|Review by Todd Clare||posted 01-30-2011 04:42 AM||4548 views||3 times favorited||13 comments|
- DeWalt DW735 Heavy-Duty 13" Three Knife, Two Speed Thickness Planer
- Brand: DeWalt | Category: Planers
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)