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Cast Iron or Aluminium?

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Woodythepecker

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At last i have finally got my own workshop and i am about to source some machines to go into it. But having looked at a number of table saws and P/T's i have yet to make up my mind between cast iron and aluminium.

Even some of the dealers i have been to are giving conflicting information. One of them told me that he would not touch a cast iron P/T because after a while the weight of the in and out feed tables cause them to drop, but if this is the case, why do the pro's use them?

It does seem that the cast iron ones are for want of a better word more sturdy and their sliding tables seem much better, but are they worth the extra price?
In my view these are considered purchases and after spending a few thousand pound i do not want to make a mistake.

So what are your views and what should i be looking for? What are the must haves on these machines?

Would a combination machine be better? I have set aside £5000 for both.

Cheers

Woody
 

johnelliott

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Expect a number of replies to this question. It's been discussed in the past, but never mind. Basically those that have cast iron machines will speak in their support, and those that don't (like me) won't
John
 

Jaco

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My saw has cast iron, Rockwell. very sturdy machine.
For GBP5000 converted to ZAR, i could get excellent quality table saw, P/T, some excellent Festool hand tools, RAS, lathe, and have some change for a few lagers.
send the 5000quid my way!
:D :D
 

Newbie_Neil

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Hi Woody

Welcome to the forum.

I'd like to open up the thread a little more, for you to think about what you really need in terms of machines. In my replies I have borne in mind the amount of money you have to spend and I have concentrated on the quality brands.

If you have the space I would suggest that you think about getting a separate planer and thicknesser. It saves all of the hassle of changing from one to the other.

In the P/T field the choice is probably down to a Jet or the Scheppach. Both of these only come with cast iron tables. If you go down the Scheppach route then you would be buying a well regarded combination planer/thicknesser. With the Jet you could buy the 54A or 60A Jointer (Planer) and then buy the Jet/DW/Makita thicknesser.

Imho, buying separate machines gives you flexibility.

Do you really need a tablesaw? I ask this for reasons of space and economics. A number of members just have a bandsaw.

The Scheppach and Jet Supersaws are both well regarded, and again, both have cast-iron.

One thing I would recommend is that you don't rush out and buy the machines. Plan you workshop and also your dust extraction.

Cheers
Neil
 
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Hi Woody

As Neil said. However, I would not urge a separate planer and thicknesser, the time for change over on my SIP is about 1 minute for my Planer to thicknesser or back again.

The question of iron or aluminium for a hobbiest is academic - especially for woodworking machinery.

On professional engineering equipment where accuracies of less than a thousandth of an inch are important, then iron rules but for wood who cares when the material will move many 1/1000's every day?

Some state that iron weighs more and thus damps vibration but come around to my garage and try to lift my aluminium bedded P/T!!! I really do not think that this argument holds water. No noticeable vibration either.

Only REAL pro I can think of for iron is that the mitre slots tend to be more accurately machined (except on hardened ali such as my Kity which has a very nice mitre)

I would say that cast iron has become fashionable recently AND that is what the arguments are about, fashion and preference rather than superiority of one over the other.

I would also say that cast iron will cost a premium.

Finally I would say that I would always buy a hardened aluminium table (such as the kity) kit over an iron table of the same price as you would pay a premium for the iron and thus get lower quality elsewhere in the machine.
 

Steve Maskery

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HI Woody
FWIW, I have machines with cast iron (Scheppach bandsaw, very old Axminster tablesaw), aluminium (Kity P/T) and steel (Scheppach spindle moulder) tables. From the point of view of slidability, the cast iron ones win by a mile. The Kity is OK if I keep it well waxed, the steel-topped S/M is horrible. This matters if you are passing a 10ft length of 8x2 over it on your own!
But it is also true that it is not only the tables that matter. Motor, bearings, switch and fence all make a big difference to how enjoyable it is to use.

STEVE'S TIP OF THE DAY :- Only buy your machines once!

Cheers
Steve
 

Alf

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Welcome to the forum, Woody.

Woodythepecker":171l07cr said:
Even some of the dealers i have been to are giving conflicting information. One of them told me that he would not touch a cast iron P/T because after a while the weight of the in and out feed tables cause them to drop, but if this is the case, why do the pro's use them?
Hmm, interesting. I wonder if that's a comment about all cast iron, the new breed of cast iron converts that used to be aluminium, or the cheaper Chiwanese cast iron? It does make me wonder if the undercarriage of all cast iron machines is beefy enough to take the tables; not something I'd wondered before.

Anyway, you might find the following archive threads useful:

Is cast iron always best?
Forum User's Table Saws
Forum User's Planer Thicknessers
Kitting out a new workshop
Combination machines

And an alternative; how about some nice Wadkin or similar old iron? Which your budget I believe you could get some cracking good kit, even if you had to factor in a 3 phase convertor. No good if you have limited accessibility to your workshop, or limited space though. :(

I'll also vote in favour of a P/T rather than seperates. The longer jointer bed is nice, but a 10" P/T will give you 10" width thicknessing and jointing. A stand-alone jointer, even the pricer Jet 8", will be 2" short of that, and of course even less than the 12"/13" thicknesser to go with it. Personally I'd find that limiting.

Cheers, Alf
 

Chris Knight

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Woody,

Alf has pointed to the most important question with her comment on old iron. How big is your workshop?

So much else flows from this that without that information everyone is shooting in the dark.
 

Nigel

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Im with Tony on this having just experienced buying a Record bandsaw with a warped table, it would appear cast iron on middle road machines is for fashion, Thanks to this Forums advice I rejected the saw and I was lucky and the dealer exchanged the record for a Basato3 without any charges for carriage, my point is don't buy the machine purely on a cast iron table it is the quality of the whole machine that counts



PS ike my apologies for almost hijacking your post IS CAST ALWAYS BEST I was in a panic at being left with a lemon
 

Midnight

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Woody.... that's a pretty damn serious budget you've set for just 2 machines...

Personally, my first instinct was to ask how you're set for shop space; serious machines need serious square footage to realise their full potential.

re cast iron / ally tables... given that there's a glut of venerable cast iron machinery in shops up and down the country still doing what they do as well as they've ever done, some on their 4th or more owner says a lot for their longevity and build quality. Drooping tables are a sign of poor build quality, not inherent weaknesses in the material. IMHO, the jury's still out on aluminium as it's still in its infancy. My experience with aluminium has me feeling that even when properly hard anodized, it's still a fairly soft material; given the cretainty that machines will see dents and dings in their lifetime, I reckon that over time, cast iron will always weather these better.

I've read a lot of opinions on the questionable quality of chiwanese manufacture; my instinct is to look at the likes of Delta, Jet, Grizzly et al, all of whom are staking their market position on the quality of their machinery, all of whom have gone chiwanese for the manufacture of their machinery. I reckon the lesson there is that the where doesn't matter, it's the who that counts.

I reckon you need to decide whether you want to to go with sliding tables or wide fences; I've only seen one Delta that offered both, but it looked like it'd need a barn sized shop.

I've never been able to understand why p/t's currently on the market seem to offer nothing but compromises. To me, a decent flat bed jointer NEEDS to have long in/outfeed beds, a wide cutter head and at least 3 knives. Combination machines capitalize on the accepted standard that the thicknesser needs a wide cutter head, but their beds seem hellova short to me which will limit the max length of stick you can joint with them. Dedicated machines have the bed length cracked, but just try to find one with a head wider than 8"...

Personally, given your budget....(talk about opportunity) I'd look to expand on the range of capability I'd get for the money. I'd look to include a pro spec 16" bandsaw, 8" long-bed jointer, 13" 3 knife thicknesser, choose between the 12" Xcaliber and Scheppach TS4010 each with all available bells and whistles. In addition, pandering to my hand tool side, I'd reserve a chunk of cash to build both a decent sturdy bench and a large, low assembly table. Given that I'd be working in a 1 man shop, I'd build a router table rather than buy a spindle moulder. If I've done my sums right, that should still leave a sizeable cash surplus to have you pondering the likes of Tromec, DW, Lie Nielsen etc.....
 

johnelliott

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One of the sub-plots in this discussion is what width of planer is appropriate. Well, I'm going to disagree with Midnight and say that a wide planer is much more important than the length of bed. If you need to joint long lengths then a Festool saw with guide rail will get that job done. If you need to plane and thickness hardwood then it will be a drag having to rip a nice 10 inch board because your jointer is too narrow
John
 

Alf

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johnelliott":xtw7wer9 said:
One of the sub-plots in this discussion is what width of planer is appropriate. Well, I'm going to disagree with Midnight and say that a wide planer is much more important than the length of bed.
I may be mistaken, but I don't think you're disagreeing with him at all. :? Anyway I agree with you, but I also agree with Mike; why can't P/T's have longer planer tables? :(

Cheers, Alf

P.S. Do I get the impression you're not regretting buying the Festool? :wink:
 

johnelliott

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Alf":6egk64mb said:
I may be mistaken, but I don't think you're disagreeing with him at all.
I was responding to the bit where he said "8" long-bed jointer, 13" 3 knife thicknesser". To make my disagreement absolutely clear, I would recommend a 12" planer/thicknesser, Sedgwick would be a good choice

John
 

Alf

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johnelliott":3s4vldh5 said:
I was responding to the bit where he said "8" long-bed jointer, 13" 3 knife thicknesser". To make my disagreement absolutely clear, I would recommend a 12" planer/thicknesser, Sedgwick would be a good choice
D'oh. Silly me. :roll: Okay, you're disagreeing with him then. And so am I! :lol:

Ahh, "more later". Better go and hide the plastic then... :shock:

Cheers, Alf
 

houtslager

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Welcome to the nuthouse woody ! :roll:
Okay then first things first Woody - we [and yours truly] need to know what type of woodwork are you wanting to do-
hobby work , semi-pro work, pro woodworker ?
next what work will that entail ?
a bit of everything , cabinetry with some joinery , furniture making in solid timber/sheet goods , joinery aka -doors,stairs,windows etc....
The amount of available space NOW and possible growth of W/shop?
Now if you can narrow these fields down, we here amongst the illiterate could quite possible help you out with all sorts of info.........
Okay enough waffling, personally I am in this situation. :p
Pro butcher of wood, making anything in wood and sheet goods, from small joined stools, to kitchens/bars/in built wardrobes/open bookcases.
Plus the odd door and window that needs to be made.
In order for me to carry out this much varied work, I have in the W/sp the following- :p
Elcon 3.5m Wall saw = sheet goods with out losing too much space.
Axminster sell a pretty good smaller version.
Startrite TA 175 TS with small sliding table ALL CAST IRON plus INCRA1000 mitre gauge LOVE IT
Beuving 12" Jointer - CI solid old monster LOVE IT
SCM16" Thicknesser - CI again solid LOVE IT
ELU 174E SCM saw ali - portable LOVE IT
Self made router table with Axminster fence - CI LOVE IT
I would love a tilting Spindle moulder - again in CI .
Most you see are from CI when handling large,heavy lumps of timber ie; OAK walnut etc.... one needs CI .
There I hope I have helped, if only to confuse you more :wink:
All the best HS
[still in A'dam]
 

Midnight

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Well, I'm going to disagree with Midnight and say that a wide planer is much more important than the length of bed.
John... I'll stick to my guns; a wide cutter head is a fine thing, but if the bed isn't long enough the result is a banana board, no use to man nor beast. Your Festool sounds like an awesome saw if if can joint the face as well as the edge... I chose the 8" simply for the length of it's bed having already illustrated my concerns about the lack of width in the cutter head.

As for the boards over 8" wide... simple solution there is to joint them by hand; the thought of ripping a fine wide board simply to suit the capacity of a machine would never enter my mind...
 

johnelliott

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Midnight":3l4l59gv said:
John... I'll stick to my guns; a wide cutter head is a fine thing, but if the bed isn't long enough the result is a banana board, no use to man nor beast. Your Festool sounds like an awesome saw if if can joint the face as well as the edge... I chose the 8" simply for the length of it's bed having already illustrated my concerns about the lack of width in the cutter head.

As for the boards over 8" wide... simple solution there is to joint them by hand; the thought of ripping a fine wide board simply to suit the capacity of a machine would never enter my mind...
Perhaps part of the problem here is what is meant by 'joint'. Presumably you mean plane flat, whereas I mean to prepare for joining. The festool saw and edge guide could be used to cut sufficiently clean edges that boards could be joined to each other without further treatment, but could not be used for planing a wide surface.

Planing wide boards by hand is a simple solution for those who have the skill and the time, I know I have neither, and would choose a decent width of planer/thicknesser instead.

As regards suitable length of tables, the combined infeed outfeed on my Kity 1637 is 1.2 metres, and I have used it to sucessfully plane, thickness and joint 60" by 10" boards for a dining table. Admittedly I would have preferred a bigger machine but the Kity was sufficient.

I think it is good to dsicuss these points in an open forum like this, then others can say what they think and people who haven't already bought equipment can become even more confused and uncertain :twisted:

John
 
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Sorry to stick my oar in but capacity to me is more important ,aslong as its not too OTT for the type of work you want to do .A long bed on a jointer as apposed to a relatively short one on a PT is not gonna magically sort out bent wood for you .I myself have straightened out a 3m length of wood with a 5 1/2 smoother (before tailed beasts were common place on site). Granted it makes it easier with a longer bed but when you go beyond capacity you dont have too many alternatives . But i do like the idea of separates for speed (and you always forget to edge at least 1 piece :oops:) but i have always used combined P/T's in the past .
 

Aragorn

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johnelliott":17ydbf7i said:
Perhaps part of the problem here is what is meant by 'joint'. Presumably you mean plane flat, whereas I mean to prepare for joining. The festool saw and edge guide could be used to cut sufficiently clean edges that boards could be joined to each other without further treatment, but could not be used for planing a wide surface.
WOW! Got to get me one of them!
If that saw can produce a good enough edge for joining I wish I hadn't wasted my money on the Jet 60A. Can it do 9' x 3"? Can it do 8' x 1½" with a good enough edge to make up a table top with NO discernable join between boards?
It's on my wish list now at any rate!
Infeed/outfeed makes the world of difference for large timbers. When hand-planing isn't an option for whatever reason, it is difficult to get a straight edge for joining off a 1.2m machine in timbers of 8' or more (DAMHIK!)
Surface planing is essential too isn't it... There's no point having a good enough edge joint from the Festool if the surface it's following has wind or bow.
I wish the Jet (or equivalent) had a wider capacity like everyone else, but given its capabilities I prefer to rip a 8"+ board on the bandsaw, plane and re-join with an invisible glue-line than struggle on a 1.2m machine for those longer timbers.

Woody - that's such a serious budget, you don't need to concern yourself with aluminium or CI... Can you buy machines for £2000+ made from aluminium?
My inclination would be to avoid combination machines where poss if you want to do any kind of "production" work unless the machines are of such high quality that you can guarentee repeatablilty once you've altered the setup (Felder?).
 
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