Metabo DH330 Thicknesser review
Update: My final conclusion when I wrote this review on the Metabo DH330 was that I would no longer buy this model due to the high price of the original knives. In the meantime, I found an alternative solution to Metabo DH330 knives. This changed my point of view. After many searches on Internet, I found some aftermarket knives at a decent price and with a quality similar to the quality of the original ones. It takes longer to get in their possession, but it’s worth it. You can order two sets at first, and then one set at a time so that you always have a spare set. At least that’s what we do.
The original knives and the “aftermarket” knives. The original ones are narrower, but that’s because they were sharpened using an improvised method. The new “aftermarket” ones fit perfectly.
This is a short video to make a better idea:
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After more than two years of use, I thought I can write some sort of review. Why some sort, and not just a review? Because it is, actually, a list of the problems I encountered, along some of the things that I think add up to making this a great machine.
When I realised that my old thicknesser, a Gude GMH 2000 just wasn’t able to keep up with my work (actually, it died and I decided there was no point in trying to repair it again and again), I decided I should invest in something a little bit better.
In the same price range there was the Metabo DH330 and the Makita 2012NB. The DeWalt was over $200 more expensive, so I didn’t account it in the same category.
The main reason that I finally chose the Metabo DH330 was it’s wider planing width. There were some more small details, but they were just personal preferences (like the way that the cheap plastics on Makita tools make me feel when I use them).
For someone used to a thicknesser that got really hot after the first few planks planed, the feeling was that I just skipped a few leagues. I find myself even after two years checking the temperature of the engine. This, I think, is the best thing about this Metabo: no matter how tough or wide the wood is, or no matter how many you plane at a time, the motor just doesn’t heat up. Of course, it gets a little warmer than when stopped, but that’s it: it gets to the equilibrium temperature and doesn’t heat up anymore, so you can simply work continuously (well, I can’t, because I get tired).
Another great thing about this thicknesser is the lack of the well known snipe. If the infeed and outfeed tables are setup correctly and the cutter head is locked in place (it has a lever for this, which presses on the columns, so the cutter head doesn’t move when the board presses on the rollers) there just isn’t any snipe. More than this, with the infeed and outfeed tables setup good, there is no snipe on passes that don’t take more than 1.5 mm, even without the locking mechanism in use.
To adjust the infeed and outfeed table you only need basic tools, the setup being made by modifying the angle of the hinges, followed by adjusting the position of the tables, relative to the hinges.
Still, the lock lever has two issues: the first one is that when you raise the cutter block higher than 12 cm, the lever catches and forces on the case, creating a risk of damaging something. As you can see, by the marks on the lever, I don’t always remember to move it slightly so it can go around the case. Still, I haven’t damaged anything (yet).
The second issue appears when you raise the cutterhead all the way: the locking mechanism touches the top of the case (the housing of the height adjustment chain, actually) before you reach the top of the scale. You can see in the picture that, even though the cutter block cannot go any higher, there are still 5 mm on the scale.
The height adjustment mechanism is quite precise. There is no difference in the number of turns and the movement of the cutter head, not even from one end to the other. What I mean is that, since on the dial it says that one turn is 1 mm, then 100 turns mean 10 cm, no exception (in fact, one full turn is 2 mm, but it’s easier to explain this multiplying by 10). The only problem with the dial was the inset screw that holds it in place, which loosened over time and had it’s thread damaged. I simply replaced it with a M6 hex screw, after repairing the thread of the nut, so now I can easily tighten the dial in place.
The height scale was adjusted perfectly out of the box, and never had to adjust it at all. You just have to pay attention to the angle you’re looking at it, since there is a small gap that could lead to a misread if looked at in a too steep angle. I keep count of the number of turns, after I make a first test board and measure it to make sure it is at the correct thickness.
There is an indicator that should show you how much the machine takes in one pass, but it find it rather useful. I need to know the final thickness of the board, not how much the machine takes from it in one pass. Besides, it kind of stays in my way when I insert a board, because many times the ball that moves the mechanism simply jams in position so you have to fiddle the board around to manage to put it into the machine.
And now, the worst part of this thicknesser, the Metabo DH330: the knives. Not that they are bad at all, but they aren’t great either. If you only plane soft woods, they remain sharp quite a long time. I planed more than 2 cubic meters of pine without any significant change in the knives’ sharpness. But things change when you have to cut through hardwood. After less than a hundred passes of beech or oak, you can feel that the motors starts to struggle, because of the dull knives. You might think that this wouldn’t be much of a problem, but these are disposable knives and they are pretty expensive. Still, they are reversible (you can flip them over, since they have cutting edges on both sides, so a set of these knives is like two sets of standard knives).
Being an on-site machine, the knives are designed to be disposable so that one can change them very fast, no height adjustments being needed. At the same time, at around $75 a set, you should think twice before purchasing this DH330. If I had to pick again, I would choose the Makita 2012NB, since the disposable knives are cheaper and there is also available a set of knives that can be resharpened.
I managed to sharpen each knives set once or twice, but it wasn’t always too good. Unfortunately, the sharpening shop that I use to sharpen my other tools, simply can’t fit the knives in their sharpening machine, since they are very narrow. So, I just have to improvise all sorts of methods to sharpen them myself.
But this isn’t the worst problem of the knives. The worst are the metal plates that hold the knives in place. They are too thin, or the metal is too weak, because they tend to bend in the space between the screws. I noticed that this is quite a common problem on this Metabo thicknesser. I managed to sand the metal plates flat again, but I don’t think I can do that anymore, or I will risk to make them too thin, so I have to buy new ones soon. I’m also thinking of replacing the factory ones with a set made at a local shop, if I can find a shop able to make them for me.
Another problem that I didn’t expect to find on a Metabo tool was the damage of the bearings. They held on great, as long as I planed pine or beech. But, as soon as I started to plane oak, the bearings started to become noisier and noisier. It must be due to the abrasive dust that dry oak creates. It reached the bearings and destroyed them pretty quickly. The good part is that I managed to change them quite easy. I replaced them with Timken bearings. I decided to replace the ZZ series with 2RS series, which have better sealing. It was not a good idea, since the better sealing also creates more heat in the bearing. When the replaced ones will fail too, I will replace them with ZZ series again.
In case someone needs to know, the two bearings of the cutter head have the following codes: the one on close to the motor is a 6303 ZZ and the one towards the traction reducer box is a 6002 ZZ.
Since I mentioned the dust, I think I should write a few words about the shavings removal. Since the dust chute is open on the entire width, there aren’t any major issues. I only managed to jam it once, when I planed a 32 cm wide pine panel. The pine shavings are pretty large, and they clogged the chute because of some sap and shavings build up. If you use an exhausting system, there are almost no shavings left in the machine (i have a cheap einhell dust extractor which does a great job). There still remains a little fine dust in the air, but not enough to be a problem.
The shavings chute has, still, one problem: There is a sponge seal that separates the shavings exhaust air from the motor cooling air. Being made out of a cheap sponge, it simply can’t last too long, so you’ll have to improvise. Out of all the materials I tried, the best I found was an E profile window seal from Tesa. In case you don’t use any seal at all, there will be shavings flying from the motor, in the carbon brushes area. This simply can’t be good for the motor. Unfortunately, you can’t but the sponge as a replacement, you have to buy the entire dust chute assembly, which is a high price for a simple sponge.
I heard a lot of opinions about the rollers being consumable items, but I still think they should have lasted longer. The one on the exit side is in decent shape, but the one before the cutter is almost unusable, so I’ll have to replace it soon. I’m also thinking about a new layer of polyurethane, but I don’t know how I can have them covered again properly.
In case you work in imperial units, there is a gadget that you might find very useful, since it has some preset thicknesses you can easily setup the machine to. Since I work in metric system, I find it simply useless, since half an inch is about 12.7 mm and so on, all the preset measurements being too odd to be used.
Regarding the noise, it is like any other large woodworking tool: very noisy. Even when it’s not under any load, it still makes a lot of noise. When cutting, the additional noise depends on the width of the wood and on the degree of sharpness of the knives. In any case, you should definitely invest in a cheap pair of ear protection, at least. Whenever I don’t use the dust extractor, I also use a respiratory mask, since there will be a lot of wood particles flying around.
My conclusion, after all my experience with my Metabo DH330, is that it has a decent price to quality ratio. If I had to buy another one, I think I would choose the Makita due to the cheaper knives. Otherwise, I’m sure that all the other similar thicknessers have their pros and cons, since they are entry level machines.
But what I liked the most about my Metabo thicknesser is that it is very precise, even though it was designed to be an on site tool. It is great for creating a lot of projects in a small workshop, like mine.
I hope you find the info useful. Please feel free to say anything about this machine in the comment area.