Which Planer?

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Forum topic by DavidNJ posted 02-17-2013 06:48 PM 7432 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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389 posts in 2879 days

02-17-2013 06:48 PM

In another thread, How Wide a Jointer? Otra Vez , it was determined I can get by without a jointer for the time being, but need a planer. The question is: which planer?

Given budget restrictions I see three options:

1) A portable planer with knives. The Steel City and Ryobi (Home Depot house brand) models are both under $300 and well reviewed. These come with HSS knives; carbide knives are more than the cost of the machine. There are more expensive options, like the Dewalt 735. That model has lots of options because of its popularity, but is as expensive as the next option. Helical upgrades are not really an option, typically costing as much as the planer. They are 13” wide.

2) A portable planer with helical cutters. There are two options here, both from Steel City. One is just under $500, one is just over $600. The differences between them are minor. These have the helical advantages of reduced noise and reduced tear out. However, the cutters on these models HSS not carbide and only have two sides. The manufacturer of the cutters was at one time also trying to sell them as upgrades to existing planers but has since withdrawn from the market (

The cutter has 26 inserts on its cutter with minimal overlap reported to leave minor ridges needing sanding; people still like the finish. For comparison, while this 13” planer has 32 inserts, Grizzly’s 15” helical cutter planer has 72 heads. On the Grizzly the inserts are 4 sided and carbide; in my use probably enough to last a lifetime. On this one they are HSS, 2-sided, and only available from Steel City.

Still, it appears to be an attractive option.

3) Talking about Grizzly, while their 15” stationary planer with a helical cutter is out of my price range (around $1900 delivered), with three blades it is $1300 delivered. It can be upgrade to the carbide cutter for about $600. Grizzly actually offers three helical cutter upgrade options around that price, including the Byrd Shelix. While it comes with a mobile base, it is not going to leave the basement once it arrives. It is large, always requiring a nearly 4’ square footprint, even for storage. However, compared to the portable units it has a 46” long cast iron bed, nearly the size of the jointer bed on combo units. The blade will probably be a bit noisy, and it won’t help when I need to replace the deck floor (600 sq ft) and railing top (80 ft) later this Spring. It will probably be a lot better in the role of planer impersonating a jointer.

31 replies so far

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2958 days

#1 posted 02-17-2013 07:37 PM

For $800 you can have the dwalt 735 with a byrd shelix head, but I think it is great value for you with out the head. I recently upgraded to an industrial 18” planer. However the 735(and it’s buddy the other 735, tool gloat:) is still set up right next to it and still gets used daily. It is just an awesome machine, and I am confident it will get you through almost everything you need to do until you are ready to go really big. If you think forward you can grow into one really big planer and one small and portable. Also, to give you perspective on the shelix upgrade. If careful the knives on the 735 (they each can be shifted left or right, and flipped once) will easily last a year. at bout $50 a pop it will take bout eight years for the shelix to pay for itself?? Will you have a 18” over under jointer planer combo, or a big ole 24” sittin’ next to that 735 by then?? I would hope so :)

-- Who is John Galt?

View nwbusa's profile


1022 posts in 3172 days

#2 posted 02-17-2013 08:13 PM

Another vote for the Dewalt 735 (you’ll hear that a lot) but mostly because as Joey points out, you can upgrade to a Byrd helical head down the road. And the reason why that’s important is because the helical head is amazing for working with figured woods. The Byrd head uses four-sided carbide cutters for extra long life. I don’t own one myself but I have used one at a friend’s shop, and it’s a planned upgrade for my Ridgid 4330 (which is a pretty darn good little planer in its own right).

-- John, BC, Canada

View DavidNJ's profile


389 posts in 2879 days

#3 posted 02-17-2013 08:42 PM

The 735 is a standard, it is also $550. They Byrd Shelix for it is $450…so the combo is $1000. That is without bed extensions which add another $45, or $10 if you get them with the planer in the DW735X package.

The Shelix avoids all of the questions about the Steel City’s Accu-Head. I believe it has 33 overlapping heads vs. the Accu-Head’s 26. Fine Woodworking tested both on a 735:

It is just a very expensive proposition. The DW735 with Shelix and extension tables is $1010, the Steel City with the Accu-Head is $490. Changing the head probably voids the DeWalt warranty on top of that. And as this blog of the DW735 with Shelix shows, it still leaves scallops:

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1325 posts in 2834 days

#4 posted 02-17-2013 09:10 PM

lunch boxes were never really an option for me. they are not universally serviceably. what I mean by that is if the motor goes out you have to get one from the manufacture, if mine goes out I can get universal parts, and I I’m back in business. most of the time when a portable goes down it’s for the count because the cost of parts are more than the machine is worth. just my IMO carbide knives are not worth it because if you chip a knife it’s usually bad. HSS if you hit something it’s a nick not a chip. nicks can normally ground out. spiral seams sweet but very costly. I have done fine with straight knives all my life. and you can find used machines on CL that need a little tuning but you will have them for ever. a machine like this will last for ever and parts are easy to get from
I’m in it for the long haul

View RVroman's profile


163 posts in 2910 days

#5 posted 02-17-2013 09:14 PM

I can only speak as a 735 owner, so I cannot compare it to others. But that machine, with the standard blades, has been a beast that has never let me down. I use it quite often as an avid hobbiest. Using it for professional use may lead to a different opinion, but I would not think so.

-- Robert --- making toothpicks one 3x3x12 blank at a time!

View live4ever's profile


983 posts in 3896 days

#6 posted 02-17-2013 09:18 PM

If you can score a used Dewalt 735 for cheap, I’d go that route. Then you can upgrade to a Byrd head and have an awesome planer for around $700, OR you can sell it if you decide you want a stationary if/when budget allows. Buying a 735 new and then adding a Byrd head – you’re up at almost $1k, and at that point you have to seriously consider a stationary. My 735 has served me well (except I really hate how dang loud the thing is), and I’ve always debated the Byrd head. Haven’t pulled the trigger yet – hoping I can just get a G0453X in the next year or two.

If this were me, I’d buy the Grizzly 15” with straight knives and then upgrade to a helical head at a later point. Although the straight knives are louder while cutting, it will still be quieter than a Dewalt 735.

-- Optimists are usually disappointed. Pessimists are either right or pleasantly surprised. I tend to be a disappointed pessimist.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2958 days

#7 posted 02-17-2013 09:23 PM

DavidNJ The range of machines you are looking at is broad. If you are going stationary 15” is not that big, and you could go bigger for just 100s more. If portable the 735 is the machine hands down. The point I was making was that you don’t need the shelix head right away. I get great results from the machine with out it. You have to use good technique with any planer to avoid snipe, but snipe on the 735 is not bad at all. I run mine with virtually none, and without the shelix head or extensions. Also I find it versatile in combination with my bigger machine, since you are thinking about both IMO plan for a bigger machine with a spiral or such head in the future, and get a 735 w/o the shelix and start planing, and stop complaning. :)

Ok.. Sorry ‘bout the reach for a joke there, couldn’t resist… and my word have prices have gone up in the last year or so!! so I was off on that $800 figure.

-- Who is John Galt?

View pintodeluxe's profile


6212 posts in 3699 days

#8 posted 02-17-2013 09:24 PM

I have the 735 and like it quite well. The depth stops and full-width material removal gauge are nice features. I think it compares favorably to most portable planers.
I like the idea of upgrading to a shelix. Most people report that the scallops are more like tiny fuzzies that are easily removed with a quick sanding. It would sure beat trying to sand out tearout from the straight knives.

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

View MJCD's profile


605 posts in 3257 days

#9 posted 02-17-2013 09:31 PM

While I am a firm believer in the DW735 – it is simply the best value for the money – I have to admit to not being a Shieldex believer. The finish is inferior to the 3-blade HSS found on the DW735, and it will take years & years for the incremental expense of the HSS blades to over come the cost of the Shieldex. Unless you’re a cabinet shop who really pushes planers and planer blades, the less tool-gloat, more practical solution is the standard DW735 + the extension tables.

When I have the money, I will upgrade to a 12” Felder jointer/planer, but only because I’m spending more time in the shop, and I always start with rough-sawn wood.

Save yourself some money – then invest it in additional hand and finishing tools.

View nwbusa's profile


1022 posts in 3172 days

#10 posted 02-17-2013 09:32 PM

Most people report that the scallops are more like tiny fuzzies that are easily removed with a quick sanding. It would sure beat trying to sand out tearout from the straight knives.

Exactly. And, if I had the space for a big planer I’d consider it, but for the ability to put it away when not in use is a necessity for me.

-- John, BC, Canada

View RVroman's profile


163 posts in 2910 days

#11 posted 02-17-2013 10:37 PM

Interesting thread. Other than snipe (common to every planer) I have never had issue with tearout on the 735 with the straight knives.

-- Robert --- making toothpicks one 3x3x12 blank at a time!

View DavidNJ's profile


389 posts in 2879 days

#12 posted 02-17-2013 11:50 PM

Not arguing that the 735 isn’t the class of the field, it is. It also holds its resale value.

I like making binary decisions. For example, $480 for a Steel City with a the Accu-head helical cutter or $560 for the DeWalt DW735 with extension tables. While nearly everyone one has the DeWalt, those that have the Steel City like it. There are typically four advantages to the helical head: noise, dust collection, tear out, and blade life. However, with the Steel City blade life is probably not an advantage.

That said, the $520 difference is enough for a Grizzly G0645 6×46 in jointer. A Byrd Shelix cutter would add $280 to that (6” cutters are cheaper than 12” cutters). Is the DeWalt with Shelix worth more than a Steel City and a jointer?

The DeWalt does have two feed speeds. Both brands have threaded posts at all 4 corners which I believe is what is creating the snipe reducing stability. The DeWalt and the more expensive (and older) Steel City have a course thread, side wheel, and head lock. The $490 Steel City has a fine thread, top crank, which they say doesn’t need a lock. All three have height stops, with the more expensive Steel City having the broadest range (to 1 3/4”) and the less expensive Steel City having the least range (to 3/4”).

I’ve only found one possible used machine, a virtually unused Delta with three knives. It has two central coarse threads with a head lock and four smooth corner posts.

I understand the value of a proven machine like the DW735. However, the Steel City seems like it adds significant performance for a high value price.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3576 days

#13 posted 02-18-2013 03:08 AM

I can’t believe that noone offered the Ridgid as another option. I’ve had mine for 5 years and have tortured it with literally miles of reclaimed lumber. It has never let me down and once I tipped both the in and outfeed tables up, snipe was almost totally eliminated. If mine dies tomorrow, I’ll go buy another just like it!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View JSB's profile


737 posts in 2964 days

#14 posted 02-18-2013 03:45 AM

+1 for the DW735. You can even use a hose and pillow case for built in dust collection. The blower motor on the chip ejection is a beast!

That being said If I had a dedicated footprint I would have probably spent a little more time looking at floor models.

-- Jay -

View DavidNJ's profile


389 posts in 2879 days

#15 posted 02-18-2013 04:32 AM

live4ever, your point on the Grizzly makes lots of sense. The stationary unit with its large (46”) cast iron base and fixed planer head makes lots of sense. I can’t comment on the noise, but my guess is the cuts would be significantly better.

However, your recommendation on the used one is more problematic. I haven’t found much used I’d consider on Craig’s list over the past month. On the planers, there is one Delta, but I don’t think that model is as good as any of the ones being considered here. On eBay used DW735s are selling for nearly as much as new ones.

gfadvm, a vote for the Ridgid is a vote for the Steel City. The Ridgid is a twin to the no longer available Steel City 40200. Compared to the 40300H it is just a little cheaper ($400 vs. $490), has dual feed speeds, and three knives. The 40300H has one speed and the segmented head (the Accu-Head really isn’t helical).

I don’t have the practical experience to make a judgement on the knives vs. helical cutters. My guess is few do. All of the articles and online videos indicate a significant difference. However, the Accu-Head on the Steel City is the bottom of the bunch. From Fine Woodworking:

“Using a raking light, we analyzed both grain tearout and surface quality (lines, ridges, or troughs). The milling marks were all about the same, all shallow enough that normal surface prep (a light pass with either a smoothing plane or a random-orbit sander with 150-grit sandpa- per) will remove them. Tearout was also a non-issue on most boards, whether the cutterheads were straight or segmented, but certain species and individual boards caused problems, just like they do in the real world.

The shear-cutting heads were the top performers in the group, planing domestic or exotic wood with virtually no tearout and minimal ridges. The front-facing teeth on the grizzly head came in just behind, showing slightly more tearout on the worst boards, and the Accu-Head didn’t fare any better than the straight knives on the toughest boards.

By the way, unlike the straight knives, all of the segmented cutterheads worked almost as well no matter which direction we sent a board through.”

MJCD, why would you get the Felder Planer/Jointer? In the earlier thread that was discussed. It was determined you could get separate stationary planer and jointers with much longer tables for about the same cost. Moreover, the planers are all at an awkward height in the combos. The Felder does allow adding an aluminum extension to the jointer and planer. I doubt that hang on aluminum piece is as solid as the cast iron beds on the stationary units. By the time a 12” Felder is configured with a spiral cutting head and the extension tables you could have 12” x 84” parallelogram jointer and 20” planer with 55” cast iron bed, both with spiral cutters, for the same cost. Either Grizzly or Byrd Shelix heads. Would the Felder really be better?

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