Festool has earned a steadfast reputation for precision, German-engineered woodworking tools. The brand name is nearing the century mark and the Festool HL 850 E Power Planer only adds to its innovative excellence.
The Festool HL 850 features a single cutting knife, spiral-head design. The tool leads by example with its stylized and interchangeable head options and ability to replicate rustic architectural effects on timbers, among other surfaces. The single-head approach of this Festool removes the timber framer’s need to align the two-blade design that others in this class trend toward. The 7-Amp motor pushes the drive shaft to a speedy 10,000 RPM and enjoys soft-start technology. Its idling noise tops out at meager 79 decibels. That’s about as loud as your TV or home stereo.
Many professional users revel in the cleanliness of Festool power planers. This HL 850 is no exception. The vacuum hose mounts to either side for lefties and righties and keeps the workspace debris free. If you doubt its dust extraction ability, remove the hose for one pass and get out a broom.
Among the big pluses about this Festool is its planer head position. It’s mounted to one side and that provides excellent capacity for shoulder cuts on tenons. That’s a great time-saver because you won’t have to go back and clean them up. The retractable side guard has well thought out safety features and is conveniently located and designed to maneuver without moving your hand. Festool doesn’t miss a trick in terms of state-of-the-art design.
But Festool doesn’t just stop at precision tool design - that same outside-the-box thinking carries over to the planer heads and accompanying knives. The manufacturer’s next generation interchangeable heads and knives comes in standard, fine, coarse and undulating types. Timber Frame shops looking to give their timbers an old world, hand-hewn appearance can achieve a level of authenticity you can’t get from many tools.
Other notable 3 ¼-inch power planers include the Makita KP0810 and the DeWalt DW680K. The Makita delivers 16,000 RPM from its 7.5-AMP motor and features an adjustable depth knob, rubberized trigger handle and guide. It’s a top-notch tool for most woodworking needs and has an excellent power-to-weight ratio. But neither the two-blade system nor the awkward front knob make it shine like the Festool in terms of high-end craftsmanship. Likewise, the DeWalt hits 15,000 RPM with its 7.5-AMP motor and includes an edge guide and a depth knob similar to the Makita. Both products are terrific tools that could suit most industry professionals. The difference is that Festool strives to climb higher peaks in terms of niche craftsmanship. The Festool HL 850 is an investment in the power, precision and innovation that fine woodworking artisans appreciate.