Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bosch Tool Review – Cordless Planer

6:55 AM Comments 0

A few months ago we received a handful of Bosch tools to use and abuse in our daily chores around here at J. Alexander Fine Woodworking. I want to talk about our overall impressions of the tool, which is pretty standard, but I also want to show how we used the tools to complete specific projects, whether or not the tools performed as anticipated, and whether or not the tools made completing the job easier and faster.

Bosch Cordless Planer – PLH181K


Every once in a while you begin using a tool and wonder how in the world you were able to get work done without it. The PLH181 is one of those tools. It has quickly risen through the ranks to become my new favorite tool, not just in our installation tool kit, but quite possible in our entire shop! I love everything about this tool, and have yet to find any drawbacks in its design or performance.

I have to admit that when we first received the cordless planer from Bosch, I was a bit skeptical of how well a cordless planer would perform out in the field. When using cordless tools, I need the battery to last, so I can focus on completing the job, not on cycling out batteries. The planer´s battery lasts all day, no matter how much planing we have to do, and, best of all, with no decrease in the quality of the cut.

For the cordless planer, I´m not going to look at any specific projects that we used it on, because we pretty much use it on every install, but let me share some thoughts on how it has changed the way we work.

In our cabinet installations, any part that terminates into a wall – whether it is a 1″ scribe strip or an applied end panel – gets scribed for a perfect fit, preferably one that doesn’t even require a bead of caulking. This planer has revolutionized that process! Prior to this planer we used a corded Makita planer, which worked OK, but it had to be plugged in. I cannot stress how much of a difference losing the cord on a tool can make. Not having to drag out an extension cord, fumble to keep the cord out of the way while using the tool, and packing everything back up may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t. The easier a tool is to use, the more often you will use it.

When installing a long run of frameless cabinets, if there is ever a slight bump in a wall, we immediately pull out the planer and take a couple of passes off of the 1/4″ back edge of our cabinet boxes, thereby allowing the cabinet to compensate for the bow and lay flush against the wall. There is usually also a small amount of material that needs to be taken off of full-height fridge panels to ensure a tight fit to the wall and the floor. The same goes for dealing with bumps in the ceiling when hanging crown.

The planer’s chip ejection system is versatile and makes planing in the room a breeze. With a shop vac hooked up to the ejection port, which can be switched from left to right at the flick of a switch, you can plane right there in the home. No more having to cart tools and parts outside because of the dusty mess. We were also surprised to learn that the planer only has one blade, since the smoothness and quality of the cut is perfect. Another feature on our old corded planer that was not functional, was the depth of cut setting. While we usually just leave the blade set to remove 1/16″, there have been times it has been nice to adjust it down, to say 1/32″, and be able to remove just the slightest amount. The planer is also lightweight and maneuverable enough to easily shift the tool from planing horizontally, to planing vertically or sideways, and back again, while still achieving accurate and quality cuts.

At the end of the day, this is one of those tools that I didn’t realize how often we would use until we had one sitting in our toolbox, and now, I don’t want to imagine trying to install cabinetry without it.