Felder Fire, Very Close Shave!

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custard

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I bought a Felder CF741 Combination Machine new about ten years ago. It was installed and commissioned by Felder, and it's since been regularly serviced by Felder, the most recent service being just a few months ago.

I was operating the planer/thicknesser when I heard a loud popping noise and the fuses tripped. I re-set the fuses but they tripped again as soon as the machine was started.

At this point I became aware of an acrid smell like burning plastic. I pulled back the sliding table and slid away the cover plate that covers the saw blade. There's a hole, at the bottom of the enclosure, about an inch in diameter, that leads through into the electrical cabinet. It's indicated below by the red arrow. Through this hole I could see the orange glow of flames.

Felder-Fire-04.jpg


The opening behind the sliding table was just wide enough to allow my dry powder fire extinguisher to fit in, and the extinguisher hose was just the right diameter and length to allow me to direct a burst of dry powder into the electrical cabinet.

This seemed to extinguish the fire, so I now removed the six T30 Torx headed screws that secured the cover plate to the electrical cabinet. I also had to cut through a thick label that was factory pasted over the cover plate, warning that removal invalidated the machine's warranty.

Having gained access to the source of the fire it was clear that it had been fully extinguished. It was also clear that one of the capacitors, the large white one, was burnt and charred. You can see here what the electrical cabinet looked like after I got the cover off. The white powder is the fire extinguisher residue, it's astonishing how much is discharged in a half second burst!

Felder-Fire-01.jpg


Next day I phoned Felder's service department and they seemed pretty unconcerned about the whole thing, capacitors are a consumable item they said and they only normally last about ten or twelve years. I ordered a replacement capacitor from Felder (they did say it would be quicker and cheaper sourcing one locally but I wanted to stick with an OEM replacement). When the replacement arrived it didn't fix the problem. At this point Felder's service department talked me through a check procedure with a circuit tester, but unfortunately it wasn't conclusive. So I ordered their recommended selection of replacement electrical components, and I'm now waiting for the Felder engineer to arrive to fix the problem and hopefully explain what was the cause of the fire.

I had a narrow escape, this could so easily have been a disaster.

Firstly, it helped that I'd had the machine serviced shortly before this incident, so I'd just vacuumed out the inside of the machine and removed the thin off-cuts that litter underneath the saw. If this had been most other workshops (or to be honest many times in my own workshop), then there would have plenty of kindling inside the machine for the fire to take hold, and I wouldn't have been able to see through the hole to spot the glow of the flames in the electrical cabinet.

Secondly, I was very lucky in having just the right fire extinguisher to deal with the emergency. It wasn't planning it was just blind luck. A larger extinguisher wouldn't have fitted into the cavity, and one without a hose wouldn't have been able to direct the powder through the hole into the electrical cabinet. Without this I'd have had to locate a T30 Torx driver (having first figured out that this was actually what these six screws are) and cut through the warning label that says don't open this cover. By this time the fire may well have been out of control.

Felder have been disappointingly unconcerned about all this, and they can't get an engineer out until January. So it won't be until then that I'll be able to identify what caused this electrical fire in my CF741 combination machine, and understand what I need to do to prevent it happening again.

In the meantime, I'd suggest to any Felder owner (or indeed anyone with any woodworking machinery) that you satisfy yourself that you can quickly access the electrical cabinet on your machine, and within seconds of smelling smoke apply a fire extinguisher to the seat of an electrical fire. In addition it pays to be scrupulously clean and remove any wood shavings or off-cuts from inside, underneath, or around your machine. From what Felder are suggesting a failed capacitor is capable of causing a fire, and capacitors only have a service life of ten or twelve years. I'm not an electrical engineer so I can't validate their opinion, but if true then that's pretty terrifying!
 
I'm sorry to hear about your fire, I'm just starting to acquire machinery, smaller items than yours but that sounds like good advice keeping things a bit tidier than I generally do.
 
" Felder have been disappointingly unconcerned about all this "

Yes indeed , They were very poor with my issue , I was told my N3300 3 hp bandsaw was a hobby model and I should be grateful that they still had the part I needed as my saw was 10 years old 🤔
 
" Felder have been disappointingly unconcerned about all this "

Yes indeed , They were very poor with my issue , I was told my N3300 3 hp bandsaw was a hobby model and I should be grateful that they still had the part I needed as my saw was 10 years old 🤔
I've tried to just focus on the fire risks in this post, and stay away from the shortcomings in Felder's customer service, thinking that's what is relevant to most people on this forum.

But as you've raised the topic, the truth is that Felder are just getting worse and worse at supporting their customers.

What I didn't say is that this incident happened at the end of October and it'll be early January before they've fixed the problem! The damage to my income and reputation by being without my main machine for over two months is crushing. And this is for a machine that they still sell!

They no longer hold any spares in the UK, so everything has to be shipped in from Austria, which after Brexit can take several weeks. They don't have a system that automatically flags up who has been waiting for how long, so they're blind in terms of monitoring their own service levels. If they had a half decent customer service ethos they'd have cannibalised a machine in their used/new showroom to get me back up and running, or they'd have shipped in a component from another country if Austria were out of stock. But the simple truth is they couldn't care less.

They're besotted with just in time, to the point where they've removed all the spares from their service engineer's vans. So I keep hearing about them arriving at a workshop to fix a problem, but having to return on another day for want of simple, tiny component that they used to carry with them.

I used to demonstrate Felder equipment in my workshop to prospective buyers in the Hampshire area, to be honest I now feel embarrassed that I ever recommended this clownishly inept company to anyone.
 
That really isn’t good enough, bad enough that the machine which was regularly, (and no doubt expensively) serviced should catch fire but then to potentially put you out of business like that is so poor!
If it were me I would be severing dealing with them and finding a local electrical engineering co, there is a good chance that it’s readily available parts that need replacing anyway.
Ian
 
I have seen bench saws catch fire before, one time after ripping ash with a much less than sharp blade which caused friction burning in the cut and the dust to turn to embers inside the body and start a small fire.
 
I bought a Felder CF741 Combination Machine new about ten years ago. It was installed and commissioned by Felder, and it's since been regularly serviced by Felder, the most recent service being just a few months ago.

I was operating the planer/thicknesser when I heard a loud popping noise and the fuses tripped. I re-set the fuses but they tripped again as soon as the machine was started.

At this point I became aware of an acrid smell like burning plastic. I pulled back the sliding table and slid away the cover plate that covers the saw blade. There's a hole, at the bottom of the enclosure, about an inch in diameter, that leads through into the electrical cabinet. It's indicated below by the red arrow. Through this hole I could see the orange glow of flames.

View attachment 172345

The opening behind the sliding table was just wide enough to allow my dry powder fire extinguisher to fit in, and the extinguisher hose was just the right diameter and length to allow me to direct a burst of dry powder into the electrical cabinet.

This seemed to extinguish the fire, so I now removed the six T30 Torx headed screws that secured the cover plate to the electrical cabinet. I also had to cut through a thick label that was factory pasted over the cover plate, warning that removal invalidated the machine's warranty.

Having gained access to the source of the fire it was clear that it had been fully extinguished. It was also clear that one of the capacitors, the large white one, was burnt and charred. You can see here what the electrical cabinet looked like after I got the cover off. The white powder is the fire extinguisher residue, it's astonishing how much is discharged in a half second burst!

View attachment 172346

Next day I phoned Felder's service department and they seemed pretty unconcerned about the whole thing, capacitors are a consumable item they said and they only normally last about ten or twelve years. I ordered a replacement capacitor from Felder (they did say it would be quicker and cheaper sourcing one locally but I wanted to stick with an OEM replacement). When the replacement arrived it didn't fix the problem. At this point Felder's service department talked me through a check procedure with a circuit tester, but unfortunately it wasn't conclusive. So I ordered their recommended selection of replacement electrical components, and I'm now waiting for the Felder engineer to arrive to fix the problem and hopefully explain what was the cause of the fire.

I had a narrow escape, this could so easily have been a disaster.

Firstly, it helped that I'd had the machine serviced shortly before this incident, so I'd just vacuumed out the inside of the machine and removed the thin off-cuts that litter underneath the saw. If this had been most other workshops (or to be honest many times in my own workshop), then there would have plenty of kindling inside the machine for the fire to take hold, and I wouldn't have been able to see through the hole to spot the glow of the flames in the electrical cabinet.

Secondly, I was very lucky in having just the right fire extinguisher to deal with the emergency. It wasn't planning it was just blind luck. A larger extinguisher wouldn't have fitted into the cavity, and one without a hose wouldn't have been able to direct the powder through the hole into the electrical cabinet. Without this I'd have had to locate a T30 Torx driver (having first figured out that this was actually what these six screws are) and cut through the warning label that says don't open this cover. By this time the fire may well have been out of control.

Felder have been disappointingly unconcerned about all this, and they can't get an engineer out until January. So it won't be until then that I'll be able to identify what caused this electrical fire in my CF741 combination machine, and understand what I need to do to prevent it happening again.

In the meantime, I'd suggest to any Felder owner (or indeed anyone with any woodworking machinery) that you satisfy yourself that you can quickly access the electrical cabinet on your machine, and within seconds of smelling smoke apply a fire extinguisher to the seat of an electrical fire. In addition it pays to be scrupulously clean and remove any wood shavings or off-cuts from inside, underneath, or around your machine. From what Felder are suggesting a failed capacitor is capable of causing a fire, and capacitors only have a service life of ten or twelve years. I'm not an electrical engineer so I can't validate their opinion, but if true then that's pretty terrifying!

When the engineer does come out, make sure the place is completely spotless and not a speck of dust anywhere. You dont want them coming back with a claim it happened due to anything other than a fault in their system and not a build up of dust on something.
 
Other PTs would have two sizeable motors in the base (spindle and feed), and the "electrics" would simply be a DOL starter for each to provide a contactor, a thermal trip and the push buttons.
This seems to be entirely the opposite. The bottom's half full of a birds nest of electrics making me wonder where they cram the motors in ?
I've never stripped a Felder machine but @custard 's photo hints at why they have a poor reputation for serviceability.

Ahh - I forgot. It's a combi. So more motors and perhaps interlocks so you can't start one function while using another ... It's still a birds nest !
 
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Given the age of your machine and the general attitude from Felder, I think that they will charge you their high call out fee, technician time and parts and there will be no liability on their part. I agree with cabinetman that a good local electrical technician will probably be quicker and cheaper and also a good contact in the future
Best of luck getting everything sorted
 
@custard very sorry to hear of this experience. I am taking onboard your advice re fire extinguisher etc - I do have one, but currently just wondering where it is!

Regarding Felder service, your experience is poor. I am a recent joiner to the Felder/Hammer fold having bought a Hammer saw/spindle that it turned out needed a complete strip down and quite a list of new parts. My own experience so far has been that the parts/service team in the UK has been responsive and helpful with advice and information. However, the delivery experience has been very slow, pretty much as you describe. I ordered the parts over two months ago and we are still waiting (again this is a current machine). I am an enthusiastic hobbyist and can wait (up to a point) but this would be very difficult if I relied on the machine to make a living.

Hopefully you will give us an update when it is all fixed.

Cheers
 
Dry powder does make a mess, I had one go off in my racing mini, back in the late '60s, causing marshals to come running, thinking the car was on fire!
 
It looks like a dry electrolytic capacitor- in which case there wouldn't have been an actual fire...
Just a lot of very stinky (and slightly carcinogenic!!!) smoke...
They don't get hot enough to light a fire however...

(and yes, electrolytics 'dry out' and gradually change their value- ten to fifteen years is about average, depending on how 'critical' the circuit is, some circuits will run with the caps only barely functional for years, others, even a 10-20% change in value can stop it working...)

We used to 'play games' with them as apprentices- hooking an electrolytic cap up 'backwards' (ie + to - and vice versa) makes them go 'BANG' with a very loud noise and lots of smoke within a few seconds...
I was an elec fitter at a bus depot, and we used to get the mechanics asking us to 'wire up one of them bangers' when they got new apprentices lol- they would get the apprentice to do the last of a engine rebuild/install, and we would disconnect the engine kill button on the floor of the bus, and wire up a large value electrolytic cap backwards across the ign + supply to the alternator or injector pump- then they would get the apprentice to start it up...

After a few seconds there's a loud bang, and lots of smoke- and all the mechanics would run screaming at the bus 'Turn it off, TURN IT OFF!!!', and the apprentice would be trying to push the stop button on the floor 'through' the floor- with no result, the motor keeps running...
We would 'PMSL' as they panicked and ran from the bus, thinking it was about to 'blow up' lol

Tradies are mean SOBs lol

(OHS would have kittens if you did that these days)
 
Regarding adding to the fire risk with sawdust etc in the cabinet, the Hammer machine I inherited was absolutely caked inside (such that the only solution was complete disassembly of the innards whereupon proper inspection identified numerous damaged parts). Anyway, obviously my machine had been abused but I have vowed to keep it clean inside. With that in mind, I have covered over the numerous access holes in the base and the various channels in the frame which should facilitate easier cleaning.
IMG_6709.jpeg

I have yet to see what the dust extraction is like if used properly, but I think it is probably not very good. So yes, point noted thank you @custard.

Cheers
 
Be careful re blocking the holes , If you do you may cause a vacuum , You need to have an air flow through the machine for the extractor to work.
I will assess this, but I don’t think the holes are there for air intake or for ventilation. There are numerous other large gaps under the cast iron top etc.

And of course we really want the air extraction to come from the source of the dust/chips to drag the maximum dust through to the extractor.

Cheers
 
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