Review By Dean Bielanowski  Ryobi Website - http://www.ryobi.com.au


Ryobi AP13
Planer / Thicknesser

 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

The AP13 is Available in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
In the USA, Ryobi's main product in this market is the AP1300 Planer/Thicknesser

There comes a time in one's woodworking career (and it is almost always somewhere near the beginning) where you need to start buying rough sawn stock for price reasons or to reduce the thickness of a board to a size needed for a project, or to simply smooth out a rough face of a board for application.

Yes, that is the day you realize that you cannot do without a planer/thicknesser machine! Hand planing simply takes too long and your handheld power planer is producing inconsistent results. Sound familiar? If so, then I'm sure this review will be grabbing your attention.

There are almost as many types, sizes and brands of planer/thicknesser (P/T) machines on the market as their are cordless drills, which is great for competition and price wars, but not so healthy when you need to make a decision to buy one. Almost everyone has a budget of course, and this will ultimately govern which machine you can afford and will also help rule out those that do not agree with your bank statement.

Today, we will take a look at Ryobi's AP13 machine. It is at the budget end of the scale for P/T machines, and certainly does not have all the features of the more expensive ones. Whether these additional features are indeed needed is debatable. Ee are more concerned with the end result on this machine. So let's now take a closer look to see whether the AUD$359 (Australian Dollars) price tag on the Ryobi AP13 is worth its weight in coins...

AP13 Vs AP1300
Let me start by mentioning that the AP13 (reviewed here) is a different model/machine to Ryobi's AP1300 Planer/Thicknesser (widely availble in the USA), so please make a not of that. The AP1300 has more features than the AP13 and, naturally, a higher price tag as well.

Packaging & Assembly
The AP13 was shipped and packaged securely and arrived damage-free (always a good start). All components were accounted for as per the printed manual. We can throw a few points to Ryobi already because this machine requires virtually no assembly out of the box, except for attaching the crank handle for the raising/lowering mechanism of the cutterhead and attachment of the chip guard to the rear (outfeed side) of the machine using two screws and wing nuts. The blades ship assembled and ready to go. So in less than say 5 minutes (the chip guard was a bit of a tight fit requiring a few attempts to get into position), the machine is ready for action.

Safety First (Read the Manuals!)
The included manual is excellent and should be read cover-to-cover to reduce any chance of personal injury while using the machine. It covers assembly, features, operation, safety, maintenance, and a troubleshooting guide. It is in black and white, however, all photos are clear, fairly large and explain the features and operation very well in accordance with the text. It is a quality manual worthy of your time.

Tech Specs Discussion
Let's start off with the tech specs as stated on the box and in the manual:

Ryobi AP13 Technical Specifications

Input: 2000 watts
No Load Speed: 8000 RPM
Min. Planing Length 127mm
Max Planing Width 318mm
Planing Height 7-153mm
Depth Per Pass 3mm
Feeding Speed 8m / min
Binder: 48mm with 2 blades
8000 RPM i.e. 16,000 CPM
Weight 32kg

With an input of 2000 watts, the AP13 has enough grunt to plane down most boards, and at the recommended maximum depth of cut per pass (3mm). In testing, we had no trouble planing/thicknessing a variety of wood species to our needs. There was certainly enough power onboard to meet all our needs during the test period. No stalling of motor or circuit overload was experienced.

The maximum planing width of 318mm (or 12.5 inches) is fairly standard on these smaller portable machines and is sufficient for most widths of boards you will ever come across. Certainly, you may have wider boards/slabs that may not be suitable for planing on this machine, and if there is no other way of planing or thicknessing these boards easily, you always have the option of ripping them into two or more pieces, planing them and then rejoining them. Not ideal of course, but you can only perform such miracles with miracle machines costing significantly more.

The planing height range of 7-153mm (0.276 - 6.02 inches) is again likely to be all you will need for most surface planing tasks. If you happen to grab yourself a nice lump of lumber that is too big for the machine, chances are that you are going to have to cut it down to smaller sizes for your project anyway (or fork out more dollars for a mega machine).

The AP13 is a two-blade system only, which is common for the price range, but more often, woodworkers will prefer a three blade system for a smoother cut. I guess this depends on how smooth you want your surface to be, and whether you are willing to pay extra for that 3rd blade, which will likely be a recurring expense either to buy a new set of 3 blades (rather than 2) or have 3 blades sharpened at extra cost (rather than 2)?
With the 2 blades on the AP13 and a No Load Speed of 8,000 revolutions per minute, you are getting 16,000 cuts per minute as it is. Probably sufficient for a board that you will likely be fine sanding later anyway. If you make your final pass at the minimum depth of cut, then 2 blades will produce a nice finish. 3 blades are useful for finer finishes on deeper depths of cut per pass, however, even at 3mm depth cuts, the surfaces always came out smooth with the AP13. You would certainly have to get right up close to spot any imperfections, and again, these would be sanded out later anyway.

At 32kg (70.5 lbs), the AP13 is heavy but quite portable, however, it may be a little cumbersome for those with bad backs (or bad lifting techniques!) to lift high up onto a truck or into a car boot. With correct lifting techniques and a little muscle thrown in, the weight of the machine is quite manageable allowing portability to be one of it's selling features. In-built handles on both sides of the machine give you a firm grip on the machine that earns itself some points in this area.

Features & Testing
The AP13 is a fairly basic machine compared to the higher priced planers in the market (as you would expect). There is no cutterhead lock, but is it really needed? The AP13 cutterhead sits on 4 rigid columns. We found that with proper support on the infeed and outfeed sides when planing (particularly when first feeding in the material and at the last few inches of planing), the cutterhead itself remained rigid in its position and caused very few incidences, or only a hint of snipe during testing. And speaking of infeed and outfeed tables, these are both 170mm (6.7 inches) in length and feature a standard roller assembly which adds another 25mm (1 inch) to the length. Both feed tables fold up to lower the footprint of the machine for more efficient storage or transfer. We found that with the short tables found on most planer/thicknessers of this size, you are more likely to suffer snipe on longer lengths of material if they are not further supported along their length by some other means.

Woodworking Tip

If you find yourself always in the clutches of the dreaded snipe-dragon, you will know that those first 1 or 2 inches, and the last 1 or 2 inches are your snipe problem areas. One way to avoid this problem is to cut your timber just
that little bit longer, run it through the planer/thicknesser to achieve the thickness/finish you need and if the snipe-dragon rears its ugly head, just saw off those ugly ends
and you will find you have a nice, even, uniform-thickness
board for your project.

The depth gauge on the AP13 is a simple gauge measure tape (in inches and millimeters) on the right hand side of the machine which uses a clear plastic, red-lined marker screwed to the cutterhead assembly. Somewhat standard, but it works and was correctly aligned and configured straight out of the box. You can easily wind up the correct depth setting for planing using the gauge, however, unlike more expensive machines, it doesn't have the secondary depth gauge that indicates depth of cut when the cutterhead is lowered down onto the actual piece of wood. You must set the depth before passing your wood through the cutterhead. One turn of the crank handle will move you up or down by 2 millimeters.

The ON/OFF switch is again, located on the cutterhead assembly (left hand side) and is a simple up/down flip switch. It features a removable yellow locking pin, that when removed, prohibits the switch to initiate a response when pushed to the ON position. Always better to be safe than sorry, particularly if you do not want others to use, or accidently switch on the machine. Right next to the ON/OFF switch is a Circuit Overload switch. In the event of an overload, the switch will pop out to protect the machine from further damage. In use, we never experienced an overload, so we will assume this feature works fine for now.

Removing & Replacing Blades
Although we did not need to install the planer blades at setup (because they we pre-installed), we did a dummy run of removing a replacing the blades to test how easy (or difficult) this particular task may be on the AP13. To remove the blades, you must first remove the chip guard from the rear of the machine. Considering I had a little trouble placing the guard originally, this was not removed too enthusiastically. Nonetheless, off it came and I started attacking the lock screws holding the lock bar and blade in place. There are a total of seven screws holding the blade in position. It sounds like a lot of spanner work, but you only need to loosen them a short distance to 'free' them up.  Once all seven screws have been loosened, the blade 'pops up'' slightly as it is spring loaded from beneath. You can now safely remove the blade and replace it with a new one, or with a sharpened blade. Inserting the blade is the exact reverse of the removal procedure, however, you must ensure you have the blade height set correctly (for accurate cuts) and have the blade facing the right way (or it won't cut at all!). Setting the blade height is discussed well in the manual and is accomplished with the blade setting gauge jig included in the package.  

All up, removal and replacement of both blades took about 10 minutes for the first attempt. You can certainly spend much more time than that replacing a bandsaw blade and tuning your bandsaw for proper functioning at times.

Maintenance
Apart from changing the blades when they become dull or nicked, their isn't a whole lot of maintenance that needs to be carried out to keep the AP13 in tip-top shape. Blasting the dust out with compressed air is always a good maintenance ploy, and occasional lubrication of the chains is recommended for maximum performance.

Testing... Testing 1, 2, 3
That is what we literally did... Although we tested the AP13 over several weeks, to grab the shots you see pictured to the right, we decided to set up the AP13 in the courtyard. The sun was shining and it was a pleasant warm day, so why not!

There really isn't much a planer/thicknesser can do, except plane really, so the only really exciting thing about the whole process is seeing the end results. We through Pine wood, Ipe Wood, Red wood and Ironbark through the planer and each length was planed at 1mm, 2mm and 3mm depths at each pass to see how the AP13 handled it. On each occasion, the wood came out almost perfectly and we tested flatness with a long metal straight-edge rule. Results were good and any light slipping under the rule was most often the result of cranky grain rather than any trough or gouge caused by the planer itself. On the 3mm depth passes, the snipe was more exacerbated on the longer pieces, so it wasn't all smooth sailing, however, this is a well known common problem with these machines, so you take it on the chin and plan ahead for that.

On all passes, the wood was fed in smoothly by the feed rollers both within the machine and on the tables and the feed rollers on top of the machine itself came in very handy for moving boards back to the front of the machine for subsequent passes.

Conclusion
Ok, so it's not the most featured planer/thicknesser on the market, but for the price, the AP13 performed exceptionally well in our opinion. This is certainly one machine the weekend hobbyist or dedicated home woodworker would find invaluable in the production phase of their projects. The ability to take 'rough' lumber and plane it down to a useable state (assuming it has one flat surface) is an attribute that makes this particular type of machine a 'must-have'. While it cannot flatten cupped, curved or twisted boards like a jointer machine can, the AP13 combined with a jointer would certainly have you stacking up quality boards in your workshop ready for action. Definitely a machine you would not look past in your purchasing decisions.

Thanks goes to Andrew Miller from Ryobi Australia for
his assistance with this review.
 

Ryobi AP13 Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior written permission prohibited

The Ryobi AP13 is ready to use straight out of the box.


The infeed/outfeed tables each feature roller-bars but the tables themselves are slightly shorter
than those found on more
expensive models.


The chip guard
(with red warning sticker)
deflects chips down when planing.


Accessories include blade setting height jig, hex/allen wrenches, spanner, 4 screws to secure the AP13 to a work surface and 4 rubber to protect clamping surface.


The ON/OFF switch (with yellow removable safety key) and the circuit breaker switch shown here


Work support rollers on top of the machine help to move the timber from the rear of the machine back to the front for the next pass.


The black carry handles on the sides of the machine give a solid
and trustworthy grip when moving the planer around.


The AP13 has 4 columns to support the cutterhead. This helps reduce cutterhead movement and
resulting snipe.


The depth gauge (in both imperial and metric) was easy to read and accurately calibrated straight out
of the box.


With the chip guard removed at the rear, you have easy access to the cutterhead assembly for blade removal/insertion tasks.


Since the sun was shining, we took the AP13 into the courtyard to put it through its paces... here we are cleaning up some pine.


Wider boards planed very smoothly with only a slight hint of snipe evident on the trailing end.


The chips flow freely on this 3mm depth cut, but are safely deflected downward thanks for the chip deflection guard.


Even Ipe wood can't bog her down!

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