When it comes to woodworking with hardwood lumber, there are two tools that I can’t do without. One is a flat-blade cabinet scraper and the other is a planer. Maybe this new Delta 13″ two speed planer will allow me to leave the scraper behind.
The concept behind portable planers is so simple: a couple of knives on a rotating drum shave rough wood smooth and thick wood thinner. That’s it. The reality of feed rate, rotation speed of the cutter head, in feed and out feed table set up and just how the cutter head is raised, lowered and locked in place can be a bit trickier. And knife marks – the very slight ridges left behind by the cutter head’s blade rotating across the moving wood – has been pretty much accepted as status quo. (Excepting, of course, the most expensive floor standing planers costing many thousands of dollars.) Hence, my dependence on a well sharpened cabinet scraper. (It stays in my right back pocket and I can pull it out faster than a gun-slinger in Dodge City when unsightly knife marks come calling.)
Enter Delta’s model 22-580, 13″ two speed “finishing planer”. It does all the stuff that other planers do. It shaves rough wood smooth and thick wood thinner & but it can be adjusted to do something else. They have added a speed control that adjusts how fast or slow the stock is fed through the planer (two different speed settings). By slowing down the feet per minute feed rate of the machine, the number of cuts per inch dramatically increases. (From 60 cuts per inch at the dimensioning speed of 22.4 feet per minute, to 90 CPI at the slower 14.8 FPM.) While I’m sure that if you looked wood surfaced with the 90 CPI setting under a microscope you could still see knife marks, in the real world they are no longer evident. This is a very significant development in portable planers. As I implied earlier, to get similar results previously would have required a much larger and more expensive planer.
The 22-580 has other features as well: two double sided reversible knives, nice sized chrome-plated in feed and out feed tables, well designed controls and an anti-snipe lock. But to me, these are just frosting on the cake. Ultra-smooth surfaced wood is the goal of all planers. Delta has increased the quality of what is available to the home and small professional shop by a large factor. And even though it will reduce the opportunities I’ll have to impress my friends with my lighting fast scraper-skills, I think Delta’s 22-580 is a sure woodworking winner.