cheap planer to start with..

I am a first time shaper looking to get a cheap planer to skin with and maybe take a few passes off the bottom with, i dont want to dish out the 150-200 for a modified clark/hitachi planer just yet and i hear that surforms and stanley block planes dont do the job that well for skinning the deck, i found these cheap planers a dime a dozen on eBAY recently, does anybody know the deal with these and will they get the job done with no modification for the beginner? the link should be at the bottom Muchas Gracias mike

That’s really cheap. Also check out… I use one of these without modifications. Works OK for me.

Anyone ever give the Grizzly cheapies a shot (H3141, 50 bucks or G9003, 40 bucks) ? I’m working my way towards my first board attempt and will probably try one of these unless the feedback is bad. SevenTenths

Here is my experience…I got the bug to shape, figured I’ll get an inexpensive planer to start out. After a few boards, the limitatons of the planer became quite obvious, mainly not being able to take deep cuts. I ended up getting the Hitachi, it was a bit cheaper then (but without the present modifications). So instead of paying the hundred or so dollars for a planer, I actually spent a little of two hundred when you add the cost of the first planer. If you were to decide you don’t want to continue shaping it would be easier to sell now that there is the internet with all the auction sites, classified ads, etc.

Go for a cheap one, just check them out a bit before you decide. There are alot of differences between them. Get one that doesn’t require too much turning from max to min cut. As for cutting depth, you don’t want too much anyway for your first boards, go slow and take you time. Even if you end up buying the hitachi, you can use you $25-40 planer for the work you don’t want to use you good hitatchi on, so the money spent isn’t wasted anyway. regards, Håvard

I have a semi-modified hitachi I will sell for 75.00 I grounded and filled the baseplate grinded the top of the plate to allow for greater depth, You can buy the rest of the mod parts off of fiberglass supply. it also has sealed bearings.

due to excessive enthusiasm I now have two made-in-China knockoffs of a Makita. I like it, better than the Hitachi, and I was just out at Clark Foam last week handling their modified (and pretty expensive) planer. What I like: it’s got the handle on the top, making for better balance (I think). Weight is okay, lighter than the Craftsman I used before. It’s fast enough. Adjustment is okay. Mainly, for $45 each including shipping, this is the ticket. What I don’t like: No parts availability. Still, I have two and will sacrifice one if necessary. Out of the box, the front shoe was out of plane with the main platen. I had to build up the front shoe with epoxy to make it true, this has the added advantage of filling that groove (which didn’t bother me in the first place). I also suspect that although it has a three-wire cord, it may not actually be grounded. I got a cheapo variable speed sander/polisher and the trigger failed. When I opened it up - surprise - only two wires into the mechanism. Friggin Chinese. Still a nice tool even with a toggle switch in place of the original trigger.

Ok, here’s my take, as I have been asking many of the same questions and have received responses on both sides. First, I would not buy the $9.99 version on ebay or the chinese version that isn’t grounded. All power tools should be grounded. Just sounds like the makita/hitachi lookalikes on ebay anyway. I went back and forth for the last week on whether to buy the unmodified hitachi or another similar planer that you can find at Lowe’s or Home Depot. I finally just decided to go for the modified Clark and just got back from Mitch’s in Solana Beach with one that cost me $193 + tax. After looking at it closely for about 3 minutes (haven’t used it - just went over there at lunch) I can see the mods pretty clear. I’m not that impressed with the quality/craftsmanship of the mods, but hopefully they will be worth the cost. Grinding down the edges - use a file or sandpaper - nothing special. Looks like not very much time was spent on it and I’ll definitely use a file to smooth it out a little more. Filling in bevelled v-groove on bottom. Just some $2 two in one epoxy filled in and sanded down. I really don’t see the huge benefit, although, now you won’t ever be able to use it for beveling your front door…Most shapers will only use it for surfboards, but some of us like tools that have multi use. The stock handle is CUT off and they are clear marks where it used to be. The new handle is rivetted on and is positioned farther back…felt good I guess. I’m going to use a file and heat gun to smooth out the cosmetic look on the top. Belt drive - I’m very confused about this. It is clear that the case for the belt drive has been cut open at the bottom as the metal egdes are frayed and sharp. I will have to file them down!!! And, with the belt drive being visible from below, won’t tons of foam get packed in there??? I don’t really get that. The depth knob seemed to work fine. I don’t quite understand why you have to be able to turn the only 1 turn for full depth. How often are you changing the depth, and how hard is it to turn it one more turn? My honest opinion is to try to buy the unmodified hitachi on ebay. I could have won 3 of them for under $65 this week, but finally convinced myself to bite the bullet and turn pro with the Clark. If you only want to spend a little and you are starting out, my impression is that you can buy a new one (hitachi, black and decker, bosch, makita, etc) off ebay or at home depot for something like $50 - $90 and you’ll be good to go! Don’t buy a knock of brand. I mean, if you’re going to be cheap, at least buy something with made with some kind of quality. Cheap tools are cheap tools - they break and never work as you hope they do. Just my opinion - I am new to shaping also, but have worked as a craftsman for many years… Now that I own the Clark, I have some specific questions about it that I’d like some of the guys experienced with it to help answer - I’ll put that in another thread.

i did buy one of the cheapo’s from ebay at first, and returned it 3 days later. The blades were not alligned right and when i made a few cuts on a blank, the blade cut off a piece of the bottom height adjustment plate and got it stuck inside. Not only could I have ruined the blank, but I could have been hurt. I agree, if you are going to go cheap, buy a brand name at home depot.

Go Boshc, 180 degree turn for full depth.

how often are you adjusting the depth of cut when shaping? Constantly… Would it be bad to have to make more than one turn to do so? Absolutely. I have to admit that I was also puzzled by the cut-off belt cover on the new Clark/Hitachi. The salesman at Mitch’s told me it would make belt replacement easier, which seemed wrong (how hard is it to remove one screw anyway?) It seems to have been done to add more clearance, but it was done crudely, and the cover served a safety purpose too…

The one-turn-full depth thing is the whole point for “professional” shapers and one of the hardest thing to get used to as a hacker. I used to use a planer with the “click” type depth control; you set it a desired depth and make your pass. To make a curve, you have to make progressive passes at different points and then smooth them with screen or sand paper. It’s pretty tough to cut nice clean curves (rocker or foil) that way. With the variable depth you can start a shallow cut and deepen it as you go creating a curve. It’s pretty tricky to get used to coming from a clicker type machine but well worth it once you get it together. I just bought a new Clark and was also kinda disappointed with the workmanship too…but when it comes to tools, I’ve found that cheap tools cost more in the long run.

Does the stock Hitachi P20SB have sealed bearings? If so, I’m gonna get one. Is any list price under $100 a good deal? (This post is just in case my other one gets ignored)

The model no. indicates that the bearings are sealed (P20-SB = sealed bearings). As far as buying a stock P20 and partially converting it (without the machined depth adjuster/helicoid) or trying to order the parts from Clark, I think you would be dissappointed in the outcome. Take one apart and compare it to the stock unit, big difference. Using a planer that doesn’t have the ability to go from closed to full open with 90-180 degrees of rotation can be painful once you get used to having this feature. Just my $0.02. Tom S.


The cut away portion of the belt housing was intended to make “back cutting” easier. Thanks to input from Gerry Lopez the planer cuts backwards better than any other tool out there. The fact that the belt is exposed may seem to be a negative aspect and actually the housing mostly is there to protect the user from accidental contact. Debris was not seen as a big risk since the vent holes on the housing do this on a smaller scale without problems. Backwards cutting is a good technique to reduce the walking passes. That is, if you do a pass nose-to-tail, the back cut is from tail-to-nose. The bottom of the belt housing on the old Clark planer would invariably ride up on the uncut stock thereby compromising the accuracy of the cut. If you haven’t done one, you may want to try a back cut, but be very careful; you may want to practice with the planer off, or practice on a scrap piece. Good luck!

If you are doing back cuts, watch out, you can cut your power cord!! Make sure you have an idea where it is and keep it clear of the blades.

i keep the cord slung over my left shoulder (i’m RH) - keeps it out of the way and i can feel if the cord starts to snag before it would jerk the tool.

Some informative responses! Thanks… I guess the back cut reasoning would make sense for the belt housing being cut back. It’s rediculous to say that it has anything to do with easier access to replacing belts, as you still have to remove the housing to replace the belt…And, with the belt exposed, there is a greater chance for the belt to be exposed to conditions causing early wear = shorter life span. Still haven’t turned it on, but I studied it closely for about 10 minutes this morning before coming into work. Other than the mod to the adjustment knob, the other mods seem very simple. Because I haven’t used a planer to shape surfboards, I am not yet aware of the advantages of being able to go from 0 to full depth in under 1/2 turn! I can easily see how this would be a benefit if while on a pass you wanted to fade from full cut to 0 as approaching the nose, etc. My Clark version came with a smooth knob on it, and a more rubberized grippy knob as an optional accessory. Seems like the rubberized one will be better to use? Is this a personal preference? Seems like if you have access to any needed parts, you could easily do the mods yourself. Would be nice to have the modified one to use as a reference, but nothing about it looks complex. I might just buy a stock hitachi for $70 and do the same mods to it for fun. Maybe sell it or the Clark to someone else to save them some money? A question for the experts: One thing I’ve been contemplating is the difference between a block plane and an electric planer. It seems odd to me that the front metal pad moves up and down, as opposed to the blade moving up and down. When a full cut depth, the front pad is raised up, leaving the blade exposed, but the rear pad is in is original position, meaning that the two pads are not on the same level. This doesn’t seem logical to me in shaping a surfboard. It would make sense to me if you were planing the side of a door down, as you’d start with the front pad on the door and the blad and rear pad off. Then, as you moved the planer, it would cut the door and the rear pad would be on the newly cut surface while the front pad would be on the uncut surface. Once reaching the end of the cut, the front pad would not be touching anything and the back pad would be resting on the tip of the surface, with the surface cut at exactly the measured depth. So, how does that really work with a surfboard. If you set the planer on the top of the deck, with it adjusted to full cut, the front pad could not lie flush on the board, and if you set the back pad flush, the blade would not be at full cut anymore? Thanks for the clarification and insight… My next board is a fish-like 6’7" / 22" wide… I want to put “side cuts” in it so the tail isn’t so wide, and it’s have a swallow tail. Any input on side cuts - I’ve seen boards with 2 sets - what is the performance like?

I bought one of those Makita knock offs from ebay…Sold it to a woodworking friend. Your thumb will not fit between the knob and front of the handle! I have a cheap Harbor Freight and it works OK. I filed the baseplate and took the knob off and buffed the threads on a buffing wheel to get burrs off. Then I put some good grease on the threads an d re-assembled it with a coupla washers under the knob. Made it real smooth to adjust. I also lightened the spring up but went too light …foot moves if I press too hard. Cheapie is OK…Find myself coveting the Clark also! Mike