CUTECH 40200H-CT Thickness Planer Review
When I was looking for a thickness planer I found out that excluding a few companies (like Dewalt and Makita) most other tool manufacturers have their thickness planers built for them by one and the same Far East factory that has been in planer building business seemingly forever. I have nothing against Chinese, or Taiwanese, or Korean goods if they are properly designed and executed and the fact that a manufacturer acquired good experience over years and really knows their product only adds to this perception.
Now, looking at parts diagrams for dozens of planer models distributed under different brand names it appears that three designs are most common (and all are probably reflected in three models built by the above mentioned factory).
1. A design with four guide posts and two height adjusting screws and shaft with plastic gears connecting screws at the bottom with top height adjusting dial (crank).
2. A design with four height¬ adjusting screws (no posts) connected by a chain at the bottom, – height adjusting dial (crank) on the top.
3. A design with four posts and two height adjusting screws connected by a shaft with metal gears located in the housing for motor/rollers/cutter head, height adjusting dial on a side.
Designs 1 and 2 have a fault related to the fact that plastic gears or chain connecting screw posts are at the bottom where all wooden chips and saw dust accumulate, clogging the mechanism. Design 3 has gears and shaft that connects screw posts fully enclosed above the cutter head thus avoiding contamination. This is why I decided to go with a planer based on design 3 which was first implemented when they started building an older RIDGID TP1300 model. After replacing straight knives cutter head with segmented one it was later distributed as Steel City as 40200H and now is sold by CUTECH in the US (40200H-CT) and CARBATEC in Australia (CT-330x). All 4 planers mentioned above have identical construction with progressively improved cutter head design (RIDGID – straight knives, Steel City – steel cutter head with carbide segmented cutting inserts, CUTECH and Carbatec – modified aluminum alloy cutter head with HSS segmented cutting inserts). Segmented inserts are a blessing for the planer motor and for user’s ears. Same universal motor that tends to overheat and shut down with straight knives works in a much lighter mode when only limited cutting length is engaged at a time. And the noise when planning is much more tolerable.
I ordered my 40200H-CT from CUTECH late January, they shipped it the same day and it arrived earlier then I expected. Advise: track the package and be home when UPS truck comes. The package is HEAVY! The planer was packed in a regular card box with foam inserts; there was a puncture on one side but no damage to the content.
After unpacking and reading the manual I thoroughly cleaned the cutter head. When made for Steel City earlier generation of this model had steel cutter head completely covered in grease at the factory to prevent corrosion and that grease was a pain to remove. CUTECH version does not have this issue, but I still took time removing all cutting inserts and screws, washing them in mineral spirit, wiping cutter head with mineral spirit and spraying it with non-chlorinated brake cleaner. Then I used my compressor to blow the cutter head and carefully inspected cutter insert seating places to make sure they are squeaky clean. Even a speck of dust there might prevent an insert from indexing correctly and cause lines or ridges on the planed surface. I used my Wheeler Firearm Accurizing Torque Wrench from Brownells when re-installing inserts to torque each screw to recommending setting, and then double checked each screw. The extension tables did not need to be adjusted. They had ends a penny height higher than the planer table, - exactly as I planned to have them set up to prevent snipe.
I attached my RIDGID shop vac using 2.5 inch hose, and then went on lowering the cutter head to plane a test board. I immediately noticed that the height adjusting wheel on the side is rather hard to turn, so I ran the cutter head all the way up and down a few times to break the height adjusting mechanism in. After a few runs it loosened up. I planed a cedar plank and was amazed by the quality of the surface. The thickness indicator on the side is very legible and was dead on, - I checked the resulting thickness with digital calipers and it matched the thickness indicator scale beyond the point of resolution of my eye. Then I ran a 12 inch wide pine board through and confirmed that thickness of both edges is equal. With shop vac on chips were eliminated rather efficiently, although after an hour or so of constant planing there were some chips on the stand where planer resided and on the floor. Nothing to complain about. Snipe is barely noticeable, especially if you correctly feed and remove planks. I planed 8 feet boards without any help and without using infeed or outfeed support (rollers) and did not find snipe to be an issue at all.
Overall the planer seems overbuilt and reminds me some older military equipment – built like a tank (and weights accordingly), simple to use, easy to get to all maintenance points and gets the job done, period. It feels odd in current day and age when bean counters are running the show and everyone is cutting cost causing use of inferior materials, shoddy craftsmanship and poor quality control.
Explanation is simple, though. It was originally designed and built back in the old good US of A by Emerson Tool Co after Sears (for whom Emerson manufactured Craftsman line seemingly forever) decided to source tools in the Far East and left Emerson looking for another outlet in 1997. The big orange box store saved the day, partnered with Emerson and launched the RIDGID line in 1998. Emerson then came up with the first on the market 13” portable planer with improved carriage design, cutter head lock, depth of cut indicator, and depth stop (US patent US 6585017 B1, if anyone is interested look here, very interesting reading: http://www.google.com/patents/US6585017). The venerable TP1300 was born. Popular Woodworking, American Woodworking, Handy Magazine, and Woodworker's Journal have all recognized the planer, including a "Best New Tool" award from Popular Woodworking in 1999. A friend of mine – a professional furniture maker bought TP1300 in 2000 and is still using it in his busy shop 15 years later. The only parts that needed to be replaced were brushes and knives. He attributes that to one of the major marketing and selling points for RIDGID, their “full lifetime” warranty. If you want a tool to last a lifetime you tend to over engineer and overbuilt it. At least it used to be that way then…
By 2002 Emerson started closing US factories and outsourcing to the Far East. TP1300 production has been moved there, and then RIDGID started cutting costs and replaced TP1300 with rather horrible R4330 planer and later with an OK R4331. The factory, fortunately for all of us, continued making TP1300 following original specifications, replaced straight knives cutter head with segmented cutter head and found distribution channels which were not afraid to charge premium price for vastly superior product. So, here we are lucky to be able to purchase this blast from the past outstanding piece of American history reborn like Phoenix in a galaxy far-far away and brought back home by great folks at CUTECH. Thank you, guys, for making it happen!
I’ve used 40200H-CT for a month now, built a desk, book cases, a bed with headboard – all from cedar deck planks, framing lumber and some rough cut oak which after planning all looked glass smooth and at most required 220 grit sanding. My furniture making friend borrowed it for a day to test and compare with his old TP1300 and could not keep his excitement. He is planning to buy one now.
Will it benefit from carbide inserts, – well the future will show. Otherwise I would strongly recommend this product to any woodworker, either hobbyist or making living crafting wood products.
Interesting read! Thanks!
After I posted the review I bumped into a post on SawMillCreek which further clarifies relation between Ridgid, Shinmax, Orion, SteelCity, General and CUTECH. If interested, read it here: http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthre...-TP1300-Planer
Trying to find who makes and distributes reasonably priced carbide inserts for their cutterhead now. CUTECH prices for carbide are insane. Will share my findings if any…
Search this forum for a posting I responded to on Oct 6th 2015. It has a link to Utterguys tools. They have the best prices I found for both HHS and carbide cutters. They do not have them listed on their website. You have to call them to order over the phone. I'm on my phone and can't cut and paste the link to the posting. Sorry.
The thread was titled Steel City Segmented Planer.
Thinking about Cutetech's economy model 40100 just for smoothing 2x4s, etc.. Any thoughts on that model ?
Great post! I purchased the Steel City 40200H just a few months before all of the Steel City products started disappearing right before the company's end. I ran into a couple of hiccups even ordering one but finally was able to order it through Woodcraft directly, not through the store. I have been extremely happy with it and have had no issues; I also got it on sale for $499, which I think is a great price.
I will look into adjusting the out-feed table to a penny height difference like you described. Mine does produce a snipe line about two inches from the end of the boards that I run through it. Even still, I have no complaints about the machine. The chip collector chute is well designed and will accept either a typical shop vac hose or you can remove an insert on one end and put a 4" hose on it from a dust collector. That is how I use it and it's amazing how few chips are left behind during use.
Thanks again for the background history about this planer!
could anyone tell me please, how much clearance is there between the cutting inserts and the chip breaker, or whatever part is the closest to the cutterhead?
Thanks a bunch!
I know this an old thread, but how is the planer working out for you? In particular, how well does it handle figured wood, knots, etc.?
We use European Tooling Systems for carbide inserts and boring bits. Good products & pricing.
On hard maple it is OK on knots, but if the wood grain switches to the opposite direction around the knot there is tear out. The only way to minimize it is to take very light passes. I use carbide cutters.
Thank you very much for explaining the design differences between benchtop planers!
I've been looking for that sort of information and was having trouble figuring out how the brands differ from one another mechanically.
But I'm still not certain about one thing: The DeWalt 735 doesn't have a crank on its top, so I assume it doesn't fall into either of the first two categories you described. Do I correctly assume that means the DeWalt 735 falls into that 3rd category (along with the 40200H-CT)? Or is the DeWalt's design sufficiently different that it would have to be put into yet a 4th category of some sort?
Anyway, I've been assuming they're mechanically similar and, when I compared their prices, they're about the same (Cutech @ $579, DeWalt @ $599, sometimes less) and that led me to some observations and more questions:
I've read that the Cutech's cutter design is considered sort of "spiralish" (rather than "true spiral" or "helix" designs) and that it has far fewer cutter heads than are included on aftermarket replacement cutterheads like the Byrd Tool Shelix replacement for the DeWalt 735. So perhaps Cutech's "spiralish" design concept might not perform as well as a Byrd Tool Shelix cutterhead. However, the DeWalt 735 comes only with HSS straight blades and has no factory options for for either carbide or spiral cutterheads.
All that leads me to suspect that, when spending essentially the same money, the Cutech's "spiralish" HSS cutter design may well produce a noticeably smoother result than can be achieved with the DeWalt and its straight HSS blades. Has anyone looked at that?
If (as I suspect most would expect) Cutech's "spiralish" design does outperform straight blades, then to make a more "apples to apples" comparison of these two planers, both of them should be set up with a "spiralish" carbide cutterhead and THEN compare what they each can do.
For the Cutech, doing that would mean spending just an additional $70.00 to buy Cutech's 40200HC-CT instead of the 40200H-CT. But for the DeWalt, it would take spending $350.00+ to add an aftermarket Byrd Tool Shelix cutterhead (plus whatever cost or work is required to get it properly installed).
But it would be an interesting comparison. Do you know whether anyone has done this (compared a Cutech 40200HC-CT to a DeWalt 735 equipped with a Shelix cutterhead)?
I'm curious to learn if it might be worthwhile to spend $950+ [$600 for the DeWalt + $350.00+ for the replacement Shelix] to end up with a DeWalt 735 equipped with a Byrd Tool Shelix cutterhead rather than spending just $650 to buy a Cutech 40200HC-CT?
I was curious about the "spiral style helical" cutter head and how it could be made so cheap. The cutter head is an aluminum extrusion. The design doesn't use pockets to trap the inserts, they are just screwed in place and rest against the aluminum to provide reference to keep them square to the travel. You will break an insert sooner or later, usually several due to the broken one flying around and hitting others. This will result in damage to the aluminum. With care you will be able to file the damage to be able to seat the new inserts flat and parallel. Take care when changing inserts to not over tighten them. You can either break the very brittle insert or strip the soft aluminum. There are so few inserts that in one rotation of the head only one knife cuts any one circle. There is a way to compensate. Turn the head faster &/or feed slower. The head is very small in diameter so I would guess they are spinning it fast. These heads are neither spiral or helical, they are segmented. A true spiral or helical will produce a shearing action. The biggest advantages to the head provided on these bench top tools is they are much quieter (only a small area engaging the wood at any one time) and you can rotate 3 times before you change out inserts. Inserts are available in 4 grades, C1 to C4 with & W/O corner ease. (Assuming these are industry standard sizes.)
I have an inserted head running as first bottom on our molder. Have had it for many years so lots of experience. Also have inserted heads running on other machines. Have fun, be safe.
Thanks for taking the time to investigate & explain about the "spiral" cutterheads. But I want to make sure I understood which profuct you were talking about.
I believe your specific comments (aluminum, no pockets, not really spiral) were about the Cutech "spiral-ish" cutterhead, & not about the Byrd Tools' Shelix cutterhead. Is that correct?
After reading what you said, I returned to both of their websites. On the Cutech site, I saw that the base of the Cutech is aluminum (as you said) and that it has 26 two-sided cutters, each of which appears to be mounted so its cutting edge is oriented parallel to the centerline of the aluminum base, rather than parallel to the centerline of the "spiral-ish" line along which the cutterheads are located.
On the Byrd Tools' site, I didn't find a specific reference identifying the base material of the Shelix, but it looks like steel, rather than aluminum. Also, I saw that the Shelix has 40 (almost twice as many as the Cutech has) of what appear to be four-sided cutterheads, each of which has its cutting edge oriented parallel to the spiral line in which they are mounted (rather than parallel to the centerline of the base).
From this, it appears to me that the Shelix design IS intended to shear, rather than chop, while the Cutech design instead still has each each cutter oriented to "chop", much like a straight blade would.
Am I correct about that?
If so, then I can understand why the Shelix's higher number of cutters "shearing" truly would be better than the Cutech's fewer number of cutters "chopping", as well as why it would be more expensive to produce the Shelix than the Cutech cutterhead.
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