Out of the box, I'm thrilled

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Review by Todd Clare posted 01-30-2011 04:42 AM 6802 views 3 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Out of the box, I'm thrilled Out of the box, I'm thrilled Out of the box, I'm thrilled Click the pictures to enlarge them

When I began pondering the purchase of a thickness planer, I researched Fine Woodworking and saw that the DEwalt 735 was rated the best. My plans were to purchase this model when I decided it was time.

As many of you likely read, I was drawn in by the helical head Steel City, and had some issues with it out of the box. As I said in that review, maybe I got a one-off lemon, but nonetheless, I wasn’t that impressed.

Fortunately Chris from Highland Woodworking, where I ordered the Steel City, was really cool and let me send it back and order the DeWalt, which arrived this week. I’ve been waiting a few days to have the time to give it a run, and wanted to report the results here.

As with my other reviews (well review) I plan to report on it out of the box, then amend it later on after I have a few miles (or board feet) on it. Hopefully people like that format. Since I also was researching the Steel City versus the DeWalt, and saw a lot of people here and on Amazon asking about people that had experience with both, I’ll put those thoughts here as well, trying to avoid the specific weirdness with the Steel City specific machine I seemed to get.

So far, I’m very impressed with the DeWalt. It was packed really solidly, and nearly equally assembled out of the box as the Steel City. The main body was the bulk, then two different dust chutes—one round for 4” dust collectors and another if no dust collection will be used (looks like a shopvac floor attachment that will slow down the chips and spread them evenly). Last was the crank handle to be attached once it was unboxed.

Most important is how does it finish the wood, right? I ran some hunks of cherry that have a pretty solid set of curls in them. Since the DeWalt has a two speed feed, I ran both to see how it compared to the Steel City (the good parts of it that didn’t have the ridges I saw where the one cutter was honked up). All across the range, and even on the “thickness” faster pass with less cuts per inch, the surface was exceptionally smooth. I also ran it on the slower “finishing” pass with a ton of cuts per inch and it was even smoother. I’d call it jointer smooth. Honestly, even the faster “thickness” cut was jointer smooth. There was a TINY bit on snipe on the ends of the board, but I think if I tweak the tables (I got the extension tables too) I an make that go away completely. If I were judging on the cuts and actual performance alone, this thing is fantastic. Supposedly the knives wear out relatively quickly from other reviews I’ve read, so I’ll update with information once I see that happen. That being said, I’m a hobbyist busy with lots of other things, so it might be a while :)

I’m also very much into the fit and finish of the tools I use, so although technically less important than the results on the wood, there are other things that have impressed me thus far:

The DeWalt is supposedly a few pounds heavier than the Steel City, but I have to say it was not noticeable. In fact, the DeWalt, being significantly shorter and also having really solid handles built into a really good spot on the body seemed to be easier to move around. For a small shop like mine, I’ll take all the help I can get. Don’t get me wrong, the thing weighs nearly 100 pounds and it isn’t fun to move, but the size and beefiness of the handles made the movements pretty easy.

The infeed “depth of cut” indicator is also much better. The Steel City has a single point sensor that needs the stock in the center of the feed area to register. The DeWalt has a bar that goes all the way across (see the pic with my finger pointing at the reflection of the bar in the main table. This way, even at one side or the other, the depth of cut works.

The DeWalt, like the Steel City, also has a “repeat depth” setting where you can dial to a specific depth (1/8”, 1”, etc) and easily adjust the depth to it. The dial method of the DeWalt (versus the slider of the SteelCity) is faster to operate and faces you at the infeed side—a better design in my opinion. That being said, I’ll likely rely more on the thickness gauge to line up my cut and don’t see myself using this too much to be honest.

Speaking of the thickness reading, The DeWalt has a solid metal bar that you read where its top edge lines up on the tape. I’d definitely prefer the more readable and finer graded hairline indicator of the Steel City, but this will work fine. Heck, it’s just a few screws, I can likely make myself one if I really care that much (I don’t).

I also like that the DeWalt also has a carriage lock that reduces snipe, but you don’t have to manually set it (and remember to unset it). Supposedly it’s just part of the mechanism, which also seems to have less play in it.

Dust collection: I’ve got a dust collector set up, and it did just fine. The adapter for the dust hose really locks into the unit and doesn’t move under the pull of the hose. The Steel City was very thin plastic and would pull and warp away from the small screws that held it in just on the top. This thing is beefy and feels like it’s glued right to the housing, although it’s simple to pop on and off.

Last, the tables on the DeWalt are much more adjustable. The way they attach to the body is very solid, then each has a set screw in all 4 corners allowing fine and easy adjustment. The Steel City could just adjust the main angle of the tables, but not the overall height, so the ones I tried were never quite able to be made perfectly even with the main table.

So I think it’s clear who the winner is here in my experience. The cut was superior, the small fit and finish elements are much more refined, and just moving or adjusting it, the DeWalt feels like a single, rigid body rather than a bunch of stuff bolted together to some plastic. I’ll add to this review once I get some more experience with it, but I have to say I’m remarkably impressed so far.

Oh, and there was NO grease anywhere to be seen on the DeWalt :)

-- Todd (Denver, CO -- Highlands)

View Todd Clare's profile

Todd Clare

67 posts in 3757 days

13 comments so far

View lew's profile


13114 posts in 4527 days

#1 posted 01-30-2011 06:20 AM

Very nice review. Everything you said is right on, in my opinion.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Ben 's profile


164 posts in 4136 days

#2 posted 01-30-2011 07:25 AM

Great review. I’ve had mine for over a year. Still haven’t flipped my knives. If this thing snipes… I’ve never seen it. I have the outfeed tables also.

This tool is a beast. I hope to one day get a 15-20 inch commercial planer. My breaker box limits me to 115 volts (I am out of breaker slots) so my day of 230 volt tools may never arrive. Until then I know I can count on my Dewalt.

The 735 performs like a champ. It is noisy as heck but really does the job. I save tons of money by purchasing rough cut lumber.

Thanks Todd, for such a thorough review.

View twokidsnosleep's profile


1130 posts in 3746 days

#3 posted 01-30-2011 10:00 AM

I am glad things worked out for you. Thank you for taking the time to photograph and post your reviews and experiences, they are very helpful.
The Dewalt Planer models do seem to have a good reputation in reviews I have been following. High on my next purchase list

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View Brad_Nailor's profile


2545 posts in 4729 days

#4 posted 01-30-2011 02:46 PM

Glad to hear you got it straightened out. I am still worried that I might have made a bad choice. I like how my planer performs so far but i hope it stays that way…...


View Cato's profile


701 posts in 4084 days

#5 posted 01-30-2011 03:10 PM

good review and congrats on getting your planer issue solved.

I have the same machine, got it last spring, and still on the first side of my knives.

I added the wixey digital unit to mine a few months ago, and that really is a nice addition to this planer.

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3822 days

#6 posted 01-30-2011 05:20 PM

Nice and thorough review Todd. Glad this one seems to be what you were looking for. I’m glad Highland Woodworking took care of your issue in a very professional manner. It’s nice to see that level of customer service still exists certain places.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View jim1mckenna's profile


51 posts in 3863 days

#7 posted 01-31-2011 03:56 AM

does anyone have problems with the wood getting stuck in michine it happens to me all the time I am not happy with dewalt

View MontanaBob's profile


873 posts in 3456 days

#8 posted 01-31-2011 05:31 AM

I picked up a used one for next to nothing. the bottom plate was a mess. The person who had it must have run some wood with nails or rocks or someting in it…but with a little elbow grease and emery cloth I got it smooth….and after turning knives it has worked great…I’ve put some alder,curly maple, oak, poplar thru it with no problem. I haven’t had any problem with wood sticking in machine. Oh the alder did seem to chip out on me, but I just set it to take a little less bite, and it worked fine…..

View lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 3706 days

#9 posted 02-01-2011 02:40 AM

I have mine for a while already and I am still thrilled everytime I used it.

I agree, it is haveay.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View pintodeluxe's profile


6153 posts in 3585 days

#10 posted 02-01-2011 02:42 AM

Three usual causes for lumber sticking in the planer…
1. Planer bed needs wax.
2. Feed rollers need to be cleaned.
3. Blades need to be flipped or changed.

I have had great luck with this planer too.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View jim1mckenna's profile


51 posts in 3863 days

#11 posted 02-01-2011 04:29 AM

may I should buy new blades I do wax the bed and clean the rollers, but there realy shouldnt be dull blades I only had these michine 1 year and I dont use it much.

View glassyeyes's profile


137 posts in 4101 days

#12 posted 06-12-2011 12:47 PM

Todd, great review; you helped me make up my mind. I have an older Delta 12.5” that snipes a bit too much and has a few other issues. I don’t have the room or budget for a 15” floor model, either. I really wanted a helical cutter head, like I have on the jointer, but Steel City was the only one of those in my price range, and had 4 negative issues for me: 1) too many negative posts about quality and setup-cleaning issues, 2: getting spare parts in the future, 3; the cutters are HSS, not carbide, and 4: the cutters appear to have only two cutting edges, not four.

. This package includes an extra set of blades and the outfeed table extensions, about $100 in extras. Not exactly an earthshaking bargain, but it beat the bare bones refurb at $500, the bare-bones new 735 at $600, or the package at $630.

-- Now, where did I put those bandaids?

View riooso's profile


38 posts in 3418 days

#13 posted 07-03-2011 02:21 AM

I have used this planer for over 2 years and I love it. I have heard many complaints about feeding and cutting not being up to par. First of all, I take shallow cuts and use my head about how I feed the wood. Second some wood, like hard rock maple, once planed are pretty slick and when it is cold in the shop it does have some difficulties automatically feeding… help it! For goodness sakes you have a tool on your table top that men of yore would have killed for. I find the thickness is consistent with any given setting and feeding multiple boards through will yield boards with very close tolerances. I find the finish very good. I haven’t even flipped my blades over yet and have done close to 5,000 linear feet through the thing. Sometimes I get raised lands but a scraper or a sander quickly dispatches any issues. The money that I have saved by buying wood from an industrial lumber yard instead of a box store have more than paid for the thing and made it possible for me to do many things that were out of my reach without one. One of these days I am going to have to flip those blades…...but not real soon. ;)

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