Ryobi AP1300 portable thickness planer
Ryobi has recently replaced this discontinued AP1300 model with the AP1301. The new version has two deficiencies, compared to the older-design unit reviewed here.
First, the new unit does not have a cutter lock. OK, with good planers with tight tolerances a cutter lock may not be necessary, but with a budget model it is not a bad idea. One look at the operation of the lock on the AP1300 shows that it is a very good way, indeed, to make sure that the cutter assembly is not going to shift upward or downward during a planing procedure. The lock works quite well.
Second, the new unit does not have a depth-of-cut gauge on the front edge. For me, this is an outrageous omission, because using the gauge tells you at a glance just how deep the cut will be in the workpiece you are feeding into the machine. No, a gauge like that may not give you exact information as to precisely how much wood will be removed, because the workpiece is not going to be uniform to begin with. That is one reason you might be planing it in the first place. However, the gauge does get you into the ball park when it comes to knowing just how much work the cutters will be doing.
Third, the new unit does not have in-feed and out-feed extensions. Leaving them off increases the chance of snipe considerably. I mean, just how much money did Ryobi expect to save by leaving off those in/out tables?
OK, so I think this AP1300 model is better than then new one, which costs more. (I paid $199 for mine, and the new version costs about $220, I think.) As best I can tell, Ryobi is on a budget tear, and has contracted with their Chinese supplier/builder to cut corners. OK, they are cut. To combat this, workers on a budget should keep a lookout for used versions of the AP1300.
This particular unit is a decently quality product. It has a 25 foot per minute feed rate, a 15-amp universal motor, a no-load speed of 9,900 rpm (with two blades, this adds up to 19,800 cuts per minute, or 66 cuts per inch), a maximum planing height of 6 inches, a maximum planing width of 13 inches, and a maximum safe cutting depth limit of 1/8 inch. There is a 2.5-iinch dust chute on the backside that can be hooked up to an appropriate dust-grabbing machine. The left side of the machine includes a re-plane indicator. The weight is a manageable 77 pounds, which, along with handles on top, makes the device decently portable. There is a storage tray on top, under a flip-up cover, that is not much good for storing anything, including spare blades in their protective packages. Well, the cover looks good.
In addition to doing basic adjustments (which my particular unit only needed to a modest degree with the out-feed and in-feed tables) I modify nearly all of my tools, but in the case of this one the mod was slight. Two tapped screws are along each side of the infeed and out-feed tables, and those can be adjusted to level the surfaces and then lock them down tight. However, there were also additional holes in the braces, and so I installed additional machine screws and nuts into those holes to further stabilize the tables. End of mods.
The blades on this planer are supposedly not user sharpenable (you might try a blade sharpening service, however, but the blades are probably too skinny) and are no longer available at Home Depot stores (at least at the two in my area), and so you must purchase them directly from Ryobi. The cost is about $41 for a pair, which I consider steep, but then again, I am rather cheap. Most competing blades cost as much or more. The blades themselves are double edged, so you get two for the price of one, at least. The blades are only available in two-blade packages.
One feature I heard of concerning the later AP1301 model is that the blades it uses may be the same as in the Ridgid TP1300 model. Those are still available at Home Depot, although now that the Ridgid version has been superseded by still another model, all bets are off concerning blade availability for discontinued models in local stores. Hopefully, the mail-order versions will be available for a long time.
I read somewhere that some people who own the AP1300 have had problems with dust building up on the retainers that hold the drive rollers in place. This causes problems with snipe at best and can cause worse problems if the build up gets serious. It may be possible that the AP1301 replacement version solved this problem, but one way I found to solve it is to simply take time to thoroughly blow out even small amounts of dust after using the unit. It pays to keep tools clean.
All in all I like this planer. If I had had the funds I no doubt would have purchased the somewhat heavier-duty Ridgid TP1300 version, but for the amount of planing work I do this little Ryobi model does just fine. No doubt a more upscale model would offer more in the way of durability (although mine is holding up OK), but those who want a more robust tool should probably be willing to spend a bit more money.