Deciding between a wood planer or a sander can be frustrating. After all, you know you’ll use both at some point, but you don’t want to spend double the money. Or perhaps you’ve already spent the time to find a quality wood planer and are now wondering if you really need a sander.
In woodworking, choosing between a sander or a wood planer to smooth out boards can seem a little difficult. To help you decide between the two and find out which is most useful for you, here’s a guide we’ve put together.
Wood Planer vs. Sander
While it may not be immediately obvious, wood planers and sanders don’t perform the same task. You can use a sander in place of a wood planer in a pinch, but it’s not necessarily recommended.
Sanders are designed to put the finishing touches on a plank or board. They can be used to remove the surface of wood and smooth it out, but if you want to use one as a thickness planer, think again.
When you use a sander as a wood planer to draw down thickness and remove many layers of wood, you can damage a sander. They aren’t designed to make several passes in a quick amount of time and the build up in friction and heat can harm the sandpaper and fuses.
Using a sander to remove thickness can also hurt your wood. The harsh use can get expensive as you’ll have to replace sandpaper more often and you’ll expend more energy.
In terms of removing thickness and evening out wood, wood planers are your best friend. They are built to remove layers of wood in an efficient, safe manner and won’t hurt your boards in the process. You can glue planed boards together to make thicker boards or adjust the overall thickness of a singular board.
Wood planers smooth out wood and remove the thickness, making them better equipped for woodworkers who like to customize the thickness of their boards. With a wood planer, you can also smooth out edges and the wood surface. A wood planer is often more versatile thanks to its ability to both smooth out and remove thickness from boards of almost any size.
Wood Planer Pros & Cons
- A wood planer can work on all types of wood: softwood and hardwood. There are different types available for more specific needs, but all wood planers can be used with a variety of wood types.
- Wood planers are very efficient at removing thickness. They can remove up to ¼ inch per pass which makes them quick at thinning boards and less time consuming to use.
- Some wood planers are manual and others are electric, but all have adjustable cut depth. Depending on how much you want to cut down your board, you can change the depth of the planer for each job.
- Wood planers aren’t particularly great for fine tuning or more detailed work. You’ll have to use something finer than a wood planer if you want to get detail work in or prevent yourself from cutting out too much of the board at once.
Wood Planer vs. Belt Sander
There are different types of sanders and different types of wood planers, but here we’ll take a look at how a belt sander compares to a typical wood planer.
Belt sanders are highly praised in the woodworking community. They are almost the holy grail of tools, but they are limited in what they can do just like every other type of tool. Just like you wouldn’t use a wrench to drill in a screw, you won’t use a belt sander to finish up on fine details.
Belt sanders are powerful and aggressive tools that can remove large imperfections on a wood board. It can do large jobs in a shorter amount of time and is pretty easy to use once you’ve gotten the hang of it. Because they are so powerful and aggressive, it is possible to accidentally remove too much of the material, so you’ll have to pay attention.
Aside from paying attention to how much of the wood a belt sander strips away, they are relatively simple tools and very quick. Most of them will cover a broad surface area and using a belt sander will expand your expertise and knowledge base.
When you compare a belt sander to a wood planer, you’ll see a few differences. Wood planers are good at making both larger and smaller adjustments in thickness. You can trim down door frames bit by bit or cut out several layers in just a few swoops.
Wood planers have a shorter learning curve, so you’ll feel more in control right from the start. They will make your board even and smooth instead of just taking care of imperfections like a belt sander.
With a belt sander, you’ll have to replace the sandpaper over time which can be a considerable investment. When you use a wood planer however, you’ll only have to replace the blades every once and a while, if at all. Sharpening the blades yourself is also an option which makes wood planers the more affordable, cost effective choice between the two.
Belt Sander Pros & Cons
- Belt sanders are fast and efficient. They are powerful tools that can get rid of imperfections quickly and smoothly, making them a great option for when you have a time sensitive job to complete.
- Most belt sanders have a fairly large surface area. They’ll cover a larger area than some sanders and create a more even finish. The larger surface area also makes them easier to handle, so choosing a larger belt sander will not only save you time, but also help with the learning curve.
- Using a belt sander develops woodworking expertise few other tools can offer. You’ll fine tune your skills and develop new skills just by using and working with a belt sander every now and then.
- Unfortunately, belt sanders are typically a fairly expensive tool to add to your collection.
- On many belt sanders, you’ll only have one speed which really limits your usage.
Wood Planer vs Drum Sander
Drum sanders use large rotating sanding drums and are typically used on larger pieces of wood. Like with most sanders, drum sanders are best for fine tuning and removing imperfections instead of removing large layers at once. It’s a tool that’s ideal for leveling out wood or fixing slightly misshapen boards.
A drum sander will only remove a small percentage of thickness per pass. When comparing one to a wood planer, it takes approximately 25 extra passes of a drum sander in order to remove the same amount of thickness as one pass with a hand plane. In other words, if you’re planning on really thinning down your boards, a drum sander is not going to be as effective as a wood planer.
As is common with most sanders, a drum sander will run more expensive than your average wood planer. You’ll also have to pay to replace the sandpaper more often than you will pay for new blades on a wood planer.
Drum Sander Pros & Cons
- Drum sanders are built to give your boards a smooth, clean finish. They’ll help get rid of those little imperfections and give your wood a nice, level finish.
- Unlike some sanders, drum sanders have the ability to adjust the height and speed. This gives you an advantage that other sanders don’t often offer.
- Because of the size of drum sanders, you can cover a large surface area in a time efficient manner. When trying to complete a large job or if you are under pressure, using the larger drum sander can be a great option.
- Again, replacing the sandpaper on sanders is expensive. It can also get tiring and can be a major drawback to purchasing and owning a sander.
- Drum sanders are expensive in and of themselves. They aren’t a cheap investment so you’ll be spending a larger amount of money up front.
What’s Best For Your Woodworking Project?
For the average project, a wood planer may be a better choice. They are more versatile and are cheaper to take care of. If you tend to do work where you are removing several layers of thickness at a time or if you’re a serious woodworker, buying a wood planer would be in your best interest. You’ll save money on maintenance and you won’t feel like you’re overworking a different tool.
If you aren’t in the business of thinning your own boards, then getting a sander could be a great investment. Sanders can’t be used for thinning boards like wood planers as they are likely to overheat, but they do well at putting the finishing touches on your project.