Which of the top brands makes the best benchtop planer? Makita, DeWalt, or Metabo?
If you’re looking for a new benchtop planer, there’s a good chance you’re considering one of the big brands: Metabo, Makita, and DeWalt. All three offer similar looking benchtop planers that are very popular at the moment.
But which one should you get? What sets them apart? Which features do they have that others don’t? And which one is the best value for money?
In this guide I’ll compare the DeWalt DW733, Metabo DH 330, and Makita 2012NB to find out their differences. At the end I’ll tell you which one is the best overall, and which provides the most value for money.
All three of these planers are so-called ‘lunchbox’ planers. This is a classic design for benchtop planers in a small package, and sort of resembles a… lunchbox.
The advantages of lunchbox planers are their small size and very small footprint, which combined with relatively low weight allows you to move them around easily. You can also store them away under a workbench, which is nice in a small workshop.
Although all three share the same basic design, there are some noticeable differences. The Makita is quite a bit lighter and smaller than the other two. It weighs only 27 kg, compared to the 35 kg of the Metabo and the 33.8 kg of the DeWalt.
If you need to move it around regularly, that 7 kilos difference between the Metabo and Makita can really start to count. And its smaller size also makes the Makita easier to store.
There are also some downsides to the Makita’s smaller size. It has less width capacity, of only 304 mm (12 inches), compared to the 330 mm (13 inches) for the DH 330 and 317 mm for the DeWalt.
It is also slightly less powerful than the other two planers, with a 1650 Watt motor compared to 1800 Watts for DeWalt and Metabo.
These differences are not mind-blowing, but definitely something to take into account. If you don’t have a lot of space, or regularly take the machine to a jobsite, the reduced size and weight of the Makita 2012NB can be a significant advantage.
All three machines are fairly well built and a clear step up from cheaper benchtop planers. These designs have been on the market for a long time (20+ years for the Makita and DeWalt), without any major changes, so they’ve proven their reliability.
There is however still a difference. The Makita definitely has the best build quality. The Metabo and DeWalt both have more plastic parts and the type of plastic used also feels less solid.
The Makita, in contrast, has more metal parts and the plastic used is of higher quality and has a nice tactile feel. Build quality is where the Makita 2012NB really shines. Quality materials are of course more costly, and this is probably why it is relatively expensive, even though it has fewer features, as we’ll see in a moment.
This is where the Metabo DH 330 shines. It has the most, and best implemented, features. The Makita is very basic, with minimal features, while the DeWalt fills the middle spot.
This helps to prevent unwanted movement from the cuttterhead as wood moves through the machine. The wood pushes upwards and could push the cutterhead up, or even askew, resulting in a non-straight cut. By locking the spindles, this movement is eliminated.
The Makita has an ‘auto-lock‘ system instead, which supposedly should achieve the same result, but this is hard to check without extensive testing. With the manual spindle lock, at least you’ll know for sure it is working.
In the video below you can find a good visual explanation of the benefit of this spindle lock.
The depth of cut indicator shows how much you’re taking off with each pass when you feed in the wood. The wood pushes against a small bar or metal ball at the front of the machine, which raises the indicator.
The difference between the Makita and the other two is that it does not have any scales. On both the DeWalt and Metabo there are scales next to the indicator, so you can instantly see how deep of a cut you’re making.
Instead, Makita uses a more cumbersome system where you’re supposed to first take off a very minimal shaving and then use the scales on top of the handle to determine the depth of cut. Check the video below for an example on how this is done.
Although this method does work, I find the scales on the DH 330 and DW733 much more intuitive.
The Metabo DH 330 has one more feature that is found neither on the Makita nor on the DeWalt: a cutting height lock. This is a slider on the side of the machine which lets you set the maximum height of the cutterhead.
This helps if you wan to plane many pieces to the same height, but if you also want to plane some thinner pieces in the meantime.
This can be very useful but I think the opposite would have been much more logical: a minimum cutting height lock. That way you could always go back to the final thickness, even if your pieces are initially of different height. This seems to me a much more common use case, where you have many slightly different pieces that you want to get to the same thickness.
I don’t know why Metabo chose to implement it like this, but it’s at least better to have this feature than to not have it at all. Check the video below for a more detailed explanation of this mechanism.
The Makita 2012NB actually has a very small hidden feature that does what I explained above. It has a simple bolt that you can lower or raise which sets a limit to how long the machine can go. This is excellent for repeatedly planing several pieces the same thickness.
This is an area where there is not much between the three planers. They all have two blades that have two sharp edges so they can be reversed, but cannot be resharpened.
They are all approximately equally powerful, have the same basic design, same feed rates (the Metabo ever so slightly slower with 7m/min vs 8m/min on the other two), and therefore all produce similar results.
All three will deliver perfectly fine shaving results, albeit with a little snipe, but that is simply an inherent flaw of the lunchbox planer design.
There is a way though to get a better finish from these three planers: upgrading them with a spiral cutterhead.
For all three there are aftermarket cutterheads available. These will improve cut quality significantly. They’ll also reduce noise, prolong blade life, make cutting difficult grains easier, and help save money on blade replacements.
This does come at a price, as a spiral cutterhead costs about as much as the entire planers themselves.
Below I’ve listed links to several upgrade kits for all three planers. Please do note that I have no personal experience with any of them so I cannot recommend a specific one.
I’ve also added two videos showing how to add the new cutterheads to the Metabo DH 330 and Makita 2012NB. The Metabo in this video uses the Sheartak model, and the Makita uses the Tiger Tools Pro one.
Although all three are solid benchtop planers, I think the Metabo DH 330 is the best overall. It has more features than the others, can handle wider boards, and is significantly cheaper.
For specific use cases where light weight, small size, and superior build quality are important, the Makita 2012NB is the best choice.
The DeWalt DW733 is still a solid machine that will perform just as well, but it does not have anything extra to justify its €100-200 premium price over the Metabo.
As a result, the Metabo DH 330 is also by far the best value for money at current prices. It offers everything the others do, and more, but at a significantly lower price.
To find the best deals on any of these three planers, check out the price comparison tool listed below. We automatically update prices every day to help you stay up to date with the latest deals.
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