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Thread: New vs. Old 20" planer

  1. #1

    New vs. Old 20" planer

    This has probably been asked before, but what are the thoughts on new (e.g. Powermatic 201) vs. older (e.g., Powermatic, Oliver) planers in the 20" range?

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    My opinion is that planers are pretty basic machines "in general" so a good, well maintained or restored older one will likely perform similarly to a brand spanking new one. It's more about the level of effort to make things work the way you want them to and to have the features you want, too...cutter head type, fixed table/movable motor or the opposite, dust/chip collection, etc.
    --

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

  3. #3
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    Oliver 399 is a little higher end than PM 180,221,etc so not totally comparable. Look at a parts diagram of old and new. A straight knife machine needs a good chipbreaker and a solid pressure bar. The old machines will have heavy steel vs much lighter duty PB. A benefit of the old is they often have a grinder and jointer attachment so you can sharpen blades in place. New ones won't. If you want to go insert, the build is much less important. Condition is everything with old and the build will almost always be way better. Dave

  4. #4
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    I have read the modern post planers are harder to get dust collection that works then the old cast iron machines.
    Bil lD

  5. #5
    Thank you. Would any of you buy a used planer remotely? Where I live (Dallas) the opportunities for in-person inspection of a used machine are nil. Are there reputable re-sellers out there? That's my biggest hesitation in plunking down so much cash....

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Mureiko View Post
    Thank you. Would any of you buy a used planer remotely? Where I live (Dallas) the opportunities for in-person inspection of a used machine are nil. Are there reputable re-sellers out there? That's my biggest hesitation in plunking down so much cash....
    I think with any older machine you need to worry about how intact the machine is and do a fair bit of rebuilding. Unless you can buy from a working shop where it is in daily use and is dialed in, expect to put sweat equity into any older machine. I ahve been asking the same question myself, since I ahve a 12 inch and 16 inch Powermatic, and I could sell them both and buy an Oliver 399, or a newer 20 inch asian planer. Think I will keep what I ahve, as it runs fine...but it still is a thought that runs through my head.

  7. #7
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    Keep in mind you seldom get a steal and a plug and play old machine. A good plug and play 399 and 166 jointer will go in the 3000-3500 range. Equal quality new would set you back 15K each so still cheaper but the $500 399 will need work. I bought a SAC 530 Tersa for about $4500 so that is also an option for a decent build planer with a Tersa head.

    PS I have a 399 and 166 I should sell but keep putting it in the " Too Hard " pile.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Some of those very old planers make me very nervous to purchase used. I think a 299 or similar out of a school shop would be a great buy. I gave a 299 in Boise at auction a hard look. I think it sold for $2500. Pretty good price, but keep in mind that machine more than likely dated to the mid to late '40s. That is almost 80 years of professional use! Sure, those machines were built to be used, but that opens up the door for all manner of expensive fixes. Rebuilding a worn segmented infeed roller is beyond my ability. Same for segmented chipbreaker, worn tables etc. I love the 299, because it is a great 24" planer in a smaller footprint with a 5-7.5hp motor(good for my teeny tiny electric service), but these machines arent getting any younger. This isnt 1999 where you could pick these vintage machines up out of a closing shop etc. and still have it be in plug n play shape. Maybe im wrong, and Darcy would be the guy to correct me, but i feel like the good vintage american buys are few and far between. The 'gettin was good' decades ago when schools closed shops and other older shops closed up. Now, when i see olivers and powermatics come up for sale, they look like they have one foot in the grave. Especially the powermatics. I dont know if ive ever seen one that wasnt beat to death. The Oliver 299s and 399s seemed to be owned by more caring shops.

    I will more than likely go the vintage Euro route David mentions if and when i have a bigger space. I think a machine in the 20-25 year old range is a good point to buy a used industrial machine for a hobbyist. Its at this point that you can find shops with guys retiring and that was their machine for the last half of their career. They typically have a ton of hobbyist mileage left on them, and the prices are reasonable.

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Old Can Be Better Than New

    Bill- I bought my Powermatic 180 from an online auction. Nice pictures, but no real world experience. It came out of a shop in Vermont.

    It is rock solid, with enough cast iron to warp space and time when you get near it. No vibration at all, cutterhead (3 knife, straight HSS knives) runs for about 85 seconds after shutting it off. It came with the grinder and jointer (for the knives), but I sold it since it always made the thing louder than it was normally.

    5hp, single phase, gold with racing stripes. We only had to supply a cable to plug it in, and the first board was almost perfect. WE did go thru and eventually (3 yrs later) replace head bearings and feed roller bearing and spruce up anything we could find.

    The biggest problem we had was the pressure bars on both in feed and out feed were worn I took them out and hand filed them until they were dead straight/flat. I think someone planed stock all day from the same part of the machine.

    I got mine thru IRS Auction, $1200 plus about 800 to get it here. It easily compares to my 24" SAC or my 20" EMA that I used to live with. Far better than any Delta planer or new Powermatic. That new stuff sounds tinny.

    Even if you have to go to a machine shop to have parts made, I think old is far preferable to new, unless you get into SCMI, Robland, Felder, Casadei, SAC, EMA.
    I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.
    - Kurt Vonnegut

  10. #10
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    Why would having the grinder installed make it louder? did it vibrate and cause wierd harmonics?
    Bil lD

  11. #11
    in the beginning I bought new machinery, General Canada stuff. It worked. Years later I started to buy used stuff, Robinson, Brookman Wadkin, gaggle of SCM. The value of the General stuff was it worked at the time but set me up to appreciate heavy better machinery. There isnt a time that I start the SCM jointer and listen to the quiet hum and dont appreciate it over the sound of the General stuff, and thats even before I start to use it.

    You have lots of sources for used stuff. There are dealers that buy and re sell and last planer I saw that I liked was an Aldinger, 28" for 3,500.00 Can and in very good shape,. Not the right time for me but it was the right machine. Quality weight condition and price, 10Hp and that would work with the 10 HP Roto. There are lots of sources for used stuff but you have to put the time in. If its running in a company that goes down likely it works. Ive done the very best from buying machines from old guys I know. 50 years old SCM is fine when you get it from an old European, they likely bought new and with care in first place and they care for stuff and more so all the parts will be there but maybe not so with auctions.
    Last edited by Warren Lake; 07-01-2020 at 12:21 PM.

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