Testing And Rating The Planers

Testing got underway as soon as we unpacked each machine. Editors wrote down impressions and discussed 'pros' and 'cons' as we went through the setup process. We checked for proper knife alignment and extension table adjustment, took test cuts from heavy to light, and commented on how difficult or easy it was to make necessary adjustments. We also did plenty of lifting and shifting to assess portability. This shakedown process enabled us to establish the performance ratings discussed below.

Performance Ratings

These ratings relate to five specific features and qualities—the ones that are most important in choosing the right planer for your shop.

Quality of cut—After setting up the planers to produce their best possible cuts, we ran pine, oak and maple boards through each machine. The quality of cut rating refers to the overall smoothness of the planed surfaces we obtained.

Snipe—Snipe relates to quality of cut. But it deserves a separate rating because it can seriously affect the quality of the workpiece, and because we found significant variations in snipe among our test machines. (See sidebar and main text, page 68.) We measured snipe with a dial caliper._

Controls—This is a measure of user-friendliness. We rated factors like the smoothness of crank or handwheel operation, and the accuracy and readability of depth scales.

Knife changing—This rating indicates how easy it was to remove, replace and reset the knives.

Portability—We hoisted each machine from the floor to a bench and then to a vehicle, noting how easy it was to grasp and lift.

Overall Ratings

These bar graph ratings provide a reliable measure of overall quality and value, and show how the planers compare. They're generated by combining the performance ratings with several other factors: fit and finish, ease of setup, cost of replacement knives, and extension table solidity and adjustability.



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Snipe. Most planers cut the List few inches of a board a few thousandths of an inch thinner than the rest of the board. Snipe is obvious when placed under a glancing light as shown here.

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