Delta 13" Portable Thickness Planer

A solid performer that gives excellent results

delta_planer_lead

Delta 13" Portable Thickness Planer



Portable (benchtop) thickness planers are idea for contractors, trim carpenters, or cabinet makers who want to have access to a planer on the job site, as well as professional and hobbyist woodworkers, and avid DIYers with limited shop space. Currently there are six brands of 13" planers available in Canada, slightly more in the US, with the Delta 13" Portable Thickness Planer (22-590) the newest entry into the market.
 
Fit & Finish
The frame, side panels and handles are all made of a high impact ABS plastic, which, I think, is a good choice. Today's plastics are very impact resistant, and much lighter than steel. There aren't any return rollers on the top of the planer, instead there are two aluminum rails; at least steel would have been a better choice here. The rails are also positioned slightly lower than the plastic side panels, so I can see some abrasion taking place over time, as the rails are likely to be used in lieu of return rollers. The lockable power switch is easily accessible, though a larger paddle style switch would have been a bit easier to use.


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Aluminum rails on top sit lower than the side panels
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Power switch - A larger paddle style switch would be more convenient
Portability & Stability
The 22-590 is a fairly compact planer with a 14" x 23" footprint, weighing in at 76 pounds. There are side hand indentations at the base, and handles at the top, which make it easy to transport the planer, though your back may appreciate the use of a second set of hands. While a 'portable' power tool needs to be light enough for one person to carry it, too light a tool reduces stability, increasing vibration.

The 22-590 seems to have struck a good balance, as it's virtually vibration free in use. Still it's a good idea to attach it securely to a work stand, particularly if you're using it permanently in a workshop. An inadvertent bump or exerting too much force when milling wide, long, and heavy stock can nudge the planer off a work stand if it's not secured. Four attachment holes in the base of the unit make it easy to secure to any work surface. If you don't have the time or inclination to make your own stand, Delta offers an optional wheeled stand (22-592).


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Side hand indentations at the base
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Handles at the top
Infeed/Outfeed Tables
The stainless steel infeed and outfeed tables are 12-1/2" long, and a spring latch keeps them in the upright position. When fully opened you get a 35" planing surface (the planer table is 10" wide). I was pleasantly surprised to find that the tables were perfectly aligned straight from the factory. However, if you ever need to align them, the procedure is fairly simple, and clearly outlined in the instruction manual. The tables are extremely rigid, with no flex in them.

When milling stock up to about six feet long the 35" table provides reasonable support. Longer boards have a greater tendency to produce snipe at both ends of the board. You can control this by elevating the trailing end of the board slightly when feeding it into the planer, and again lifting the leading end of the board as it's exiting the planer. I find this a bit of a nuisance, and, on a job site, prefer to use a set of roller stands, positioned a couple of feet from each of the infeed and outfeed tables. In the workshop I use a shop made planer stand with extra long infeed and outfeed tables. Having that extra support keeps stock firmly on the planer bed at both the beginning and end of the cut. It's a fairly simple matter to make your own planer stand; there are lots of free plans available on the Internet.
 

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35" planing surface
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Easy table adjustment via a single bolt
Motor
The 15 Amp motor spins the cutterhead at 10,000 RPM, and provides 96 cuts per inch at a feed speed of 26 feet per minute. You'll find similar motors on virtually all portable planers. They deliver ample power for milling the more commonly dimensioned lumber, typically from 4/4 (1") to 12/4 (3") thick in 3" to 10"  widths.

If you'll be milling a lot of lumber at the maximum capacity of the planer, 13" wide and 6" high for the 22-590, then you'll want to consider a stationary planer, which is better designed to handle larger volumes of heavier, heftier timbers. The motor is protected by an external, push button circuit breaker that is located adjacent to the power switch. Access to the motor brushes is straightforward, and you should check these at lease once a year, more frequently in a shop where you're using the planer on a daily basis for several hours.


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Access to bushes is unobstructed
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Manual cutterhead lock
Cutterhead Lock
The 22-590 is equipped with a cutterhead lock that is designed to help reduce snipe by stabilizing the cutterhead. It's activated by a locking handle (on the same side of the planer as the height adjustment crank handle) that you many have to turn a number of times before it securely locks the cutterhead. Once the cutterhead is locked in position, you shouldn't attempt to adjust the height of the cutterhead; instead, loosen the cutterhead lock, readjust the cutterhead height, and then lock the cutterhead again. Yes, it is a bit tedious, and I would have preferred an automatic cutterhead lock, but once you get used to the procedure it goes pretty quickly, and the cutterhead lock really does help reduce snipe.
 
Height Adjustment
Cutterhead height adjustment is pretty similar to what you'll find on all portable planers. A crank handle at the top of the planer drives two 1/2" threaded rods by means of a drive chain located under the base of the planer. Four 3/4" stainless steel columns and two head locking plates provide additional stability for the cutterhead as it moves up and down. The cutterhead moves up and down very smoothly. It takes all of 96 turns of the handle to move the cutterhead its full 6" cutting capacity. Usually though, you move the head only a few inches or less, at a time, which isn't so bad. One full turn of the crank handle moves the cutterhead 1/16" (.0625"); with a quarter turn you can move it 1/64" (.0156"). There is a handy adjustment ring attached to the crank handle that helps you make minute height adjustments down to 1/128". As well, there is a reference scale attached to the side of the planer, graduated in 1/32".


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Drive chain for the height adjustment mechanism is located under the planer
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Threaded rod at center, head locking plates to the right, and stainless steel columns on the sides
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Crank handle rises and lowers the cutterhead
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An adjustment ring below the crank handle allows you to make minute height adjustments
Material Removal Gauge
All the planers that I have seen include a material removal gauge. This gauge lets you set how much material will be removed as the stock passes through the planer. On the 22-590, instead of being connected to a an inverted pin, which takes a measurement at a single spot, the gauge is connected to a full-length pressure bar that provides a more accurate indicator of the depth-of-cut.

The wider the stock you're planing, the shallower the depth of cut should be, particularly for hardwood. For the final pass a 1/32" to 1/64" depth of cut will give the smoothest finish. I find the material removal gauge very convenient, and use it in preference to the adjustment ring on the crank handle.


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The material removal gauge is very convenient and simple to use
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The gauge is connected to a full-length pressure bar (top roller)
Depth Stops
The micro-adjust depth stop system enables you to to set consistent and standard cuts. You simply dial in a common depth dimension between 1/8" and 1-1/4". As you rotate the cutterhead down, it will stop at whatever depth setting you've set. There are detents at the most common settings (1/8", 1/4", 1/2", 3/4", 1" and 1-1/2"). For settings in outside these setting you can lock the depth stop knob in place by turning the wheel on the inside of the knob.

Since the bulk of my stock gets milled to 3/4" I find this feature very convenient. The system works quite well. When set at 1-1/4" I measure the planed stock at 1-17/64"; a difference of 1/64". Other settings showed the same discrepancy, or were right on the money. I can live with this as I always mill my stock slightly over thick, and then hand plane or scrape the surface to its final thickness.


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Micro-adjust depth stop is easy to use and with 1/64" accurate of the dial settings
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4" dust port tilted upwards helps keep the dust hose off the stock
Dust Collection
On most job sites you can let the chips spray out the back of the planer. However, if the site is finished, then consider using a portable dust collector, like the General 10-050. In a workshop, you'll want to attach the included 4" dust port to the planer, and hook it up to a dust collector. If you're milling more than a couple of board feet of lumber, there's going to be a lot of wood chips, much more than a shop vacuum can handle. And because of the velocity they come out of the planer, they'll only clog up a small shop vac hose.
 
If you install the 4" dust port you won't be able to fold the outfeed table all the way up; not an issue if you only use the planer in the shop, but a bit inconvenient if you regularly transport it to a job site.


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Knife removal is quick and easy
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You won't be re-sharpening these narrow knives
Knives
The 22-590 uses a three knife cutterhead, which gives 50% more cuts per minute than a two knife cutterhead, resulting in smoother finishes with less wear on the knives. The knives are double sided, and measure 1/16" x 15/32", which makes them too small to be re-sharpened. Fortunately, replacement knives (22-591), at about $60 per set of three, are reasonably priced (the equivalent of $10 per cutting edge).

Delta claims that these knives will provide up to 3 times longer life than knives found on competitive 3-knife planers. They have achieved this minor miracle by optimizing the angle of the knives on the cutterhead so that they make contact with stock at a more aggressive angle, and also by altering the carbon content and the cutting bevel on the knives. Only time will really tell if this claim holds true, but if it does, then the actual cost of knife ownership will indeed by very reasonable. Regardless, having three knives on the cutterhead should make the knives last longer between changes because there will be less wear on each knife for the same amount of work done.


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The head lock assembly (red) - it pops us (as shown) when the cutterhead is locked
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Holes and pins on the hold-down bars match corresponding pins and holes on the cutterhead
Changing knives is relatively uncomplicated, and takes about 15 minutes. There is a head lock that keeps the cutterhead from moving. The instruction manual shows one way to engage the lock; however I find it easier to simply remove the chip deflector or dust collector hood (whichever one you have installed) and then rotate the cutterhead by hand until it locks into place. It's then a straightforward process of removing the screws that hold the hold-down bars and knives in place. Note that when you reinstall either the deflector or collector hood it will automatically engage the head lock assembly and release the cutterhead.
 
On the cutterhead are index pins and holes make it easy to position the knives. There are matching holes and pins on the hold-down bars. Occasionally the knives will get nicked; perhaps a bit of metal in the wood or an uncommonly hard knot. Fortunately, the alignment slots on the knives are elongated so that you can shift the knives sideways by as much as 1/16"; by taking the nicked spots out of alignment you won't get any grooves on the planed stock. This is a very convenient feature.
 
The magnetic head on the wrench is handy for picking up the screws as well as for lifting up the hold-down bars and the knives. And it stores conveniently under either the infeed or outfeed table. I wish they would have also magnetized the tip of the wrench to make it easier to pick up and position the screws.
 
Instruction Manual
The quality of instruction manuals varies quite a bit, from abysmal to excellent. The manual for the 22-590 is very good, providing clear, easy-to-follow instructions on setting up, operating, using and maintaining the planer. It does lack a detailed schematic and parts list; but you can view and download these from the Delta website.


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An almost perfect finish on Cedar        
 

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A perfect finish on Oak    
 
Performance

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As with all stationary power tools, the 22-590 is loud enough (95.8 decibels, no load) that you need to use hearing protection. I milled short and long cedar and red oak boards, from 3" to 12" wide, taking both light 1/32" passes and heavier 1/16" passes. The results were impressive.

When I took a final pass at 1/32" or less, the milling marks were virtually indecipherable, more so on softer wood, less so on harder woods. With a final setting of 1/16" or greater the milling marks were somewhat more noticeable. Using the cutterhead lock seemed to make no difference on short boards. On boards longer than about 6' there was some minor sniping when the cutterhead lock wasn't used, but none when it was turned on.

After milling close to 130 board feet of hardwood with the Delta 22-590 I'd have no hesitation in recommending it to either a contractor, professional or hobbyist woodworker, or avid DIYer. It's not a perfect machine, but it comes darn close. And whatever deficiencies it does have (lack of a cutterhead lock, no return rollers, slight discrepancy between the actual board thickness and the scale on the depth stop) aren't crucial to its performance.

KEY FEATURES: 


  • 15 Amp motor
  • 10,000 RPM
  • 96 CPI at 26 FPM feed rate
  • Carriage Lock (Snipe Prevention) System
  • Infinite Micro-adjust depth stop
  • 2" diameter cutterhead
  • 3 double-sided knives
  • 13" maximum stock width
  • 6" maximum stock thickness
  • Nitrile rubber infeed/outfeed rollers
  • 13" x 10" main table
  • 13" x 12-1/2" infeed/outfeed tables
  • 19-1/2" H x 22" W x 14" D overall dimension
  • 76 pounds
  • 5 year warranty
  • Includes: 4" port, 3 knives, wrench, instruction manual

Manufacturer:Delta
Available From:Tool and equipment suppliers nationwide
Retail Price:$599.00
Model #:22-590
Made In:Taiwan
Carl Duguay, October 2010
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