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Thread: Parks planer?

  1. #1
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    Default Parks planer?

    Hello All,

    I have the chance to purchase an old Parks Planer. I've seen them mentioned on here and they seem to have a good rep.

    However when asking a friend who has been woodworking for awhile he said that some of the old planers need a machinist to replace the blades. Anyone have any experience with the Parks Planer? Is it really that hard to adjust the blades compared to new planers? Any thoughts? Thanks again, FM

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Default Re: Parks planer?

    All the Parks planers are getting pretty old...and they're an old design. Unless you're getting it really cheap you might want to look around. New planers are relatively cheap and the price of used machines is affected by this. I have a Delta RC-33, a thirteen inch machine from the eighties, hardly used, which I keep because I couldn't get much for it if I tried to sell it. The Delta is a superior design to the Parks, IMHO, but doesn't have that nostalgic appeal that a lot of folks seem to like.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Parks planer?

    I've got a Rockwell/Delta Model 18 13" planer like this one:



    It's very similar to Jim's RC-33 as to quality and capability:



    The difference between the two is that the "18's" motor is mounted in the base and its cutters are fixed. Thickness is varied by moving the lower table up and down. The "RC-33" has a moveable cutter head that moves up and down to adjust thickness, while the base table remains fixed. (Feel free to correct me if I"m wrong on this, Jim.)

    I've used a Parks and they are decent machines if, like any other stationary power tool, they are properly maintained and adjusted. The Parks Planer, long a Craftsman/Sears standby, I believe, is, however, a somewhat lighter machine. When you are talking "old 'arn," stationary power tools, accuracy equals mass, so the heavier the better. Accuracy is important in a thickness planer. You don't want flats out of level or a lot of snipe ("biting" the ends of the plank and cutting to deeply.) Snipe is best addressed by proper feel table length. The Parks is somewhat shy on in-feed table length as I recall. This is easily addressed by the use of portable auxiliary roller stands at either end of the machine.



    As you can see from the pictures, the Parks is a lighter machine all around. It's still a very good piece of equipment. If the price fits and you don't want to step up to the heavier "18" or "RC-33" (or one of its Grizzly, Jet, Powermatic, and probably now also Delta Asian clones), I'd encourage you to grab it. It's certainly a machine worthy of restoration and use. (Note the large diameter dust collection hose on the after market dust collection port.)

    Used Rockwell/Delta 18's are currently being sold by the used tool companies for somewhere around $1,200 a pop. I got mine for $400 from a want ad about ten years ago. I would advise against spending the money for the lightweight "lunchbox" planers. They rely on very sharp disposable blades, sometimes spiral cutting edges, and the probability of being primarily used by hobbyists on softwood. They don't have the mass and power to slogg through stuff like the tougher boatbuilding woods. You'll also likely spend more on blades over time than the difference in cost between the little machine and a good used behemoth.

    As for setting blades, it's not rocket science. If is a "machinist's" job, we must all be machinists! What is important is getting each blade set at the same depth and perfectly level. The trick is simply to use the right blade setting template. Most all manufacturers have cooked up one for their machines, or you can buy one of the slicker after-market ones. Essentially it's just a "key" that sets over the blade roller. You raise the blade edge to hit the face of the key and you then know the distance between the blade roller and the blade edge is the same, so long as you're using the same key all along. Most blade rollers (there's probably a more proper name for the part) have a series of adjusting screws or bolts along the blade edges which permit very fine adjustment of the blade height. There are also set screws that hold the blades in place. Once you have the blade adjustment set, you can remove the blades by loosening the set screws without changing the adjustment settings, send them out for sharpening and, if you are lucky and they've all be ground equally, resetting is a less onerous task. You will have to adjust for the reduced depth caused by sharpening on a thickness planer, but that comes with the territory. Changing out blades isn't something you do a whole lot of unless the machine is in continuous production use. I would encourage you to establish a relationship with a good commercial sharpening shop. They will be able to sharpen your blades perfectly and for a surprisingly reasonable price. These outfits are sometimes a bit difficult to find. Their customers are often industrial operations that use mechanized cutting machines and have need of a lot of sharpening. It isn't like you'll find one in a strip mall, but they are out there wherever any manufacturing work of any kind is done. You DO NOT want to sharpen planer blades by hand. You need to use a purpose built sharpening jig on a proper sharpening machine. Their edges have to be perfectly straight and you want to make sure, if possible, that the amount of "meat" removed from each blade when sharpening is as equal as possible so they wear evenly. They will end up different widths if one gets a nick that has to be ground out, but keeping their size, and hence weight, as equal as possible will balance the cutter assembly and make for a smoother running machine and less bearing wear. Hence, unless you want to invest in industrial sharpening machinery, it's cheaper and easier to farm out planer blades to a professional sharpener. ALWAYS LABEL the blades when sending them out for sharpening so you can be sure they will be going back in the same place on the spindle when replaced.



    Here's a really fancy blade setting jig, complete with micrometer settings.

    The stock blade setting jig that came with my Rockwell/Delta machine is just a Y-shaped sort of yoke made out of stamped sheet metal that measures a constant depth when held on the blade spindle. Actually, you can actually get by with just about any sort of straight edge on planers having a level surface on either side of the blade drum (which thickness planers often don't.)



    Get the Parks if the price is right. They are still excellent machines and their smaller size and weight over the "18's" or "RC-33" is an advantage if you are pressed for room in your shop. You pretty much want them on rollers anyway because the length of infeed and outfeed is going to be a bit more than double the length of your stock. For an 18' plank, you'd have to dedicate about 40' of shop space. It's a lot easier to roll the machine out to the drive way when you need to use it. It's also a lot easier to clean up (or not!) if you use it outside. As you probably know, planers create a HUGE amount of shavings and dust. A job of any size will quickly overwhelm the "hobby" dust collection systems on the market today. To really handle dust collection for any amount of planing, you really want an industrial style cyclone dust collector and an outside discharge to a collection barrel. That's pretty costly (not to mention that the wife probably doesn't want a cyclone hanging off the side of your house in the suburbs!) It's better to just let 'em fly and sweep up the shavings when the job is done. The shavings aren't the worst of it. They will fill a shop vac in minutes, though. The big problem is the finer dust, which will get all over everything in the shop unless you have a very high volume dust collection system than can handle BOTH the volume of shavings and still suck up the dust at the same time. Check out any commercial milling shop and you'll see that they are using dust collection rigs far beyond anything sold by the hobbyist woodworking outfits.
    Last edited by Bob Cleek; 09-05-2010 at 05:15 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Parks planer?

    Changing the knives on a Parks planer is easy. A "Magna-set" will help. The trick is to remember that to loosen the knives, you need to tighten the gib screws. Many a gib screw has been rounded into oblivion by musclebound gorillas who couldn't figure that bit out.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Parks planer?

    I have an old Parks in storage in my barn. It's been there for almost 30 years. While I was building my house, it was indispensable, especially during the finishing phase. You don't have to be an engineer to change the blades, but it helps. Now that I am retired, I am building my shop, and one of the first tools i thought of is that Parks. It will surely be there, but it won't be the one I will use on a daily basis. I agree that the newer planers are much more functional, and easier to use. I'll probably rebuild it completerly and set it up on one of the back walls. If i need to make a large run of molding or some operation not requiring a lot of changes. If you can get it cheap, get it,,if not,,let it go.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Parks planer?

    I think I'm putting this one on the back burner. I just don't have time right now to rebuild something like this. Also after talking with the current owner more it sounds like there is pitting on the tables and rollers. Also after doing some research it looks like its missing all the parts(original belt guard,original stand) that would make it worth something in the end.

    I just bought a 1955 Delta Bandsaw that I need to tune up so that will keep me busy for now.

    Thanks FM

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