Minimizing Snipe

Checking extension-table height. Use a straightedge to set extension-table rollers level with the bed.

end of a board slighdy thinner than the rest of it—is noticeable even at several thousandths of an inch.

Snipe has several causes. One of the most common is accidentally levering the end of a board up into the cutter-head by letting its opposite end drop below the planer-bed level. Snipe can also result from a cupped or warped board flexing in the machine.

Another cause of snipe—one that you can't correct—is a very slight lifting or dropping of the cutterhead as the board moves underneath it. Benchtop planers arc prone to this kind of snipe because their relatively lightweight construction allows some flex in the machine. (Sec sidebar, below.)

Snipe less than about 0.002 in. is easy to sand or scrape away, so we rated it as ^excellent" in the chart. The new Delta 22-560 and the Hitachi sniped the least. The worst offenders were the Pcnn State, Reliant, and Woodtek.

The bed and extension tables determine how smoothly and uniformly stock slides under the cutterhead. The beds on all of these planers are either fitted with rollers or covered with a thin platen of stainless steel to reduce feed friction. Both methods work fine, but platens need to be cleaned and waxed periodically to work cffcctivcly.

A platen also has to sit flat on its bed. We found that loose-fitting platens can lift up and trap wood shavings underneath, raising the platen slightly at its edges. You can solve this problem by cpoxying the platen to the bed.

Extension tables, when adjusted level with the planer bed, help keep long work from levering up into the cutterhead and increasing snipe. But the extensions on most of the planers flex under the weight of heavy boards. Notable exceptions are the solid cxtcn-

Benchtop planers are prone to overbiting at the ends or boards—a condition called snipe. Here are a few ways to reduce or eliminate snipe:

• Flatten the bottom face first. Jointing or hand-planing the bottom face of a board—standard procedure for planing a board—creates a flat bearing surface that prevents the board from twisting up into the cutterhead.

• Level the rollers. Adjust bed rollers and extension-table rollers to bed level or slightly (less than 0.003 in.) above. Set auxiliary supports to the same level. •Gang-feed. Butt boards end-to-end as you feed them. This way, only the first and last boards will have snipe.

•Take light final passes. Cuts of '/32 in. or less produce less noticeable snipe. •Add a margin of safety. If all else fails, start with a board about 6 in. longer than you need and cut the sniped sections off after planing.

• Keep a clean machine. Occasionally clean the bed, extension tables and feed rollers with paint thinner. Wax the bed.

sions on the Sunhill (shown at left), Delta 22-560 and Ryobi. The Ryobi tables arc by far the quickest to adjust.

The Hitachi is the only planer with a long, solid bed instead of extension tables. Because the bed adjusts instead of the cuttcrhead, you'll have to readjust the height of any outfeed rollers every time you adjust the bed.

Different types of knives arc used in these planers. The important differences here are in cost and convenience, not in performance; all the knife rypes cut well.

Two of the planers we tested—the new Delta 22-560 and the Ryobi—use double-edge, disposable knives. The big advantage with disposable knives is that they're so easy to change. You simply pop the knife into place over locator pins and tighten the locking nuts. Resharpening disposable knives is not recommended because it throws off proper knife alignment.

The other 1 1 planers in our test have resharpcnable knives. Resharpening a set of knives will run you around SI 5— about half the cost of a new set of disposables. (See chart.) But you can expect to spend a little extra time changing knives. Resharpcnable knives don't just pop into place like their disposable counterparts; they need to be aligned using the jig that comes with the planer.

The AMT, Delta 22-540, Jet, Star, Sunhill and Woodtek planers have double-edge resharpcnable knives, while the Grizzly, Hitachi, Pcnn State, Reliant, and Tradesman have single-edge knives.

The controls on planers are fairly simple. Height-adjustment handwhcels or cranks control dcpth-of-cut. The Tradesman's crank can be installed on either side of the machine—a handy feature for southpaws.

Height-adjustment scales will get you in the ballpark, but don't rely on them for accuracy. The pointer on each model will adjust slightly to line up accurately with its scale, but we found the scales on the AMT and Tradesman badly misaligned. The Hitachi's accessible, clearly graduated scale was our favorite. The Grizzly is the only planer with its scale located on top of the machine—a nice feature if you plan to set it on the floor, or on a low stand. But the distance between the hairline and the scale makes the setting difficult to read.

The Hitachi and Tradesman each have a dcpth-of-cut indicator which shows how much you're taking off in one pass.

Bad impressions. Chips trapped between the feed rollers and the wood can cause pockmarks, particularly in soft wood. Dust collection helps prevent this.

^ Knife adjustment. To adjust a knife, hold the supplied setting gauge against the cutterhead with the knife touching the gauge. Then tighten the gib bolts with a wrench.

▼ Knives. Hitachi's knife (left) dwarfs the single-edge knife used on the Grizzly, Penn State and Reliant. AMT, Delta 22-540; Jet, Star, Sunhill and Wocxltek use double-edge knives (right center). Delta 22-560 and Ryobi have double-edge, disposable knives (right).

Wc liked the Hitachi's accessible, smooth-operating indicator (see photo, below) but found the Tradesman's version stiff enough to impede smooth feeding of boards into the planer.

The new Delta 22-560 has an innovative lever lock designed to stabilize its cutterhead assembly. Recommended for use on final passes, the lever clamps the cutterhead assembly firmly between the frame sides. Though the lock may contribute to the Delta's excellent quality of cut and negligible snipe, the machine could cut well even with it disengaged.

The Tradesman sports a knob that locks the cutterhead assembly to the frame at one corner. Although this may limit cutterhead movement during heavy cuts, it didn't seem to make any difference locked or unlocked.

Portability is determined by handle placement, machine size and weight. We preferred models with side handles.

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