power planer mods

I was wondering why everyone uses the Hitachi or the Skil 100? I am under the impression that modifications need to be made to all power planers to make it conducive to shaping. What are the mods and can you do it to any planer or just Skil or Hitachi? Has anyone ever made or seen a custom made planer?


I don’t think everyone uses the Hitachi and Skill. The Hitachi most people refer to has already been modified for use on Clark foam. The open-close feature moves easily and the metal foot has been beveled. The Skill planer from what I have read here is the traditional planer coveted by many and is used by many professional shapers and a few hobbyist because of it’s quality and nostalgia. Skill 100s are tough to find and expensive.My first six boards were done with a Makita from Home Cheepo. Didn’t know any better,but the tool worked. Mike

The Hitachi is used because you can buy them modified by Clark foam. Us old timers love the Skil 100 because that is what we have always used. The main attractions of the Skil are the control mechanism that allows you to adjust from no cut to full depth with a single sweep of the control lever which is less than a quarter turn. This adjustment mechanism is very important as it allows you to easily vary the cut as you are walking up and down the board.

Their weight and durability are also key attractions, but they are becoming increasingly hard to find and can be expensive, but in my mind they are worth every penny. I also have to say that for me one of the key attractions of the Skil is the balance of the whole tool it just feels really good to handle, I love holding that tool!

The main modifications I make to my Skil planers are to shorten the base and to change the exhaust chute to either the one sold by Fiberglass Hawaii that uses the motor fan to boost the exhausting of the foam dust, or I also have an exhaust chute that allows a Skil to be hooked up to the Clark foam vacuum system. I also change the cords by replacing them with longer ones so that I don’t need to use an extension cord.

I use a hitachi cause there are aftermarket parts available to modify your own instead of spend $200 +

I bought a planer off ebay $50, exhaust attach and slinky hose, way longer power cord. made mods myself, similar planer to clark cost me $100

  • my time…

kinda like why buy a new surf board when you can buy a blank and make your own…

fiberglass suppy has .pdf schematics of the hitachi planer… good luck getting clark parts if you don’t have/ didn’t buy a clark planer…

mods: loosen adjustment mechanism, exhaust attach, fill front base plate groove, round / soften edges

custom adjustment handle, trigger handle adjustment, 20 ft + power cord etc.

Many mor in the archives…

take a pic of a clark foam planer and a hitachi p20-sb, put side by side and do the " one of these things is not like the other one" game. you’ll see 3 + obvious mods.

In the archives there are planers w/ M16 grips and info on how to do it yo-self.

Have fun… I find shaping is more fun when you have made / modified your own tools.

I use a Bosch. I originally bought it for woodworking. Its lightweight & easily adjustable and you can find Bosch blades anywhere. The front shoe adjusts with a big dial on the front end and the numbers are easy to see. Goes from .2mm to 2mm.

For shaping, I use a chunk of foam to hold the guard open (don’t do it unless you’re really comfortable with power tools). The only problem is the dust exhaust port is a rectangle. I cut a piece of high density foam to fit over the rectangle and make a circle, then fit a plastic cup over the circle. Drilled a hole in the end of the cup and attached a washing machine drain hose. Then the proper reducer 10 feet away to fit my shop vac hose & I’m all set…

when you get serious about shaping you will eventually buy a Clark modified Hitachi. Finding a Skill 100 thats in reasonable shape for under $1,000.00 is almost impossible. So your options are limited.

The reason the Clark planer works so well is that you can make depth cuts on the fly with a 1/4 turn of the knob. With every other planer on the market this is a “bad feature”. In wood working the last thing you want is your planer to go from a 1/32 cut to a 1/4 cut with a slight flick of the wrist, So standard planers are set up so you have to turn the depth cut knob 5 times to get to a 1/4 cut, not conducive for cutting on the fly unless your double jointed. Why do you need this feature? with a surfboard there is no easier way to increase tail rocker, or blend a panel. A new Hitachi costs about $150.00, a modified one costs about $200.00, you can buy the cheap knock off one from Harbor Freight for $40.00. They will all shape a good surfboard, a good tool in the hands of a hack will still shape a lumpy board, and a surform in the hands of a craftsman will create a perfect shape.

You can buy the other planers and modify the handle, loosen the knob, put a longer cord on it, repaint it with a flame job etc. But if you don’t change the depth of cut feature, you still got a planer thats made for wood working. So you got 2 options, $kill or Hitachi.

Not one of my own modifications, but Balsa (of former Guethary Surfboards renown) showed me his modified Ryobi this afternoon: skill-inspired older model with custom shortend front shoe and back. Unfortunately I can’t give you the model number offhand, but for a weightier planer the unit seemed pretty solid and functional. What’s sure is that it has turned a large quantity of great boards over the years. Any insight to the specific mods Mr. Balsa?

I use a ryobi mini planer, its a power planer but its smaller so its easier for me to control being a grom.

It is the same model as the one next to the skil on the SHapers Australia shaping site. I believe Montgomery Wards made on very similar called Power Kraft.

Hi again, Jeffrey… My RYOBI is a L 22 LN. Or should I say “was”, since it’s been out of production for a while, I think. That’s the one pictured next to the Hitachi in the Shapers Australia “Shaper’s Barrel” ad. I know that François PACOU (well known “WAVE’S” shaper in Biarritz) was using the same a few years ago. I don’t know if he still does… I’ll try and post better photos than the one in my icon…

Are there any shapers in the Costa Mesa/Huntington/Newport area that use the Skill and/or Clark Hitachi who would be willing to let me stop by and check out their planers and maybe even let me watch some shaping ???


I put up a post earlier today of my first board and on that post is a couple of pix of my cheapy $40 harbour freight planer with a custom cam adjuster that goes from closed to full open in just under a half a turn. I am now on my fourth board and still haven’t felt the urge to redesign the cam. aloha, josh


repaint it with a flame job

Flame Jobs rule… besides, everyone knows flames add 2+ HP… sorry, I’m a flames nut couldn’t let it go…

My real interest is to actually build a “from scratch” custom planer. Has anyone ever tried/done it? And nobody better ask me why I’d want to do that, at least not here on Swaylock’s!

I have a design for an upgraded version of the Skil which I did in '02. It is all aluminum CNC machined with all the bells and whistles. I presently make replacement Skil parts, and in selling these I’ve found that there really isn’t enough of a market with the production people to support a project like a new planer (at least with my resources). Most of the production shops here in SoCal do not think that the Skil (or any other planer) is the primary tool anymore due to the inceased use of shaping machines. They won’t even spend less than $150 to replace broken or incorrectly welded parts on their Skil’s, let alone the $1K+ for a new version of it. The investment cost would be over $25K with the tooling, UL certifications and CE marking. That’s a lot of cash to put up for a very iffy return. For non-production shapers, my advise is to use the Bosch planer and modify the handle and depth control. The Bosch is a very good design and costs a bit over $100. Take the balance of what you’d pay for a Skil and get a vacuum system and dustless sander.

I was actually thinking of making it for just myself. An ultra custom “one-off”. Of course, if anyone wants to plunk down a $1000.00(+) deposit maybe I’ll make 100. How’s this sound; carbon fiber body with titanium inserts for mounting the steel parts and to top it all off make it cordless! Limited edition of 100.

Would you take custom orders for a gold-plated one with maybe a few diamond inlays?

Yeah, Haven’t you heard about P.Diddy surfboards? BLING-BLING