Tool Review: DeWalt DW734 12-1/2″ Thickness Planer


Weighing in at eighty pounds, the DW734 is the smaller of two bench-top planers that DeWalt offers. You can pick one up from a big box store for around $360-$400. The 15A, 120V electric motor spins the three cutting blades at 10,000 RPM and the automatic feed system uses two rubber drums to grab the workpiece and steadily feed it through the blades at 96 cuts per inch. The blades are reversible and produce a nice finish, however due to the mounting hole configuration they are very difficult to re-sharpen. You can buy a pack of three replacement blades for around $45 online.

The DW734 can plane wood up to 12.5” wide and 6” thick. There is a handy scale on the side of the planer divided into 1/32” and 1mm graduations. I have not tested the accuracy yet, and I really only use it as a reference when setting up the initial height of the cutting blades. One full rotation of the handle changes the height of the cutting head by 1/16”.

To set the planer to the proper height, first lift the black bar in front to unlock the four-column carriage-locking mechanism. This will allow you to raise and lower the cutting head. Insert the workpiece and rotate the handle until the gauge comes into contact with the top of the workpiece and the red indicator arrow begins to move up. As you continue to lower the cutting head, the arrow will indicate how deep the planer will cut, up to 1/8”.

The best depth of cut depends on the width and hardness of the wood. In some cases I have been able to take 1/8” cuts out of 2×6 pine. If you are planing a 12” wide piece of hardwood like maple, you should take less than a 1/16” cut, with a final clean up pass at a depth of 1/32”, to ensure a nice finish. Once the height is set, remember to push the black bar back down to lock the cutting head in place. Flip the red switch and feed the first two or three inches of the workpiece into the machine until you feel the rubber friction drums pulling the wood in.

On the right side of the planer is a small dial that is used to set three common thicknesses. Setting it to 0, 1/4”, 1/2”, or 3/4” ensures that your part will be no thinner than the indicated value. This is very handy to prevent the cutting head from going any lower on the off chance you accidentally run the same stock more than once.

The compact design makes this planer easy to store. Two metal handles slide out from the top for convenient lifting. It is recommended that you have a friend help you lift this machine onto the bench top, but I have been able to lift it many times by myself if no one else is around.

The machine feels solid and rigid and I was impressed with the quality of the materials used in its construction. The metal infeed and outfeed tables help support long boards and the planer cuts straight and level. It comes with an attachment that redirects the flow of wood shavings that fly out. The down side to this attachment is that, when installed, the outfeed table cannot fold up and makes storage a hassle. Other than that, I have been very happy with the design and construction of the DW734. If you are willing to invest the cash, I would highly recommend this model for hobbyist or weekend use.