Need help on purchasing a new planer

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Forum topic by markm2001 posted 02-06-2019 09:55 PM 618 views 1 time favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1 post in 194 days

02-06-2019 09:55 PM

Topic tags/keywords: 15 planer new planer decision help with planer decision planer

I’m looking to purchase a new 15 or 16 inch helical planer. I’ve looked at the following brands/models:
Laguna 16” MPLAN 1510-0130 1Yr warranty $2999
Powermatic 15” 15HH (Byrd Helic) 5Yr warranty $2879
Jet 15” JWP-15HH 5Yr warranty $2899
Steelex 15” ST1012 2Yr warranty $2128
Shop Fox 15” W1742S 2Yr warranty $2034

All these models are helical planers and all except the Laguna are 3 HP, the Laguna has a 5 HP motor. One or two have the capability to plane up to an 8” thick plank but being a hobbyist I don’t ever see the need to go beyond a 6” plank that all above will do. I’ve read countless reviews and blogs and all the above planers are great machines other than the occasional one or two bad pieces. Every sales person seems to have their own preference and even some that sell the top brands along with the Shop Fox and Steelex seem to think with the Laguna and Powermatic your paying more for a name and a nicer looking machine and the less expensive machines will do the same job for less. And just as I was decided on Laguna I read all the customer service complaints and now I’m on the fence. So lets look at the good points of the Laguna machine first. It comes with a 5 HP motor when all the others come with 3 HP and probably because it’s cutter head has 6 rows of cutters where most all the others have 3 or 4 rows at most. The laguna helix design (from what I read) seems like the best design yet with more teeth, more rows of teeth and more engineering put into the placement of the teeth and angle than any other machine. The cons, only a 1 year warranty and from what I’ve read….bad CS. So next in line and both nearly the same price are the Powermatic and Jet. Everything I’ve read about them is excellent and with a 5 year warranty…you can’t go wrong. Then comes the Steelex and Shop Fox . Both nearly a Thousand dollars less….that’s a LOT of savings. I can’t say I’ve read many IF ANY negative reviews or comments about either. I’ve read and talk to sales people who say Shop Fox is now made in Tiwan but haven’t confirmed that. So the question is….Go for the Laguna because its a superior machine and hope I don’t havce to deal with CS, or for the same price, go with a Powermatic or Jet, both great machines with great warranties, or should I save myself a lot of money and go with the Shop Fox no frills just a good machine for the money??? Any help would be appreciated.
Thanks, Mark

10 replies so far

View CaptainKlutz's profile


1623 posts in 1944 days

#1 posted 02-07-2019 12:53 AM

Having done some research on the mfg sourcing for 15” planers, can tell you this:
1) Steelex, ShopFox, and Grizzly counterpart; are all coming from same factory in Taiwan. Making the differences even smaller, Wood Stock Int is related to Grizzly (brothers/cousins I think), and they share warehouse and spare parts space in WA. The praimary difference between these brands is color of paint, name on manuals, and who provides warranty service. Though there are some subtle differences in spiral heads that warrants consideration.

2) The Jet was still being sourced from same Chinese mfg that produces similar models for Shopfox, Steelex, and Grizzly. These are also all almost the same. Since the Chinese tariff’d models are now more expensive than Taiwan made machines, WoodStock/Grizzly have practically stopped importing Chinese planers. Funny part about Taiwan made models above, is they are importing same Chinese cast iron for the tools as if they were assembled in China; since Taiwan doesn’t have steel tariff.

3) The Laguna and Powermatic models are both made in China. At one point, they were both using same mfg; Sanhe in China. Powermatic has moved mfg around several times, but since they own the design; it hard to tell which company made the tool. There are ~5 different mfg that make these clone planers. Making sourcing even more complicated, some mfg are based in Taiwan, with mfg partners in China that sell directly to OEM and compete for same business.

4) The 16” Laguna is not a new design. Jet sell a similar JWP-16OS straight blade model made in China. Have never seen Jet offer spiral cutter for 16”. Oliver does sell a 16” 5HP planer that looks same with spiral cutter head. Not sure if Laguna head is unique, or if Oliver is using it also?

If you want to know more about China mfg sources, just poke around on Alibaba. Most of the wood working equipment mfg have pictures with different OEM paint schemes carefully shown in background as hints on who they make machines for. :-0)

As you already noted, all of these are very similar. There are some key differences in spiral head design used, even between the WoodStock/Grizzly units. Some have 14mm inserts, some use 15mm. There are also different cutter head chip clearance designs, some allowing larger cut depth per pass than others.

While I know only what I have read online for spiral heads, many folks with 3HP motor on 15” spiral head suggest that a larger motor would be better as planer bogs down with heavy cut. Do not know if this is due taking a cut to large for cutter head chip clearance, or not. Just that common opinion is when using a spiral cutter head; more power is better.

One aspect to consider it your expected use lifetime, and spare parts availability. The 15” planers have been around for decades, and many of the various models have common interchangeable parts regardless of where they were made. The 16” are less popular and can be harder to find parts, whether used on fleabay, or new from mfg.

Sorry no real recommendation in above.
IF I had $3K available, and was planning on production thickness planing with spiral head; I would lean towards 16-20” 5Hp planer. As garage shop hobbyist, I would spend $2K on 15” 3HP unit, and take a couple of extra cuts.
Being I am a poor hobbyist; I own a used 15” Delta made in 80’s that cost me $250 total including cost for all new bearings and new out fed roller. I do not plane enough reclaimed lumber, or replace blades often enough that an extra money for a spiral head makes any sense.

Note that if you want a tool now, your choices may be limited. There are folks complaining about Grizzly/ShopFox inventory issues on Taiwan sourced planers. The only tools in stock for immediate shipment are more expensive Chinese made units.

Best Luck on your decision.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View Smorgasbord's profile


11 posts in 261 days

#2 posted 02-07-2019 01:50 AM

The spiral cutterheads need more power because there are always teeth contacting wood. Straight knifed planers have a brief, but significant, gap between the blades contacting the wood, so the motor can “catch its breath.”

I’ve got a 30 year old MiniMax Jointer/Planer combo that I outfitted with a Tersa cutterhead. It really is great changing blades in a minute, but if I were needing a replacement today I’d be looking at the shear angle spiral cutterheads. When planing figured wood, by all accounts the shear spiral cutterheads have far less tearout than regular planer blades, even if sharp.

Byrd makes aftermarket shear spiral cutterheads for a variety of machines (check out ) if you’ve got a machine you like overall but want to upgrade.

View AndyJ1s's profile


46 posts in 205 days

#3 posted 02-07-2019 02:14 AM

If spiral heads need more power, why have tests before and after upgrading to a spiral head on the same dewalt planer, show significantly less current draw while planing the same wood at the same depth, after the upgrade?

Hammer has videos showing how much less power the spiral head models consume…

While the cutter row is always in contact with the wood, because it spirals around the cylinder, not all of it can contact the wood at the same time. So the load on the motor is evened out over each revolution, and is more efficient than slamming a whole straight knife into the wood, and then re-accellerating the cutter head before the next knife slams into the wood.

The shavings are smaller (but more numerous) for the same depth of cut with a spiral cutter head, improving dust collector performance.

And they’re quieter too.


View Aj2's profile


2378 posts in 2248 days

#4 posted 02-07-2019 04:54 AM

The Bryd head is what I have in my planer pm 15. Its a ok the machine snips a little bit but I live with it.
One thing I would like to point out is the bryd head takes more power because the inserts have a 30 degree facebevel. The whole more inserts in the wood concepts is poppy cock.
It’s very much like a bevel down high angle handplane.
This is also the reason putting a bryd head in a hand fed jointer is a mistake.
Good luck

-- Aj

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5640 posts in 2943 days

#5 posted 02-07-2019 01:16 PM

I would save the money and get one of the less expensive models. Between Steelex and Shop Fox, I would choose the latter only because I think it is a little more established name. As for 3 HP not being enough, I’m not sure where Klutz saw that, I’ve never seen anyone complain that 3 HP wasn’t enough for a 15” helical head. I have a Byrd in my 15” Delta (3 HP) and there’s way more than adequate power for it. One reason, though, that I might go for the PM is that like Klutz said: there is some difference between the helical heads, and having the Byrd might be worth the extra cost.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View therealSteveN's profile (online now)


3377 posts in 1024 days

#6 posted 02-07-2019 01:28 PM

I have a Delta clone of your planer Fred, and it has a 2Hp motor with straight blades, and I haven’t found anything it wouldn’t cut babies butt smooth.

The 3hp Griz with a heli head just goes through it deeper and faster if I want it to.

I’m thinking if it’s a 4 post Delta clone planer, it’s gonna get the job done. At the point of getting the job done, how much over the lowest cost you wanna spend on paint colors is entirely up to the buyer.

I read the same article as AndyJ1s did about after conversion to a heli head that amps drawn dropped sharply, so anyone wants to argue with actual research, go ahead.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Sawdust35's profile


64 posts in 1312 days

#7 posted 02-07-2019 02:20 PM

markm2001- I tried to break this up into paragraphs, but the website isn’t cooperating.

In the spring of 2017 I was on the same thought process as u about buying a floor standing planer to replace my DW735 with original cutter head. In short I bought the Jet 15HH and do not regret it. I considered segmented cutter head containing models between 15”-20”. If I recall correctly, that meant I looked at Rikon, Laguna, Powermatic, Jet and Grizzly. First concern of mine was getting it into my basement by myself, which eliminated 20” models. Second concern was cutter head design. As far as I know, the concept behind Byrd cutter heads that use a skewed (rotated) carbide cutter head that is also in a helical pattern should produce a surface that is as close to hand-plane quality surfaces. Also, these types of cutter heads should be quieter and the chips less likely to clog a dust collector. This eliminated Grizzly. Third concern was warranty. I have a Laguna 14bx bandsaw and do not regret buying it and the 2 times I have called CS of Laguna for replacement parts under warranty, they have been VERY helpful and responsive with next day air delivery of said parts. However, since the planer has more moving parts that could fail compared to the bandsaw/lathe, the 1 year warranty that Laguna offers turned me off. This left Rikon, Jet and Powermatic 15” HH models. Rockler/Woodcraft had a 10% sale on Jet products in March of 2017. At this point I was leaning towards the PM 15HH model, but after talking with a salesperson at local Woodcraft store and being told that Powermatic would not be posting sales on their products any longer I went for the Jet 15HH from Rockler. Obivously Powermatic is still having sales, so that info from the salesperson is bogus. I bought from Rockler because they didn’t charge sales tax and the lift-gate delivery service was free. If I had bought from Woodcraft I would have paid for both. Of the 3 machines I have ordered from Rockler, I haven’t paid sales tax and lift gate delivery was free. The cutter head of the Jet 15HH has skewed-carbide inserts in a helical pattern, similar to the Byrd Shelix cutter head that the PM 15HH. One thing to note about the byrd cutter head, I have a jointer with a byrd head and the surface that it leaves is remarkable. If I could do it again and if my shop was at street level, I would buy the 20” model from either Jet or Powermatic.

View Robert's profile


3470 posts in 1930 days

#8 posted 02-07-2019 02:53 PM

Yes, as Cap’nK said, you’ll see some striking similarities between brands on certain machines like planers because the castings come from same foundry in Taiwan. Only diff between my 20” Grizzly and PM is the motor and switch. 1/2 the price when I bought it.

Any of those planers will get the job done. For me, the decider would be customer service.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View ibewjon's profile


805 posts in 3243 days

#9 posted 02-07-2019 03:19 PM


View Smorgasbord's profile


11 posts in 261 days

#10 posted 02-08-2019 06:04 AM

Check out this Stumpy Nubs video on the power requirements for shear helical cutterheads:

Whether it’s the blade geometry or constant contact, after two years he says the power draw increase is real.

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