I've had the Dewalt (12-1/2") for about a year now and I love it. I haven't used any other bench top planers but I couldn't ask for anything more. The one thing that I have found though is that I absolutely have to use a DC with it. Without the dust collection, any amount of planing results in an ankle high pile of wood chips all over the place. Other than that, have fun with the new toy.
If price sounds is the main consideration, check out some of the reconditioned tools. Check with Harbor Freight.com and see what they have available. You can save 30% or more depending on brand. Also, check with Makita repair centers. Last time I check you could get the old model for $300. Its by far the best planer I've ever used. Knife changing takes all of 10 minutes on a slow day. It also uses the double sided disposable knives for about $30 a set.
Here are the basics:
A planer will clean up rough faces and create a uniform thickness. A jointer will actually square and flatten stock.
The tools are used in conjunction with the table saw.
1. First, face joint your stock with the concave face down, making sure the fence is perfectly square to the table. (This step can be omitted if your stock is perfectly flat; check with a straightedge) Then, place the jointed face against the fence and joint one edge (concave down).
2. Now move to your table saw. Place the jointed edge against the fence and rip the other edge. Now you have a flat face and two flat, parallel edges.
3. Finally, move to the planer and run the stock through with the rough face up. Use as many passes as required to get the right thickness. Do not necessarily trust the thickness scale (mine is about 1/32" off).
4. You can plane the last face with a jointer, but it is tricky. You have to check and make sure the thickness is consistent all the way down the length of the board.
Can you run boards that have painted or varnished through the planer without damaging the blade? You can, but finished surfaces will gum and dull the blades. Beware of old painted wood due to risks of lead content. Stuff newer than the 70's is ok.
If you don't have a whole lot of room for larger tools, the hand held power planer should work real well for you. It takes a lot of practice on scraps to get thetechnique down to avoid snipe. I use mine on pieces that are just to large and/or heavy for the stationary jointer such as doors and tabletops.
As for planers, I would like to suggest as others will is the Ridgid 13" Planer. Several people have them.
I just bought the RIDGID 13" planer, and it's terrific! As stated above, wood isn't always uniform, and hardwood is expensive ! I occasionally can run across a packing crate or palate in very nice shape, but planing these is a must ! (Well, you COULD sand it for a few hours) I have preset thickness settings for uniformity, and the finish is absolutely beautiful.
- Ed Hugus
Makes a huge difference having a proper planing machine. I got the 6" Taiwanese one and it is fine for my level of work - home hobbyist. But if you can afford a bigger one (8" plus) I would get it. You'll always find an item to plane that is just a bit wider than your 6" jointer table! Better still get one with a thicknesser [used to create a desired thickness in the timber] as well!
- Andrew Armstrong
As for getting a planer, I would go for a jointer first, so you can glue up boards edgewise. I personally don't have a planer and really have yet to need one, since it's easy to buy wood that's already planed.
- Larry Cook
The reason for a planner is not just to plane wood. Yes, you can buy wood that is surfaced, but if you check out that wood you will find that 90% of the time they are not the same thickness. Most of the techniques you use when making joints depend on finding the center of the wood...mortise, dowels, biscuits, whatever. When all your stock is the same thickness the rest of the job goes very quick.