Delta has just introduced a new 13″ planer, the 22-590. It replaces the 22-580, a model that received top marks in our planer tool test back in 2003. In the years since, few other small planers have met the very high standard set by the 22-580. Is the new model a step forward?
The answer is a mixed bag. We won’t be able to make a final judgment until we’ve used the 22-590 for a year or so (we’ve had a 22-580 in our shop since ’03), but here’s a comparison of three important features.
The new model introduces a three-knife cutterhead. Running at 26 feet per minute—a good clip—it produces 96 cuts per inch (cpi). The higher the number of cuts per inch, the smoother the surface you’ll get. Few other planers can match 96 cpi, so the new model does quite well in this regard.
The old model, the 22-580, had a two-knife cutterhead. It was capable of producing 90 cpi, but this required you to switch the feed rate to a much slower speed. At the normal feed rate, you would get 60 cpi, which is OK for anything other than a final pass. A lower cpi has the benefit of putting less wear on the blades.
In sum, the older model gave you the option of two surface qualities, medium and fine, while the new model only produces a fine surface. Delta has compensated for the additional wear on the 22-590’s blades by upgrading their steel.
A second major difference between the models is the thickness scale—the indicator that tells you how thick your planed board will be. These scales are notoriously hard to read. The older model broke new ground by introducing a scale with an easy-to-read cursor, conveniently positioned on top of the machine. The new model abandons this approach, reverting to a commonly used type of scale that’s frankly awkward to read.
A third difference between the models is the depth stop. The new model allows you to dial in a thickness anywhere from 1/8″ to 1-1/4″. However, it’s not a very positive stop—when cranking the depth-of-cut handle, it’s hard to tell when you’ve exactly arrived at your pre-set thickness. The old model allowed you to dial in virtually any thickness from 1/8″ to 6″. This stop was very definite—you knew when you hit it.
Overall, if surface quality is the most important aspect of a planer’s performance, the 22-590 continues an excellent tradition. But we wish it were more user-friendly.
Delta Tools, www.deltaportercable.com, (800) 223-7278, 13″ Portable Thickness Planer, 22-590, $500.
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