As you are all aware, benchtop planers have come down in price
dramatically. I am considering buying my first planer, and I want it to be
the last planer I buy. I plan to make home furniture as a hobby, probably
low volume over a few decades. Portability is not an issue, and I do have
220v access with a good size shop. Is there a steep improvement in final
product quality with larger floor models? Do you think I should buy a
benchtop model, or save the dough and buy a floor model? If you had to do it
over again, which size would you buy?
Mon, Nov 15, 2004, 7:54am (EST+5) firstname.lastname@example.org (Dave)
claims he needs to know:
<snip> Do you think I should buy a benchtop model, or save the dough and
buy a floor model? <snip>
Nope. I think you should make up your own mind. Then if you're
not happy, you got no one to blame but yourself.
Any plan is bad which is incapable of modification.
- Publilius Syrus
Floor model = hogging off more at one time and available in
Portable = nice finish cuts but limited to 12"-13" ish.
Answer, one of each, dependent upon what you really want to
do you mean to imply that the floor models do NOT give nice finish cuts?
That spiral cutter head with the indexed carbide cutters from Grizzly sure
looks like it would give a nice finish.
My advice to the home shop owner would be to get a nice portable planer -
probably the 3 cutter head dewalt, or maybe one of the smaller spiral headed
ones from Grizzly. Then supplement this with a 16/32 or so drum sander to
handle larger panels and more gnarly wood. (you can also or additionally
buy certain hand planes to do this).
I think Mike has given you some fine advice. Normally when "we" say that we
want it to be our "last" unit we mean that we do not want to buy something
lacking in features or capacity only to upgrade later. I don't think the modern
bench tops are missing much and with the money left over you are a long way to
paying for a drum sander. Cheers, JG
Mike in Mystic wrote:
As they're both Fords, I wouldn't buy either.
Same with cast iron "four post" machines. Unless you're getting a
good one, not the usual retail stuff, these give a _worse_ finish than
a suitcase planer. OK, so they can shift timber quickly and they're
much quieter, but there's a compromise in there. They're also not
very wide - 15" isn't that much more useful than 13"
Personally I use a cheap suitcase planer, because after studying a few
models in action I found one that was noticeably better than the
competition. If the knives are sharp it also gives me a good finish,
better than my jointer.
If I was spending some more money and wanting to buy "a planer for
life", then it would be a big industrial bought S/H for about the same
as a new four post.
You can't have it - Axminster CT330, so UK only
13" width, good headlock, long and stable tables. I put a couple of
thousand bf of oak through it the year I got it and it held up very
A noticeably better machine than their older CT344
It's a matter of how many BF you need to do per session and lifetime. The
big iron will process boards with its induction-run motor after the
universal is toast. It will also be accurately referenced after the small
one has shaken itself to pieces. That's why they make 'em.
Doesn't sound as if you need one for pure hobby work, though. Just remember
you've got "good enough" engineering, and keep your sessions short, your
cuts minimal. Other than that, only disadvantage is the lack of serrated
infeed and bed rollers for rough stock. Keep that bed polished to a "T" and
remember first flip may need some feed help.
If you are only going low volume, the portable should serve you well. Mine
is 15 years old. That said, I wish mine was a stationary planer with larger
width capacity. I in fact am seriously considering going back to s4s as the
last batch of s4s lumber saved me several hours of preparation. The cost
was higher but my time is worth more. The stationary is not much bigger
than a portable foot print wise so the portable does not really save you any
room in many cases. If you are going to use the planer weekly you will
probably come out cheaper with a stationary planer as the portable will
probably have to be replaced before the stationary will with regular use.
As far as quality of out put, typically the portables feed slower and
produce a smoother finish although that finish still needs to be followed up
with a sander, scraper or smoother plane. I would not consider any surface
out of any thickness planer good enough for final preparation of the
So to answer your question, get a portable if you think will not use it
weekly or will not need to plane boards wider than 12-13". If time is more
important and you will use it regularly, get the stationary.
Why the obsession with "being the last planer I buy"? Over a period of
decades, that's pretty limiting. I was really considering a Powermatic
helical head planer as my first planer, but ended up buying a Delta
benchtop. What happened? If I wanted to buy the leading benchtop, I would
have bought the Dewalt 735. I got an opportunity to buy the Delta 13" for
$229 and never looked back. Had I realized how good a job that a simple
benchtop could do, I would have never even thought about the bigger machine.
Now If it lasts more than 4 or 5 years, I will be ecstatic. By that time
I'll know if there are any serious limitations in what I want to do. In the
meantime, I got a very useful tool a long time before my budget could afford
the big iron.
Planers are the one category of power tool where you get a whole lot of bang
for the buck in the lower end.
Good question. One that I would like to know the answer to as well.
I have the DeWalt DW734 and have been fairly happy with it. But it
seems like it is a bit under-powered and I wonder how will it will
hold up over the years. I also seem to need to make a couple of
passes at my final dimesions before I can run the board through
without hearing it cutting anything.
As much as I enjoy working wood, I don't enjoy dimensioning. IMHO,
anything that makes getting properly dimensioned lumber easier,
faster, and more accurate, is a worthwhile investment.
If it turns out that a floor model does not offer that great of an
advantage, give the DeWalt DW735 (one up from my DW734) a good, long
look. I have read two glowing reviews.
In my limited experience I've noticed one big difference. The benchtop
models have rubber rollers and the stationary have serrated rollers. This
may not be true in every case but it was at the BOCES I took a woodworking
class from. The problem was if I wanted to plane a very small amount using
the large planner it left the indentations from the serrated edges. Not
exactly optimum. My benchtop gets me close then I sneak up on it with
shallow passes to minimize tearout and keep it smooth. Takes more time but
turns out better. Maybe the bigger ones expect the wood to go through a drum
sander as a next step.
Ayup. Or he was trying to take a "zero" pass.
Too many inexperienced people try to get things _exactly_ 3/4", as if that
were sacred, rather than realizing that if all boards are taken after the
same pass, it makes no difference what the precise thickness is. Hell,
hardwood's 13/16 anyway, before they sand it.
It was a while ago so I don't remember. Not always concerned about the exact
3/4" but I like accuracy and I like to get as close as possible. Feels good
to hit it perfect and I know an hour later it'll be more or less as the wood
moves. But hey, it makes me happy and isn't that the whole point of this
But I wasn't making a point on my technique.
The whole point was the serrated rollers put dimples in the wood. You've got
to make sure that you remove at least enough wood to remove the dimples.
Don't have the problem with benchtop models.
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