Finally, I have a motorized plane
When it comes to preparing a surface for finishing, nothing beats a hand plane. It’s way faster than sanding and can leave a perfect, glass smooth surface. (And don’t forget that hand planing is far more pleasant that sanding–no dust, no noise.) That’s why I’ve heard over and over that there’s no power tool that’s the equal of a plane for surface prep. In a way that’s true. There is no commonly available power tool that’s up to the job, at least not here in the States. But in Japan, there is one. It’s an odd machine that’s looks to be the offspring of a drum sander and giant hand plane. They’re commonly called super surfacers. How do they work? Well, there is a gigantic and extremely sharp fixed blade. A belt feeds a piece of wood past the blade and the blade takes a whispy full-width and full-length shaving. That’s right a full-width and full-length shaving off any board that fits into the machine! And like a plane it leaves a great surface.
I’d seen one on video before, but had never seen one in person until last week. One of the editors at Fine Homebuilding is retiring and moving back to California. He was lightening his tool load and offered up a Hitachi FA-700 Super Surfacer to whoever would get it out of his garage. I jumped at the chance and now it’s in my garage. As you can see from the photos, it needs some cleaning and tuning, but it runs and I can’t wait to see the first shaving come flying out the top. The blade is about 10 in. wide! Once I get it working properly, I’ll shoot some video and post it. (I’ll be the guy jumping around excited as a 5 year old.)
In the meantime, check out this YouTube video of a Super Surfacer at work.
On a side note, this machine and another one made by Makita were tested and reviewed in Fine Woodworking #38 by one of our former editors, Paul Bertorelli.
Seriously, that's a big blade. I can't get over how thick it is: 5/16 in. It's an impressive piece of steel.
This is a hand plane? Not exactly. It's a Super Surfacer, which surfaces wood with a fixed blade, but on a much larger scale. And a motor drives a belt to feed wood through the blade rather than you feeding the blade over the wood.
Here's the feed belt. The blade is overhead and the belt moves to the right. There are no pressure rollers. Rather, plates before and after the blade hold the wood down.
The blade goes here. There's chip breaker, too. The entire housing rotates so that the blade can be skewed to lower the blade's effective cutting angle.
Now that's what I call a blade. It's about 10 in. wide and 5/16 in. thick. I believe it's made from high speed steel. Should be fun to sharpen.