The silver and black Craftsman 21758 planer is a well appointed machine that’s built similarly to other portable planers: Four steel columns support and align the motor and cutterhead assembly and two lead screws move it up and down. The gear train that connects the rotation of Craftsman’s twin lead screws uses plastic bevel gears (the DeWalt, RIDGID and Ryobi use chains). The result is a very smooth cranking action that makes it nearly effortless to set the Craftsman’s depth of cut: kudos!
While the Craftsman has few of the features found on the more expensive models (save a nice fan-assisted dust collection hood), it does have something none of the others do: a granite bed. The 7/8″- thick slab replaces the slick steel-covered bed found on other models and provides very solid stock support below the feed rollers and cutterhead. During planing, I noticed that the Craftsman produced nearly zero snipe, which leads me to believe that a certain amount of snipe likely results from the deflection of the bed due to changing feed roller pressure as the board passes through the planer. Granite simply doesn’t deflect. Surprisingly, the stone bed doesn’t add significant weight: The 21758 is only 4 pounds heavier than the Delta TP305. If the Craftsman were used as a jobsite tool, I might worry a little about cracking or breaking the granite if the planer got dropped or tossed around the back of a pickup truck.
Power wise, the Craftsman’s motor is rated at only 12 amps; the other four planers sport 15-amp motors. Although it performed adequately when taking light cuts, the lower amperage was noticeable when I pushed the tool harder and took deep cuts on wider boards. The planed surfaces produced by the 21758 weren’t too bad, but some boards showed a slight amount of tearout and washboarding (faint ripples in the surface that must be sanded out). The unit includes a motor-fan-assisted dust hood that’s very effective. The removable hood is reversible, so you can locate the 2-1⁄2″ dust port on either side of the machine — very convenient.
The Craftsman has a two knife cutterhead that locks automatically when the cutterhead guard is removed for knife changes. It comes with a T-handled Allen wrench that stores atop the planer’s plastic guard, which has knife change instructions printed on it. A nice touch. There’s also a pair of magnetic tools to help you remove and replace the planer’s knives — a good thing, as they are narrow, double-edged and very sharp. The knives have holes in them that fit snugly onto small pins in the cutterhead. This makes accurately setting the knives very easy after reversal or replacement. Further, the holes in the knives are slotted, so a knife can be shifted slightly to the side. This allows an old machinist’s trick: If the knives get nicked (thus producing a slight raised ridge on the planed board), shifting the knives laterally offsets the nicks so you get a smooth cut again. The Delta, DeWalt and RIDGID also have similar knives with slotted holes.