Who shapes with a 653???

Wondering who, if anyone here, shapes with a 653 planer?  I have one and the thing is a beast.  I got a nice one for cheap and have never taken it to foam because of its heft and the shoe mechanism just doesn’t feel right in my hands.  I know a lot of old timers used to use them.  Was wondering if anyone here still does?

I have one and use(d) it until I got a skil.  It is unmodified.  I did loosen the depth change nut, tho.  I also use it if I need to take a lot of thickness out of a blank on a longer board.  Mines too beautiful to modify.  My grandfathers would be flopping around in their graves. I think ACE uses one.  Mike

That’s a real mans planer.

Heavy as hell.

Powerful 11 amps.

Little tough to use quick adjust without modifying front handle.

Yep, loosen the nut.

Cuts nearly 1/2" if needed.

Great for hogging thick longboard blanks.

Used mine on some wooden boards. and extra thick longboard blanks.

Spiral blade pulls planer downward to the foam.

Mows like a dream.

With the position of the stock handle it seems very uncomfortable to adjust on the fly.  

Yah, it is tuff to cut on the fly without modifying the handle. You may be able to find pictures of ACE’s mods and John Mellor’s somewhere on sways.  I hook my ring finger and little finger around the handle and adjust the depth with the others.  Doesn’t have the nice ergonomics of the skil thats for sure, but it’s still fun making a board with something different.  I do this for fun and not to pay my mortgage, tho. Mike


Yeah I tried with the stock handle.

Too far away from the lever.

Put that B&M shifter knob on and brought it closer.

Not too bad.

Anybody remember the shot of the Rockwell with the Skil front lever and shoe?

That was killer!

Best of both worlds.

Would like another Rockwell to modify.

Barry, I have an extra 653, if you want to modify another one.  (oddly enough I need another pair of shaping racks too!)  Shoot me a PM or whatever…


None of you have it right! I posted pictures of mine on here before…If nobody can find em I will take some more. Putting a Skil lever on a 653 would be stupid. The other way around would be better…I use both and the “on the fly” adjustment of the 653 is way better. When set up right they are a real precision machine. Super loose shoe, I mean FLOPPY, cut base and proper adjustments of base make them work. Mine would never pass a “OSHA” test…Loud power sucking heavy beasts that have shaped hundreds of thousands of surfboards. Out of the box forget it gotta bust em up to make em work.

Would love to see a shot of your Rockwell Ace.

Aloha Ace:

How much is a 653 worth?  I have one that I las used about 8 years ago to shape a balsa.  I was lucky, I scored an extra new blade and the cutter sharpening attachment.  I was going to sell it but I have no idea how much they go for.




I paid $75 for mine which is in great shape with a good cutter.  On eBay they list for $150 to $375 but when you look at the sold listings you find that few of them ever actually sell for those numbers.  Its all about the cutter with these planers as you can’t buy them new unless you find new old stock on the web and those go for as much as a whole planer.

ACE, is that black piece with tape an intake + filter? Custom made?

I love my Rockwell.

Good stuff Ace.

Like the custom intake and filter.

That open belt looks a bit scary.

Wouldn’t want to catch a shirt in there.

I modified mine in a similar fashion to Ace’s after he sent me some pics but none of him actually using it.  I played around with mine before cutting anything and somehow decided that Ace must be left handed(?)  With that verdict in mind, I cut the opposite side of the handle and shaped the remainder for a good ‘3-finger’ grip.  Turns out Ace is right handed and we ended up with slightly different approaches to the grip/control issue.  This photo doesn’t show it very well but I typically use my thumb and index finger to control the depth adjustment.  

With this planer, as with any planer, slow and steady using progressively shallower and shallower cuts will eventually get you there.  Jim Phillips gives a great demo in the Damascus video on power planing to a nearly finished blank surface. It drives me nuts but it’s something to shoot for.

Use mine on eps all the time, I cut the rear shoe, a shaved the handle down and cut o hole in the top where the side dust chutes are and hand formed a piece of tin to go over the hole with a new chute for the vacuum and epoxied everything to the top of the planer. Works flawlessly 

Thank’s for the ideas ACE.  I may modify mine just for the hell of it.  My biggest grief is with the handle position.

So I started playing with my 653 this evening.  Started by loosening the shoe.  With the shoe loosened this planer is actually smoother than my Skil 100.

I was originally going to make a front handle from oak rather than reshape the original as others here have done.  I removed the base plate from the shoe and found that the handle is held on by two large machine screws.  Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best solutions.  By simply removing the rear screw and cocking the handle 45* and re-tightening the remaining screw the planer was instantly comfortable in my left hand.  No additional modifications needed to the front handle other than perhaps a little dab of epoxy to make sure the handle doesn’t loosen.  It now goes from Zero to wide open with just an easy turn of my wrist.

I will probably cut the base this week.  Will probably have to start going to the gym to overcome the weight of this thing.  Stay tuned.


At Zero


Wide Open.