I purchased the Plano glue press via the Wood Online show a few months back. The press comes in various configurations, but Tool Crib carries the basic 3 meter unit for around $430, which has always kept me at bay. Advanced Machinery (Delaware) sold the same unit at the above show for $299. I know a few other Badger Pond regulars also bought the unit, perhaps they can chime in as well.
The Plano press is actually a neat bit of engineering. It is designed to clamp all four surfaces of a glue-up with equal pressure (1,750 pounds worth, max). This means if your stock is milled to an accurate thickness, the glue-up should be darn close to flush, board-to-board. You can see more details on the operation of the press at Plano's website.
Assembly was pretty straightforward, you need a few flat, straight boards, and Advanced Machinery includes a supplemental instruction sheet that helps the Swedish original. It takes a minute or two to understand the diagrams, but no big deal. Many parts are press fits in order to keep parallelism and vertical specs in line, so that took a bit of futzing to get them to "snap" together.
The clamps themselves are wider than I thought, which is a good thing as they cover alot of surface area. The clamping action is great - all four surfaces clamp down and are very much in line. This should really cut down sanding glued up panels. The top of the clamp mechanisms are a tad clumsy to "hang" when not it use, but there is a hook for each clamp and it's not too hard to get it down. The three clamping units slide along the three meter track, so you can glue up smaller panels as well. For panels over three meters wide, you can supplement the glue-up with pipe clamps or any other clamp of your choice.
The clamp mechanisms are a little "clumsy" to move up and down. This is inherent in the design and a small price to pay compared to the benefits; When a panel is glued, it's tricky to wipe off any glue excess on the back side of the panel due to the clamps being close to the wall. It can be done, but it's an annoyance; I only have one, meaning only one such glue-up at a time!
- The glue-ups are great (meaning lined up) and the amount of pressure exerted is just right;
- The unit hangs on the wall, saving valuable bench space.
- Setup time is minimal, especially when gluing up series of panels within a few inches of being the same width.
- No clamp marks on the stock, anywhere. No finding and futzing with blocks to put between the wood and clamp.
- The clamping surface on each clamp mechanism is fairly wide (> 3 inches), so each clamp does a pretty good job of squaring stock anywhere within 8-10 inches of the clamp.
- Versatility and ability to add on - more clamps and track can be added if you do large glue-ups. As well, I have one track mounted in the garage (summertime) and one track in the basement (wintertime), so I can move the clamps back and forth. Extra track is pretty cheap, $25 or so.
- Overall I'd rate the Plano very highly and would recommend it at the $300 show price. $430 seems a bit steep to me, but that's easy to say in hindsight.
Addendum: I now notice that Advanced has the $299 in print ads as well, so it would appear they decided to hold the price for awhile.
Paul Jordan - 7/16/98