When I started doing finish carpentry, there was no good way to get lumber that was a nonstandard thickness. If I needed something out of the ordinary, I had to haul wood to a nearby cabinet shop or go to a full-service lumberyard and wait for someone to run it through the thickness planer. The other option was to resaw the board on a table saw and remove the saw marks with a belt sander or hand plane.

I eventually went to work for a company that did projects where it was worth setting up an on-site shop. One of our tools was a 15 1/2-inch cast-iron planer. It saved a lot of time and trouble but was too big and heavy to take to every job. In the mid 1980s, Ryobi introduced a small, lightweight thickness planer. It had 10-inch blades and was as...

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