A planer is a must for preparing stock in any wood shop. After face jointing a board, the planer will make the other side parallel to the face-jointed side. You can also use the planer to reduce the overall thickness of stock or smooth out glue lines after gluing up a panel. If you’re doing a project with multiple boards, the planer can be used to make all the boards the same thickness.
Laguna PX12 Planer
Watch Rich’s in-depth review of the PX12 Laguna planer.
There are a couple of nice features on this machine that are a bit different from competitive models. Up top, there is a series of grooves of different sizes you can use as a gauge to check stock thickness for various common measurements. This is a handy feature as it saves using a tape measure or calipers when planing. There is also a hard depth stop for four common sizes, so you can stop planing at a number of predetermined depths: 5/32″, 1/4″, 1/2″ and 3/4″. This is great if you need to come back halfway through a project and do another board, because you’ll get the same thickness even though you didn’t plane all your wood at the same time.
Inside the machine there are four heavy posts on which the cutter head moves up and down. The movement is controlled by two threaded rods, one on each side. Both threaded rods turn in sync as you crank the handle thanks to the chain drive underneath the machine. The chain drive is heavy duty and the machine is very smooth going up and down. The lock mechanism feels solid when you actuate it. Up front is a depth-of-cut gauge to let you know how much stock you’re removing. The gauge is used to set your depth for your first pass, rather than by trial and error. The overall thickness scale has a magnifying cursor so it’s easy to read.
The PX12 has folding infeed and outfeed tables. The tables of the machine are smooth and polished, and the heights of the infeed and outfeed tables are adjustable with a series of levelers. This machine has virtually no snipe for a couple of reasons. First, there are no table rollers, a common source of snipe on bigger machines. If table rollers aren’t adjusted properly, your board will jump around, causing snipe. The infeed and outfeed tables on this machine also play a role in eliminating snipe. They need to be set level, of course, but that’s easy to do. With the stock properly supported in and out of the machine, the board isn’t going to jump around and you shouldn’t have any snipe.
The cutter head is the main feature that sets this machine apart. Laguna calls this the “Quadtec” head. It’s a fairly simple design, yet very effective. There are four rows of cutters, each set in a straight line. This is a lower-cost alternative to true helical cutter heads like Laguna’s “Sheartec” cutter head, however there are still several advantages to this type of cutter head. One big advantage is the knives are much easier to set for the end user than traditional straight knife cutter heads. If you can operate a screwdriver, you’ll be able to set these knives perfectly every time. The other big advantage to this type of cutter head is the noise level. Because you don’t have one knife cutting into the board all at once, it’s a lot quieter than a traditional straight knife cutter head. This machine runs around 90 to 95db, reasonably quiet for a portable planer. I would still recommend hearing protection when using, but you won’t be annoying the neighbours when it’s running. This cutter head also uses carbide inserts and these will stay sharper a lot longer than HSS knives would.
The machine’s dust collection works very well; there is no dust to speak of outside the machine. I hooked it up to a dust collector to test it. The machine comes with a reducer if you want to use a smaller shop vacuum instead of a dust collector, but planers make a lot of chips so I expect a shop vacuum would not be able to keep up with the dust like a proper dust collector can.
A good planer is an important machine in the shop. It’s an absolute necessity for preparing stock accurately. In the good ol’ days you had to do all of this work by hand with a plane. Some people still do, but why do that when you can make a board smooth and even in thickness so quickly? The Laguna PX12 has some great features and would be a great addition to any small shop. It has lots of power and produces a smooth finish quickly on any wood.