Benchtop planer

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    If you have a benchtop / lunchbox thickness planer, would you please share your experience using it? I may get a Dewalt 734 or 735, but I see some people saying table top planers are not adequate for working with rough lumber unless the piece is only 3″ wide. So, that’s one line of inquiry. I’d also like to hear what you do for dust management. My plan is to just work outside.

    Much of the rough sawn lumber I’ve gotten has had a fair bit of cup and twist, so the planer will have some work to do after I true one side with scrub and jack planes.

    So far, all of my wood prep has been by hand or by hand plus bandsaw. I’m finding that I’m dragging my feet on some projects because I’m shying away from taking risk because the cost of going back to scratch is so big when I prep wood by hand.


    If you need to get one they work.
    I have a ridgid and with a lot of stock to do i use it. Just take light passes i have used it to 1-10 with no problem.
    I break down my pieces to size now a days and Find i use it less and less.
    I use mine outside so no dust to worry about

    Michael Evans

    I recently got a 735 and it has been game changing for me. I was able to take rough lumber from a oak pallet and turn it into a bunch of usable oak that I am currently using for the desktop organizer box. Being able to take a bunch of 3/4″ stock and take it to 1/2″ & 5/16″ very accurately and quick was great. I did remove the initial twist and cupping via handplanes. I did not get it perfect, just close and then ran face through until I got it flat then flipped and did the face I did by hand.

    I’ve never had or used another planer so I cannot comment on how a benchtop works versus a floor model. For my small amount of removal it worked fine. If I wanted to take a 1″ off of something a bandsaw or hand saw would likely still be the better option followed by the planer as then your not wasting a bunch of material and excessively dulling your knives.

    Larry Geib

    If you are trying to do manufacturing production work, a lunchbox planer isn’t the right choice , but they will plane anything you can stuff in them if you take light cuts. Softwoods, of course, can be planed with thicker cuts.
    The also cut smoother than larger planers with textured steel rollers instead of urethane ones.

    If this is going to be your lifetime tool ( I’ve had a Delta since 1985 that is still going strong, but I’m retired now) consider one with a helical cutter head ( google shelix) . It will cut smoother and with less motor trauma. . It will be a bit quieter, too.
    Instead of getting cutters sharpened or replaced, the carbide heads can be rotated four times before they need to be replaced, and hitting hidden metal is less catastrophic . You just turn or replace the one cutter. Though you will pay more up front, one shelix head will last many years before the cutters need full replacement.
    There are suppliers that will offer them as original equipment, which will save a little.
    if you use the tool enough you will eventually upgrade.

    I’d do that before I went for a larger planer without a helical head, assuming the width is adequate to your needs.


    Michael- What are you using for dust management?

    Larry- When you say light cuts, is that 1/32? I suppose it must depend upon width, but am crossing my fingers “light” can mean 1/16. I mostly use oak and maple.

    How short can pieces be and still be fed? Do I need to throw the ends away because of snipe? One of the best tricks I’ve found for prepping wood by hand is to break the rough lumber into small components before planing. So, that’s why I’m wondering if short pieces can be fed? I will confess publicly that the shop tool that scares me the most is the jointer. I don’t have room for one anyway, so I’ll continue to scrub one side to get something flat enough to go on the table, and that means continuing to break down the rough lumber before planing.

    Sven-Olof Jansson

    Hej, Ed,

    My Makita – very similar to the DeWalt 734 – has been with me for a decade. It’s accuracy and precision have remained unchanged and congruent with what the scale of the machine is set to. Deviations are <±0.2 mm (≈1/128″), also for boards of 8″. It does “bite” a little at the start of the feed, but since the concept of “a thou’ of an inch”, is beyond me, it doesn’t matter, and the bite effect will always be gone before finishing.

    My approach to dimensioning is the one you suggest. With the use of a dedicated scrub plane (edge radius 3″), a fore plane (edge radius 9″), a jack, and occasionally a #7, I get one face and edge in order. Then, the thicknesser will do the rest of the job, taking of < 1/16″ (usually 1 mm) and ending with ≈1/64s. A 735 would surely allow a more aggressive approach, and a spiral cutter more so.

    It’s a noisy thing, but a bit less so with the hood / funnel for the shavings on. Unfortunately that funnel funnels (blushing with apologies) in the wrong direction. So all the shavings fly out through the door opening, where they eventually disappear. There have been more shavings than what the company’s president-general-director finds acceptable. An extractor to vacuum them up has therefore been purchased.

    Sven-Olof Jansson
    London, UK; Boston, MA

    Larry Geib


    You answered your own question. How deep a cut a lunchbox planer will take depends on the width of cut and hardness of wood. Cut your stock to size before you dimension the thickness. You already know that also.

    All lunchbox planers share a limiting feature, and that’s the plug you stick in the wall outlet. A 110v 15 A circuit gives you 1650 watts of power no matter the design of the planer, and effectively you can figure maybe half that with the universal motors on those machines. If you have the extractor, stereo, shop light, and hot plate for your tea on the same circuit, expect poorer results.

    Take solace In the concept that even the poorest lunchbox planer will carve up wood faster than you can by hand.

    If you need more production I refer you back to my first statement. Open your wallet and get a 220v high amperage unit that can handle more work. You don’t want a lunchbox planer. You will of course need the lines circuitry to feed that beast.

    How short a piece you can put into the planer depends on the distance between the infeed and outfeed rollers. Measure and add a couple inches.
    My planer surprisingly will do down to 9” with light cuts, and I’ve done hand plane blanks to that size. Ymmv, but you can sandwich a short piece between longer pieces and you might do better.

    As to snipe, it depends on a lot of things, like how well you have adjusted the infeed and outfeed tables ( get infeed and outfeed tables) how well you installed the blades, and how carefully you feed the stock, and how sharp the blades are. Dull blades beat up wood, they don’t cut it.

    But one thing I will say from 50+ years of woodworking is that all planers have some snipe, it’s just less noticeable on some machines. The 735 has a reputation of being one of the best because it has four screws that raise and lower the head instead of the two most lunch box planers have.
    If someone tells you their planer has no snipe it tells you more about their standards than it does the planer.
    You will need to scrape , plane, or sand any wood that comes out of a planer to get a finished surface.

    And you can get better performance out of a planer by learning how to tune it, just like a Bailey hand plane.

    This fellow has a very good explanation of snipe issues and how to deal with them, and features the 735, one of the planers you mentioned

    Hope that helps.


    Thanks for your help- I purchased a 735x. I feel unclean. 🙂 I hesitated because it seems many go the Shelix route, and that brings the total to a big number close to a stationary machine, but there’s just no room for that. I am probably going to investigate (real, proper) dust collection at some point. What led to all of this is that I a cornice with hollows and rounds and have been dragging my feet mitering it into the final piece. The foot dragging is happening because I think I spent as much time prepping the stock as I did making the profile. (This was crazy walnut that just kept moving every time I flattened and trued it.)

    Larry Geib


    Have fun with your planer . If you do enough work you won’t regret it.

    I understand that in addition to the masterclasses, Paul will be conducting therapy classes for those who have sunk into the depths of machine woodworking. Special emphasis on creating rationale and establishing a path to your next power tool transgression. Emphasis on keeping the power tools you have even if you don’t use them.

    Here is the intro lesson.


    Well, I’m trying to figure out if I received a dud. It takes definite effort to spin the hand wheel to change the thickness. Running the thing up and down full range a few times helped, but I have the impression from various videos I’ve seen that this ought to be an easy, fingertips level of effort rather than a solid grip and wanting to change hands a third of the way up. It is interesting that they provide a 4″ “dust port” but have it restricted down to about 2″ and say in the manual that hooking to shop vac isn’t recommended because of the chip rate. I’m guessing they stepped down to 2″ to increase the air speed to throw the chips. With the outlet stopped down to 2″, I’m wondering if maybe it is a dumb idea to hook up a real collector via a 4″ line because it will starve the collector. I guess you could add a partial bypass to keep enough air moving to let the cyclone work well. One final thing to say, >100 dBA at the operators position.


    Isnt there a lock on the height adjustment ? Unlock spin to height required and relock the thing


    Not on the 735. It has what DeWalt calls automatic locking unlike the 734, which has the manual lock you have in mind.

    Larry Geib

    Try lubricaring the lifting screws and the rotating nuts and the chain that connect them all with Boeshield T-9 or Teflon bicycle chain dry lube. (Boeshield is a parafin with a thinning vehicle Boeing designed for airplanes. ) both will also help with rust prevention. The grease they ship units with is kind of thick. Their main concern is rust in the holds of ships.

    The two issues I see people cite with the 735 is that sometimes the chain jumps a sprocket during shipping, or a screw got bent from rough handling. More likely, the screw shifted out of position from being dropped or something. Try running the machine all the way down and loosening , then retightening each screw where it mounts to the base. They may realign themselves.

    Or if you don’t feel comfortable with that, just send it back for another. You paid lots of money. It should work easily. You could try calling a DeWalt service center near you. The things have pretty good warrantees. I’ve had good results with one near me, which also services the old Deltas.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 8 months ago by Larry Geib.
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