Review By Dean Bielanowski  GMC Website - http://www.gmcompany.com


GMC 420W Magnesium Palm Planer

Review
By Dean Bielanowski

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Please note: Since this review was published, Global Machinery Company (GMC) has gone into receivership and is no longer operating. As such, spare parts or technical support cannot be obtained directly through them. Their website at www.gmcompany.com appears to still be available online and offers some product information and manuals but contacting them will receive no reply. Note that OnlineToolReviews.com does not work for GMC, nor do we offer any support or spare parts for their products.

If you are a power tool junkie, like me, it's always great to get your hands on a practical and useful power tool to make those common woodworking tasks a more simpler affair.

This is not to say a good hand tool is worthless. In fact, hand planes are very handy to have around the shop and on construction sites for fine-tuning of lumber or joints, in their many forms. While the hand plane is often associated with fine woodworking, the hand power planer is more often found on construction or building sites, but it too can be used for fine woodworking tasks.

Today we are looking at a power planer, but one with a little twist. The GMC Magnesium Palm Planer is smaller than your average power planer, fits in the palm of your hand allowing one handed operation and offers something unique in the world of power tools.

The GMC Magnesium Palm Power Planer
The Palm Planer ships in a small-sized black plastic molded case. Naturally, this affords it good protection during transit, and consequently, it arrived damage free and ready to go. This same case will offer good protection for the end user if they also transport it around from site to site, so it is well worth retaining and using it. Inside you will find the planer itself, a full-color product manual, plus several accessories including;

  • Blade spanner
  • Chip extraction tube
  • Spare drive belt
  • Spare set of blades

This is a fairly stock-standard set of accessories for a power planer, except for the spare set of blades. This is the first planer I have acquired that offers a full set of spare blades in the case. A nice addition and a good little money saver as quality replacement blades can consume a bit of petty cash in the stores. Be aware however that these blades are not the standard 82mm size, only 60mm, so grab a set of spares with your purchase, or when you find them in your retail outlet. They may be hard to find in a few years time.

The Palm Planer (Product Code: PPM) features a 420W motor. This is about half the power of a solid regular sized power planer, but given that this tool does not take as much material off in a pass, due to its smaller blade and max depth cutting capacity, a larger motor doesn't seem warranted. Plus, to have a small power tool such as this, you can't go too big in the power department, otherwise it is no longer a "small" tool. 420W of power proved to be more than ample for all cutting tasks I engaged the tool in. Even on full width planing passes at close to maximum depth in dense hardwoods, the PPM did the job with little trouble, although consideration to feed rate on harder woods needs to be taken into account. The PPM features a no-load speed of 14,000 RPM and combined with a two-blade cutterhead delivers smooth planing results with sharp cutters. The TCT cutting blades themselves are reversible so you get double the life out of them over a normal single-edged blade set.

The power controls are located in easy reach of the thumb and forefinger. The switch lock release button is located up top (with the chevron markings). The power on/off button is located below and lateral to this. To power up the tool the top lock switch must be push down/forward and held there while the lateral on/off button is pressed to power up the tool. To turn off the tool you simply release the on/off button. The lock switch does not have to be held down/forward once the tool has been turned on. Both switches have a rubber mold grip for better grip/control.

The PPM's body features a mix of light weight magnesium (belt drive cover, front control area) hardened plastic, and rubber overmolds for grip and comfort throughout. Despite the light magnesium and plastic casing, the tool doesn't feel like a toy. It still weighs in at 1.9kgs, which does seem to be a comfortable weight in the hand. Not too light to feel flimsy and vibrate excessively in use, and not too heavy as to make it unmanageable (and dangerous) with single hand control. The whole tool features a smooth, slimline design. The motor housing, which is also where you grip the tool in the palm has a rounded barrel shape that easily contours to the curve of your hand as you grasp the tool. In fact, the tool is very comfortable to hold and use.

A fully cast metal base is machined flat and was verified to indeed be flat by my shop straight edge. The fixed rear base is solid and flat while the adjustable front base features numerous (3) V-grooves to allow edge chamfering to be achieved. Each V-groove is milled at a different depth too for versatility, to mill a specific depth chamfer, or to use a different groove each time to even out blade wear by not using the same part of the blade with each pass. In terms of depth capacity, the PPM can remove up to 1.5mm of material with each pass. The adjustable front base and depth control knob allows changes in 0.25mm increments with click stops for each 0.25mm setting. Maximum cutting width is 60mm, about 22mm less than a conventional full sized power planer, but still more than enough for the majority of planing tasks, and certainly plenty for door edge planing and edge chamfering.

At the rear edge of the tool is a dust extraction port where the supplied shaving adaptor tube fits. You can use this to either guide shavings and debris away from the user, or to hook up a shop vacuum hose for more efficient extraction. In use the dust extraction port works reasonably well. I won't say very well as it can sometimes get clogged easily, particularly when taking full width passes on softer materials like pine. The curly shavings this softwood sometimes produces can block the port, particularly if you make a planing pass too quickly, not giving the tool enough time to efficiently remove the mass volume of shavings and debris it creates. The problem seems less evident on hardwoods, and almost non existent when chamfering or making smaller width passes. In these instances the dust port works a treat.

A nice feature of this tool is the blade protection foot mounted on the back end of the rear base. It is a little pivoting foot that lowers under gravity to provide clearance for the blade and cutterhead when the tool is put down on a work surface. This ensures the blade does not gouge your workbench, table or concrete floor (!!!) when the tool is placed down and the cutterhead is still spinning. It readily pivots up and out of the way itself as you make a planing pass and the edge of the timber pushes against the protection foot. This was a feature I first noted on some of Ryobi's power planers, and it has proved very useful and handy, both protecting your work surfaces and your blades from damage. Thumbs up for that inclusion on the PPM!

In Use
In terms of use, the Palm Planer is not really used any differently to a full sized planer, except for that fact that is a one-handed-use tool. Planing technique is similar to a full sized unit; there are very few differences in this regard. While a planer like this can be used for a variety of different purposes, it tends to see most use in planing down door edges to fit a door opening, or to fix "stuck" doors or doors that have expanded over time and no longer close properly. It is used for general width or dimension reduction on building or construction sites (in the woodworker's shop, this task is often done by a dedicated thicknessing machine). The quick and easy chamfering a power planer offers is often preferred over a hand plane or block plane by many, especially if your hand tools haven't received the sharpening attention they deserve in recent times! While the PPM can also cut rabbets on the edge of timber, it is not specifically designed for it (no rabbeting fence included) and these must be done somewhat free-hand to start off with, then there is a limited cut capacity for rebates because of the tools body design and shape.

In terms of use and practicality, I think that if you already own a power planer, there may not be a lot to offer you in this smaller unit, unless you have a specific need or desire for a smaller portable power planer, or for one-handed use. If you do not yet own a power planer however, and are looking for a starter or smaller unit for all those odd jobs around the home, or for quick chamfering of edges, then the PPM would indeed fit the task nicely.

Priced at around AUD$89 (street price as at February '07) it offers good value for money and basic features all packaged in a uniquely sized portable planer with magnesium casing. It will probably not satisfy a trade user, but is ideal for the DIY enthusiast, home owner or occasional carpenter.
 

Available to Order through these Companies...
Click graphic to go to their direct product page for this item

In Australia
BUNNINGSMITRE 10
HOME HARDWARETHRIFTY LINK

 

GMC PPM Photos
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The PPM Palm Planer


Depth adjustment knob up front


Lock switch release and power
on/off button


Dust extraction port and blade protection foot at rear of tool


Light and durable magnesium covers, here shown protecting the belt drive.


The cutterhead


Grooved front plate for chamfering and edge work, flat rear plate for accurate results.


PPM shown planing a door edge


Knocking off the sharp corners
using the chamfering grooves

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