First planer- lunchbox or vintage?

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Forum topic by mrcando posted 03-08-2012 03:17 PM 3543 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View mrcando's profile


13 posts in 3196 days

03-08-2012 03:17 PM

Topic tags/keywords: planer spiral cutterhead

I’m new to LJ and woodworking in general, but almost have my workshop finished and furnished with most of the equipment I’ll need to build furniture. My dilemma is whether to make my first planer a cabinet-top model or look for a good used stand alone planer from another era that could be tuned up and upgraded with a spiral cutter head. I hear so many complaints from woodworkers about the cost and time of changing out knives on traditional heads that I hate to go down that road. I know I’ll have more money in an older, bigger machine, but I feel like it might be worth it. I would value the opinions of you guys and gals out there on this.

-- Phil

19 replies so far

View HorizontalMike's profile


7757 posts in 2912 days

#1 posted 03-08-2012 03:40 PM

…I’m new to LJ and woodworking in general,...

IMO, that would probably mean that buying a new lunchbox planer would be a better choice. That is what I did two years ago when I was in the same position. My thoughts are and were, that I didn’t need to be distracted and discouraged trying to get an old piece of machinery not only running but running and tuned well, when I knew nothing about said machine in the first place.

FWIW, I just rotated my first set of blades in my Ridgid lunchbox planer after a little less than 2 years. I just bought a replacement set of blades/knives at HD for $30 and now have them stored under the machine for the “next time.”

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4986 posts in 2492 days

#2 posted 03-08-2012 04:10 PM

A lot of the newer lunchbox planers have disposable knives that are indexed into position. Much,much easier than my first planer (Delta 22-540, their first lunchbox) and trying to get the knives evenly set. So I wouldn’t be scared off by changing knives, at least with the newer models. On the other hand, if you buy a vintage stationary planer that’s turnkey…you’ll only buy once. There are some differences (240V, a little more maintenance with lubing, gearbox oil, etc.) that you need to be aware of, but otherwise that’s about it.

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

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2689 days

#3 posted 03-09-2012 03:00 AM

Changing of flipping the knives in my 3 blade Ridgid planer is a very simple under 10 minute process. They are indexed witha slot on the blade end so no adjustment needed. I love this tool!

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

View Loren's profile


10394 posts in 3646 days

#4 posted 03-09-2012 03:05 AM

Changing knives is no big deal.

Vintage machines can be a good buy as comparable
modern machines are costly. The benchtop planers
are not built to last in comparison.

Vintage machines come with an unknown factor:
maintenance. New ones don’t. I’ve had good luck
with the vintage machines I have owned so I am
not spooked.

Spiral cutterheads have their place in making woodworking
more efficient, at a substantial set-up expense. Planers
were around for 100 years or more prior to the spiral
insert heads however and plenty of quality work was

If you have the patience look for a Belsaw, Parks,
Powermatic, et al 12” planer. They don’t take
up too much space and they will produce good
boards and hold resale value. Benchtop planers
produce nice surfaces due to high cutterhead speeds
but thickness consistency from part to part is
not as reliable in my experience, both across wide
boards and from end-to-end.

That said, a benchtop planer will plane 1000s of
board feet before it wears out and won’t be a bad
investment for hobby woodworking if you are
looking for plug-n-play performance.

All planers do the same thing and most do it
well enough to make nice work feasible. Your
ability to sharpen your hand tools is more influential
on the end result than your choice of machines.

View thebigvise's profile


191 posts in 2899 days

#5 posted 03-09-2012 03:16 AM

Helical all the way. You’ll never regret the added up front expense.

-- Paul, Clinton, NC

View HorizontalMike's profile


7757 posts in 2912 days

#6 posted 03-09-2012 03:56 AM

Hey Paul,
I just rotated my helical 8in jointer cutters also and noticed that since this is their “third” side of the carbide cutter, they do not seem to fit quite as nicely and I have more very minor ridges in my jointing results than in the past. Too small to mess with, but noticeable enough to want to sand before continuing. Still love the helical cutters though.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View mrcando's profile


13 posts in 3196 days

#7 posted 03-09-2012 03:33 PM

Thank you all so much for the input. I’ll probably go with a lunchbox planer just to get started. They are now making spiral cutters for some lunchbox planers like the DeWalt 735, but the cutterhead by itself is about $400, so they ain’t cheap. And as HorizontalMike pointed out, going two years before rotating blades sounds very acceptable to me, and besides, I’m probably not going to set the woods on fire anyway, as far as how much stuff I turn out in my shop. So thanks again everybody, this REALLY helped!

By the way, HorizontalMike and gfadvm, which Ridgid planers do you have? 12.5” or 13”?

-- Phil

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4930 posts in 3959 days

#8 posted 03-09-2012 04:07 PM

My old 733 DeWalt is still goin’ strong. Replaced a belt ‘cause I screwed up, and a spare set of blades.


View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2575 days

#9 posted 03-09-2012 10:17 PM

Just throwing my $.02 in, but yep, portable planer first.

My choice is the DW734, which also has a spiral cutterhead, but is also more than the planer.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Marlow's profile


172 posts in 2669 days

#10 posted 03-10-2012 12:45 AM

The designer that came up with the knife change design for the DW735 should get an award: it doesn’t get an easier. Very good performance from this unit: not cheap, but modest compared to some of the heavy iron models. I’d stick with this lunchbox.

View mrcando's profile


13 posts in 3196 days

#11 posted 03-10-2012 06:44 PM

Hi Nitewalker, I don’t think DeWalt even makes a planer with a spiral cutterhead, although you can buy a replacement spiral cutterhead for the DW735 which costs about $400. That means if you buy a new DW735 and replace the cutterhead, you’ve got about a $1000 in a benchtop planer. Hopefully a person could find a good used 735 and upgrade it without as much pain in the wallet.

-- Phil

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 3671 days

#12 posted 03-10-2012 06:53 PM

It depends on how much planning you will be doing. For hobby use a benchtop planer is ok as long as you dont push it to hard! I would love to own a old arn planer thou.

View NiteWalker's profile


2737 posts in 2575 days

#13 posted 03-10-2012 10:33 PM

mrcando: yep, both are aftermarket additions, and in the case of the 734 the spiral head is around $400.
Not a bad option if you do a lot of planing and only have 120 volts in the shop.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2921 days

#14 posted 03-10-2012 11:02 PM

I don’t know how many feet of wood has been run thru my 735 but it’s a bunch.
About 2 months ago I had a brainstorm. Since I wasn’t using my Ridgid Miter Saw why not mount the 735 on the Ridgid Miter Saw Stand. Best idea I’ve had in 2 months(....) I can move it around my shop, folds up out of the way and has built in infeed and outfeed rollers.
Go for a new lunchbox. Look at some of the stand ideas on here and you won’t regret it.

-- Life is good.

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#15 posted 03-10-2012 11:18 PM

I would go with a older floor model planner .Lunch box types planners move around to much. A new spiral head Grizzly floor model goes for about $1500 and if that’s beyond your budget steel city sells a helical head lunch box for around $499, IMO that makes more sense than buying a $500 planner and buying a separate helical head for another $ 450. and adding it on. There are used floor model planners out there in about the same price range that I would not call vintage.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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