wooden parts with screws or nails like hardwood floors, as the irons could break or the plane could come off under the shock.
Before planing a piece of raw wood, study it to see if there are any elements that could damage the irons such as staples. Use a metal scraper to be sure, because if the irons are fragile they can be marked at the slightest small disturbance in the wood.
If a cheap electric planer is suitable for casual work, do not hesitate to invest more for a more regular use and an increased comfort of use. Better designed, less tiresome to use and equipped with additional accessories or protections, the electric planes of medium range will give you total satisfaction for your carpentry work.Do not forget to use PPE - Personal Protective Equipment! Wear ear protectors and goggles! Wood shavings can damage the cornea when projected into someone's eye, not to mention the decibels issue (dB), as electric planes are very noisy! The same goes for respiratory protection, as the use of an electric planer releases a lot of dust... best to wear a mask!
For do-it-yourselfers and amateur carpenters gearing up, or the amateur who is just getting started, follow the links below for gardening-related accessories, advice from our editors and more helpful guides:
And to work safely:
Guide written by:
John, DIYer & IT developer, Brighton, 72 guides
Since I was a child, I was always interested in manual and technical work. Always fascinated by woodworking, I took advantage of my first flat as a playground. On the cards: electricity (of course, safety first!) and some partition walls; but also decorating with the help of the missus, made-to-measure furniture and little tricks to optimise the space, all the while remaining as original as possible. When the little one arrived, I started building bits and pieces for him! Lacking space, I have not got a permanent workshop and certain tools I dream about are not part of my collection. Not to worry, I already know a lot about DIY and I have a high-tech profile that I hope will guide you in your decisions!