Steelex - Helical Head 15" Planer, Model ST1012 (Rating: 5)

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I'll not write a really lengthy review, since there is a lot of information out there about this style of 15" planers. It's been discussed before that most machines are produced in the same plants in Taiwan or China, and then individual companies customize slightly and apply their own paint colors/decals. I'll limit this to what makes this unit stand out from the others.

1) Price. This machine can be had for about $2100 shipped to your door.

2) Helical Head style. This machine has what appears to be a direct replica of the Byrd helical head. See second photo. There are 75 inserts. Some other Helical head models (Grizzly for example) have less, 54 or so. I'm not sure that this is a benefit, but I'd image it could produce a smoother finish. I have been very pleased with the finish so far.

3) Mobile base is incorporated. I'm very pleased with the base. It's built-in, and doesn't take up extra space around the machine like an "aftermarket" base would. The mobile base is mounted in a pretty sturdy steel tube frame at the bottom. Steel wheels, so I don't have to worry about rubber cracking.

4) Tolerances. I'm sure it's not 100% perfect to the Nth degree, but right off the crate, everything seems to be aligned and working perfectly. I can't vouch for how other machines come aligned, but this one was spot-on with no adjustments needed. Even the depth gauge indicator was accurate.

5) Dust chute on the back is straight. Most chutes are at a slight angle to get the dust collection pipe/hose out of the path of the lumber exiting. This is minorly annoying, but I solved that with a 45 degree fitting. Not annoying enough to lose meriting a 5-star review.

Update 4/20/2020: The dust collection is proving to be annoying. I don't recall so many chips escaping from other 15" planers I've used. I may try the aftermarket angled dust chute. I did seal up any little gaps around the chute, and that didn't make significant improvements. I do have a decent CFM dust collector (1500 if I remember correctly). Still not annoying enough to back down to 4-star.

Update 9/27/2020: I fixed the dust collection issue. There's a strip of foam under the dust collection shroud. I have NO idea what is was supposed to do, but I removed it, and problem solved. 99% of the chips are sucked up. Here's a picture of the approximate location of the foam. If you've got problems with this, just go tear out that stupid foam, and your planing will be much more enjoyable…

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In summary,
I have used the machine a modest amount and am pleased with the fit and finish, the power, and the accuracy. It leaves wood smooth, with virtually no tear out, and I can't see any ridges that some say are inherent with helical head machines. Perhaps best of all, the machine is whisper quiet compared to any lunchbox planer.

Luckily there was zero shipping damage (even though UPS shipped it). See third picture for how it was shipped. There was also a wood crate over top of the whole unit (not pictured)

Would recommend to any who are in the market for a 15" planer.