It’s terrific to know how to dress lumber to be flat and square using hand tools, but damn is it a pain. And limiting yourself to dimensional lumber is expensive and confines your creativity. I like the flexibility that owning a planer affords me: I can source wood from a lumber yard, reclaimed barn wood, or a fallen apple tree. So it wasn’t far into my woodworking journey that I picked up my first planer. Which shot half a blade out the back and nearly killed me. And then, like so many new woodworkers, I picked up a Dewalt DW735 Planer at Lowes.
Dewalt DW735 Pricing
The Dewalt DW735 belongs to a class of tools called lunchbox planers. It’s compact and reasonably portable. It’s meant to satisfy a hobbyist’s needs as opposed to a professional woodworking shop. Lunchbox planers are plentiful and usually priced between $200-$600. The DW735 is at the higher-end of the price range: as of the time of writing this post, the DW735 is priced around $600. But pretty much every power tool manufacturer has some version of the lunchbox planer on the market including Porter Cable, Grizzly, Rikon, Makita, Delta, and Triton.
If the DW735 worth the price? Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to compare it in action to other lunchbox planers. However the DW735 does come with extras that others don’t provide. The $600 package comes with extra knives and infeed and outfeed tables. It’s also got an extra inch on most of it’s competitors, with it’s girthy 13″ bed.
Dewalt DW735 Planer Performance and Features
If you search the Internet for reviews of the Dewalt DW735 planer, much of what you read will sound like somebody is fishing for a Dewalt sponsorship. The buzz around it is a bit too circle-jerky for my liking. So even though I own and appreciate the DW735 I’ll do my best to be honest.
At first the DW735 was underwhelming. But after some fine-tuning and an upgrade, I’m very happy with it.
The DW735’s cutter has three blades. Most lunchbox planers come with two, so this is a point in it’s favor. This means that each blade has to remove less material per-rotation than in a two-blade configuration, resulting in cleaner cuts and less strain on the machine. Unfortunately the factory blades dull quickly, and you’ll soon find yourself shelling out the extra $150 for a set of 3 carbide-tipped blades.
My DW735’s still didn’t perform well after upgrading the blades. The built-in breaker would trip while removing more than 1/64 at a time, even in white pine. And planing stock even remotely close to the 13″ width was a laughable notion. I nearly threw in the towel completely, until I discovered the helical cutter heads.
The best advice I can offer to owners of the DW735 or to prospective buyers is this: save your money. Instead of replacing the blades on the DW735 invest in a Shelix Byrd helical cutter head. Shelix cutter headers are spiral-shaped and covered with dozens of tiny, square blades. This design is better for a number of reasons, but the one I care about the most is performance. The spiral shape means less of the cutter is in contact with the wood at any one time, which means less strain and cleaner cuts. Also, replacing any of the tiny blades is just a few bucks, as opposed to $150 for a new set up 13″ carbide-tipped blades.
Should you be thrilled about shelling out another $450 after you already paid a premium for the DW735? Probably not. But a helical cutter head is a worth investment for any planer or jointer, and it’s the upgrade that made me fall in love with my DW735.
The Dewalt DW735 makes a nice clean cut, so as the knives are clean and sharp, and you don’t try to take more aggressive a cut that it can handle in a single pass. The DW735 also offers two different feed rates. You’ll use the quicker feed rate for most work. You can get a cleaner, smoother, final pass by switching to the slower feed rate. A slower feed rate means that the blades contact the wood more often, taking less material in each pass and leaving a smoother surface.
The Build-in Breaker
For a while I was trying to use my DW735 on a 15 amp circuit which also ran lights and a radio. I ended up making a lot of trips to the breaker box. I upgraded to a 20 amp circuit and soon things were buzzing along. My DW735 still gets overwhelmed and trips (for example while planing a 2 x 12 earlier today), but now it trips the breaker built into the unit. Wait a few seconds, push the reset button, and you’re back in business.
The DW735 is one of few Dewalt tools that I feel gets dust collection right. It sports a 4″ dust collector port on the back. The planer has a built in fan that helps rapidly eject shavings. It’s so efficient, in fact, that I don’t even have to run my dust collector. The fan pushes chips back into the dust collector bag on it’s own.
Infeed and Outfeed Tables
The DW735 comes with infeed and outfeed tables. Don’t hesitate to adjust them if you have an issue with snipe. Keep them cleaned and occasionally waxed to make material feed as easily as possible.
When a tool takes a more aggressive cut at the beginning or the end of a work piece than it does in the middle, we call that snipe. Snipe occurs because the workpiece doesn’t have uniform support, because the roller bar at the front forces the workpiece up into the cutterhead until it passes it and comes into contact with the second roller. Likewise snipe can occur at the end of the work piece after it loses contact with the first roller.
I’ve fought snipe from day 1 with my Dewalt 735. As I said: don’t hesitate to adjust the infeed and outfeed table. Adjusting them to a higher angle can reduce or eliminate snipe. Feed work pieces end or next to each other in order to support each other as they pass through the blade and rollers. Use sacrificial scrap at the beginning and end of your passes to transfer the snipe to junk wood. If none of that works, consider building a planer sled.
The DW735 will require some maintenance. You’ll want to keep it clean, and you’ll want to periodically clean or flip the blades. The top cover of the planer is easily removed. So is the plastic airflow component that directs ships from the cutter head to the dust collection port. Once these plastic parts are removed, you’ve got direct overhead access to the blade. The blades are easily removed using the included star-head tool that tucks into the top cover when it’s not being used.
Summary: Recommended, with Conditions
I like my Dewalt DW735 planer. It’s gotten me through some of my favorite projects, including planing three beefy sections of douglas fir for my Roubo benchtop. But I didn’t always feel that way about it. The stock DW735 felt underpowered to me. It wasn’t until I upgraded the planer with a Shelix Byrd helical cutter head that I really felt like the DW735 was a quality tool. So while I reocmmend the Dewalt DW735 for a hobbyist workship, I also recommend upgrading the cutter as soon as you can afford to do so!