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A little spendy for a portable, but an amazing planer.

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Review by Wayne Precht posted 07-07-2009 10:45 PM 10989 views 0 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A little spendy for a portable, but an amazing planer. No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

It sure seems I went on a bit of a binge, but this is the 3rd and final tool purchase for the foreseeable future. It wasn’t one I had planned on like the sander, it was one of necessity. You see my previous planer was a Delta 12 ½” factory reconditioned unit that I picked up for a song. It did yeoman’s work for close to 10 years. It surfaced 1000s of feet of pine tent poles, 600 board feet of ash in one weekend and other such adventures. It bogged down occasionally and more often than I would have liked, blew the breaker on startup. But it’s collection of noises and idiosyncrasies have finally forced an honorable retirement on it.
I get almost all of my wood rough, so I can’t be without a functioning planer very long. So, taking the last of my mad money, I hiked to Woodcraft. I wanted something with a little more oomph than the Delta, but I couldn’t afford a “real” planer. Turns out the Steel City stuff went on sale that morning for 10% off. They had two models (really the old one and the new one of the same model) to choose from. The smaller, older one was basically a replacement for the Delta, nothing fancy. The new one however, was sporting a helical head with separate replaceable inserts. That was very hot. It’s the one feature that was forcing me to think about going up market to the 220V floor models. For 10% off, I took it on the spot.

Getting this bad boy into the shop was a chore, but I had learned my lesson on the sander and took it out of the box on the tail gate. This is a beefy machine. There was little to do to get it ready to go. I removed all the packing material, attached the handle, cleaned off some grease and was pretty much ready to go.
The first board was a short but wide chuck of eastern white pine. In fact it was the one that was chewed up in the Delta’s dead cries. It came out flat and smooth. I mean really smooth. Now the Woodcraft guy, he can’t help it, he’s a salesman after all, said it would hardly need sanding. While that might be true for some of his customers, or for carpentry tasks, it will still need sanding in my world. But, not really that much. Gone are the days of the little valley marks from the flat blades. Instead there are faint diagonal tracks.
The other thing that struck was how quieter this was. It was still loud of course, but noticeable quieter than the Delta. Fresh brushes are probably a good part of that, I am sure.

Dust collection is average with my Shop-Vac. I would call it worse than the Delta, and yes I am aware that this set up is less than ideal. I imagine with a real collector it would b e much improved. However, getting most of it is fine with me. The “dust” from a planar isn’t very fine and I am more concerned about health risks them messes so a little clean up is ok.

This is a really cool planar. I had to restrain myself from running a board through it over and over of surfacing some of my oak supply just to admire it in action. I highly recommend this for those that are on the more serious end of hobbyist and want to work from rough stock a lot.

This also convinced me to spring for the $300 replacement head for my joiner to add the helical cutters to it. I have only replaced the knives on that machine once and it was a thin slice of hell getting them even. After a couple hours I gave up. There was one knife that was about a thou higher than the others. About 10 passes with some tough old oak took care of that…

-- --- Wayne.




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Wayne Precht

47 posts in 2582 days



21 comments so far

View Brad_Nailor's profile

Brad_Nailor

2531 posts in 2623 days


#1 posted 07-08-2009 02:09 AM

Thanks for the review! I have been eyeballing this planer since I saw it in their new products catalog six months ago. It is exactly like the older Rigid 13” planer I am using now, except for the helical head. I really like my Rigid allot and I can only imagine how putting a helical head on it would make it that much better. I like to work in figured woods and the helical heads seem to excel at that!

-- http://www.facebook.com/pages/DSO-Designs/297237806954248

View Wayne Precht's profile

Wayne Precht

47 posts in 2582 days


#2 posted 07-08-2009 04:03 PM

One thing I will relate from this past weekend’s milling. The depth lock isn’t optional. On my delta, I rarely bothered to lock the head after moving it down for another pass and things were fine in all but the toughest boards. With the Steel City, if the head isn’t locked, it will snipe the board, both ends. The rollers on this have a lot more vertical travel it seems. However, with the lock engaged, there is basically no snipe. The contrast is pretty remarkable.

-- --- Wayne.

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a1Jim

112161 posts in 2243 days


#3 posted 07-08-2009 04:34 PM

Thanks for the review

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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Kent Shepherd

2698 posts in 1952 days


#4 posted 07-08-2009 10:44 PM

Good review. Thanks for the information.

-- She thought I hung the moon--now she just thinks I did it wrong

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Brad_Nailor

2531 posts in 2623 days


#5 posted 07-09-2009 07:33 PM

Wayne..thats is true with the Rigid I am using…you HAVE to lock the cutter head or there is noticeable snipe. If you do lock it there is no snipe at all!

-- http://www.facebook.com/pages/DSO-Designs/297237806954248

View cstrang's profile

cstrang

1769 posts in 1834 days


#6 posted 10-13-2009 07:45 PM

Thanks for the review, I have been looking at Steel City for a while now and am planning on purchasing this planer and a granite bed jointer in the not too distant future, Steel City is a new company and it is really great to hear these good reviews about their product, thanks again.

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

View DrBreakIt's profile

DrBreakIt

50 posts in 1752 days


#7 posted 12-14-2009 05:35 AM

I think you have had your planner for about a half a year now. Are you still happy with it? I have been looking at this one myself and was wondering about how it is holding up. I have not seen a lot of reviews on net about it except for yours. Thanks

View Wayne Precht's profile

Wayne Precht

47 posts in 2582 days


#8 posted 12-14-2009 05:14 PM

Still loving it and would still recommend it highly.

I have put about 200-300 board feet through it. I work in mostly air dried Red Oak and it’s handled that with no problems. Also some Cherry, Walnut and Maple.

Changing the blade is really rotating the 26 little square cutters 90 degrees to expose a fresh edge. This is a little tedious. I suppose they don’t all need to be roated at the same time (if you nick one, for instance), but I am pretty diligent about varying how I feed the boards to balance out the wear. If you have large hands it’s a bit tight. However, don’t be tempted to loosen the screw just enough to rotate the blade and reseat it. A little of that superfine sawdust goes a long way to giving you an uneven cut if it slips in under the cutter. I now blow the machine out with the compressor before I change/rotate the cutters and pull them all the way out to be sure there is no dust trapped down there.

This is my first helical cutter head machine and it won’t be my last. In fact, this probably saved me from replacing my Grizzly joiner since a replacement helical head is available for that. I have really spent far too long screwing with knives in that thing (which other than resetting the knives I do really like). So I will gladly spend a little extra time rotating cutters to have them perfectly indexed each time.

I will reiterate, the snipe lock isn’t optional. With it off, it’s going to snipe. With it on, it only snipes if the board isn’t properly supported coming off the cutter (or yank it a bit, not that that ever happens…).

-- --- Wayne.

View BobCysyk's profile

BobCysyk

24 posts in 1724 days


#9 posted 01-10-2010 02:10 PM

Hello everyone. I am new to this forum look forward to learning from all of the seasoned woodworkers I see here. I am planning on replacing my Delta 121/2 inch planer and have been looking at the Steel City with Helical head that Wayne seems pleased with. Has anyone else had any experience with this planer yet?

-Bob-

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Karson

34878 posts in 3066 days


#10 posted 01-11-2010 05:32 AM

I’ve got a helical head planer from Grizzly and they are great. I’m glad that they are making them in smaller models.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View BobCysyk's profile

BobCysyk

24 posts in 1724 days


#11 posted 01-24-2010 01:21 PM

Well I finally made the decison and ordered the Steel City Planer. It should be here in a few days. Can’t wait to give it a try on a project my wife wants me to build.

Bob

View happy_budah's profile

happy_budah

132 posts in 2464 days


#12 posted 02-04-2010 07:09 AM

great review ive heard a lot of great things with the helical head planers, ive been using the 13.5 dewalt planer and am loving it, i dont have the in/out feed tables and get some snipe occasionaly. looked in to getting a helical head replacement and decided to wait until the price was less than a new planer

-- the journy of a thousand miles begins with a single step " Lou-Tzu"

View DRJZ1974's profile

DRJZ1974

71 posts in 1580 days


#13 posted 06-04-2010 07:44 AM

Wayne,
I am about ready to place my order for this Steel City planer with the helical head. I have debated between this unit and the Dewalt DW735. Are you still happy with this planer and feel it is the superior machine? Thanks for any more info you can give. Still not many reviews out there on this unit, I don’t know why.

View BobCysyk's profile

BobCysyk

24 posts in 1724 days


#14 posted 06-04-2010 12:50 PM

DRJZ1974 – Just thought that I would weigh in here. I have had my Steel City for some time now and love it. Last week I planed some very hard Jatoba and Sapelle. It hardly even bogged down. I am very pleased with this machine.

Bob

View Wayne Precht's profile

Wayne Precht

47 posts in 2582 days


#15 posted 06-04-2010 02:37 PM

DRJZ1974 – Yes, I still love it. I think in the time I’ve had it, I choked it exactly once with a piece of rough saw red oak that was a might thicker at the back end then the front and stalled the machine before I could kill it. Honestly for 110v machine, it does an amazing job. You won’t be sorry.

-- --- Wayne.

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