20 inch planer, undecided

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Forum topic by jeth posted 08-16-2011 04:56 AM 2631 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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249 posts in 2260 days

08-16-2011 04:56 AM

Topic tags/keywords: planer question milling

I am finally about to purchase the larger machine tools my shop is lacking and had planned ona n 8” jointer, 16” planer and a 20” bandsaw. The only options on the market here are generic asian machines in a choice of colour/config/price combinations so I have chosen from the ones that look a little less rough around the edges those at the best price and whose supplier seems to give reasonable service and back up.

On to the point, I am now told they don’t have the 16” planer, which is a 3 cutter, 3HP 220v motor.They can’t ven tell me when they will have it. They are offering me in its place a 20” model, 4 cutters, 3HP, 220v. I will have to pay the difference which is more than 50% on top of what i would have spent on the 16 incher, but bear in mind the total is still comparable to what some of other suppliers are asking for the 15”-16” models.

So, my quandry is; do I pay up for the extra inches or hold out for a 16 that may not arrive in the near future.
I am tempted to pay out just to avoid the wait above all, as I am earning a living out of my workshop and I have struggled the limitations without these big 3 machines too long. Perhaps I just want to convince myself into the bigger machine. Most boards, or rather, chunks, of lumber here go to 12” but 16” or more is fairly common. I can see the extra space being useful to skew boards for less tear out. 4 cutters over 3, extra weight etc etc
Apart from that, my doubts, Is a 4 cutter head and the extra weight going to be notable in the finish quality? Is 3HP enough for the 20” width? Is a 20” really much more useful for a furniture (more than cabinet) oriented shop.

12 replies so far

View cabmaker's profile


1473 posts in 2231 days

#1 posted 08-16-2011 05:12 AM

You sure packed lots of questions into that one. You are right on about skewing through the planer. A 20 in. makes that more practical. And yes, a four knife cutterhead does a nicer job. No, 3hp will not be adequate for a twenty inch machine. You will have occasion to plane wider glueups. I would holdout for a heavy us made machine if at all possible. And yes a 20 is very conducive to cabinetmaking as well as furniture building. Let me offer this in conclusion: If all I had was a 15 inch, I would be doing the same things I do now, just not quite as efficient In some cases. Also I would take a quality 15-16 inch over an asian made 20 any day. Good luck with your quest

View rustfever's profile


716 posts in 2733 days

#2 posted 08-16-2011 05:17 AM

I recently aquired a 20” powermatic with 4 knives and 5 hp. It is so much better than the 16” jet with 3 knives and 3 hp.
I would encourage getting the larger units.

-- Rustfever, Central California

View jeth's profile


249 posts in 2260 days

#3 posted 08-16-2011 05:33 AM

Ok, thanks for your replies. Just to clarify, I’m in Mexico, limited market, US made isn’t an option unless I spend close to what my house is worth. The choice is a 16 or 20 chinese/taiwanese model or nothing..

Concerned by the comment that 3HP is not enough for full width planing on a 20” machine, though I’m checking the competition out now and to be honest a 16” is going to cost me about as much elsewhere. Mayube its worth it for the 4 cutter head and extra weight plus the small advantage for skewing boards and boards or panels that bit wider than the 16” can handle.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2273 days

#4 posted 08-16-2011 06:32 AM

From your tone, I gather you are anxious to get something plugged in so are leaning toward the 20.

Some reasons to be patient for a 16: Less cost to sharpen knives Less DC required Smaller footprint

I had an early (green) Grizzly 16, moved “up” to a Jet 20, moved back to a Z series Grizzly 16. I never could get as glassy a finish on wood with the larger one than I could on either narrower one. I wouldn’t take that statement to the bank, it’s just my experience.

The skewing is a virtue, but the other considerations noted above might fit into your decisionmaking as well.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View jeth's profile


249 posts in 2260 days

#5 posted 08-16-2011 06:41 AM

Thanks Lee,

Cost of sharpening is a good point, hoping to get a sharpener along the line but worth considering.
I’m installing the electrics to the shop so supply is no prob and footprint isn’t really all that much bigger on the 20”.
Interesting what you say about the finish, I’d thought the 20” might have the advantage with the extra knife and weight.
You are right, I am anxious to get the shop capacitated as I am having to turn down jobs that are impractical without the machinery. If the 20 or the 16 are going to cost me the same and the 20 is available now then… I am going to have to spend more than I’d worked out whatever, but any other convincing arguments against the 20?

View jeth's profile


249 posts in 2260 days

#6 posted 08-16-2011 05:41 PM

cr1, I get your point, just looking for general comments and experience relatring to the usefulness of the extra inches/extra cutter/extra weight of the machine.

To be honest from comparing photos it seems these machines are basically the same designs as the main US manafacturers are marketing. They look, part for part, identical to a grizzly or steel city as an example. I even saw one mproduct manual for a national “brand” that had photos of a planer with steel city logos on it. The only question is if the QC and materials used on these imports are the same as those sold by more recognised brands.

For reference here is a photo of the 20” model, the 16 is the same but, err, not so wide…

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2969 days

#7 posted 08-16-2011 11:20 PM

We have a woodmaster 25” 7.5 hp leeson. It replaced a jet 3hp 15”. There is no comparison between the two. We love our planer now.

-- .

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3848 posts in 1916 days

#8 posted 08-16-2011 11:36 PM

Would you be able to get a demo of the 20” with the 3HP? I’m thinking you could try running a piece of wood through and draw your own conclusions. I’m leaning toward the 3 HP motor being slightly on the small side for a 20 incher….but that’s guessing. The largest I’ve used is my 15 inch with a 3HP; have to admit it’s plenty in my case, but wonder about the extra inches.

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

View jeth's profile


249 posts in 2260 days

#9 posted 08-16-2011 11:38 PM

yep, well 25” with the appropriate power behind it does sound rather nice.

I found another supplier for the 16” that will save me a few hundred over buying the 20”. Above all I can’t see the point in the extra inches if the 3HP motor isn’t going to do the business on a full width boardand though they are both big machines I guess I’ll save a couple fo square foot of floor space in my small shop.
The alternative 16 also has 4 knives and as they copied/translated/pasted the spec from the asian provider on their site I can also see there is a 32 cutter helical head that fits this model, so an upgrade along the line would be possible.

View rance's profile


4243 posts in 2583 days

#10 posted 08-17-2011 02:56 AM

With regard to not as good of a cut on the 20, consider waiting on the 16 and spending that extra money on a wider drum sander.

What’s the widest thing you plan on building, and how often do you plan on building one?

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View jeth's profile


249 posts in 2260 days

#11 posted 08-17-2011 06:01 PM

No space for a drum sander as well I’m afraid rance and I expect to do all my final pre-finishing with handplanes anyway so producing good square stock for joining is the main priority rather than being able to finish surface super side glue ups.
On that basis I think as I can find the 16” a few hundred cheaper than the 20” I was offered I will go with the smaller unit. I would love max capacity for everything but at the end of the day space and budget are tight so…

Once I have the machines I will post some close up pics and further info. I think it would be interesting to compare these chinse imports with the likes of grizzly etc The prices are about the same, but are they the same?

View jusfine's profile


2405 posts in 2348 days

#12 posted 08-17-2011 07:07 PM

I have used a General International 15” (import) for many years, maybe 15 or more, and have no issues whatsoever with their performance. I think you are on the right track looking for a well finished machine.

I build solid wood cabinets (no melamine) and custom furniture, and I agree with what was said earlier regarding the width, the 15 or 16” should do well for you. Bigger isn’t always better.

I have tried skewing a few pieces through the planer, unless it is reasonably short, you won’t skew much or it will hit the side of your machine. Better to spend the extra money on a helical head in my opinion…

All the Best!

-- Randy "You are judged as much by the questions you ask as the answers you give..."

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