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Phoenix Rebourn

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Review by RostyVyg posted 03-03-2016 01:21 PM 8737 views 7 times favorited 24 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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When I was looking for a thickness planer I found out that excluding a few companies (like Dewalt and Makita) most other tool manufacturers have their thickness planers built for them by one and the same Far East factory ( Shinmax: http://www.shinmax-qd.com/en/ ) that has been in planer building business seemingly forever. I have nothing against Chinese, or Taiwanese, or Korean goods if they are properly designed and executed and the fact that a manufacturer acquired good experience over years and really knows their product only adds to this perception.

Now, looking at parts diagrams for dozens of planer models distributed under different brand names it appears that three designs are most common (and all are probably reflected in three models built by the above mentioned factory).

1. A design with four guide posts and two height adjusting screws and shaft with plastic gears connecting screws at the bottom with top height adjusting dial (crank).
2. A design with four height¬ adjusting screws (no posts) connected by a chain at the bottom, – height adjusting dial (crank) on the top.
3. A design with four posts and two height adjusting screws connected by a shaft with metal gears located in the housing for motor/rollers/cutter head, height adjusting dial on a side.

Designs 1 and 2 have a fault related to the fact that plastic gears or chain connecting screw posts are at the bottom where all wooden chips and saw dust accumulate, clogging the mechanism. Design 3 has gears and shaft that connects screw posts fully enclosed above the cutter head thus avoiding contamination.

This is why I decided to go with a planer based on design 3 which was first implemented when they started building an older RIDGID TP1300 model. After replacing straight knives cutter head with segmented one it was later distributed as Steel City as 40200H and now is sold by CUTECH in the US (40200H-CT), RIKON in the US (25-130H), General in Canada (#30-060HC) and CARBATEC in Australia (CT-330x). All 6 planers mentioned above have identical construction with progressively improved cutter head design (RIDGID – straight knives, Steel City – steel cutter head with carbide segmented cutting inserts, CUTECH, RIKON, General and Carbatec – modified aluminum alloy cutter head with HSS segmented cutting inserts). Segmented inserts are a blessing for the planer motor and for user’s ears. Same universal motor that tends to overheat and shut down with straight knives works in a much lighter mode when only limited cutting length is engaged at a time. And the noise when planning is much more tolerable.

I ordered my 40200H-CT from CUTECH late January, they shipped it the same day and it arrived earlier then I expected. Advise: track the package and be home when UPS truck comes. The package is HEAVY! The planer was packed in a regular card box with foam inserts; there was a puncture on one side but no damage to the content. The planer weights close to 90lb so while it is manageable to move around I, personally, would not be able to lift it to a workbench height without help. As a workaround I ended up modifying a scissor stand from a Dewalt table saw and it is low enough to put the planer on it by myself, though. As an added benefit it folds and I could store the stand and the planer in the corner of my garage when not in use.

After unpacking and reading the manual I thoroughly cleaned the cutter head. When made for Steel City earlier generation of this model had steel cutter head completely covered in grease at the factory to prevent corrosion and that grease was a pain to remove. CUTECH version does not have this issue, but I still took time removing all cutting inserts and screws, washing them in mineral spirit, wiping cutter head with mineral spirit and spraying it with non-chlorinated brake cleaner. Then I used my compressor to blow the cutter head and carefully inspected cutter insert seating places to make sure they are squeaky clean. Even a speck of dust there might prevent an insert from indexing correctly and cause lines or ridges on the planed surface. I used my Wheeler Firearm Accurizing Torque Wrench from Brownells when re-installing inserts to torque each screw to recommending setting, and then double checked each screw. The extension tables did not need to be adjusted. They had ends a penny height higher than the planer table, – exactly as I planned to have them set up to prevent snipe.

I attached my RIDGID shop vac using 2.5 inch hose, and then went on lowering the cutter head to plane a test board. I immediately noticed that the height adjusting wheel on the side is rather hard to turn, so I ran the cutter head all the way up and down a few times to break the height adjusting mechanism in. After a few runs it loosened up. I planed a cedar plank and was amazed by the quality of the surface. The thickness indicator on the side is very legible and was dead on, – I checked the resulting thickness with digital calipers and it matched the thickness indicator scale beyond the point of resolution of my eye. Then I ran a 12 inch wide pine board through and confirmed that thickness of both edges is equal. With shop vac on chips were eliminated quite efficiently, although after an hour or so of constant planing there were some chips on the stand where planer resided and on the floor. Nothing to complain about. As a side notice, chips are so small in comparison to chips produced by planers with straight blades that they never clog the vac hose. And if the dust hood was more streamlined (or blower a bit more powerful) I feel that a short 2.5” hose dropped into a waste bin would have been enough to blow chips there without a need for the vac. Snipe is barely noticeable, especially if you correctly feed and remove planks. I planed 8 feet boards without any help and without using infeed or outfeed support (rollers), and did not find snipe to be an issue at all.

Overall the planer seems overbuilt and reminds me some older military equipment – built like a tank (and weights accordingly), simple to use, easy to get to all maintenance points and gets the job done, period. It feels odd in current day and age when bean counters are running the show and everyone is cutting cost causing use of inferior materials, shoddy craftsmanship and poor quality control.

Explanation is simple, though. It was originally designed and built back in the old good US of A by Emerson Tool Co after Sears (for whom Emerson manufactured Craftsman line seemingly forever) decided to source tools in the Far East and left Emerson looking for another outlet in 1997. The big orange box store saved the day, partnered with Emerson and launched the RIDGID line in 1998. Emerson then came up with the first on the market 13” portable planer with improved carriage design, cutter head lock, depth of cut indicator, and depth stop (US patent US 6585017 B1, if anyone is interested look here, very interesting reading: http://www.google.com/patents/US6585017). The venerable TP1300 was born. Popular Woodworking, American Woodworking, Handy Magazine, and Woodworker’s Journal have all recognized the planer, including a “Best New Tool” award from Popular Woodworking in 1999.

http://www.newwoodworker.com/reviews/rgd13plnrvu.html
http://www.woodcentral.com/bparticles/TP1300.shtml
http://benchmark.20m.com/reviews/RidgidPlaner/RidgidTP1300Review.html

A friend of mine – a professional furniture maker bought TP1300 in 2000 and is still using it in his busy shop 15 years later. The only parts that needed to be replaced were brushes and knives. He attributes that to one of the major marketing and selling points for RIDGID, their “full lifetime” warranty. If you want a tool to last a lifetime you tend to over engineer and overbuilt it. At least it used to be that way then…

By 2002 Emerson started closing US factories and outsourcing to the Far East. TP1300 production has been moved there, and then RIDGID started cutting costs and replaced TP1300 with rather horrible R4330 planer and later with an OK R4331. The factory, fortunately for all of us, continued making TP1300 following original specifications, replaced straight knives cutter head with segmented cutter head and found distribution channels which were not afraid to charge premium price for vastly superior product. Steel City Tool Works sold it from 2005 to 2015.

http://www.woodworkingtalk.com/f24/steel-city-tool-works-40200h-13-planer-helical-cutterhead-58866/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8JKQzPxZ2E

After Shinmax and the owner of Steel City split CUTECH, RIKON, General and CARBATEC carried the torch…

So, here we are lucky to be able to purchase this blast from the past outstanding piece of American history reborn like Phoenix in a galaxy far-far away and brought back home by great folks at CUTECH. Thank you, guys, for making it happen!

I’ve used 40200H-CT for a month now, built a desk, book cases, a bed with headboard – all from cedar deck planks, framing lumber and some rough cut oak which after planning all looked glass smooth and at most required 220 grit sanding. My furniture making friend borrowed it for a day to test and compare with his old TP1300 and could not keep his excitement. He is planning to buy one now.

Will it benefit from carbide inserts, – well the future will show. Otherwise I would strongly recommend this product to any woodworker, either hobbyist or making living crafting wood products.




View RostyVyg's profile

RostyVyg

4 posts in 906 days



24 comments so far

View jacquesr's profile

jacquesr

343 posts in 1509 days


#1 posted 03-03-2016 02:10 PM

Thank you so much for all this info. Very interesting.
I have the steel city variant. Very happy with it.

View OnhillWW's profile

OnhillWW

130 posts in 1318 days


#2 posted 03-03-2016 03:26 PM

Enjoyed your review, great historical review as well. Any Idea what the startup amp draw is, I’m working with a 15A limitation, my Jet works flawlessly but is getting a bit long in the tooth and would love a segmented head.
- Thanks

-- Cheap is expensive! - my Dad

View RostyVyg's profile

RostyVyg

4 posts in 906 days


#3 posted 03-03-2016 06:29 PM

I am running my from a 20 Amp circuit shared with RIDGID 16 gal Shop Vac. Never saw a problem. I am sure you will be fine with 15 Amp.

View smitdog's profile

smitdog

386 posts in 2191 days


#4 posted 03-03-2016 08:00 PM

Wow, thanks for the great review! Very informative! I am considering a planer purchase and saw the Cutech a couple of times. I pawned it off as an off brand since it didn’t have a well-known name attached to it. Good to know that it is actually just a new tag on a proven piece of equipment. This will definitely be back on my short list once I save up enough $. Thanks again Rosty for taking the time for this write up!

-- Jarrett - Mount Vernon, Ohio

View TheWoodRaccoon's profile

TheWoodRaccoon

364 posts in 1016 days


#5 posted 03-03-2016 08:31 PM

Wow, good review! quite the Megillah actually…. :)

How much does one of those cutechs go for?

-- still trying to think of a clever signature......

View GFactor's profile

GFactor

80 posts in 1686 days


#6 posted 03-03-2016 09:30 PM

Even though it has already been said several times, Nicely Done and I envy your writing skills! It was very refreshing to read a thorough review along with the steps you took to ensure the success of the product out of the box. This, coupled with the little bit of history / back story, made for a very informative post.

Cheers!

-- To Steal Ideas From One Person is Plagiarism; to Steal From Many is Research…

View runswithscissors's profile

runswithscissors

2804 posts in 2111 days


#7 posted 03-03-2016 10:10 PM

Just a FYI: Back in the 80s (date uncertain), it was Ryobi who invented the portable lunchbox planer. Prior to that, the choice was a cast iron monster, or hand planes, or trust the lumber from the building materials guys.

The shop teacher at the school where I taught bought the Ryobi (10 inch only available then) for the shop. He mounted it on a long table with rollers at each end. He said they rarely used the gigantic (Volkswagen size) planer after that. It’s not hard to imagine how much use the kids put that machine through, and I would guess a fair amount of abuse, too.

I know it was still going strong after 3 or 4 years.

My first planer was a Reliant (sold by Trend Lines—do they still exist?) which wasn’t a bad machineI, though I found out the hard way that it didn’t like planing long, rough cut birch planks. It did have problems with snipe, too.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Grumpymike's profile

Grumpymike

2284 posts in 2401 days


#8 posted 03-03-2016 11:41 PM

Wow RostyVyg, with all that research when do you find time to work in the shop?
Great detailed history and review.
I now wonder if the segmented head will fit my TP 1300? what an upgrade that would be.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View woodbutcherbynight's profile

woodbutcherbynight

5491 posts in 2495 days


#9 posted 03-04-2016 01:49 AM



Wow, good review! quite the Megillah actually…. :)

How much does one of those cutechs go for?

- TheWoodRaccoon

Found for 630.00 USD

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Tennessee's profile

Tennessee

2876 posts in 2600 days


#10 posted 03-04-2016 01:20 PM

Very good review.
Cutech is located in Memphis, and also sells these for the same price on eBay. I don’t think they have a dealer network.
Looks just like my old Rigid, save with the upgraded spiralhead cutters, which would have been a godsend to my old Rigid I sold off.

Seems like a good machine, great head, should get years of service if it is the same basic unit that Rigid put out.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View WWMike's profile

WWMike

5 posts in 1281 days


#11 posted 03-04-2016 05:11 PM

OnhillWW,

As long as it’s the only machine on a 15amp circuit, you should be fine.

TheWoodRaccoon,

$579.99 plus shipping from the website.

Grumpymike,

Awaiting final verification from factory whether the cutterhead will drop in the TP1300.

View Drew's profile

Drew

350 posts in 3186 days


#12 posted 03-04-2016 08:09 PM



Wow RostyVyg, with all that research when do you find time to work in the shop?
Great detailed history and review.
I now wonder if the segmented head will fit my TP 1300? what an upgrade that would be.

- Grumpymike

I don’t think RostyVyg works in a shop much.
This looks like an ad more than a review.

I could be wrong, but this one sure does walk like a duck!

-- TruCraftFurniture.com

View WWMike's profile

WWMike

5 posts in 1281 days


#13 posted 03-04-2016 08:57 PM

Grumpymike,

Got word….cutterhead does fit but comes without bearings. Do you have the tools necessary (shop press) to install a couple of bearings? You would have to read the P/N’s off the old bearings and find them. Might be 6203ZZ ? I do have old installation instructions for the swap when Accuhead had made them in the past. Email me if interested at techservices@cutechtool.com

Thanks,
Mike – Tech Services Mgr.
Cutech Tool, LLC

Drew,

No duck….just your imagination. ;)

View Drew's profile

Drew

350 posts in 3186 days


#14 posted 03-04-2016 09:34 PM


Drew,

No duck….just your imagination. ;)

- WWMike

First post ever and it was this huge write up? No picture either, other than a stock photo…. I think I hear a duck

-- TruCraftFurniture.com

View RostyVyg's profile

RostyVyg

4 posts in 906 days


#15 posted 03-04-2016 10:46 PM

Well, I do have time to work in my garage when it is not below freezing outside :-) And I do enjoy history. After I posted the review I bumped into a post on SawMillCreek which further clarifies relation between Ridgid, Shinmax, Orion, SteelCity, General and CUTECH. If interested, read it here: http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?241089-Ridgid-TP1300-Planer

Trying to find who makes and distributes reasonably priced carbide inserts for their cutterhead now. CUTECH prices for carbide are insane. Will share my findings if any…

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