Useful things I've learned about the Ridgid R4331 planer! - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 11 Old 05-30-2016, 05:04 PM Thread Starter
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Useful things I've learned about the Ridgid R4331 planer!

I recently bought a "refurbished" Ridgid R4331 from a local tool outlet that handles Ridgid's refurbushed tools.

Here are a few useful things I learned about it both before, and after, buying it:

- It's notably lighter than the other 2 Dewalt planers I considered. It weighs 73 lb compared to the Dewalt 734 at 80 lb, and the Dewalt 735 at 92 lb. This was important to me, as 73 lb is fine to lift, while 92 is getting awkward.

- It has a far smaller footprint than either of those 2 Dewalt planers. It's 23.75" w x 13.75" d. The Dewalt 734 is 24" w x 17" d. The Dewalt 735 is even larger at 26.63" w x 23.75" d (even when table folded). The smaller width and the narrow depth of the Ridigd is nice for a small and portable shop.

- The one-time leveling of the infeed and outfeed tables is a major pain, so it's good you only have to do it once. The table pivot and leveling design is pretty crappy. First, it puts the adjustment screws right near the pivot end of the in and out tables (because there is no planer surface that sticks out appreciably past that point - that's how Ridgid got the planer so shallow in depth). This means even a very small adjustment to a leveling screw makes a BIG difference out at the end of the table! Secondly, it's impossible to get 2 wrenches in simultaneously - one for the adjuatment screwm and one for the locknut, so each screw moves as you tighten its locknut. It's a slow trial and error process to get the tables properly leveled. I think it took me about 20 minutes.

- My refurbished unit had a nick in one of its 3 blades, that was too small to "see" with the human eye, but produced a very tiny ridge the full length of the first 3 scrap boards I planed. When I called Ridigd Customer Service, which by the way is answered by Ryobi Customer Service, I was told that blades are a "consumable" and are not warranted. Fortunately, an entire set of 3 genuine Ridgid new blades costs just $31 at Home Depot. And, these blades are (a) reversible and (b) pinned in place for precise location and height. That's the good news.

- The bad news is that each blade is held pinned in place under a thick bar that is itself pinned and then bolted into place by 6 metric M6 -1.00 x 16mm button head cap screws that accept a 4mm hex wrench. Yes, a 4mm hex wrench (see the photo below). You can imagine the mismatch here between a 16mm (2/3 inch) bolt torqued into place by a factory pneumatic wrench, which you must "untorque" using only a 4mm hex wrench. And since there are 6 bolts per blade, and 3 blades, you have 18 opportunities to strip out the hex in the head of these remarkably soft bolts! This is a significant design shortcoming.

I was VERY careful with these, as I had, in my pre-purchase research on the planer, read about the numerous instances of stripped out hexes when owners tried to good faith to follow the supplied instructions. When I tried a trial un-torquing with a good quality 4mm hex socket and realized how TIGHT these bolts were, I took precautions. I applied penetrating oil first to each bolt, multiple times, and let them sit overnight. I was careful to do the penetrating oil one blade at a time, so that the blade being "oiled" was always "on top" of the rotating blade assembly, and therefor the oil flowed down reliably into the bolt hole. Then, the next day, I applied more penetrating oil just a few minutes before attempting to remove the bolts.

Using this method, I successfully got 17 out of 18 bolts out without mangling the hex. But, on the 18th bolt, instead of hearing and feeling that satisfying "crack" when the bolt comes loose and starts to turn, I felt that sickening "hex just mangled" feeling. :(

This necessitated a trip to Lowes to pick up a "Speedout" bolt extraction kit, which as near as I can tell is a clone or private label version of the Alden GrabIt extraction kit. (see photo below)

This kit is nothing short of a miracle cure. You get 4 sizes of double-ended extraction bits, that you use with any normal 3/8" drill operating in REVERSE. One end drills a conical hole into the head of the bolt, no matter how mangled it might be. The other end is a conical "screw" that digs into the conical hole and starts unthreading that stuck bolt INSTANTLY. you start by using the smallest bit size that looks like it might work (it has to be slightly larger than the mangled hole on the bolt head). You "drill" (in reverse rotation) until you have "gone in" about 1/16". This creates a "clean" cone. Then you "screw" (still in reverse rotation of course) for a fraction of a second and the bolt starting turning itself out. If the bolt does not come out, you simply picked too small a bit size, so try the next larger size. The 3rd size I tried did the trick. You'll know when the size is right because it will create a small pile of metal chips from the bolt head. The "too small" sizes won't generate many chips. The kit with 4 sizes costs $20.

Lowes also has the M6 - 1.00 x 16mm button head cap screws with the 4mm hex head, so you can replace the mangled bolt(s) with brand new ones.

- When putting in the bolts after replacing the blades, I took 2 more precautions:
(a) I used blue Loctite, to prevent corrosion, and to provide grip via chemistry versus raw torque, and
(b) I turned the bolts in with the provided Ridgid hex wrench (nice one with rare earth magnets imbedded in the handle to remove and replace both the blades and their backing plates very easily and safely). BUT, once the bolts hit "bottom" for low-effort turning by hand, I turned only a small fraction of a turn further - a LITTLE torque, NOT a lot! The Loctite can keep the bolts in without running the risk of stripping a bolt head again.

- The blades on the Ridgid R4331 have been critcized by some for being "so thin", and therefore more vulnerable to damage from impact with hard knots or unseen embedded metal in the wood. While the heavy backing plate on each blade keeps it RIGID, the edge is still more vulnerable to damage than a thicker blade with a "blunter" back angle would be. However, the thinness and the more-back-cut cutting angle of the Ridgid blade makes for a REALLY nice planed surface - nicer than I am used to seeing. Now, for a commercial high volume shop, robustness would probably be valued more than utter smoothness. But for a hobbyist like me, the thinness and geometry of the Ridgid blades is a quality advantage.

- Finally, there is the criticality of remembering to put the fan shroud back on after replacing or flipping the blades. Let me explain. Look at the photos below. See that bright RED switch lever near the top left of the photo? That lever either locks or unlocks the rotation of the blade assembly.

When the fan shroud is in place, it automatically pushes the red lever to the UNlocked position, so that the blade assembly can rotate. Once the fan shroud is removed, that red lever goes automatically to the LOCKED position. In that locked position, the blade assembly can only rotate a few degrees until 1 of the 3 blades "clicks" into the locked position that enables removal and flipping of the blades.

Once you have removed and either flipped or replaced that blade, you unlock the red switch by pushing it downward with one hand, and use your other hand to rotate the FAN (NOT the blade assembly - too easy to get cut!). Once that blade is "out of registration", you can let the red switch go, and continue turning the fan until the next blade "locks" into the position for blade removal. You repeat this process for each of the 3 blades. It's actually remarkably simple compared to trying to describe it.

But here's the catch. If you forget to re-install the fan shroud, and try to start the planer, the blade assembly will still be LOCKED (because the fan shroud is not there to push the red switch into the unlocked position!). So, grievious damage will be done to the planer! I consider this a design shortcoming. I realize the safety reasons involved, but a BETTER solution would have simply cut the power to the planer whenever the switch is in the locked position.

So, this is what I have learned about this planer so far . . .

Hopefully, it will help others.

Jim G
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post #2 of 11 Old 05-31-2016, 08:00 AM
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Good review. Sorry for your trouble stripping the bolt head. Those easy-outs can be a real life saver. The blade change/process looks very similar to my Dewalt 735.
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post #3 of 11 Old 05-31-2016, 09:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimGnitecki View Post

- My refurbished unit had a nick in one of its 3 blades, that was too small to "see" with the human eye, but produced a very tiny ridge the full length of the first 3 scrap boards I planed. When I called Ridigd Customer Service, which by the way is answered by Ryobi Customer Service, I was told that blades are a "consumable" and are not warranted.

SNIP...

- The blades on the Ridgid R4331 have been critcized by some for being "so thin", and therefore more vulnerable to damage from impact with hard knots or unseen embedded metal in the wood. While the heavy backing plate on each blade keeps it RIGID, the edge is still more vulnerable to damage than a thicker blade with a "blunter" back angle would be. However, the thinness and the more-back-cut cutting angle of the Ridgid blade makes for a REALLY nice planed surface - nicer than I am used to seeing. Now, for a commercial high volume shop, robustness would probably be valued more than utter smoothness. But for a hobbyist like me, the thinness and geometry of the Ridgid blades is a quality advantage.



Two thing that may help you here...

The guy in the other thread talking about this planer mentioned that he had some 'side to side' adjustment of the blades but no 'up and down' adjustment due to the pins. THAT is how you deal with a slight nick in one blade instead of having to flip it or replace it. You only have to move it (the one blade) over a very slight bit to make that line in your material go bye-bye... Or move a few blades in opposite directions. Result is the same either way if you have side to side adjustment room. This helps you get the most out of each edge before needing to swap or sharpen it / them and works the same on many much larger planers as well.

The thinner blades on a lot of machines may be laminated as compared to a solid piece of the same exact steel throughout. This is fairly common on some blades and is not always a 'bad' thing. If you look carefully you can usually see a line running down the length of the edge that is a dead giveaway the blades are laminated. No idea if your particular machine uses laminated blades or not but you can quickly look for yourself and find out. You can also do some research on your own to learn about why some blades are like that and how it can be helpful...

Best of luck to you with your new tool and in your learning here friend. :smile3:
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post #4 of 11 Old 08-25-2016, 06:09 PM
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Bookmarked this page..Thanks Jim. I just bought this very planer from a guy on craigslist for $200.. So far it seems like new, but I'm still enroute to home having dinner along the way..

I figured it's time to change my signature so hold your breath. This is it.
Impressive, huh?
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post #5 of 11 Old 08-25-2016, 09:03 PM
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YEY! My arms, legs, back and Stanley #4 thanks thee craigslist.. Now I need to figure some sort of shroud or method to connect the nice SQUARE exhaust hole to my nice ROUND shopvac since for now the only place I can figure out to put this beast is up on the workbench and it blows ALL OVER the lawn mower. Just one 3 foot 1x6 made it look like it snowed tan..

I figured it's time to change my signature so hold your breath. This is it.
Impressive, huh?
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post #6 of 11 Old 08-25-2016, 10:12 PM
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If your exhaust hole is square you must be missing some part (s)
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post #7 of 11 Old 08-25-2016, 11:22 PM
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Useful things I've learned about the Ridgid R4331 planer!

You might rethink the shopvac hookup. Most only have a 2 1/2" or so hose and plug frequently with planer and jointer shavings. You'll also be emptying the vac frequently. Many folks just divert the shavings into a large box. Others suck 'em up with a dust collector. However you choose, have fun with your new toy--I mean tool.


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post #8 of 11 Old 08-26-2016, 05:15 AM
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I guess I am missing something.. It's definitely square or a rectangle . I think I might just divert the tan colored snow down to the same place my table saw throws everything, the floor. Actually I really don't have a huge problem with sweeping the floor and dumping it out in the garden. I have a pretty substantial mulch pile from all the pine straw and leaves that build up every year..sawdust and chips aren't going to make much difference in the grand scheme of things..and how DARE YOU call my toys tools! LOL

I figured it's time to change my signature so hold your breath. This is it.
Impressive, huh?

Last edited by allpurpose; 08-26-2016 at 05:17 AM.
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post #9 of 11 Old 08-26-2016, 05:33 AM
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Something I'm thinking about is a folding outfeed table. The 12" outfeed that's built in to it is ok I guess, but I plan to plane some fairly long stock and the only logical place I have to use this beast is on my work bench which doubles as the outfeed table of the table saw.. So I have a 2 1/4 inch drop from the planer outfeed to the saw. I'm thinking about a 3' piece of plywood with adjustable feet and some way to clip it to the existing outfeed part..

I figured it's time to change my signature so hold your breath. This is it.
Impressive, huh?
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post #10 of 11 Old 08-26-2016, 06:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by allpurpose View Post
I guess I am missing something...
Try this http://www.ereplacementparts.com/dus...p-1509403.html
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post #11 of 11 Old 08-27-2016, 01:51 PM
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I found a halfway decent temporary solution which more or less diverts everything to the same place everything from the table saw goes..
It's just a piece of shower door channel and fits perfectly in the square hole without needing a screw to hold it in place..
Now I just need to get a bit more ambitious with sweeping the floor..

I figured it's time to change my signature so hold your breath. This is it.
Impressive, huh?
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