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Tool review: Benchtop Planers

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Features to look for in a benchtop planer

Features to look for in a benchtop planer

Self-indexing knives. Nearly all straight-knife cutterhead models feature self-indexing, double-edged knives. (Knives that don't self-index prove fussy and time-consuming to set.) An automatic cutterhead lock helps, too, preventing the head from rotating while you remove the bolts and knives. Some portable planers now come with (or offer as an option) a segmented cutterhead, (photo), composed of 1/2"-thick segments, each with a high-speed-steel insert cutter, and each cutter with four cutting edges. The chief advantage to this head is that, should you nick one or more cutters, you simply rotate the affected inserts a quarter-turn for a fresh cutting edge.
Gauges and stops. Many planers have a gauge that indicates the how much wood will be removed with each pass. These gauges help you avoid taking too large a bite, which might result in tear-out or deeper snipe. We also like the adjustable preset depth stops that prevent planing a board thinner than a targeted thickness, a handy feature when planing multiple project parts to identical thickness.
Dust collection. A planer generates loads of chips that make a mess if you don't hook up a dust collector or vacuum. Some feature built-in fans that suck chips away from the cutterhead and blow them out the dust port for the most effective dust collection. This proves helpful if your planer sits far from your dust collector and needs that boost. Most come with dust hoods that connect to a 4" hose, a 2-1/2" hose, or both, but a few offer a hood only as an accessory.
Power. To our surprise, power was not a critical factor. All planers showed enough oomph to handle even 1/8"-deep cuts in 12"-wide hard maple and oak.

Continued on page 3:  Here's what we'd buy


Comments (9)
malleckron wrote:

lefty442 - with my limited budget, I first bought a planer that came with regular planer blades but has the option of swapping out it's existing blade head for a spiral cutter head later. When "later" comes, you can decide if the portable planer is still the right size and buy just the spiral cutter upgrade kit. But If you need something bigger by then, you can go for a floor-size model with whichever head you think will serve you. It worked for me.

4/30/2015 08:39:30 PM Report Abuse
mischka wrote:

The DeWalt 735 is outstanding and with a helical cutter cant be beat.

4/30/2015 10:56:13 AM Report Abuse
ronaldwein38214 wrote:

I have a Rigid 4331 and love it. As long as it's locked snipe is minimal. I'm new to planers and love that I can buy $3.50 2x4x8ft and mill them into quality wood for fussin around with ideas. It's like 4 cents and inch and the lumber comes out SQUARE.

2/13/2015 11:37:41 AM Report Abuse
lefty442 wrote:

I do have a limited budget, but need a surface/thickness planer. Several have piqued my interest, and I could use some advice. I am considering a 13" machine; Sears has three or four under the Craftsman name, and Home Depot has a couple made by Steel City. My dithering is whether a spiral cutter head is really worth cost vis--vis a straight cutter head.

10/24/2013 04:08:49 PM Report Abuse
chpjep893595 wrote:

My DW 735 has been a great addition to my shop. I work with cherry most of the time and the blades and chip ejector are great.

4/4/2013 11:43:43 AM Report Abuse
bob_julie1 wrote:

The Ridgid R4331 is much better than the 4330, I highly recomend it for the price and warranty.

4/4/2013 11:09:22 AM Report Abuse
wesgarcia wrote:

I agree with your finds on planers. I have a DeWalt DW-735 and it is great!

4/19/2012 10:51:03 AM Report Abuse
mrcliff wrote:

What issue of Wood Magazine was planer review in?

9/2/2011 03:26:27 PM Report Abuse

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