How to Use an Electric Hand Planer

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An electric hand planer is one of the most useful tools for woodworkers. It makes working with wood and achieving a close to perfect finish easier and faster to do.

The problem is most people may find using an electric hand planer a little intimidating. But it is not as complicated as it may seem. Here’s a complete breakdown of what you need to know about hand planers and how to use this tool.

What is an Electric Hand Planer?

An electric hand planer is primarily used to shave wood to give it a smoother and more even surface. It is also an effective and fast way to shape wood.

It accomplishes this by the simultaneous rotation of blades powered by a motor. It works almost the same as a traditional hand plane, but the motor allows for a more precise finish.

The best electric hand planer works for carpentry and for finishing wooden surfaces for building construction. It is not suitable for more delicate and detailed wood projects.

How to Use an Electric Hand Planer

A man holds and electric powered hand planer

What you’ll need before you start using your electric hand planer:

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  • Electric hand planer
  • Extension cord power cable
  • A secure and accessible electrical socket
  • Safety goggles
  • Protective earmuffs
  • Woodworking vises or clamps
  • Leveling tool
  • Dust mask
  • Dustpan & broom/vacuum cleaner

Components of an Electric Powered Planer

If it’s your first time using any form of hand planer, it’s a good idea to understand the different parts of the tool.

  • Blade (also known as the Iron): Check that the blades are secure by tightening the securing screws
  • Frog: This is the adjustment mechanism that’s attached to the Iron. It is an opening that can be adjusted according to the type of cut you want to make on your piece of wood. You adjust the frog to a narrow gap to accomplish a finer cut. And you adjust this to a wider gap if you plan on cutting deeper into the wood.
  • Tote: This is the rear handle. It’s shaped specifically for your dominant hand. This is where you put most of your weight to maneuver your planer.
  • Knob: This is the front handle. It is where you place your less dominant hand. It is also what you use to direct the position of your hand planer.
  • Sole: This is the planer’s base. It is used to position your tool on to the surface where you’re working. It is made to lay flat on the wood to stabilize your tool as you use it.

Safety Process for Using Your Planer

Getting used to controlling your electric hand planer is important. With better control, you will reduce the chances of any mistakes. A definite way of handling your tool with complete control is to first establish a safe and secure working environment.

Wear appropriate attire

As much as possible, you should be wearing comfortable and secure footwear to avoid any accidents. You will be moving around a lot with your hand planer. Wear both a comfortable shirt and pants that you can also move around in. The more comfortable you are with your attire, the more comfortable you will be using your tool.

A Dewalt electric hand use planer for woodworking

Keep safety first

Wear your safety goggles to protect your eyes. Wear a dust mask to prevent you from inhaling any wood shaving dust and the harmful chemicals found in pieces of wood. You’ll also need protective earmuffs for the noise that can be disruptive to your hearing.

Have a safe workspace

It’s best advised to work in a safe space. It should be near an accessible electrical socket. You can use an extension cord if this makes it easier for you to use your electric hand planer. Your working space must clean, dry, and spacious. Do not work around pets and children. And avoid working on carpeted or slippery floors.

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Work on a flat and even floor

As much as possible, you need to avoid working on uneven surfaces. This can affect your control of both your material and your tool. It’s also a significant safety hazard.

Secure your piece of wood with woodworking clamps

As much as possible, the material you’re working on should be secured with woodworking clamps. You should either have this on a table, or an elevated surface for easier access. Woodworking clamps will hold your piece of wood down to help you prevent making unwanted mistakes.

Use a leveling tool (if necessary)

If you’re planning to accomplish a smooth and even finish on your piece of wood, use a leveling tool. The smallest tilt of an angle when you’re working with an electric hand planer can make the biggest difference. A leveling tool will guarantee you get the even and straight finish you’re aiming for.

Check your blade

A blunt blade can be both unsafe and difficult to control. If needed, sharpen your blades or replace blunt ones with new ones. But make sure to always unplug your tool before replacing the blades. Tighten the blade locking screw before turning the motor on.

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Practice on a scrap piece of wood

An electric hand planer is commonly made with different blade settings. Practice the effect of each setting on a scrap of wood before you use it on your good piece of wood.

This will help you get a grasp of how each setting works, and this will help you identify what you want to accomplish on your piece of wood.

Using your Electric Hand Planer

Once you’ve completed the safety preparations necessary for using your tool, you can begin working on your piece of wood.

  • Mark your piece of wood

Give yourself a quick guide on what areas need to be planed. It’ll help you keep track of your plans, and help you avoid overworking certain parts of the wood.

  • Position yourself accordingly

When you know what you want to start with, position yourself in a comfortable stance. Stand with your weight evenly supported by both of your legs. This helps for better control of your electric hand planer.

A man using an electric hand planer
  • Choose the settings you want to work on

Make sure your tool is in the right setting before starting. This is why it’s important to practice on a scrap piece of wood first if you have no or little experience using an electric handle tool.

  • Turn the motor on

Remember to always hold your tool with both hands when you turn it on. You should feel comfortable maneuvering the tool and its weight before you start using it. Better control lessens the chances of mistakes and possible accidents.

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  • Place the blades slowly on your material

This is when you can start finishing/sculpting your piece of wood. Be aware of where the wire is at all times. Make small movements, and avoid working in a rush.

  • Use pressure to control the finish

You only need to put a little pressure on your tool. Don’t put too much weight on your electric hand planer to avoid making mistakes unnecessary mistakes on the piece of wood you’re working on.

  • Turn your motor off and wait for the blade to stop running before putting it down after use

This will guarantee that you keep other surfaces safe from the powerful and sharp blades, as well as protecting your tool’s blades from getting damaged.

On average, the blades on an electric hand planer rotate around 20,000 rounds per minute. It’s important to confirm that your blade has completely stopped before you put it down to rest on a surface.

  • Make it a habit to stop and check your piece

You should always try to stop every once in a while to check on your piece of wood. You should never assume that you’re doing everything the right way.

There can be many different factors, from the way your piece of wood is positioned to the pressure you’re putting on your tool that can make the biggest difference in the final look of your piece. Always take your time to check that everything is as it should be.

The underside of a powered hand planing tool

How to Replace Your Planer BLade

Apart from the physical appearance of looking blunt, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether or not it’s time to change your electric hand planer’s blades. One way to know if the blade is too blunt is that it creates a far louder sound than what you’re used to hearing.

Blunt blades also create sawdust that behaves like smoke. This can become extremely uncomfortable to work in. Immediately change or sharpen your blades when you notice these two factors when you use your tool.

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To know how to change or sharpen your blade, refer to the tool’s manual. This is important because every electric hand planer brand designs their tools in different ways. It’s better to confirm how to change or sharpen your blade, according to the instructions provided in the manual.

Additional Tips for Using an Electric Hand Planer

1. Make Sure the Wood is Completely Dry

Wood behaves differently when it’s a little damp. It is more fragile. And the moisture can also disrupt the effectivity of the hand planer blade.

Overall, it is a lot easier to use your electric hand planer if the wood your using is completely dry. One way of knowing if your wood is dry is by splitting a piece of it open and checking its center. If you see mold or fungi growing on your wood, this is a sign that it’s moist.

Lay it out under the sun for as long as you can before you start working on it. Make it a point that you keep your pieces of wood in a dry storage area.

A detailed image of a Dewalt electric powered hand planing tool

2. Work on One Small Area at a Time

Trying to shape or smooth down an entire piece of wood with one long slide is not advisable. Trying to cover large surface areas in one go will mean that you will not have control over the results.

You can avoid making mistakes if you work on one small area at a time. This helps with precision.

3. Clean up As You Go

Having wood shavings and dust on the floor is a safety hazard. You can trip or slip on the wood sand, or even cut yourself with the sharp wood shavings.

It is important to always clean up after yourself, every once in a while. A quick sweep with a broom and dustpan or a vacuum will make the biggest difference.

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4. Never Work in a Rush

This may not seem like a big deal, but rushing work with an electric hand planer can be extremely dangerous. When you’re rushing through a task, your mind is bombarded with numerous thoughts all at once.

It is difficult to focus on staying safe and creating a perfect finish on your wood. Not to mention how easy it is to make mistakes when you rush through things.

5. Adjust A Piece of Wood as You Plane

The more control you have with the force you put on your hand planer, the better results you’ll have with your piece of wood. One way of losing control of your equipment is working in an awkward position.

This is why it is always important to adjust the position of your piece of wood, rather than adjusting the position of your body/feet.


An electric hand planer is an incredibly useful tool for a variety of woodworking purposes. And the best part about its motorized function is the large amount of time you’ll save compared to using a manual hand plane.

It’s incredibly effective and can repair and improve different wood pieces, in many different ways. And surprisingly, using it is not as hard as it may seem to be.

Just follow these steps to guarantee that you’re not only safe using your electric hand planer the right way, that you’re also safe, and that you do not make any mistakes on your first purchase. 

An expert at home repair, remodel, and DIY projects for nearly 40 years. His first experience came in completely restoring an antique home. Completely redone from the inside out, and restored to its original form, the home is a featured design by renowned Southern California Architect Cliff May, considered to be the father of the California Ranch Home. Now Dennis spends his time on fine woodworking projects and tool comparisons.