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Thread: lunchbox vs stationary planer

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SF Bay Area

    lunchbox vs stationary planer

    Will folks please comment on the advantages of stationary planers vs lunchbox planers. I have a Makita 2012 and wonder if the finish that comes off of a planer/jointer combination machine will be substantially better. I'm aware that it will me much quieter to run. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    East Tennessee
    It depends on your intended use.
    I mill all of my own lumber and couldn't fathom being tied down to a lunch box planer. Milling long, heavy and wide pieces is much easier with a stationary machine. I suppose it could be done but I couldn't imagine running a couple of thousand B/F of rough sawn, wide, long and heavy lumber through a lunch box.
    On the other hand if your intended use is just going to use it to thickness smaller amounts and pieces a lunch box planer would be ideal.
    I have a 15" Shop Fox planer and wish I had purchased the 20".

  3. #3
    Actually the finish on those lunch boxes will probably be better than the stationary - unless the stationary has a good quality byrd head with a decent diameter cutter shaft. I haven't used my dewalt finish planer since putting byrd cutters on my 20 inch Grizzly

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Doylestown, PA
    I had a Delta 22-580 and sold it and a 6" jointer for a Jet Jointer/Planer. The finish quality did not improve but didn't decrease noticeably either. My Jet JJP has straight knives, I've never used a machine with a helical head. Stationary machines are should be more durable - induction motor vs. universal motor, stouter castings and bearings. My primary reason for upgrading was for the wider jointer. I use mostly air dried rough sawn stock and a lot of it was wider than what an 8" jointer would handle easily. I'm happy with the swap but it depends on what you're doing and what you want.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    SE PA - Central Bucks County
    One small advantage goes to "lunch box" planers and that's when you're working with very thin material or taking very thin cuts. Stationary planers typically use a serrated feed roller and that can mark deeper than the cut one might take for those applications. Otherwise, stationary planers are heavier and more durable and also available in capacities beyond 12" width. While stationary planers are not "quiet", they do not have that "high pitched scream" that the universal motors in "lunch box" planers have.

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Upland CA
    Good advice from Jim. As stated above, it depends on whether you plan to process your own lumber, or just thin out and surface wood to size for projects.

    I am a hobbyist, and fall in the later catagory. I had a 15" Jet which was great for starting with rough sawn wood, but as Jim stated, it always left serrated marks on the finished surface. I sold it and got a DeWalt 735 which fits my needs much better. I have run a lot of wood through it, and it gives me a very nice finish. It is loud, but much better for my needs, and earmuffs are cheap.

    I have a simple piece of melamine particle board about 2' long with a cleat on the leading edge to keep it from moving. This allows me to plane thin boards very nicely. I have planed down to about 1/8" with no problems.
    Rick Potter

    DIY journeyman,
    FWW wannabe.
    AKA Village Idiot.

  7. #7
    I went from a 735 to a PM209hh last year, and i would say the byrd head is a downgrade compared to the 735. I have the scalloped ridges everyone talks about, and i dont find it to be much better with reversing grain. Full disclosure, i still feel like i was sold a bit of snake oil by most opinions on the net. However, to me the stationary planer with carbide inserts wasnt about improving cut quality etc. I was ramming a lot of wood through the dewalt, and the pace left a lot to be desired. In addition to pace, i was holding my breath over when it would eventually kick the bucket. Im sure they last awhile, but i was 2-3,000 bdft into it and wanted to sell it before i broke it. Import 20" machines arent invincible, but at 1-2,000 bdft a year it should last me for quite awhile without trouble. Im no longer limited to 1/32-1/16" passes, and the PM on slow gear is much faster. Similar to having a narrow jointer, i am now using the 13-20" wide boards ive accumulated, but never touched because my tooling didnt match their dimensions. I cant outright say the powermatic is better than the dewalt, they are just different. I wanted wider, faster, and more robust to suit my needs. The dewalt could be a better machine(and significantly less expensive too!) for some people given the circumstances.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    West Central Alberta, East of the Rockies - West of the Rest
    I will not mention any specific brands but there are cheap (quality) and more high end lunchbox planers and the same holds true for stationary planers. However, if you run any lunchbox planer all day every day at full capacity you won't get much life (duty cycle) out of it and it simply won't be able to work at all with dull knives as where a large industrial planer with dull knives just leaves a rougher surface. IMHO, both planers outfitted with new knives and taking a thin layer of wood of should leave a very comparable finish. No matter how you stretch it, running a 13" board through a 13" lunchbox planer is a workout even at the thinnest setting. Also, most higher end stationary planers can be bought with rubber outfeed rollers to eliminate marring.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Evanston, IL
    The finish off my DW735 with sharp knives is better than I used to get with a 15" Delta stationary planer, and I like the easy replacement of dull or nicked knives. On the other hand, it takes too long to plane down rough sawn lumber and it does scream. It is certainly a cheaper option if that matters to you. You'll likely pay more for a Byrd head for a 15" planer than the DW735 costs in total. As was mentioned above, there are big differences in quality within each class of planer. I had a Delta 12" many years ago and, while it was lighter than the DW735, the Delta was no match for it in power or finish.

  10. #10
    Before buying mine (G1037z equiv from craftex in Canada) I ran some tests. Conclusions:

    1 - finish quality depends on the cutters, the feed rate, and the wood, not how the machine is mounted or powered (unless the machine is so light relative to the job that it moves; that's a disaster for finish quality);

    2 - noise matters

    3 - the lunch boxes work ok for small pieces fed slowly, are easy to move around, and take normal 15 amp, 110 volt power. The better stationary units are heavy, take 220 volt power, and are not easily moved except on wheels within the workshop.

    4 - the heavier machines have it all over the little guys when you want to plane longer boards. There is no comparison between feeding a 12 foot long piece of jatoba through a small stationary unit like the G0137z and doing it on a lunchbox. Basically, one is just some work, the other needs planning, care, clamps, and a lot of time.

  11. #11
    We use our Powermatic 180 for roughing and either our Makita or Rigid for finishing.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Central Indiana
    With regard to using a stationary planer, I will say that those who are seeing significant marks from the serrated feed roller do not have their planer set up properly. The planer blades should be set below the teeth of the feed roller. I have bought and used 4 stationary planers and set them up according to specs from Bob Vaughan. There used to be a great video on this.

    I started with a screamer lunchbox planer, and they do a great job for short boards. Universal motors will not last long, the gears will eventually sheer, and you cannot take much thickness off the board. Moreover, I have found that snipe is generally worse on those lunchbox planers than on a well tuned floor planer.

    I started with a Ryobi and have had one of the "elite" DeWalt lunchbox planers. If you do not ever want to do setup on a planer...get a lunchbox planer, but live with it's limitations. I have seen the edges on the DeWalt planer blades fold over on oak and walnut. I hope they have fixed that. I also have/do own a Robland 12" J/P that works great, a Sunhill 20" with a Byrd Style head I installed, an old beast Williams & Hussey 12" planer/molder, and a Parks 12" planer. If you aren't willing to go to Harbor freight and buy a dial indicator, you have no business in buying a floor planer.

    With regards to a Byrd head, if you wont buy a torque wrench, you shouldn't buy one. So many of our machines require 3+ hours of setup to ensure that you get proper results. They are not set up properly from the factory, regardless of manufacturer for the floor model machines. The setup time is offset by the throughput on the bigger machines. I use almost exclusively roughsawn lumber, including exotics, and I have burned up the lunchtop versions. I am not a mechanic, so I feel everyone's pain in the setup, but I feel like much of the negative comments on floor planers are related to poor setup by the owners.

    I personally use my Robland planer with straight carbide blades for most uses, and don't find the minor sanding difference between this and the old lunchtop planers justifies the very slow feed rate of lunchtop planers.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Deep South
    I used a Ridgid TP1300 for 10 years before acquiring a Jet JJP-12HH jointer/planer machine with the segmented spiral cutter head. The Ridgid had hard use over the whole time period and I had zero problems with it. The quality of the surface for both machines is about equal for smooth grained wood. For figured or knotty wood, the Jet beats the socks off the Ridgid. The Jet is far quieter and far faster than the Ridgid. My experience is that the Jet will not allow you to remove as little as the Ridgid and sometimes that is important. I have a DRO on both machines and the Ridgid planer is more accurate when adjusted using the readout. I sold the Ridgid and it is still at work in a friend's shop. I regret selling it. I had the room for both and each is better at certain things.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Dickinson, Texas
    I have a Dewalt 734 that suits my needs. You will have to learn a few things. To avoid snipe, lift up on the tail of the board as you are feeding it into the machine.

    Don't get cute with it, it can throw a board across the room. DAMHIK

  15. #15
    A couple of years ago I made the move from a Ridgid 6" jointer and a Delta 22-580 13-1/2 inch planer to an 8-inch Jet jointer and a 15-inch Jet planer. It wasn't because the Ridgid and Delta didn't work well. They did a good job. However, they were slow and noisy. Processing a pile of wood took a pile of time. The Jet machinery is faster and much quieter. Both are equipped with helical heads which provide very smooth surfaces. Yes, it was a ton of money but am glad I made the move.

    As others have commented, the direction you go really depends on what you're going to do with the equipment (and your budget!).

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