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on March 6, 2011
I have had this planer for a few months and put a lot of hickory, hard maple, soft maple, and red oak through it. This is and upgrade for an older Dewalt 2 blade cutter head. I upgraded because I was tired of having to get blades sharpened frequently and tired of dealing with tearout from the coarser grain woods.

The planer came shipped in the in is own box with no problems. Once out of the box you will need to clean off some grease from table of the planer, but nothing to major. After the you attach the 4" dust collector port you are ready to go.
I did have to adjust the level of the infeed and outfeed table to eliminate snipe, but still have some on the first and last couple inches of the board. I know some people find snipe to be a big deal, I plan for it and just cut off the ends.

The first thing you notice when you first start using it is how quiet it is. This does not matter to me so much because I have a loud dust collector and I always use hearing protection. But it is significantly quieter then straight blade planers. The part that I am disappointed with is you still get a fair amount scallops and tearout from the coarser grain woods. I was under the impression that the spiral head was supposed to significantly decrease tearout or eliminate it. But I have not noticed a difference for from my older dewalt planer. I have tried taking lighter passes of 1/32 of and inch and changing the directional feed of the board but with no success. Maybe I had too high of expectations for this planer. It does have plenty of power to push through and species of wood at its 13" capacity. Dust collection catches about 95% of the chips, so nothing to complain about. We will just have to see how long the knives stay sharp for and how it is to change them. Will keep you posted.

I give it the three stars because I expected better result regarding tearout.

UPDATE: 12/8/2012
I have been using this planer for about a year know and I have to say I am more pleased with this purchase now then I was a year ago. I have put thousands of board feet of wood through this machine and it has held up wonderfully. I have not had any problem with this machine. Changing knives is so fast and easy it does not even compare to straight knife planers. This is a huge advantage especially if you nick or damage a knife insert it can easily be changed. I am able to change out all 26 cutters within 20 min, AWESOME!

Since I have switch my knives to Amana RCK-70 carbide inserts I have had a much improved experience with tearout. These inserts are even four sided and less expensive then the steel city HSS replacement blades. Check it out.

For the money you will not find a better planer, especially with a cutterhead like this.

Now I would give this planer 4 stars.
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on March 17, 2011
First, I don't know about the durability/longevity of this product, but I will say that I think in the long run this will be a machine that lasts for me. As many have pointed out, this is basically a Ridgid 13" planer with a spiral cutting head. However, the sides are all steel and overall the materials seem to be of a higher specification/quality than the Ridgid models. I carefully researched this machine and read lots of reviews before I finally bit the bullet and bought this unit. I'd considered the Delta and Dewalt portable models in the same price range ($600). The recent price drop on this Steel City unit really helped me make the final decision as well as the spiral cutting head. Many have commented about the "grease" around the cutter head and on one woodworking forum someone carped on endlessly about using Q-tips to clean the cutter head. I thought that seemed a little strange, so I was prepared to look for myself once the unit arrived. I removed the protective shroud around the cutter head and yes, there is a significant amount of grease on the head. In my opinion this is Cosmoline or some other rust inhibitor. Douse the head with some brake cleaner or do what I did: grab some soft lumber (like pine) and run it through until you collect a Shop Vac or two full of shavings. This coating really isn't as bad as some of the reviews. If you consider all of the bare steel and surface area that is exposed on this spiral cutter head, the rust inhibitor is necessary. The environment inside a shipping container from China to the U.S. is a corrosive one for machinery. I'm glad that Steel City's overseas supplier is taking this precaution. Put the Q-tips down and use some common sense, man.

Regarding the performance of this machine: I could not be happier! Adjusting the in-feed/out-feed tables did take some time and the bolts for this are inset too close to the base of the unit in my opinion. You'll need some good dexterity to get them just right. There is only one feed speed. I don't think 2 feed speeds would be useful for me, but maybe others work a whole lot faster on a planer than I do or have help on the out feed. I planed about 20 bf of 8-inch wide black walnut the other night from about 4/4 down to 1/2" thickness taking nice 1/32" swipes. This sucker could easily swipe up 1/16" on a pass, but I was so pleased with the surface at 1/32" that I just beamed from ear-to-ear and kept putting the stock back through to get to my final thickness. Did someone say I need a re-saw setup on a dedicated band saw? Ah yes---that would be nice. Had fun planing, but it is sad to see half of a board wasted.

Many of us really want a 15-20" floor-model planer with its own dedicated space in the "shop" and a 220V power supply. A lot of woodworking snobs will tell you not to even bother with these suitcase (portable) models. Let's get real. Most of us do woodworking in our garage and space IS an issue. How will this hold up under professional use? I have no idea, but then again I'm not going to abuse my tools like "employees" will. I built houses for a number of years and I can tell you even the best tool will fail when it is abused---apropos with ANY tool review you read and always worth considering. Overall I'm confident in giving this machine a 5/5 rating.
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on December 22, 2010
Good: helical cutting head at this price point! 13" width capacity, 6" height capacity down to 1/8" inch, quick setup for repeat thickness runs, surprisingly quiet during full load, excellent chip extraction, essentially ready to use out of the box with little if any adjustment needed to parallel the support tables (they fold upwards when not in use resulting in very small foot print when unit is stored away), support tables are long, leaves a good finish, 5 year warranty.

Bad: single feed speed is too fast for some hard woods resulting in some minor tear-out; rotating the board for another pass helps but a slower feed speed would get rid of this problem entirely.

Overall: 13" helical cutter in a solidly built machine at an excellent price; looking forward to many years of service.
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on February 7, 2011
I bought this unit on Amazon when I got tired of buying blades for my DeWalt planer. The knives on the DeWalt seemed to chip like they were made of aluminum foil and I was close to having as much money in knives and sharpening bills as I had in the planer. I plan only red oak boards, so there should not have been that much trouble with the knives.

The Steel City planer is quieter and takes off twice as much material without bogging down as what my DeWalt can handle. I can even hear my dust collector running when I use this planer! (If you've ever forgotten to turn on your dust collector before planing a board - you know that hearing it run is a good thing!)

So far I have no negatives to report. It appears to be the best small planer on the market (especially since it is the only small planer with a helix cutter).
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on July 17, 2012
Initially, I was pretty enthused at the prospect of a helical cutter head planer, not wanting to deal with setting planer knives or knicks that would render an entire blade useless. This made so much sense to me. I read all the reports about grease. One in particular wanked so much about grease oozing from every orifice that I just didn't believe it. I still don't.

I did have a little problem with grease though, not major. I ran some Poplar through a few times and it seemed fine. It was only when I ran some darker woods (Padauk & Bubinga) that some showed up on the underside only but not on the cutter/top side. Still this is not my main reason for returning the planer. The main reason is pervasive and signifcantly deep tearout.

I started my test with a 3' x 3/4" x 11 1/2" clean board (no knots) of Poplar. The plan being to plane something between pine and a hardwood as a first test, hopefully an only test. At 1/16" passes, I got a few pretty deep divots (1/16" - 3/32") in 4-5 places. On 1/32" passes, they were less deep. Reversing sides or feeding from the other end made no difference. Everytime I tried 1/16" cuts it was worse. With 1/32" is was better but still not good enough (too many, unacceptably deep). Next, I tried Pine (4' x 3/4 x 11 1/2"). The tearout was less overall at 1/16", however exceptionally bad next to a knot. The latter is forgiveable since this is endemic to some knots. At 1/32" the Pine was almost free of tearout. But it's hardwoods that I work with so the test that matters came next.

I ran a smooth, previously planed (on another planer) 12" x 2" x 8" piece of Paduak at a 1/16" pass. It was pock-marked with tearout all over. I ran four 1/32" passes and the tearout was much less deep but still all over of the piece. I flipped the piece over and ran several 1/32" passes - still full of tearout. I even ran it through a second time with no change in thickness and heard the planer cutting again (to my surpise). This helped a little but the tearout was still numerous across the entire board. A third run through did nothing as it should have the second time.

Frustrated, I tried a piece of Bubinga (which is the hardest wood I had) that was previously sanded smooth (8" x 3/4" x 8"). I ran a 1/32" pass first. Not good. I ran several more. Not good. For kicks, I flipped it over and ran 1/16". Not good. Then more 1/32" passes because I didn't want to believe it. I finally gave up. I thought I would take the sample to a friend's shop for his opinion. As I walked into my house, I was fingering the Bubinga, feeling all the little divots. This did it! I realized it was a waste of time to do anything but return the planer.

Conclusion: All the woods tested had significant tearout at 1/16" passes. At 1/32" passes, the softest wood (Pine) had no tearout (except at a knot - forgiveable). The next hardest wood (Poplar) had some tearout in random places. The harder the wood (Padauk to Bubinga), the denser the patches of tearout at 1/32" cuts.

Any wood, especially exotic hardwoods are too expensive to waste or mutilate. Multiple passes at 1/32" did not eliminate it. Sanding this away is not an option because it undermines the desired dimension (thickness) and is time consuming. Even if 1/32" passes would have worked, I've got better things to do than pass a piece of wood around 8 times to take down a 1/4". I will have to live with planer knives until this technology improves at this price point.

A word about snipe: yes this planer has it, but so does every planer to various degrees. It shouldn't be a deal-killer.

Other notes: Before I started, I adjusted the planer infeed and outfeed tables straight/flush in line with bottom planer surface. After cutting to a 1/2" thickness, I had to adjust the planer's thickness indicator to match this - no big deal. It runs relatively quiet (which I will miss).

Amazon was awesome on the return, which is why I am a "Prime" customer.
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on September 14, 2011
Define helical...

I wanted to get something in house, instead of trekking to the wide belt sander when milling figured hardwoods. There are helical cutter heads that are arranged in a true spiral pattern, that introduce the blades in an angle and prevent tear out; this one is more of a linear offset with blades cutting on the square.

Unfortunately the first piece of flame Maple I put in this machine tore out badly. It is an improvement on the traditional two or three blade, but it's back to abrasives for me.
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on March 6, 2011
The Good:
The planer itself is working great so far. I have planed some red oak, maple and pine in 4 to 6 inch widths and was impressed with both the smoothness of the cuts as well as the power of the machine. I didn't have to adjust anything, everything was set up perfectly from the factory.

The Bad:
The manual tells you to wipe the packing grease from all unfinished metal surfaces. It turns out that the entire cutter head and surrounding areas were swimming in grease. I spent over 3 hours working to get the planer to the point where grease would not be sprayed onto the feed tables each time I ran it. I read a review at that had a similar experience (after I made the purchase). I was determined not to take the planer apart. If that was necessary I would just return it. Here is what I did.

I unplugged the planer in between all these operations.

- Wiped down all the surfaces with odorless mineral spirits. Including areas that had no business having grease on them.
- Started the planer and it sprayed grease all over the place.
- Opened the cover over the cutter head and dust collector and it was just swimming in grease. Luckily the grease did not have time to get hot.
- I proceeded to wipe off as much as I could being extremely careful not to cut myself and then used a dozen swabs to finish up. There was also grease all over the inside covers and on the rollers which I just left because I wasn't sure what it would be safe to clean them with. At this point I think I had spent about 45 minutes doing the tedious cleaning.
- I covered everything up. Ran the thing again for about 15 seconds and wound up right back where I started from. Everything was covered with grease again. The tables and all of the inside covers, cutter head, dust collector, etc.
- I repeated cleaning process again, this time cursing Steel City the entire time. It almost seems like the cutter head itself is filled with grease. I found that I could roll up a paper towel place it on the cutter head, the rotate the head with a push-stick (don't try this by hand! As the head rolls forward the cutter will be right above your finger) this will clean the inaccessible parts behind the cutter head.
- Closed it up, turned it on. Same problem. This time I gave it a quick once over and decided to let the thing run for a minute to get warm enough to thin out the grease and spray it out. In the end I had to do that 3 times. I knew it was working though because the grease just started dripping out of the machine in little pools on the trays and table.
- When the pools of grease finally subsided I came to the conclusion that if I started running wood through the planer the wood chips would actually help absorb the remaining grease. So I just started planing some scrap an I can finally say that I am confident that there is no more grease being sprayed from the planer.

I now have a planer that I am happy with to date. It was cheaper that the Dewalt 735 with optional feed tables (that I do feel are necessary) and has the potential for significantly less cost in blade changes. The four stars are for the planer itself, if you get one I recommend that you remove the dust collection cover immediately and evaluate how much grease is in the machine to determine if it is worth it to you. If you decide to go for it a better approach may be to wipe away the major grease. Turn it on and let things get nice in warm (of course there will be grease everywhere). If you can avoid cleaning the cutter head that would be a good thing. The dust chute will be covered in grease though so you still have to remove that and the cutter cover in between passes. A blow dryer on low temp would probably work wonders but I am not sure if that would damage anything else.

Good luck!
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on September 15, 2013
I waited for about 8 months to write my review because I wanted to have time to really use the machine before spouting off. This machine has changed the way I work in my shop. I now plane boards as I need them because the machine cuts well, catches 98% of the chips and dust. I did mount the unit on a rolling cart so I just roll it out, hook up the dust hose and start planing.

I too was worried about the reviews complaining about the grease on the unit for shipping and was prepared to think it was a problem. On the contrary, I used the cleaning time to get to know the machine. The blades are a cinch to pull off and put back on. Once I wiped off the excess oil, I sent some old pine through it until I couldn't see anymore residue coming off and then I was ready to go.

I've sent over 200bf of cherry, maple and hickory through this bad fella and it hasn't even broke a sweat yet. The dust collector is superb.

I give this machine 5 stars. I would never look at a 2 or 3 blade machine again. The blades on this one are simply too easy to deal with to go back.

Thanks Steel City!!
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on December 24, 2012
Steel City 13" Thickness Planer with Helical Cutter Head Model 40200H

Summary: More machine than I really need, good quality, clean surface, no snipe! Easy to access the cutters for maintenance, minimal assembly required using supplied tools.

Review: Set up of this machine involves 1) Opening the box. 2) Extracting the manual from the top of the box and reading it, 3) Lifting the planer out of the box (85 pounds, get help), 4) Installing the hand knob on the thickness adjustment wheel with the supplied hex key, 5) Installing the dust chute if desired (I left it off for now because I didn't have a vacuum hose that fit). Set up took longer to write about than to do.

This is a larger, beefier machine than I had expected, but I would rather under utilize too much machine than over load one that's too small. It can handle stock from 13" X 6", down to 3/4" X 1/8", so yeah, I guess you could make lumber from old railroad ties, but I would not recommend it.

Before we ran the machine, my ten-year-old and I read the instructions from cover to cover. This was good practice as he is beginning to pick out and correct the grammar, punctuation, and syntax errors and we did pick up a few planer safety rules and operation tips that I had not previously known of. Note that I do not let the ten-year-old run the major power tools. He can use the drill press, the scroll saw and his one kit of hand tools, but he has to make satisfactory hand-cut dovetails before he can use anything capable of amputating an arm.

Our first test was with a piece of roughsawn pine from my woodpile. Very clean results. Then I tore a plank off an old pallet I had in the garden which I figured would be a fair challenge for the machine. If you do this, always give any old salvaged lumber a thorough brushing with a stiff wire brush and inspect carefully for embedded nails, sand, dirt and grit. You do not want to run any embedded crud through your planer unless you enjoy buying and replacing cutters.

Fortunately, this planer does not have just 3 or 4 cutters like planers used to have. It has 26 rectangular cutters arranged in a helix around the cylinder that makes up the cutter head. Each cutter is sharp on two sides so you can rotate the cutters 90 degrees to get a fresh edge when they start to wear. I did remove the housing over the cutters just to see how hard replacement would be. The housing came off easily and the cutters are easy to remove (yes, I did try it) and replace with the supplied Torx wrench.

Anyway, I ran the plank through my jointer to get one flat face and then thicknessed it on the planer. My reward was a fairly decent looking piece of some hardwood I don't recognize. What impressed me the most was that there was absolutely NO snipe.

The planer has a vernier scale that shows the thickness setting. It is easy enough to read and is ruled to 1/32". It also has a depth-of-cut dial indicator with an expanded scale. This is ruled to 1/64", but you can read between the lines to 1/128". There is a "Repeat A Cut" thickness stop which can be set to 1/8", 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", 1", 1-1/4", 1-1/2", and 1-3/4". Unfortunately, there is not a stop which you can adjust to your own custom setting, so if you want 3/8" lumber, you have to just watch the vernier scale, although, from studying the machine, there are several places where a careful craftsman could install an infinitely adjustable stop. The hand wheel which sets the thickness moves the cutter head 1/16" per full turn of the wheel. It is well marked so that you can turn it 1/8th of a turn to shave off 1/128" of an inch, or even 1/256" if you care to read half-steps.

Like all machines with universal motors, this one's a bit loud, but not as bad as some of the other tools I own. Do be sure to wear your hearing protection.
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on September 20, 2013
I have a Dewalt 13 inch planer that I was using to plane some 120 year old oak I thought it was a badass little planer but dealing with that old of wood you sometimes hit rusted tacks that mess up the knife blades. When I started using this one I was blown away. It planes wood effortlessly compared to the Dewalt. It is much quieter, hardly any snipe and if I do hit a tack that my metal detector misses I just turn the damaged helical head and keep going. Knock on wood I haven't had to do that yet.

My only complaint is the dust collector design doesn't get as much saw dust as my Dewalt. It got all with that one. This one makes a mess. There was barely any grease on my unit unlike other reviews. I Just ran a few practice boards through and got it all off that way. I would highly recommend.
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