All types of woodworkers, starting from amateur hobbyist to professionals, consider a benchtop planer an essential tool in their workshops. Benchtop wood planers serve three functions – to create a uniform thickness across a piece of wood of any shape and size, to smooth the naturally rough surface of lumber, and to make both sides of a board even. Nowadays, tons of big-name manufacturers produce a wide range of power tools, but a popular name doesn’t always mean the best value. For this reason, we’re going to check out some of WEN’s best-selling planers.
WEN is a Chinese manufacturer of affordable power tools. Two of their planer models – the WEN 6550 and the 6552 – have collected their fair share of positive reviews. The former model supports boards up to 12.5 inches in width, whereas the latter can fit boards of up to 13 inches. These two benchtop planers have some overlapping specs, but we’re going to emphasize how they differ. Let’s get started.
Motor and Speed
The 6550 features a 15.0 amp motor – pretty much the standard for home-use planers – which delivers up to 18,800 cuts per minute. The cutting speed is pretty amazing, considering that this is an entry-level tabletop planer that helps DIY enthusiasts. The motor works effectively to produce even results when moving the passing board at speeds of up to 26 feet per minute.
This model also features a 15.0 amp motor, but the planer’s knives move even quicker (25,500 cuts per minute). In general, a quicker blade speed translates into more even and smoother finishes. The rapid cutting speed makes it better compared to the 6550, and after testing the unit, there’s nothing to complain about. Similar to the 6550 model, wood can pass under the blade at up to 26 feet per minute while producing optimal results.
Number of Blades
This model uses a 2-blade system for smoothing and leveling boards. Typically, the more blades, the better, but even then this model doesn’t disappoint. Most entry-level planers feature a 2-blade setup. This model doesn’t have most blades when compared to other models – even the 6552 – but it still does a relatively good job at smoothing surfaces.
The 6552 features a 3-blade system which cuts much more effectively and efficiently than the 6550 model. For a home-use tabletop planer, we find that the 3-blade system is the minimum count of blades to consider when purchasing from lesser-known power tools manufacturers. There are still problems with this model, in terms of cutting quality, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
The WEN 6552 with its 3-blade setup is much better than the 6550’s 2-blade build. However, the number of blades doesn’t exactly correlate with quality since 1-blade machines can produce amazing results. However, when looking for a budget benchtop planer, more is normally better.
According to the manufacturer, this model supports board heights of up to 6 inches. Operators can adjust the blade to lower by a maximum of 3/32-inch intervals which doesn’t strain the machine, nor does it produce uneven cuts. However, we found that the 6550 leaves unwanted streaks and longer snipes.
This model also feeds on boards of up to 6 inches in height. Similarly, the adjustable cutting depth is also set to stop at a maximum of 3/32-inch intervals. However, despite using the same exact tri-roller system as the 6550 model, this one produces much fewer snipe and scalloped marks. This is most likely due to the build of the table (more on this later on).
Hands down, the WEN 6552 is the more superior of the two. The adjustable depths can be configured exactly the same, but the 6550 produces longer snipes and noticeably more scalloped edges. However, both machines have snipe problems so we suggest placing a sacrificial board placed in the front and back of the board you’re intending to work on.
The blades used in the 6550 and 6552 are similar in construction and design, but the length of each blade differs to support the different cutting widths. The 6550 uses 12.5-inch blades and replacements are sold in sets of two (2-blade system). However, users complain about having to purchase replacement blades for their 6550 too often. This is mainly due to the excessive cutting speed and the pressure put on each blade, wearing them dull or even becoming chipped after limited use.
As we mentioned earlier, the blades used in the 6552 are identical to the 6550, except for the width. Replacements can be purchased in sets of three (3-blade system). Surprisingly, the frequency of purchasing new blades for this model is not as high compared to the little brother version since the number of blades and cutting speed are almost balanced, allowing for less but more evenly-distributed pressure per cut for each blade.
It’s clear that the 3-blade system of the 6552 will save you more money since you won’t need to replace them as often as you would with the 6550 model. That being said, we find that the overall quality of WEN-made blades and bits for practically every power tool they produce are of inferior quality. If you can purchase German- or US-made blades that fit in the 6550 or 6552, we suggest using those instead.
Granite versus Metal Table
One of the most differentiating features between the 6550 and the big brother version is the table used to pass wooden boards through. The 6550’s table is made of extremely sturdy granite with a smooth finish. The good thing about granite is that it doesn’t wear out over the years. In fact, the lifespan of the table is most likely going to outlive the machine itself. In addition, the table is limited to only support wooden boards of up to 12.5 inches in width.
This model uses a metallic table which has an extremely slick coating. The metal table of the 6552 basically lets pieces of wood glide under the blades, making it extremely easy to push through. The machine is also a bit wider and supports 13-inch wide boards. The drawback of using metal tables is that it’s prone to damage and wear over time.
It can be difficult to determine whether a granite table or a metal table is better since the 6550 and the 6552’s respective tables are extremely smooth and let wood seemingly glide under the machines’ blades. However, the granite table is just slightly better since it lasts for a lifetime (if you take care of it). The metal table, on the other hand, no matter how careful you are in your workshop, is prone to bending.
Continuing from the previous point, the granite table adds a significant amount of weight to the unit. Extra weight is good since it keeps the machine sturdy, and vibrations will become less likely to bother the cutting process of the 2-blade system. This planer weighs in at 79 pounds which can be a strain on your back and your truck’s bed if you carry it from place to place.
The metal table is considerably lighter in weight than the granite table of the 6550. The overall weight of this model is a lighter 66 pounds, making it more portable and less strenuous to lift and take with you. However, at only 66 pounds, you’ll need to make sure the unit is installed securely by keeping it down with the corner mounts found on the base of the unit. On a positive note, despite being lighter, as long as the unit is mounted secured on your workbench, there shouldn’t be any problems of excessive vibrations which can ruin pieces of delicate wood.
This is completely up to the customer to decide whether less or more weight is better. Usually, people who only work in their woodshop wouldn’t mind a heavier planer since they won’t need to take it to any job sites. However, for safety’s sake, even though the 6550 is pretty heavy and immovable on its own, you should keep the unit bolted down every time you use it.
WEN 6550 vs 6552: Bottom Line
The WEN 6550 and 6552 models are almost completely identical in most regards, but still, the differences are astonishing. In terms of cutting performance, the 6552 is the clear winner. The 3-blade system and quicker cutting speed produce smoother and more parallel finishes without needing to repeatedly pass through the machine. The 6550, though an excellent tabletop planer, has some cutting problems, especially with snipes.