Carpentry is an industry that can be very lucrative especially when you produce quality products. Have you always wanted to learn a trade? Carpentry is a trade that takes years of hard work and education to master. In fact, it was actually one of the first professions that employed experienced carpenters to train apprentices. There’s so much to learn it carpentry that it’s tough to say where to begin. Most apprentices learn about the basic tools and their functions first. They learn how to properly hammer objects and ensure precise connections using screws and fasteners. However, one of the first concepts an apprentice should master is how to use a planer. Mastering this opens the door to numerous other skills that can advance your career as a carpenter. There are several things to consider when purchasing a planer as a beginner, such as type, experience level and projects performed.

What’s a planer?

It’s a power tool that shapes wood, typically by smoothing the surface. Before moving onto learning about how to finish or polish wood beginners learn to master planers. Planers have a spinning head that holds sharp knives that are mounted in an adjustable carriage. A piece of wood is fed through a planer via a power feed. The knives spin cut the top surface of the wood, unlike jointers which cut the bottom of wood surfaces. They are used by carpenters to smooth wood surfaces so that each board retains a consistent thickness. Some wood pieces require two carpenters to control a planer to ensure the consistency of smoothness.

Types of planers

Beginner carpenters generally learn how to operate three types of planers, mastering one at a time. Regardless of the type of planer used, beginners must develop hand-eye coordination and possess a hand steadiness that produces consistent cuts.


  • Hand planers – These have very sharp cutting blades or sharpened metal plates that are attached to a solid body and the body is attached to a grip on top that carpenters use to guide it. As the cutting blade extends below the body, a carpenter passes a piece of wood or board through the blades to remove thin wood shavings. The hand motion, with planers is to push it away from the body and try to reduce the thickness of the wood being shaved. Sometimes carpenters adjust hand planer blades after each pass, to ensure cutting accuracy. Hand planers work best on smaller pieces of wood.
  • Jointers – Unlike hand planers, jointers smooth and flatten wooden edges and not surfaces. The smoothing and flattening of wooden edges enables two boards to join together to form wider boards. Wood or lumber pieces feed through a woodworking machine cutter that consists of two or three rapidly moving sharp blades. The blades spin extremely fast, yet the intent is to only remove small portions of material during each pass. However, jointers have adjustable controls that allow carpenters to change how much material is removed during this process.
  • Thickness planers – Are quite similar to jointers in the way they operate but the cutter works on top of the wood surface. Pieces of wood are fed on top of the cutter to produce flat and smooth surfaces, then they flip the piece of wood over and do the same thing on the other side. This ensures both sides are even throughout a piece of wood’s entire length. Thickness planers have three components that include a cutter head, table, and feed rollers. A cutter head holds the cutting knives that produce the final surfaces. In and out feeders move wood pieces through the planer. However, the most important element may be the table because it provides the stability required to precisely smooth and flatten wood surfaces.

A planer is an essential tool for any experienced carpenter. However, apprentice carpenters don’t necessarily have to include a planer in their initial tool set, most times you can just use your mentor’s planer. The key for beginners is to follow a few basic planing steps. Once you master the basics, you can then move on to more advanced tools and techniques.