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Pwk5017

15" versus 20" planer

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I have been thinking about upgrading my dewalt 735 for a few months now. Its the only planer I have ever owned, and it is a good one, but I feel like I am pushing it past its limits. I make table tops, islands, counters etc for profit in my free time. This means I mill quite a bit of lumber for a home shop. Even more so, im milling 100-150 bf in one go. Herein lies my problem with the 735: speed, capacity, and power. When I am planing my boards, I feel like I am standing at this machine forever. I also have to take many passes, because im only taking off 1/32"ish per pass. Now, I will give credit where credit is due, this machine handles short pieces(12-24") as fast as I can load and unload them in succession. On longer boards, I can take a nap in between feeding a board in and unloading the planed board. So, here is where I need help. I have been told that stationary machine feed rates run circles around bench top models. Also, I can up my cut to 1/16ish and skip multiple passes. Unfortunately, most stationary machines require knife setting, which I hate doing on my 8" jointer. This means if I get a new planer, I either want some sort of quick-set cutterhead or a helical head. Im leaning towards going whole hog and getting the 20" model with a helical head, but this would be a sizable chunk of money brand new. I think the grizzly is $2500ish. They don't pop up often on the used market, and I just cannot make financial sense of buying a used conventional planer and spending $1000 to upgrade to a helical head. In some cases, its cheaper to buy new and save myself the hassle of swapping out the cutterhead. The 20 would be nice for cleaning up subassemblies or smaller panels, and would give me the option of feeding 2-3 boards at once instead of doing single file on the 735. Now, there are two reasons the 15" is still in play at this point. One, its cheaper. Two, im concerned about fitting a 20" planer in my basement. My shop is in the basement of my house, which is at grade with the garage and driveway accessed through a typical door. Getting it into the shop shouldn't be too much of an issue, might have to take it apart to get it through the door. Where I am concerned is with its final resting place. My shop organizational layout most likely sucks, but it would go right next to my 37" dual drum sander. There is a support column I battle daily--bane of my existence-- that would present an issue as well. As it stands, my 735 is on a homemade cart that is about 26" wide. This leaves me about 3' of space between the cart and the drum sander, and is a main walking corridor for me. I maybe have a few inches to move the planer towards the column. Looking at Grizzly's specs, the 20" model is 39.5" wide(overall), but the footprint is 23.5" by 29.5". Where is that 16" delta coming from? The crank handle and the switch? 23.5-30" wide would easily fit in the space I have. The 40" makes me pretty nervous. Does anyone have a 20" planer that wouldn't mind throwing some dimensions at me? Any pros/cons im missing between the 20", 15" and 735?

 

Finally, buy new or play the waiting game for used? I buy everything used at bargain basement prices, because I am patient, but I feel like the higher I climb on the tool ladder, the more likely it is I need to buy new. If that's the case, get the grizzly, or is there another model I should consider? PM's $3500+ price tag just seems absurd.

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I have neither.  But I have thought about upgrading my planer(the even lazier 734), originally was thinking the 20" helical.  Seemed like something I would never out grow.  I was fully convince that was the right path, till my shop moved.  Then I started to think about what I really would need.  I don't regularly buy lumber that is wider than 15" (or 8" for that matter).  So really the value of the 20" would be in panel glue ups....but then the question is when do I have panel glue ups that are >15" and <20".  Add to that most 20" planers are 5 HP drawing 19 A requiring a minimum circuit of 30 A, which means running 10 AWG instead of 12 (which I already have...just swap out the breaker and outlet...yes its a dedicated circuit).  And for the price of a 20" I could get a 15" and a supermax 19-38 (which is sounds like you already have...or at least the equivalent).   For me, I couldn't figure out what the additional cost would get me in terms of benefits.  Obviously this is all hypothetical but those are my thoughts.  I guess if you did large glue ups mostly in the rough it could be handy?

 

The main reasons I want to upgrade are  noise, and cut depth/speed; increased width would be nice, but after glue ups I think I would be better off with a sander.

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Around 10 years ago had a dewalt 735. I upgraded to a general 20" and it was awesome. I ended up selling everything cause i burnt myself out doing kitchens and jobs for other people so i figured i was done with the hobby. That didnt last long and i repurchased the whole shop again a few years later.

All to say, i debated getting the 20" again but went with the powermatic 15hh. I do not miss my 20" at all. 15 takes up significantly less room and isnt lacking in power. Byrd head is incredible. I have a supermax 19-38 so it made the decision easy. If you have a large drum sander you can run your glue ups through that.

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I have neither.  But I have thought about upgrading my planer(the even lazier 734), originally was thinking the 20" helical.  Seemed like something I would never out grow.  I was fully convince that was the right path, till my shop moved.  Then I started to think about what I really would need.  I don't regularly buy lumber that is wider than 15" (or 8" for that matter).  So really the value of the 20" would be in panel glue ups....but then the question is when do I have panel glue ups that are >15" and <20".  Add to that most 20" planers are 5 HP drawing 19 A requiring a minimum circuit of 30 A, which means running 10 AWG instead of 12 (which I already have...just swap out the breaker and outlet...yes its a dedicated circuit).  And for the price of a 20" I could get a 15" and a supermax 19-38 (which is sounds like you already have...or at least the equivalent).   For me, I couldn't figure out what the additional cost would get me in terms of benefits.  Obviously this is all hypothetical but those are my thoughts.  I guess if you did large glue ups mostly in the rough it could be handy?

 

The main reasons I want to upgrade are  noise, and cut depth/speed; increased width would be nice, but after glue ups I think I would be better off with a sander.

The electrical requirements are a good point. I run everything off a 60amp subpanel. My cyclone consumes 22amps, which basically limits me to running only one other 5hp tool. The 37" sander is a 5hp motor, and the planer will be right next to it, so they can share the same 10awg 30amp line. I might sound stupid here, but I didn't realize they sold double plug 220v receptacles, so I wouldn't be adding any additional breakers/romex etc. Either the 20" would be tied into the sander's 30amp, or the 15" would be tied into the unisaw's 20amp. In either case, I am pretty sure I am done adding breakers and runs in my shop.

 

Flattening panels can be mildly painful through a drum sander. I have one of the more badass drum sanders you can buy, and it can be excruciatingly slow at times. I know there are a ton of drum sander fanboys on this site, but I consider those tools to be finicky and slow. I haven't seen the 19-38 run, but I am blown away that people love them so much. I have two drums sanding the same panel in a single pass with 333% the HP more power than the 19-38, and I keep a book near my sander for light reading while it sands a table top. If I had the 19-38 doing it even slower in 2-4 times the passes, that book would be replaced with a handgun or fistful of pills. I truly love my sander at times, but they have severe limitations. For example, I would be better served to do a 36" table top glue up in two halves, send them through the 20" planer, glue them, then clean up the completed top with the sander. As it stands today, I would need to do 3-4 sub assemblies to send through the dewalt, and then the sander. That is a hassle, so I do it all at once and use the sander.

 

One fear I have with upgrading is I read about the finish not being superb through some stationary planers. The serrated knives limit how light of a cut you can take, and I have heard the 735 is more accurate for precise dimensioning. I don't know how a plastic $600 machine is outperforming a hulking cast iron $3000 machine, but its what I have read. Now, this might just mean I need to rework my flow and go from planer to drum sander on 120/150 grit to do my final dimensioning. I don't always go to the drum sander after my dewalt.

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Around 10 years ago had a dewalt 735. I upgraded to a general 20" and it was awesome. I ended up selling everything cause i burnt myself out doing kitchens and jobs for other people so i figured i was done with the hobby. That didnt last long and i repurchased the whole shop again a few years later.

All to say, i debated getting the 20" again but went with the powermatic 15hh. I do not miss my 20" at all. 15 takes up significantly less room and isnt lacking in power. Byrd head is incredible. I have a supermax 19-38 so it made the decision easy. If you have a large drum sander you can run your glue ups through that.

Your statement, and marc going down to a 15" is why im evening considering the 15". 2" capacity gain over the 735 sounds negligible, but it might give me what im looking for--speed/power. I wish I could see a 15" next to a 20". The more I think about this, im not even worried about the $1000 difference between the two. I make OK money off my tools, so I typically only shed a small tear when I first plunk down cash on them. I really don't want the 20" to make my basement unnavigable. That 7" width difference between the two might be the difference between me comfortably passing between two machines, and me routinely ramming a body part into one of them as I walk by with a board.

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You are much better off purchasing a high-quality 15” planer than a second-tier 20” planer. A nice PM 15” HH (Byrd*) costs about the same as a second-tier 20” and will be more useful... Especially true if you have (or plan to purchase) a drum sander...

 

 

That being said, when you get to 20” 4-posters, you start getting pressure bars... Planers with pressure bars do a much better job planning difficult stock, leave less snipe, manage rough stock, have a heavier frame, etc...  All things being equal, a 20” planer with a pressure bar will leave a better result over a 15”, but at an increase in cost. Again, if you have a drum sander, the difference starts to drop in significance (unless you want to work rough stock)...  But -- and it's a big but -- if you want to work rough stock, you should look at planers with pressure bars...

 

 

 

Production improvements planning multiple components on a wider planer are mostly illusory. Batch planning is a labor problem – one person feeding, one receiving... The ability to feed one more piece at a time may seem like it’ll be a big improvement, but you’ve still got to stop, travel to the outfeed side, receive the stock and stack it... There is a pause in the action, so feeding one more stick in parallel won’t really make that much difference – some difference, but not a lot in the big scheme of things...

 

 

 

*Note: a helical head is very useful in planers, but of questionable use in jointers... Also note, it’s worth paying the incremental for a true helical (Byrd-type) head... But note, ‘spiral’, ‘segmented’, and many other mfg’s ‘helical-sounding’ aren’t true helical heads. Also note, many mfg’s use inclusive language implying they are true helical, but they aren’t – kind of like the language ClearVue uses to imply HEPA certification, but isn’t... Many mfg’s are just surfing the helical wave and are of dubious utility... If you want to get a helical head, suck-it-up and get a true helical head – not an ‘almost’ helical head...

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I wish I could see a 15" next to a 20".

 

3.5 hour drive to Grizzly showroom in Muncy. =)

 

 

 

...the difference starts to drop in significance (unless you want to work rough stock)...  But -- and it's a big but -- if you want to work rough stock, you should look at planers with pressure bars...

 

How do you define rough here?  How rough is rough enough for it to make a difference?

 

 

 

Also note, it’s worth paying the incremental for a true helical (Byrd-type) head... But note, ‘spiral’, ‘segmented’, and many other mfg’s ‘helical-sounding’ aren’t true helical heads. Also note, many mfg’s use inclusive language implying they are true helical, but they aren’t – kind of like the language ClearVue uses to imply HEPA certification, but isn’t... Many mfg’s are just surfing the helical wave and are of dubious utility... If you want to get a helical head, suck-it-up and get a true helical head – not an ‘almost’ helical head...

 

Aren't the non-helical spiral ones just a way of compensating for weak power?   Essentially just straight cut but only cutting a portion of the width at a time so less power needed and less noise produced?   Do you consider them essentially worthless or are they "better" than knives but less than true helical?

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Aren't the non-helical spiral ones just a way of compensating for weak power? Essentially just straight cut but only cutting a portion of the width at a time so less power needed and less noise produced? Do you consider them essentially worthless or are they "better" than knives but less than true helical?

I'm glad I read all the way down because I was about to type a question in the same spirit as this.

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==> How do you define rough here?
Rough stock is off the saw and not planed... Maybe Shannon or Eric can chime-in with a better definition... You get two things: much thicker stock – 4/4 S3S tends to end-up at ¾ while 4/4 rough tends to end-up at 1”. Also a favorable price – QSWO is around $4.50 rough and around $10 S3S... Just did some garden planters with 140bf QSWO – going rough gives quite a price difference and the beefier stock looks good in that application... You don’t always need 1” finished thickness, but it’s nice when you do...

 

 

==>Aren't the non-helical spiral ones just a way of compensating for weak power?
A component, but not the entire story... Tends to be a Marketing position by those not offering true helical heads... But yes, underpowered milling gear tends to use spiral cutter heads to help manage power issues. But let’s not lose the thread – true helical heads are more expensive, have a superior geometry (angle of attack) and leave a superior cut...

 

 

==>Do you consider them essentially worthless or are they "better" than knives but less than true helical?
Worthless...that’s a reach... But there are some very dubious segmented systems out there (you know, 15”, but 60 cutters – that sort of thing). So, in some cases, I’d take some of the better knives systems (and actually, I do). Why? You can purchase back-beveled knives for a better cut on figured stock with 10-minuite change-out (and some with 30s change-out)... There’s an old thread covering this in detail – actually, Don gives a good overview of the subject and was strongly in the knife camp (go figure)... Not all segmented systems are the same and not all knife systems are nightmares... I use an insert system, so I've got no dog in this show...

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==> How do you define rough here?

Rough stock is off the saw and not planed... Maybe Shannon or Eric can chime-in with a better definition... You get two things: much thicker stock – 4/4 S3S tends to end-up at ¾ while 4/4 rough tends to end-up at 1”. Also a favorable price – QSWO is around $4.50 rough and around $10 S3S... Just did some garden planters with 140bf QSWO – going rough gives quite a price difference and the beefier stock looks good in that application... You don’t always need 1” finished thickness, but it’s nice when you do...

 

Gotcha...I didn't know if you meant really gnarly rough that still have big saw marks or just merely anything not yet surfaced at all.    Kinda the "guy that runs his own sawmill out on his property" versus "non-surfaced stuff at <random wood store>".

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==>rough stock at sawmills

I order from mom&pop mills, where possible --- mostly in Eastern PA...

 

Unfortunately, many didn't survive the recession – but some are starting-up again -- on a limited basis... Some of these ‘mills’ are two guys, a Wood-Mizer and a back-yard kiln.  OK, that maybe a slight exaggeration, but driving down some of those small out of town dirt roads, you start to hear banjos and someone yelling, “Squeal like a pig!”... Well, maybe not -- but if you're from Eastern PA, you know what I'm talking about... :)

 

I tended to arrange these visits after a morning at the range – PA tends to be a bit more liberal --- with gun laws... :)

 

I only get a bit nervous if the first question isn’t, “Can I help you?”... But, “Anyone knows you here?”... :)

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Check with Shannon Rogers (rennaisanncewoodwoorker.com / handtoolschool.net ). I believe he uses a Grizzly 20" helical planer. Surely he can give you a few good tips.

Nah, I don't think it was a #20. I think it was a #7 or 8

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Nah, I don't think it was a #20. I think it was a #7 or 8

Tip of the cap. Good joke.

 

This discussion really hasn't gone in this direction, but I think im leaning towards a 20" grizzly with the byrd head. They will put in a byrd head for you at the factory/warehouse, right? Do you save money or break even doing this? Ive read multiple professional reviews of the four post planers and they all swear the PM is no different than Jet, Grizzly, GI etc. I do hear triple h on the byrd versus knockoff designs. I can believe there is a performance difference there. I know most posts in this thread have leaned towards getting the 15" helical, but I fear I will want more capacity. What I don't want is to experience what I do daily with my 8" jointer--a board that is 8.25-8.5" wide. Something that is just a smidge greater than what your machine can handle is very frustrating. If I can fit the 20", I think I need to go with the 20". Another machine comparison example would be my 37" sander versus the next step down, a 25". I would kick myself 100x a day if I passed on a 37" for a 25". Those 12" make one hell of a difference 50-60% of the time. 

 

Triple h, that is true that you need two guys feeding boards to push a machine to its greatest efficiency, but it might get busy enough where I call my fiancé down, or have my brother come over for a milling session.

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Sometimes, you've just got talk yourself into something. I hopersonally the 20" lives up to your expectations.

I am no pro, and only own one new pm machine where as I have 3 machines purchased from grizzly. I will tell you straight up, the fit and finish of the pm is much better than grizz. I'm not a machinist that will throw out all these radical part facts but how something feels to me, and acts during assembly has in the past been a good harbinger of how it will perform years down the line.

If I'm dropping 4 digits on a tool, dang right it is expected to be perfect.

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