I'm starting to look for a planer. I'm anticipating light duty, so I'm
looking to make a proportionate investment. Maybe moving to rough
lumber instead of the S4S I've been buying. Getting the exact thickness
for a project. I'm just a weekend hobbyist. What should I be looking
for in terms of features/functions? Any specific models/manufacturers
to definitely include? Any to avoid?
Thanks in advance,
"Tools Online" has a review of seven different bench top planers. The
article lists the important aspects to look for. See:
I also agree with their choice of the DeWalt DW735 as being the best of
It is pretty hard to point at anything but the DW735. They really
nailed it. It's going to be almost $600 but anything cheaper is just
cheaper. If you need to save bucks then just buy the Grizzly benchtop
(don't know the prod number). It is probably about half as much but
not worse by half.
I've used the Delta, Ridgid, Craftsman and a few others. They are all
the sakme but the 735 is much better. I know a few pro shops that keep
one for emergency, field and overflow or small work.
I am NOT a Dewalt guy. I usually default away from their stuff but the
735 is a really workhorse and nicely put together.
They will all trail edge snipe so just hold the boards up as much as
possible as the tail out do them tail to head or use a follower.
I'm very happy with my Delta 580. The DeWalt was not available when I
bought mine, but if I was buying today, I'd probably get the DeWalt.
I have a 13" Delta benchtop. Sounds like everyone prefers DeWalt. I've had
mine for a couple years. I have no complaints, but I also have no
experience with the DeWalt version. Replacement blades snap in and are easy
to replace. New blades come sharpened on both sides. They don't require
any height adjustment as part of the installation. The rollers on mine need
to be cleaned periodically with soap and water or they begin to slip. You
do need to make sure the infeed and outfeed tables are level or even tilted
up slightly above level with the planer table to eliminate or reduce snip.
I don't rely on the machine's depth gauge for final thickness. I use
calipers instead. They read down to a 64th. I've used bigger planers like
the Delta 15" and an older 24". I like the power the larger planers and the
wider width, but I found those larger planers anyway don't seem to give as
smooth of a finish as the little benchtops. I've been told its because the
cutter is spinning faster on the benchtops. The larger planers are very
loud, unless you get one with a carbide spiral cutter. The ones I've used
with HSS blades are MUCH louder than the benchtops. I don't think I could,
in good conscience, put my neighbors through the noise of a large planer.
The planer is by far the loudest tool in my shop, but also very useful and
almost indespensable if you're working with stock that varies in thickness.
Good luck with your new planer.
Yup. No need to apologize for not recommending the $600 planer. I have the
smaller brother to yours, a Delta 12 1/2" portable, and haven't felt a need
to replace it or upgrade in the 7 years I've had it. No snipe, no feed
problems, good finish, no hassle blade change, good chip collection even at
the end of 25' of 4" duct. Not bad for $250. I totally forgot that I had
intended to replace it, and thinking about it even now, I still don't see a
need. (It's a 22-560, maybe or maybe not the same as the TP305 that seems to
have replaced it. They look superficially the same.)
The trick to preventing snipe is to support the outfeed. I don't know if
it'll snipe if I don't do this, but it's a simple matter to let the front
few inches glide over your fingertips as the last few inches go into the
planer. It's done cutting when the board stops moving. No chance at all for
exit snipe this way.
I also have the Delta (model 22-580) and have run tons of rough sawn
lumber through it. After a couple years my knive have finally got a
nick in them but are otherwise still plenty sharp. As TD said, the
knives are sharpened on both side, so when I get around to it all I
have to do is flip them over to get a fresh blade. If I had to guess,
I have run at least 4000bf of oak through it on this side of the
knives. So far it has been rock solid and has run flawless. There is
also a roller on top, so when planing with two people it is easy to
roll the boards back to the person feeding the lumber. The dust
collection port works pretty well also, but some of the chips do
escape. Nothing a dust pan and brush does not clean up though. There
is also a repeat lock - so that when you want to plane a lot of lumber
down to the same thickness it will not plane past the desired
setting. Think of it like a stop-block. It allows me to not have to
concentrate so much on the numbers, I just keep feeding wood until it
stops me. It has two cutting speeds so you can take the bulk of the
chips off at a faster feed rate then bump it up to 90 cuts per second
for your final pass. Little sanding is usually needed after the final
pass for me. It is really heavy and really loud!
I have never worked with any other planer so I cannot compare it to
others. If someone offered me a trade for the dewalt or any other I
would decline as this tool has proved to be a solid work horse in my
Given your useage, let me make an alternative suggestion...a drum sander.
A drum sander will not clean up rough lumber as fast as a planer but it WILL
do it. Additionally...
1. you will never have any tear out
2. with finer grits you can get close to a "finish ready" surface
3. with a cantilevered (open end) drum you can sand much wider things
4. you never have to sharpen knives
On the down side are the increased time to cut down the surfaces and the
(probably) greater price of the machine.
There are two basic types of drum sanders...
1. The table is fixed, drum moves up and down (Performax/Jet)
2. Drum is fixed, table moves up and down (Delta/Grizzly)
I have never used the second type but suspect it is more rigid/stable than
the first; nevertheless I wouldn't suggest it. Why? Because the tables on
both types are smallish and - unless you limit yourself to smallish stock -
one needs additional infeed and outfeed support. With a fixed table, that
is easy; with a table that goes up and down it would be a huge inconvenience
as you would have to adjust the ancillary supports each time you adjust the
machine depth. Not for me.
How effective is it?...
The grits I use are 40, 80,120 and (rarely) 180.
The 40 is only used for fast surfacing of rough stock. With it, I can
take off 1/16 with most woods but it DOES depend on the hardness and width;
1/32 is easy. I only use 40 if I am surfacing a fair amount of stock.
Grit #80 is my work horse. If I just need a handful of rough boards
surfaced I use it rather than change to 40. With #80, 1/3 turn of the crank
(1/12") is normal.
Grit #120 is my usual finishing grit and the norm for it is also 1/12".
I use #80 until I just need another couple of passes, then switch to 120.
Note that with ANY grit, ANY wood, one pass at a given setting will NOT
result in that much wood being taken off. To get to a final depth requires
2-4 passes thru the sander at the same depth setting. That is due to
varying hardness within the piece of wood, varying sharpness of the grit
across the width and clogging of the paper. However, there is no need to
make multiple passes at the same depth until you "get down to the short
I normally stop at 120 but even with 180 the work needs finish sanding. It
will be smooth after the drum sander but will have longitudinal striations.
How obvious those striations are depends upon the last grit used but they
are always there. I don't consider this a problem as wood run through a
planer will need sanding too to remove the knife marks. And if a knife
happens to be too high, the wood will need a LOT of sanding :(
DUST COLLECTION is a must...
I started out with an 8 gallon Shop VAC. It worked well, died in a couple
Next was a 12 gallon Ridgid; it too worked well, it too died but lasted
maybe 5 years.
Next was a 16 gallon Shop Vac. It has three possible methods of
1. a paper bag inside that fits over the inlet. It works great.
Problem is, it fills pretty rapidly and isn't really reuseable; since they
are pricey - especially given that is is just a paper bag - that is a big
negative for me. oh, one CAN reuse them - gotta snip off an end, empty then
tape up the end. My biggest complaint is the frequency with which they have
to be emptied.
2. a pleated filter. Both the other vacs used this - and worked well -
but this one does not. It has too many pleats, they fill very fast (almost
instantly) and when they fill the machine is struggling. There are so many
pleats that it is very difficult to change the filter and even when it is
clean it clogs almost immediately.
3. a foam filter that fits over the motor intake area and is retained
with a pressure fit plastic ring. It works OK but the plastic ring doesn't
retain the foam filter well...always slips down allowing dust to pass and be
blown out. I no longer use this vac.
Final was a Delta dust collector. About $180 at Home Depot, works
Most of the wood I run thru my 16" sander is 4-10" wide. I tend to feed it
through at the same place which means part of the sanding strip gets little
use. I mitigate that by reversing the strip occasionally.
One needs to keep the abrasive clean by frequent use of one of the big art
gum type rubber cleaners. That is usually enough but if one has the
misfortune to have to sand pitchy woods the pitch will build up and the
eraser won't clean it. To clean that I...
1. put holes in the bottom of an empty tuna can
2. hammer the bottom inward so it is concave
3. put the tuna can bottom up in a plastic jar (I use a small, empty
4. put clogged, rolled up abrasive strip in small jar
5. fill with lacquer thinner, put on lid, gently shake occasionally.
The lacquer thinner dissolves the pitch, shaking assures that the abrasive
is wet in all spots and helps dislodge stuck on crud which falls down and
most of which falls through the holes in the tuna can.
Abrasive material is much more economical when bought in full or half rolls.
A good source for same is...
I mentioned infeed/outfeed tables. Very handy, this is how I made mine...
(a) rollers maybe 14" long cut from 2 1/2" PVC pipe
(b) roller ends plugged with 3/4 ply rounds cut with a fly cutter on
drill press and tapered slightly; a couple of small, counter sunk flathead
screws hold them on to the rollers.
(c) ply rounds bushed with 1/4" ID copper pipe
The rollers roll on 1/4" bolts which are fixed to a frame. The frame is
attached by hinges to a table made for the sander. The table attachment is
such so that the attachment point can be moved up/down to level with sander
table; once leveled, there is no need to do it again so I screwed on small
stops to prevent downward movement.
The frames each have two parts - an inner and and outer; rather like a
case and drawers - to allow for lateral extension. The inner slides in the
outer via tongue and grooves; once extended a knob & bolt locks them.
When not being used, the tables hang down on each side of the sander table
just clearing the floor. To use, lift up and extend a single hinged leg at
the center of the outboard end. That leg is two pieces with a sliding
dovetail and folds inward to the frame when not used. It is locked by a
knob and bolt. The support leg can be varied in length to accomodate bowed
stock. The "normal" extension is just a pencil mark arrived at empirically.
Each table extension has three rollers - two in the fixed frame, one in the
extensible part of the frame. When the table is not extended it gives about
36" of support beyond the built in sander table; when extended, it gives 54"
of support which means I can lay an eight foot piece of whatever on it and
it stays there.
If anyone reads this far, let me say that I'm not trying to convince OP to
switch from a desire for a planer to one for a drum sander, merely
discussing a possibly more versatile alternative that might work out better
I have one of the original lunch box planers that was introduced by Ryobi in
the mid to late 80's. It still works but was replaced by a stationary 15"
model 3 years ago.
If I were to buy another portable planer I would give Ridgid a hard look, it
has a life time warranty.
Many of the newer portable planers have 2 speeds, slow and slower. Slow is
slow enough, slower gives you a nicer finish that you should still sand for
you final surface preparation, so what is the point. IMHO slower is a waste
of time on portable planers. Larger planers have 2 speeds, fast and slow,
this makes a bit more sense.
Older lunch box planers used blades that could be resharpended time after
time. Most of today's portables use disposable blades that can some times
be rehoned a time or two. Regardless, all planer knives will eventually
develop a nick so again the slower speed on the two speed portable models
IMHO increases the time spent with the planer and does not prevent the need
for final surface preparation.
Drum sanders can also change the thickness of a board but they are EXTREMELY
slow for this operation. I have a 22/44 Performax drum sander and would not
want to use it for stock removal of more than 1/16 of an inch and that will
take approximately 3-4 passes.
Leon, I looked in Delta's catalog.. Here is a list of the two speeds (feed
rate) for their planers in ft/min
Lunchbox 13" 20/30
Stationary 15" 16/30
" 20" 20/30
" 24" 20/30
So generally speaking in the case of Delta anyway speed or feed rate is very
similar for almost all their models.
Thanks for pointing that out. I was mentally referencing the DeWalt, when
it originally came out the feed rate was closer to the 8/16 ratio IIRC. I
see that DeWalt no longer publishes the feed rate rather they show the 96
and 179 cuts per minute specs.
I do recall that normal single speed for the older lunch box planers was 16
fpm which produces a pretty nice surface, still it needs the final prep
work. DeWalt "was" advertising a finish speed at about 1/2 the fast feed
rate or almost double the cuts per inch.
I bought a Mikita a couple of years ago after reading many reviews. I
have been very happy with it. It is not as loud as a Jet or Delta I've
used (but it is still very loud). The criticisms of the Dewalt seemed
to be short blade life. I've yet to change the blades on my Makita. I
keep it under a bench when not in use and it is light enough to move
I'm a high school shop teacher. The Woodworking 2 course shop has the
Dewalt 735 planer. The planer has survived three years of student use and
abuse and is still in good working condition. The planer is easy to use,
good dust collection connection options, quick blade change and a durable
machine. We go through a set of double edge blades per year. Quiet, no, I've
never met a quiet planer. If you want quiet grab a hand plane.
Well the bigger stationary planers can be much quieter than the portables,
typically you don't have the noise of the universal motor added into the
mix. My portable will completely mask the sound of my stationary planer.
That said, the noise of the stationary planer about doubles when the dust
collector is attached and turned on, same sound just twice as loud.
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