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Not Ready for Prime Time Yet.
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.