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While we lust for a 20″ monster, most woodworkers can be simply as properly off (or higher) with a ‘suitcase planer.’

When I began woodworking in about 1993, I wished two issues: a desk noticed with a good rip fence and the largest thickness planer on the planet.

In my opinion, planers are the largest labor-saving system ever invented for the workshop. You may suppose it’s the electrical jointer, however I disagree. Any half-witted woodworker can do the work of an electrical jointer – e.g. flatten one face and fringe of a board – with a $20 jack airplane.

But if you wish to then take away a 12” of fabric from 20 boards and make all of the surfaces useless parallel, put your handplane down and fireplace up the electrical planer. It can flip days of sweat into a couple of minutes of simple work.

For a few years, I lusted for an unlimited forged iron, induction-motor battleship with a 20″-wide mouth. When I received my want, nevertheless, it was anticlimactic. The end on the boards it planed was simply OK. And I positive as heck wasn’t pleased with how a lot area the 20″ monster hogged within the store – by no means thoughts the invoice for the machine or the tedium of the jackscrews when altering knives.

Had I Reached Too Far?

Mouth of the beast. It’s simple to have a powerful itch for a large thickness planer. And if you happen to work in a manufacturing store that offers in broad lumber, you in all probability ought to scratch it.

When I arrange a brand new store in 2011, I skipped the forged iron planer. Instead, I purchased a cheap, moveable, universal-motor planer that matches below a workbench. It leaves a greater end. The knives are a snap to change out. And I’ve been stunned – no, shocked – by how robust the machine is for day by day use.

If you are looking for a planer, I hope to persuade you to economize, area and time by buying a conveyable machine and ignore the decision of the heavy-metal sirens.

What’s the Difference?

A distinct spin. An induction motor can final for 50 years of heavy use and hardly break a sweat. They are cumbersome and take time to spin up.

At their core, each moveable planers and greater stationary fashions do the identical job and in the identical method. Feed rollers pull your wooden below a spinning cutterhead. Put tough inventory in on one aspect (observe that the face of the board in opposition to the machine’s mattress must be flat); completely surfaced boards come out the opposite aspect.

Universal motors have prompt torque, are small and cheap. But they aren’t as dependable.

The distinction between the massive and small machines is within the particulars. During my profession, I’ve examined and examined lots of of thickness planers and used them in outlets everywhere in the world. Here are my observations.

The Big Boys

A painful change. Traditional jackscrews take time to regulate when altering knives.

The massive forged iron planers are powered by induction motors. These motors final without end, are quiet, run at pretty low speeds and are troublesome to stall. I’ve induction motors in my store that are older than I’m. The solely actual draw back to those motors is that they are pretty massive.

The induction motor in a giant planer normally drives the machine’s cutterhead and feed rollers utilizing a strong transmission of chains and gears. These components are virtually all the time steel and bulletproof, however they require common lubrication. (If you personal a giant planer you need to know by coronary heart the place its grease ports are.)

Carbide inserts are nice till you must change all 300 of them and clear all 300 beds on the cutterhead.

The planer’s cutterhead normally has three knives (or a sequence of little carbide enamel) that lower the wooden. The knives are clamped into the cutterhead utilizing screws or friction. If the cutterhead has carbide knives, these will be modified (laboriously) with a screwdriver. If the cutterhead has three straight knives, they are often modified (super-laboriously) with a wide range of instruments and a day of downtime.

Adjusting the knives on a primary planer is its personal circle of hell. So a lot in order that you find yourself shopping for gadgets with magnets and dial indicators that promise to make it a snap. Truth is, nothing helps greater than trial, error and expertise to get the knives in place. (Yes, you should purchase aftermarket cutterheads with quick-change knives. Why aren’t these commonplace on each machine?)

The induction motor additionally drives the planer’s feed rollers, which will be rubber or steel. These pull the wooden by the machine. In addition to the feed rollers, many of those massive stationary machines have rollers within the mattress under that are referred to as (shock) mattress rollers. These rollers assist transfer heavy inventory by the machine.

What you additionally get are a bunch of adjustable bits. You can alter the peak of the infeed and outfeed rollers, plus the mattress rollers. And you may even modify the parallelism of the cutterhead to the mattress of the planer.

Fiddly bits. The chains, gears and different steel components make the machine extra sturdy, but additionally extra prone to exit of adjustment sooner or later.

While these changes appear a terrific concept if you purchase the machine, you’ll shortly tire of them when the machine’s settings slip after vibration and use. Some machines want extra love than others, however the backside line is that if one thing can exit of adjustment, it will definitely will.

After years of pushing 1000’s of board toes by these machines, I discover them to require extra upkeep than justifies their capability in my small store. But with a purpose to perceive why massive planers are troublesome, you want solely go to the house middle and decide up a conveyable mannequin.

Portable Planers

Look for it. A port reminiscent of this means the brushes of the motor might be simple to switch. Pick up the telephone proper now and order alternative brushes on your planer. They are good to have readily available.

Sometimes referred to as a “suitcase planer,” this small machine was invented by Ryobi in 1985 and single-handedly modified the market. The cheap AP10 10″-capacity machine remains to be at work in outlets 30 years later, and it spawned lots of of imitators. And lots of the imitators grew to become so improbable that I misplaced my lust for a forged iron machine.

What’s to like about this machine that appears like an outsized toaster oven? Plenty.

The best weak point of the machine – the high-speed common motor – can also be certainly one of its strengths. Universal motors – the noisy beasts in your router, sander and moveable desk noticed – run quick, are small and are cheap to make to a excessive commonplace of high quality.

The draw back is they are often stalled extra simply than an equal induction motor and aren’t as sturdy. After years of use, you may need to switch the motor’s brushes to revive it to new. (Some producers make it virtually unattainable to switch the brushes –what’s that about?)

Presto change-o. Quick-change knife methods get you again to work in lower than 30 minutes. Once you strive one, you’ll not willingly return.

The small motor measurement helps make the machine light-weight. The excessive pace permits the motor to simply spin the cutterhead actually quick – the 20,000-rpm motor might be geared all the way down to spin the cutterhead at 8,500-10,000 rpm or so. Compare that to an induction-motor planer that spins a typical cutterhead to solely 5,000 rpm.

Why can we care about rpm? In basic, quicker cutterheads depart a greater end. With a quick cutterhead, every knife takes a smaller chunk, decreasing the possibility of tear-out.

There’s extra to say in regards to the cutterhead. Even if moveable machines didn’t depart a greater end, I’d nonetheless favor them as a result of – on the entire – the knives are simpler to vary.

The overwhelming majority of moveable planers have a “quick-change” system of swapping out the knives. You normally loosen some screws, take away a plate, then pull the previous knives. Then you drop the brand new knives on some pins on the cutterhead and screw issues down. I can change the knives on a typical moveable planer in 30 minutes, and they are going to be set completely at that time.

On a typical old-school planer, it could actually take a pair hours to swap the knives – after which you must get all of them chopping in the identical excellent arc. That takes extra time and luck. But, you could be saying, what in regards to the spiral carbide cutterheads on massive planers? Aren’t these simple to vary? Yes, they are easy, however they are much more time-consuming. A 20″ planer can take a whole day. Been there.

You don’t want it. Little niceties reminiscent of this stock-removal gauge are virtually nugatory. Don’t purchase a machine primarily based on these little gizmos. Go for easy and dependable.

The benefit of quick-change knives is that you’ll change them as quickly as they get boring and your work will profit. With the old-school planers, most individuals postpone the upkeep till it completely needs to be accomplished. By then, a whole lot of wooden has been mangled.

After the cutterhead, the subsequent benefit of the moveable machines is their measurement. Space is at a premium in my store, so the moveable planer was welcome into my 15′ x 25′ workspace. In reality, I saved a lot area by eliminating my forged iron planer that I used to be ready to create space for a second workbench and midi lathe.

Next massive benefit: Cost. moveable planer units you again lots of of {dollars} – not 1000’s. That leaves extra money for wooden, {hardware} and different instruments.

And let’s hear it for the gizmos on moveable planers! Or possibly not. Many of those machines are festooned with silly plastic depth stops, variable speeds and different little screwy doo-dads. Ignore them when selecting a machine. Get the one with one of the best repute and the largest capability.

Not-so-stupid Portable Planer Tricks

You want an extension twine. Yes, a planer can pull itself alongside like this for lengthy and heavy inventory. Do this open air and with a protracted extension twine. It’s like strolling a robotic canine.

While moveable planers want little upkeep or setup, right here are just a few recommendations on getting essentially the most out of your moveable planer:

1. To profit from a less-gutsy motor, skew the inventory barely as you set it into the machine. The skew reduces the efficient chopping angle and lessens the load on the machine.

2. Lubricate the planer’s mattress with a dry lube to profit from the motor. In my expertise, the spray-on lubes are higher than paraffin. No, the dry lubes gained’t intervene with ending.

3. Don’t throw away used moveable planer knives. That is superior metal. You can use them as-is (even boring) as scrapers. Or anneal them and you may make them into chisels or the rest. Heck, you may even resharpen them.

4. Not essentially really helpful however too cool: For planing heavy and lengthy inventory, feed the planer onto the inventory and permit the machine to tug itself alongside. Yes, I’ve accomplished this. Beer was not concerned. I received this concept from timber framers.

5. To cut back snipe (sure, all planers snipe), feed the boards one after the opposite with out pause – tricking the machine into considering it’s planing one steady board. On the final board, raise it barely because it comes out to cut back snipe.

6. Clean the rollers. The rubberized rollers of moveable planers want cleansing or they gained’t grip. Use a non-toxic pitch remover reminiscent of CMT’s Formula 2050, particularly after planing pitchy pine. If you are somebody who goes “all out” in upkeep, mud the rubber rollers with talcum powder to maintain the rubber supple (a trick from my vehicle restoration days).

7. While you need to positively ignore the thickness gauge on the planer as a method to attain your closing thickness, don’t ignore the place of the hand wheel that strikes the cutterhead up and down. Many producers time the deal with on the wheel so {that a} sure place – say 12 o’clock – represents one of many frequent completed thicknesses. For instance, my moveable planer travels in 132” increments with each flip of the hand wheel. And all of the completed thicknesses finish with it at 12 o’clock. When my hand wheel shouldn’t be at 12 o’clock, then I do know for positive that I’m not at an ideal .500″, .750″ or .875″. Experiment together with your planer and see if this works.

Disadvantages to Little Guys

Poison for portables. Stock that varies in thickness can stall a common motor or trigger it to journey a breaker. If your inventory is like this, take passes to cut back the thick components down earlier than getting aggressive.

One of the disadvantages to those small planers is they will deal with boards as much as solely 13″ broad. For most dwelling woodworkers that’s loads of capability. If you want 24″-wide capability each day within the store you are fairly uncommon. Sure, I want my 13″ planer would take 15″-wide boards once in a while, however I get by.

The different drawback is the motor can stall if you happen to take care of wooden that has been lower by a drunken sawyer. This is an actual concern. In the 1990s I may solely afford wooden from a sawyer who charged $1 a board foot, no matter species. He lower it and dried it himself.

The glitch was that his boards tended to taper in thickness from one finish of the board to the opposite. So it was simple to overload my moveable planer’s motor. Once I switched sawyers (and began shopping for higher inventory), I by no means had the issue once more.

I even have to say noise. Because of the common motor, moveable planers make a racket. I’ve measured planers that make greater than 100 dB, they usually get louder once they are below load. Planers with induction motors run a lot quieter, although you continue to have to put on listening to safety. The distinction, for me, is how a lot listening to safety. With massive planers, I can put on earbuds. With my moveable, I put on earbuds plus earmuffs.

You additionally aren’t going to search out as many equipment on your moveable machine. If you wish to ever improve to an listed carbide cutterhead, you could be out of luck with a conveyable (although these cutterheads are accessible for some portables, such because the DeWalt 735).

The closing drawback of moveable planers is that – in contrast to a forged iron planer – you are unlikely handy the machine all the way down to your grandchildren. These small machines are sturdy sufficient on your lifetime, however they are unlikely to outlive so long as a forged iron planer. There are just too many plastic components inside a conveyable planer.

How to Decide

If you run a busy skilled store, you in all probability haven’t even made it so far within the article. You suppose you want heavy steel alone to get the job accomplished. But earlier than you set down this journal, think about this:

I’ve been in skilled outlets the place the proprietor used moveable and stationary planers in tandem. The massive machines beavered the work to an in depth completed measurement. Then a conveyable planer set completely at one thickness would take all of the inventory for making face frames to an ideal .750″.

This setup left a terrific end on the inventory and allowed the face-frame materials to work completely with the opposite tooling within the store with none changes.

The humorous factor was that one of many store homeowners had mounted his moveable planer (a Ryobi AP10) to the wall for this – so it wasn’t moveable anymore.

Anyway, if you happen to’re not in a manufacturing store otherwise you simply construct customized one-offs, probabilities are you will be environment friendly and pleased with a conveyable machine. Bigger shouldn’t be all the time higher – or smoother. 

Product Recommendations

Here are some provides and instruments we discover important in our on a regular basis work across the store. We might obtain a fee from gross sales referred by our hyperlinks; nevertheless, we have now fastidiously chosen these merchandise for his or her usefulness and high quality.

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