Everyday Woodworking Podcast Season 2, Episode 7
Benchtop Planer Comparison
Today, we’re looking at…Benchtop Planers!
The planer is one of those essential/optional tools for the home shop. You know, you always need one, but you have a hard time justifying it because, well…you don’t exactly always need one. LOL.
Today I’m going to really kick the hornet’s nest and look as objectively as I can at some of the most popular “lunchbox” style planers on the market.
You don’t want to go anywhere because it’s practically guaranteed that I’ll either leave your favorite out, or say something ugly about one you own. Or worse yet, say something good about one you hate!
It’s going to be fun though. So grab a cold one, get ready to watch the train wreck and join us as we do our Benchtop Planer Comparison!
Benchtop Planers. Ah yes…an item that, for some, invokes images of that “one day I’ll have it” tool, and for others, a sneer of disgust, as they catch a gleam of sunlight, flashing off their 20-inch industrial Powermatic, growling in the corner.
But for millions of hobby…well, and pro…woodworkers, the benchtop planer is a godsend.
Lovingly called by many, a “lunchbox” planer, because of its small size and boxy shape, the benchtop planer is just that…a planer that sits on a bench top. Or, a tabletop, as the specific shop may have it.
The Romans seem to have been the first users of the hand plane. And it took til the 1800s for Leonard Bailey to invent the father of today’s modern hand plane. Bailey sold his design to Stanley, and of course the rest the history.
The general idea of a motorized, stationary thickness planer had also been in practice as far back as the 1790s, and exploded in use in the mid 1800s in England and America. These giant steam-driven “Matchers” were used prominently in the furniture and flooring industries, and are still used to some extent today in many industrial applications or in professional shops where multiple planes of a board are addressed simultaneously.
The introduction of the benchtop planer for the home-based or small shop is actually unclear. But suffice it to say, the humble benchtop planer has revolutionized the way the small shop works.
For many of us, the planer ensures uniform thickness in random materials. Or it puts a fresh, smooth edge on a weathered board. For others, it saves quite a bit of money by allowing the user to plane rough stock themselves, versus buying finished lumber at the store.
They take up little space. They’re semi-portable. And their mess can be reasonably controlled. Plus, they’re relatively inexpensive, as shop tools go, although, it could be one of your biggest purchases.
One thing about the lunchbox. It’s loud. Good lord, they’re loud. So definitely safety up when you wheel yours out. It screams like a banshee and will fling a decent sized chunk of whatever you’re planning, at you like a bullet. Not to mention, the occasional entire board, if not used properly.
Give even though they’re mostly safe, give them their due respect if you want to stay 100 percent.
Before we move on though, let’s take a minute for a word from our friends and partners.
OK, welcome back.
So again, today, we’re looking at half a dozen of my favorite benchtop planers. Some are the most popular on the market at the time, and some are just because I like them.
But all in all, if you’re in the market for a Benchtop Planer of your own, you should be able to find what you’re looking for, within these ranks. And hopefully, after this report, you’ll be armed with enough info to buy with confidence.
Today’s Contenders include:
The Craftsman CMEW320
The Ryobi AP 1305
The Delta 22-555
Bauer 1621 E-B
We’ll take a quick look at each of them in no particular order, and give you the impartial data, collected from a variety of online sources.
We’ll also have a link in the shop notes to our free Comprehensive Comparison Spreadsheet, exclusively for our Patreon Supporters.
Well let’s get this party started. Benchtop Planers…head to head. Here we go.
The DeWalt DW734
I don’t have a lot of first-hand experience with DeWalt, except a corded drill that someone gave me, second hand, it lasted ME for like, 15 years. So based on that, and on the online comments I see, DeWalt is considered a real workhorse. I can only assume their planers are the same.
As for price, at $499, the DW734 clocks in at the second most expensive planer on our list. But it is a 3-blade planer, which is a plus. And at 33.5 inches, it has the longest combined input and outfeed table lengths of any of its competitors. Its maximum rpms is 10K, which is about in the middle.
It is quite heavy though. (80 lbs) That could be attributed to a good quality construction, but it could also be just due to a lack of innovative engineering. I can’t really say for sure. But it definitely makes it tough to move around the shop, if you’re like me and can’t give it a dedicated home.
All in all, I’d say it’s not drop dead sexy, but in this class, I doubt it’s supposed to be. But it is pretty impressive, and I’d be inclined to buy it, if money wasn’t a barrier.
Next up, the big orange. Ridgid has definitely made a name for themselves as the upper-end of the homeowner grade tool manufacturer. They make good stuff, fairly affordable, readily available and they seem to be on the cusp of things as far as innovation goes.
The Ridgid lunchbox is one that I’ve been drooling over for quite a while. Every time I have to go to Home Depot to grab a box of pocket screws, it’s sitting there on the opposing shelf, just mocking me. So we cross paths, on a regular basis.
At $459, is just behind the DeWalt, and is the 3rd most pricey of the planers in our group. It also has 3 cutting blades, which, IMO is again, quite a plus. Three blades just give you a greater tendency for smoother cutting, overall.
It maxes out at 9K RPMS…I’m not sure why. That seems low to me, but I probably need someone to explain the value of RPMs in a planer. I would think you would want a higher RPM, but I’m not sure.
The Ridgid is only 1 of 2 planers in our group that have the ability to accept a full 13-inch wide material. The rest are just 12 ½ inches.
And it looks like the Ridgid is the only planer we compared that has a lifetime service agreement. That was interesting. I’m not sure what the details of that may be, but it initially sounds very impressive.
Next, the Craftsman CMEW320.
Now for me, I grew up when Craftsman hand tools were the picture of durability and American made dependability. I mean, you knew, if you had a Craftsman combination wrench, and you EVER had a problem with it, you just took it back to the local Sears store and they gave you another one. It was amazing.
And because of that, the Craftsman power tools carried that same reputation along with them. I don’t know if they deserved that, completely, but they were good tools and they were affordable. And in the days before places like Home Depot and Lowe’s, having Craftsman in a Sears store was huge.
You may remember me talking about how my family started woodworking, back in the 80’s. My dad went to Sears, bought a radial arm saw, a band saw, a drill and sander, and turned me loose. They were all Craftsman, and they lasted us for years and years.
So the Craftsman planer is intriguing to me. I believe Lowe’s has either bought the Craftsman name now, or they at least are the exclusive distributor for it. But nevertheless…
Unfortunately, Craftsman power tools do not have the same trust among consumers that they once held. And I think their planer is sort of the case in point as to why that is.
The Craftsman is the second largest planer in our group. And its input and outfeed table lengths are woefully lacking. Actually almost half the length of everyone else. That makes snipe really, really hard to battle…as if it wasn’t already.
It has the lowest RPM rating, at 8K. And we’re down to 2 blades.
It does have a carriage lock and dust collection, which is on par with the rest of the pack. And it is the 2nd least expensive in the bunch. So it is very affordable.
It’s quite light though, at under 65 pounds. It’s about in the middle for our group.
Let’s take a quite break, with a word from some of our friends and partners.
Ryobi AP 1305
Next, the Ryobi AP 1305.
Now Ryobi, IMO, is THE homeowner grade power tool, today. They have a huge catalog, wide availability, a nice reputation, and they’re very affordable.
For me, almost every power tool I have for our woodworking business, is a Ryobi. I’ve used most of them for nearly 6 years, on a daily basis, and they have been super dependable.
They aren’t exactly dead-on accurate, like with my table saw. But they get the job done, and for me, they live up to what they’re reported to be. Which is great, affordable tools.
I once had a guy at a local tool store tell me that you just “can’t make a living with these tools”. But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. But I take care of my stuff.
Back to my old adage…buy the best tool you can afford at the time, then take care of it. That has served us well, and I daresay, it will continue to do so.
Frankly, I was not familiar with the Ryobi benchtop planer. I’ve got a Ryobi powered hand planer, and I really don’t care for it, but the benchtop model, I really didn’t even know they made one until now.
It’s no GOAT, but it’s OK.
It’s actually in the middle on almost everything. Price, dimensions, material opening, warranty. And that’s actually, expected.
It is heavy though. Matching its nemesis, the Ridgid at just under 73 pounds. And it only had 2 blades. Non-reversible ones, at that.
The RPMs are surprising though, with the max rating at 18,800. Wow! I would assume that’s a big thumbs up, but again, I need to dig not that more to be sure.
The Ryobi was the only one that doesn’t even try to claim to be American made, which was surprising. Although, these days, it’s hard to know what is and what isn’t, according to the definitions the government uses.
Next, the Delta 22-555.
This guy doesn’t seem to be in the mix whenever I see the typical planer comparisons. And I don’t know why. It’s no runaway, but the Delta is a solid contender.
It has a reputation though, as do all Delta tools. For me, this was the first planer I ever used. A friend loaned me his for a few weeks, and it spoiled me.
I ran all manner of material through it, swapped blades easily, dealt with shavings without issue. All in all, it was just a great, little, problem-free machine. And I always said I’d buy one when I got my own.
Well, I didn’t, but I still respect the Delta, and I made sure to add it in, here. And it holds its own quite well.
It is the largest of the bunch, but surprisingly, the lightest, at a scant 58 pounds. It is the most expensive though, retailing for $535.
9,400 RPM limit, and two blades. Not all that impressive. But it’s the only other planer that will take 13-inch wide material, so that’s a big plus.
Everyone else has a 3-year warranty. The Delta steps it up with a full five years. That impresses me.
Bauer 1621 E-B
Finally, we have the Bauer 1621 E-B.
In case you aren’t familiar with the name, this is one of Harbor Freight’s brands. And…it happens to be the planer that we own and use in our woodworking business.
Harbor Freight, IMO get s bad rap for selling cheap tools. And frankly, they do…their tools are generally cheap, as in “inexpensive”. Some of their tools are also cheap, as in “crap”. But honestly, I’ve bought thousands of dollars worth of HF tools, and have rarely run across the crap.
The Bauer is a cool name to me because it makes me think of Jack Bauer. And anything that relates back to Kiefer Sutherland gets instant cool points.
But aside from that, it’s the most affordable in the bunch, retailing for a mere $359. And if you’re like me, you can use your Inside Track membership and find a sale and snag one for $282. Now that’s a deal.
Along with the Ryobi, the Bauer boast a whopping 18,800 max RPM for its two non-reversible blades.
Everything else was about average. Except the input and outfeed table length, matching the Ryobi for the second longest in the bunch. Very nice. It also matches the weight of the Craftsman at just under 65 pounds.
The downside with the Bauer, and this is just Harbor Freight…is the warranty. 90 days, and that’s it. Everyone else is 3 years, except the Delta. That’s not very long, and it’s an area that I think HF should re-evaluate when it comes to large purchases. But that’s just me.
And look at that! We’re done.
I know that was a little long, but it’s about as abbreviated as I felt like I could do. Still…lots of info we could cover on these guys. Chances are, I’ll revisit some of these in more detail in a later episode.
Y’all let me know which one or ones you’d like to know more about an I’ll start prepping for it.
One of the best places to share your thoughts or questions is on our new Facebook Group. Just search for Everyday Woodworking on the Facebook app and join us there or I’ll leave a link to the group in our show notes.
Hey, I hope this was helpful. And again, just to remind you…
We’ll have a link in the show notes to our free Comprehensive Comparison Spreadsheet, with all of this data, and a whole lot more, exclusively for our Patreon Supporters.
Also, we’ll have links to each of the manufacturer’s websites for these planers, and links for you to purchase any of them if you want. FYI, these are affiliate links so please use them…it helps us out a little, but it doesn’t cost you any extra to do so.
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And that is it for now. Again, thank you so much for being here. We hope you enjoyed this. Have a great day, and we’ll look forward to seeing you next time…right here, on Everyday Woodworking.
DeWalt DW734 - https://amzn.to/3DMqYT9
Dewalt - https://www.dewalt.com/
Ridgid R4331 - https://amzn.to/3j7f2Du
Ridgid – https://www.ridgid.com/
Craftsman CMEW320 - https://amzn.to/3pjRpLI
Craftsman - https://www.craftsman.com/
Ryobi AP 1305 - https://www.homedepot.com/p/RYOBI-15-Amp-12-1-2-in-Corded-Thickness-Planer-with-Planer-Knives-Knife-Removal-Tool-Hex-Key-and-Dust-Hood-AP1305/316461103
Ryobi - https://www.ryobitools.com/
Delta 22-555 - https://amzn.to/3DPnUFU
Delta - https://deltamachinery.com/
Bauer 1621 E-B - https://www.harborfreight.com/15-amp-12-12-in-portable-thickness-planer-63445.html
Harbor Freight - https://www.harborfreight.com/
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