After buying this planer a few weeks ago, a couple guys asked me to do a more formal review. I'm horrible at write ups like this so I'm gonna post my thoughts on this thing and I'll miss a lot. This is also my first planer so I dont have anything to compare it against. Please post any questions you have and I'll do my best to answer them.
I purchased this machine at Woodcraft after a small battle over the price. They had it listed at $599.99 and the Steel City promotional flyer had it listed for $549.99. It took 3 days and finally speaking with the owner of the Woodcraft store to get this machine at the promotional price. 50 bucks is 50 bucks and I really didnt understand them not wanting to give the promotional price but they did in the end.
This machine came well packaged from the factory. It would take a serious drop for this machine to be damaged while in its packaging. After getting it out of its packaging and mounting it on a cheap tool stand I picked up at Sears I noticed the grease. I went back to the owners manual mainly to see how they reccomend going about getting the grease out but went ahead and read the whole thing. (not a bad idea with any new tool) The manual said to spray all the bare metal surfaces with a common household cleaner/grease remover. I tried a couple different things we had here to try and break down the grease but nothing worked really well. I got the best results with Mean Green but it didnt really work well. Ive read in some other posts that brake cleaner works well. I didnt try that. I spent quite a bit of time trying to clean it. When it looked clean I started running some scrap pine through it. It all came out covered in grease and the cutter head slung grease all over the table. Back to step one. I sprayed everything down with a heavy coat of cleaner and let it soak for a minute then wiped it all down again. I then started running more scrap pine through it to try and clear out the remainder of the grease. Bottom line is, I dont think its possible to get all the grease out in the beginning without completely disassembling this thing. I have cleaned and cleaned and I still am getting a little bit of grease everytime I use it. Nothing like I was getting in the beginning but its still noticeable.
Noise levels on this machine are very low. I have read lots of reviews on other machines where noise levels are insane. My shop vac is louder than this planer. My shop is in the basement and no one has complained about this machine running even late when everyone is sleeping. I also have a 6 week old baby that dosnt get woken up by this machine. Noise levels while planing wood seem to be about the same as when at idle.
Chip collection seems really good. It comes with a 4" port and a 2 1/2" port. I'm using a shop vac and I'm collecting 90 to 95% of the chips. It does send a few chips out the front of the machine as you can see in the pic. I dont know if haveing a proper DC would fix that or not. The first time I ran a piece of wood through it, I forgot to hook the shop vac up and it will blow chips 10' across the shop.
I do get some very light tool marks on the wood. They look similar to sanding scratches. They are barely noticable and because planing is one of the first steps in finishing lumber it dosnt bother me. Most people will do alot more sanding on thier projects than what would be required to only remove these marks.
Snipe with this machine depends on the lock feature. It has a snipe lock feature that locks the entire cutting head assembly in place. If you lock it you get virtually no snipe. If you forget to lock it, snipe is quite noticeable. It's irritating to have to lock and unlock this thing between every pass just to move the cutterhead 1/64". I'm sure like anything else though, over time it will just become habit and I wont even notice haveing to do it.
This machine also has a neat little indexing slide on the side that lets you repeat standard thicknesses. I really like this feature. As a new user of the planer it makes thicknessing all my stock a sinch. Mine was spot on from the factory. It is adjustable though if it would ever be necesary to adjust it. It has several indexes from 1/8" to 1 1/2".
This machine is capable of planing stock up to 6" thick and 13" wide and down to 1/8". They seem to really push the point that this thing can plane down to 1/8" in all the promotional advertising. The manual says to never attempt to plane stock thinner than 3/16". I did plane some lumber down to 3/16" without any trouble. I havnt tried 1/8" yet. It will also plane lumber as short as 7".
Overall, I am really happy with this planer. It does everything I need it to do. Its a lot of fun to buy rough lumber and see the evolution to finished lumber. I definately would reccomend this machine for a hobbyist woodworker.
I'm sure I missed a lot of points that some of you will have questions about. Again, writeing reviews isnt a strong point for me but ask away and I'll do my best to answer them.