Stanley FatMax 3 1/4" Hand Planer

A well-balanced planer with a good set of features at a reasonable price offset by a non-locking depth-of-cut knob.

Stanley_FME630

Stanley FatMax 3 1/4" Hand Planer



They're not a replacement for the jointer, but they do enable you to bring some jointer functionality to your stock, when you can't bring the stock to the jointer. Power hand planers are a godsend on the job site for adjusting doors, chamfering posts, trimming decking, scribing cabinets, leveling subfloors, and the like. They're also handy for quick stock removal — particularly on long, narrow stock that is difficult, or impossible, to manhandle over a stationary jointer.
 
One of the newest hand planer on the market is the Stanley FatMax 3-1/4" Hand Planer (FME630). In appearance and feature set it looks strikingly similar to the Porter Cable PC60THPK, also a product of Stanley/Black & Decker. However, it's priced $30 below the PC, and comes without a storage box. 


 
The FME630 measures 11-1/2" stem to stern, weighs 6.4 pounds, and has a 6 foot power cord. There is about a 20° tilt to the handle, which provides very good balance, making the planer easy to control.
 
The body is made of glass filled nylon, which provides much greater structural and impact strength than ABS plastic.
 
It's equipped with a 6.0-amp motor that rotates the blades at a speed of 16,500 RPM, which you'll find consistent with most planers at this price point. In use, I found the motor has plenty of power, and even when I tried hogging off wood at the maximum cutting depth of 5/64" it didn't bog down. Like all hand planers it's fairly loud, and you'll want to wear hearing protection when using it for any length of time.
 

01
Aluminum base with 3 chamfering grooves and parking foot
 
The entire base is made of cast aluminum. The front, movable shoe has three chamfering grooves: .059"/1.5mm, .078"/2mm, and .098"/2.5mm, handy for rounding corners at a uniform 45°. The fixed shoe has a spring-loaded parking foot — the most important safety guard on this tool. As you move the planer onto the work surface the parking foot is pushed back into the fixed base; when you raise the planer off the work surface the foot pops down, enabling you to place the planer onto the work surface without the spinning blades damaging the surface. As there isn't a electric brake on the planer, the blades continue spinning for more than a few seconds after you release the trigger.
 

02
2 blade cutterhead
 
The FME630 has a two blade cutterhead and uses standard disposable, double-sided blades. I find these very convenient to us. Installing the blades is straightforward, and takes 3 to 4 minutes. Unfortunately the wrench can't be stored on the planer.
 

03
Double-sided disposable blades

You get two sets of blades with the FME630 — a carbide set, installed on the planer, and a high speed steel set in a plastic bag. The HSS blades, which were stored loosely in a plastic bag, were noticeably chipped, likely from knocking together. The installed carbide blades were fine, and they've lasted a surprisingly long time. 


 
I've always found that HSS blades give a smoother finish than carbide blades, though they don't last nearly as long. Whenever I'm working with rough cut treated lumber I use carbide blades. Carbide blades run about $20 a pair, while HSS blades, which can be more difficult to find, are about $10 a pair.


04
10 positive stops in .0078”/.2mm increments
 
The front hand grip also serves to adjust the depth-of-cut. There are 10 positive stops clearly laid out in .0078"/.2mm increments. There is also a parking position (P) in which the blade is retracted up above the front shoe to prevent unintentional surface damage, and a 'zero out' indicator that sets the blade flush with the front shoe. In either of these positions no wood is removed.


 
The depth adjustment knob works well. I like that there is an audible 'click' as it moves from one setting to the next. It saves me from having to visually check that I'm at the right setting. 


 
Unfortunately there is one persistent problem with this handle. I found that the adjustment knob, which also serves as the front grip, has an annoying tendency to move in use, inadvertently changing the cutting depth. No matter how careful I was, that darn knob shifted. If there was a locking feature on the knob the problem would be solved. 

 
I should mention that the adjustment knobs on other power planers that I've used do not lock in place, but I've not encountered this issue with any of those planers.


05

Dust bag works very well, but fills up fast
06

Dust hose connector is more effective
Planers generate a lot of wood chips, and keeping the debris off your work surface is important. The FME630 comes with a cloth dust bag and a 1-1/2" o.d. dust hose connector. There is a simple directional switch at the front of the main handle that diverts the waste to the right or left side of the planer. It's a very convenient feature.
 
I found that the bag did an excellent job of collecting debris, but it fills up very quickly — simply because the bag has a small storage volume, and the planer produces a lot of chips. However, it's a handy accessory to have on a job site, especially if you're only doing a small amount of planing. Otherwise, it's best to connect the planer to a shop vac. Regardless of the method used, I didn't experience any clogging in the discharge chute.
 

07
Less than stellar fence
 
If you want to keep you cuts at 90° then you need a reliable fence. It really needs to be quick and easy to adjust, and stay solidly in place. This fence installs fairly quickly on either side of the planer, even though you have to completely remove the locking knob before installing the fence. Another knob under the fence enables you to adjust the distance of the fence from the stock. 


 
Once both knobs are tightened, the fence still has a tendency to move sideways. To eliminate this lateral movement I've taken to keeping my hand pressed firmly against the side of the fence as it rides along the stock. While inconvenient, this is a safe procedure, as the fence protects your hand from the blades.
 

08
Blade guard
 
On the side opposite of the belt cover is a plastic spring-loaded blade guard that protects your hand from the spinning blade. It's a good idea to check every so often that this guard is functioning properly.
 

09
A capable planer at a reasonable price
 
The Stanley FatMax 3-1/4" Hand Planer (FME630) is well-balanced and easy to control, even when hogging off a lot of material. The 6-amp motor was able to plow thorough stock effortlessly, and setting the depth of cut was as easy as turning a knob. I particularly like that I can make cuts of near paper thickness, as this provides the smoothest surfaces.

Changing blades was quick and painless, but the fence was somewhat of a disappointment, though I was able to stabilize it by keeping my hand pressed against its side.
 
The major disappointment with this planer is that the front handle/depth adjustment knob doesn't lock, making it all to easy to inadvertently change the depth of cut while the planer is in use.
 
Pricing on the FME630 is on par with other similar 6-amp hand planers, and you get a 3-year warranty.



stanley_FME630_slider

KEY FEATURES:
 
  • 6.0 Amp motor 
  • 16,500 RPM 
  • 2 blade cutterhead 
  • 3/64” x 15/64” x 3 ¼” blade dimensions 
  • 0-5/64” planning depth 
  • 10 positive stops in .0078”/.2mm increments 
  • ½” rabbet cuts 
  • 3 chamfering grooves:
  • .059”/1.5mm, .078”/2mm, .098”/2.5mm 
  • Lock-on button 
  • 11.5” cast aluminum shoe 
  • 6.4 pound weight 
  • 6’ power cord 
  • 3-yr warranty 
  • Includes: dust bag, wrench, edge guide, cutting blades, vacuum adapter

COMPANY:Stanely Black & Decker
MODEL:FME630
PRICE:$99
MADE IN:China
SOURCE:Rona

Carl Duguay, January 2013
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