A planer or thickensser is an essential tool in prepping your own lumber. Anybody who has ever purchased from a retailer will know that lumber is extremely expensive despite literally growing on (or from) trees. With a planer, you can dimension old, rough wood into usable pieces to create beautiful pieces of art. Think of a planer as an investment since you can literally save thousands of dollars by restoring old wood over time.
The DEWALT DW734 Benchtop Planer is one of the most popular portable planers on the market. This portable planer can dimension almost any sized board you can think of without a hitch. In this article, we’ll go over the various features and specs in the DW734 and determine whether it really does live up to the hype.
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Motor Power and Speed
You’ll find most portable planers to come with 12-amp motors, but the DW734 bumps it up three notches by sporting a beefy 15-amp one. The question you really need to ask yourself is “Do I really need this much power?” Stronger motors are designed to cut through harder materials, so if you work regularly with hardwood, then yes, you do indeed need a larger motor for the job.
However, just because this tool has a larger motor than many other benchtop planers doesn’t make it fit every type of hardwood. When dealing with oak or hard maple, the board will most likely end up with a rough, jagged face. Additionally, it takes several more passes for this tool to get boards to the desired smoothness – roughly 15 passes compared to others that only require four or five max.
Width and Thickness
This machine accepts boards as wide as 12-1/2 inches and as thick as 6 inches. Planing store-bought pieces of lumber is no problem with the DW734 since they’re considerably thinner than a foot long and roughly 1-1/2 inches thick. This tool is great for restoring old pieces of wood that you may have laying around or inherited from a grandparent due to its tremendous planing capacity.
Three-Knife Cutterhead and Depth of Cut
Generally speaking, the more knives that can be inserted into the cutterhead, the better the planer will be at resurfacing material. The DW734 comes with a three-knife cutterhead that smoothens the surface to near perfection. The knives are disposable, so there’s absolutely no point trying to sharpen them. However, they are reversible so you can get twice as much work out of a single blade.
Long Support Tables and 4-Column Carriage Lock
The length of the infeed and outfeed tables plays a direct role in how long of a board can fit into the machine. The DW734 comes with massive tables that provide 33-1/2 inches of support.
One problem with planers is snipe – an unintended excessively deeper cut on the head and tail ends of a board. This tool has a 4-column carriage lock which reduces (not eliminates) the amount of snipe by keeping the material stable while it passes beneath the cutterhead. This system combined with the long tables really does a wonderful job at keeping snipe to the very edges of your board, though we recommend either attaching a sacrificial piece of scrap wood to both ends or simply chopping off the sniped parts.
A planer without a good dust management system is something you should never think of getting. Planers produce a heck of a lot of sawdust and chips, and if the planer is operated on the floor, the resulting debris could become a slipping hazard. With the DW734, this isn’t something you need to worry about. The built-in system pushes dust away from the cutterhead toward the dust port where you can connect a shop vac.
One of the best things about the DW734 is that it’s lightweight and portable. Including the infeed and outfeed tables, the unit weighs roughly 81 pounds. It also hardly takes up any space so loading it onto your truck or mounting it to a workbench won’t be too much trouble. Furthermore, the tables can fold in and out, further saving space for storage and transport.
In conclusion, the DW734 is a pretty good planer. The best thing about this tool is its snipe protection which limits how much of the board needs to be cut off. If you’re milling rough lumber, this translates into saving a huge amount of money in the long run.
However, the DeWalt DW734 is far from perfect. The first thing customers need to be aware of is the power of the motor which works beautifully on softwood and certain hardwood. Another thing is the number of times your material needs to pass under the cutterheads to produce a smooth finish. In every other regard – dust management, portability, and cutting capacity – this tool is an absolute beast.