The Dewalt DW734 planer is a mid-range portable planer that gives you an excellent finish at a reasonable price. This benchtop planer fills the gap between entry-level machines (such as the Ryobi planer) and the more expensive top of the line models (i.e. the Dewalt DW735).
There are a lot of people out there that love the Dewalt 734 planer, and it gets above average to excellent review ratings overall. At the moment, its main competitors price-wise are the Ridgid R4330 and the Grizzly G0689. The Dewalt 734 seems to get slightly better overall reviews than the Ridgid (although the Ridgid has a ton of fans too), and reviews of the Grizzly are few and far between.
The Dewalt DW734 has a 12-1/2" width capacity and a 6" height capacity. It comes with a 15 amp motor that spins the three-blade cutterhead at 10,000 RPM for 96 cuts per inch. The blades are reversible, and they will take up to a 1/8" maximum depth of cut.
The Dewalt 734 planer has a four column design with a carriage lock to reduce snipe, although you have to lock it manually (the DW735 has an automatic lock). The DW734 comes with infeed and outfeed tables that provide 33-1/2" of material support, and the tables fold up for transport or storage. It also has a material removal gauge, thickness scale, and turret depth stop.
WOOD Magazine did a comparison test of eleven different benchtop planers in 2010, and the Dewalt DW734 planer was one of only three models that received an "A" for finish quality. It is also worth noting that the DW734 is the least expensive of those three. In the WOOD Magazine test it ranked better than average in the snipe category. The Dewalt 734 was also featured in a Fine Woodworking Magazine test in 2009, where the surface quality was deemed "Good" and it came in second place in the snipe category (just behind the Dewalt 735).
Overall, the Dewalt DW734 review ratings are very good. At the moment, they are:
Home Depot: 4.1 stars, 25 reviews, (one 1-star is for a drill)
Lowes: 4.5 stars, 28 reviews
Northern Tool: 4.9 stars, 15 reviews
CPO Tools: 4.7 stars, 17 reviews
Lumberjocks: 5.0 stars, 5 reviews
Dewalt: 452 stars, 11 reviews
Woodcraft: 5.0 stars, 2 reviews
Sears: 5.0 stars, 1 review
Owner comments on the woodworking forums are overwhelmingly positive. Here are some of the comments from various online forums (edited for clarity, spelling and grammar):
- I have the Dewalt DW734, and so does my father, who has run 20,000 or so board feet through his in the past years... We both love this thing! Mine has done 35 end grain cutting boards so far along with other things, and I smile every time I use it. - Ken
- I've had a Dewalt 734 planer for about 5 years and it has been a real workhorse. - Matt
- I have had mine since December 2009 and have run hundreds of feet through it. It sure takes a rough cut board and turns it into a beautiful piece. I did have a gnarly knot in a piece of cedar gouge all three blades once, and it was nice to be able to turn the blades around and go back to work. I give my unit 5 stars. - CCM
- (my Dewalt 734) easily has several thousand board feet of lumber (mostly walnut, maple and cherry with some purpleheart) with no problems. You can't go wrong with it. - SDF
- I've had a Dewalt DW734 for about a year now and absolutely love it. This machine easily paid for itself in the first year by allowing me to buy rough instead of dimensioned lumber at considerably lower prices. Even with all the lumber I've run through it (mahogany, walnut, poplar, maple, bass wood, oak), I'm still on the first set of blades and have never had any real tear out. - SFB
- My 12-1/2" (DW734) still works great after 6 years. I have made a good deal of furniture with it and it's been a workhorse. I think I changed the blades once, and it is due for another set now. It's a great machine. - Glenn
- I've had the 734 for a year now and have put several hundred board feet of un-planed red oak through it. It still works great and produces a mirror finish on the wood. - CL
- I have a Dewalt D734 and love it. I have already planed hundreds of board feet with it. - BC
- I like my DW734 a lot. It is sturdy and boards come out with a very consistent thickness. Got about 10 months out of the first set of blades. - Dewayne
- I've had the Dewalt DW734 for about a year and half, no problems yet and still on original blade edges. Great planer. - Burt
- I bought this planer about a year and a half ago and it has served me very well. The cutter head lock has pretty much eliminated any snipe... The three knife cutterhead cuts very smooth and I have very little work to do scraping off the milling marks. I could almost put the finish on right off the planer. - JLY
- I have no complaints about my DW734. Still on the first edge on the blades after a fair amount of wood, with no problems. - Dan
- I recently purchased this same planer and agree, for the price it works great with little or no adjustment out of the box. I have been really pleased with my results! - DN
- I have the Dewalt 734 planer. I love it, it works great. Hook the shop vac to it and dust isn't much of a problem. The finish is super smooth, with very little sanding needed. Replacement blades aren't cheap though. - Craig
- What a sweet machine! I do wish the blades would last longer but that's about the only thing I can complain about. - Tim
If you read all the comments above, you may have noticed several owners mentioning the blade life. In the past, some owners of Dewalt planers have reported short blade life, especially on this planer's big brother, the DW735. Reports of short blade life have not been as common with the Dewalt DW734 as with the DW735, but there are still some complaints nonetheless.
There has been some speculation that the short blade life may be caused by people taking cuts that are too deep. Benchtop planers are primarily designed to produce a smooth finish, and aren't meant to be continuously run at their maximum cut depth.
I'm not saying that the complaints aren't valid, or that everyone that experiences short blade life is abusing the machine. I'm just saying that for every report of short blade life, there are two or more reports that the blades are lasting just fine, so it isn't a universal problem. There are also some reports that Dewalt has improved their blade design and the newer blades last longer.
Besides blade life, there are a couple other issues that were reported more than once on the Dewalt DW734. Most if not all woodworking planers in this class use an aluminum cutterhead, and the screws that hold the blades in place can become seized and/or the screw heads will strip out. Dewalt is not the only benchtop planer manufacturer to have reports of this issue, and it isn't what I would call common or frequent, but it has happened to more than one owner.
There are a couple of things you can do to help prevent this from happening. Before ever using the planer, remove the screws using a HIGH QUALITY T-wrench, apply anti-seize compound to the threads on each screw, and reinstall them. If any of them are seized, it may help to use a low powered impact driver to break them loose.
Several of the complaints were due to the low-quality T-wrench itself rounding off, so using a high-quality tool to remove the screws can help. Also, applying heat from a propane torch to a seized screw will often allow you to break it free.
The other complaint I found was that after using the Dewalt DW734 planer for a period of time, the feed mechanism would stop pulling the board through. This issue can be caused by dull blades, contaminants on the feed rollers or even friction from the table. This issue is also reported with other brands of benchtop planers.
A number of owners were able to completely cure this condition by cleaning the rollers and or waxing the table. Keeping the table clean and freshly waxed can make a really big difference, so it is a good idea to wax the table before you use the planer. Several owners were amazed by the difference it made.
Most owners agree that the Dewalt DW734 benchtop planer produces an excellent finish and produces less snipe than other woodworking planers in its price range. Failures are few and far between, and there is a 3-year warranty to rely on, too.
In an informal survey of one of the woodworking forums, I found 20 different owners that were pleased with the Dewalt DW734 and made positive comments, and only one owner that was unhappy because his machine broke after five years of use. That comes out to a 95% approval rate - pretty good, huh? I think the Dewalt DW734 is a really good choice in its price range.
You might also want to take a look at the similarly-priced Ridgid R4331. If you are willing and able to spend a little more money, take a look at the Dewalt DW735. The DW735 is generally considered to be the benchmark of portable planers today, but the Dewalt DW734 is no slouch, either! You can get detailed specs on all the Dewalt planers at Dewalt.com.