Planer Choices for Planing Rough-Sawn Lumber

      Pros discuss equipment choices, set-up, and techniques. October 30, 2005

I have an inventory of rough sawn air dried lumber that is ready to plane and use.
My old Delta 13" planer is good at planing smooth pine lumber from one dimension to another, but planing uneven curly maple and cherry is pitifully slow. Do you have any suggestions for a planer under $6000?

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor A:
If you have that much money to spend, you should get anything with a helical head and you might as well buy a helical head jointer too. You can probably pick both up for $3,000 to $4,000 from Grizzly.

From contributor B:
I plane roughsawn lumber on a 12" Bellsaw planer (5hp). Woodmaster, Belsaw and Powermatic are similar. I would want at least 5hp in a planer. I seldom mill anything more than 12".

From contributor C:
I've planed about 10,000 bf of red and white oak rough cut on a Woodmizer. I started with the Jet 15 inch. I upgraded to the Powermatic 209 (20 inch) because I had to plane a large quantity of 2 inch by 14 - 16' oak boards (size mattered). I'm not a professional wood worker - I don't have 3 phase power and don't plane all day every day - but for my needs, both machines handled rough cut lumber very well. The cost was about $1200 for the 15 inch, $1800 for the 20 inch brand new.

From the original questioner:
Has anyone converted their planer to the Shelix true helical heads from Byrd Tool in Kentucky?

From contributor D:
I use an SCMI S52 I bought used (near mint) from Carpenters Machinery in York PA about 12 - 13 years ago. It is 3 phase, and is probably the most dependable machine I own. You could check them out, call or email, they treated me well.

From contributor E:
I have a 20", spiral cutterhead, 7.5 hp Grizzly Z series planer and it does a great job. My advice to you would be to get a heavy machine, irrespective of brand, at least 5 HP (and 7 or more is better), and go with a spiral cutterhead. 3 phase is no big deal as long as you use a converter (if you don't already have 3 phase power). Equally as important - if you plane a lot of rough cut lumber you will need a serious chip collection system as well (such as direct vent into a large hopper or dump truck/trailer.) A lot of rough cut lumber is dried outdoors, where it can pick up a lot of dust and debris. Be sure to blow the boards off with air before planing them, or you'll be changing a lot of knives and inserts. Also keep in mind that you'll want to run your cupped boards through a jointer first and then plane them on the opposite side to final dimension.

From contributor F:
One more feature that no one has mentioned is adjustable bed rollers. My Powermatic 180 has them and I find on rough lumber they make a big difference. You can adjust them from practically zero clearance to .04" above the table to reduce friction from the rough lumber surface.

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