Reliant 12" Planer

Reliant CT-318I'll tell you right off the bat; this is not my favorite machine. The purchase was made on a price-point and although I feel that I got what I paid for, I didn't get a machine that I'm pleased with.

The Reliant brand is a house brand of Trend-lines, a Massachusetts-based mail order supply house. The machine itself is manufactured in Taiwan and is the same machine sold by Jet and others. Since the price of the Reliant is quite a bit less that the price Jet charges for the same machine, I went with the Reliant. I cannot say with certainty that all of the parts are the same with the various machines, but they all are identical in appearance and that assumption is easy to make.

The machine comes with an open-based stand which is quite sturdy. Also included were an extra set of high-speed steel knives. The stand needs to be assembled, but all of the parts were included and I found nothing missing. The planer itself was heavily encased in rust preventative material and required quite a bit of cleaning with mineral spirits to get it ready for use.

I purchased the optional dust collection hood with dual 2-1/4" outlets for vacuum hookup. The output of the planer quickly clogs a 2-1/4" hose and I modified the hood to accept a single 4" hose at the top. I connect this to my 3/4 hp DC and it works well. The wrong machine screws were supplied with the dust collection hood although the proper ones were readily available at my local hardware store.

Once cleaned up and assembled, the planer worked quite well right out of the box. The only adjustment needed was to the infeed and outfeed supports - an adjustment which refuses to stay properly set. The machine snipes, but this is minimized by lowering the bed rollers beneath the bed and taking light cuts. The quality of finish is good. The noise level from the universal motor is very high and requires the use of ear protection.

Blade changing is one of the nice features of this machine. The cutterhead uses adjustment screws rather than springs so it is an easy matter to set the knives with the supplied knife-setting jig. It takes me about 10 minutes to change knives although I have quite a bit of practice.

After about a year of heavy use I started to have problems with the machine. It has a penchant for burning out cutterhead bearings. I don't know if this is because of the amount of use I've given the machine and if a hobbyist wouldn't run into the problem or not. All I know is that I've had to twice replace the cutterhead bearings.

I'm experienced enough to know the sound of a bearing going bad so I've not yet ruined the bearing raceway which would pretty much destine such a machine to the trash heap. Bearings are a standard size and available at a well equipped machinist's supply house. Changing the bearings is not an easy task, however, and if you aren't mechanically inclined, you would probably have to return the machine for service. Trend-lines claims to have a repair shop and a parts inventory but I have not tried them out to see how well they do servicing their machines. For the average woodworker who is not comfortable working on his machines, this bearing problem is a sale-killer. This is why I would not recommend buying this machine.

My personal dealings with Trend-lines have always been positive and I buy from them frequently. I just feel that this particular machine is not a good buy. I own another Reliant machine, a 6" jointer, which I am happy with, so I'm not panning Reliant across the board either. If I had it to do again, I'd probably have started with a Delta and gone from there. I've outgrown a 12" planer so my next purchase will be a 15" or 20" inch and I will take a hard look at the Reliant 20" model when that time comes. No manufacturer makes wonderful machines across the entire product line. Because one is a dud does not necessarily mean that all are.



© 2003 by Ellis Walentine by special arrangement with Wayne Miller of Badger Pond. All rights reserved.
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