The Ryobi HPL51K electric hand planer is a budget tool that includes some very nice features such as a left/right dust ejection dial, adjustable depth knob and blade-protecting kick stand. This tool really enables easy planning of uneven surfaces—up to 3/32″ in a single cut—and even performs edge and rabbet cuts with the included edge guide.
The planer isn’t light, but it doesn’t feel unwieldy in the hand and does a great job of making deep cuts into normal wood. For truly hard wood you may find that the 5 amp motor begins to dip a bit under the strain, particularly during deep 3/32″ cuts. The depth adjustment knob varies the depth of the cut from 0 to 3/32″ in 1/64″ steps. The 0 position is for transporting or storing the planer between uses. There is an exhaust direction knob just below the front handle that ejects the dust either right or left and a small dust collection bag is included. We found the dust collection bag to be way too small, and it typically filled up after just one or two passes. If you are outdoors you may want to leave it off (something that will certainly make a mess) or better yet, connect it to one of the many dust extractor systems on the market.
The “automatic” kickstand is a simple plastic swinging arm of sorts that gets pushed back into place when the planer is pulled across a smooth surface. When the tool is set down, the natural position of the kickstand is down and out, so it protects the blades from unnecessary wear. Speaking of blades, the HPL51K does a lot to make itself easily serviceable. The kit includes an extra set of blades (the planer uses two at a time) and you actually get two uses out of each set. When your initial (installed) blades get dull, simply use the included blade wrench to remove the blades and flip them over. Once both sides are dulled, the second set can be installed. Ryobi didn’t stop at the blades; they also took care to allow users to service the other primary part that tends to go bad in planers – the belt. This can be replaced easily simply by removing two screws from the plastic belt cover and swapping it out.
Ryobi has a simple but effective tool in the HPL51K. It doesn’t have lots of frills and the build quality leaves much to be desired – but the product costs less than a third of many competing name brands and that’s certainly something to consider. We found it to be consistent and would recommend it to any handyman wanting to save some time off what is typically a very labor-intensive job.