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Itech 260S with Spiral cutter head - First impressions

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Mooose

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Seeing as information was so scarce when I was looking for details on this planer/thicknesser and now having had one delivered, I thought it would be good to get some first impressions posted with the aim of adding to this as I use the machine.

Firstly some thoughts on why I went for this machine:

1) I wanted a spiral cutter head and initially I was sold on the Axminster AT260SPT. However the more I looked at the split lift for the wings and the fact that you have to remove the fence I realised that I would prefer a machine like the Startrite or Jet. However both of those are priced beyond my budget - I had set a limit at £1500

2) From what I could find online the Itech was made by Laizhou and they seem to make (or supply) a number of machines that look very similar to the Startrite. Assuming this to be correct I had high hopes that the build quality would be of a reasonably high standard

3) Black Friday - Scott + Sargeant had a 10% off offer over the BF weekend and that ensured that the machine + delivery came in just over the £1500. That sealed the deal and I ordered online followed by a call to S+S to talk through the delivery details. (Note for others - for some reason notes that you add to your online order do not seem to get through to the team at S+S handling the delivery. I would suggest calling them if you need to arrange a delivery day etc)

That brings me to today when a rather heavy pallet was delivered by a helpful driver (he ensured that it got right into the garage exactly where I needed it)

First impressions:

The machine is well built and feels very sturdy and nicely finished. It is a heavy machine and I will need to get it onto wheels ASAP to allow me to move it around the garage. The paintwork (aside from the interesting colour) is thick and well applied and it does not have chipping or badly finished edges that you can get on some cheaply made machines.

The fence is a combination of aluminium and heavy iron dovetail "slider" that feels very sturdy and well made and the blade guard is about the same as that found on the Startrite and others. I actually like this fence as it does not feel flimsy which was something that worried me about the Axminster.

Converting from one operation to the other is really quick and the tables are spring-loaded which makes lifting them easy. The only requirement before switching over to have the lower table set about 130mm down. This will allow the dust chute to rotate without hitting the lower table. No removing the fence and the tables lift together in one smooth motion. They also lock when fully open so should be safe to use.

I was a little concerned that some of the machine seems to have signs of use with some fine wood dust present in places even though the tables look very smooth and unused. Possibly this is from the test/setup of the machine?

I used my straight edge over tables and they are very flat and seem to be co-planer which is nice out of the box. All in all the first impressions are very good. It also ships with the "digital" height indicator which works well and should allow you to set to the nearest 0.1mm

I have run a small length of pine through to see how it behaves and have to say that it leaves a very smooth finish and it is far less noisy than the old three-blade machine I had a few years ago. All in all, I am happy with my initial impressions.

Any negatives?

Well, when I initially started it for the first time it took a while to get up to full speed. However, after leaving it to run for a few minutes it now seems to start fairly quickly - so I will assume that this was part of the breaking-in process.

Apart from that, I can only add that it came with no spare cutters and I incorrectly assumed it would ship with one or two spares. That would have been nice on a £1500 spend!

I will update this as I get it into full use in the workshop but so far it is a solid buy and looks to be good for many years use.
 

sundaytrucker

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I will be interested in your follow up as I have visited product page on the s&s website numerous times as I prefer the design to the Axminster models.
 

bonzo

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How are you getting on with the iTech? As you say, very little info on the company or reviews of their products out there.

I’m currently considering the 310S variant from S&S, or otherwise the conventional 3 blade Startrite SD31.

Would be interested to hear if the machine is still living up to your expectations. Have you had to make any adjustments to the beds or cutters yet?
 

Trevanion

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I have no experience of the actual ITech gear but I have used an ITech power feeder, which I rate quite highly actually. At the time the fit, finish and overall build quality of the ITech exceded that of the Maggi Steff power feeds and was half the price.

Does that relate to the actual machinery? I have no idea, but it was a really good power feed for the money.
 

bonzo

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Trevanion":2z9e0dmt said:
I have no experience of the actual ITech gear but I have used an ITech power feeder, which I rate quite highly actually. At the time the fit, finish and overall build quality of the ITech exceded that of the Maggi Steff power feeds and was half the price.

Does that relate to the actual machinery? I have no idea, but it was a really good power feed for the money.
Thanks Trevanion, I think I'll try and make the trip to S&S's showroom in Horsham to take a look. On paper it looks like a decent machine for the money.
 

LoveMonkey

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I'd be interested to hear how you are getting on with this item after a bit of use. I was previously considering the Axminster Craft CT260. This is quite a lot more, similar in price to the AT260SPT, but I do prefer the spiral cutters and also the idea of the tables and fence moving together on this vs the Axminster design.

I'm back and to on Planer Thicknessers, but I'm going to put some flooring in my garage and then make a decision quite soon on it, I think.

Thanks
 

Mooose

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Update:

So firstly I wanted to get this on some wheels ASAP and after £45 on some steel, wheels and a bit of paint came up with this:

Stand Build.jpg


Stand.jpg


Not the best paint job but for the moment it works.

Then I had a look at some of the fit and finish and noted that one of the knobs needed attention as it was cutting into the Alu blade guard:

Gaurd.jpg


Quick work with a file and that was sorted. I added a rubber foam strip over the top of the guard as an added layer of protection (you can see in the images below). Like most machines that are not Felder level expensive, you will find small things like this that need TLC

Overall though the machine is well built and is working well. I love the swap over as it takes less than 2min - about 1min to change the lower table height so the dust hood can rotate and then 30 seconds to unlock and lift the tables and swing the dust extraction hood over. The guard and fence can be in any position and not get in the way. If the lower table is already at the correct depth (typically when starting as it would have been lowered at the end of the last session) then it will only be the 30 seconds.

Here is an attempt at an action shot as I lift the tables: (the spring counterbalance keeps them slightly raised)

Lifting wings.jpg


and here it is fully swapped over:

Swapped over.jpg


So far I am happy. It feels well made, leaves a good finish and dust collection is good (some small bits get out but 98% goes up the 100mm port). It is louder than my old 6-inch planer but it has more belts than a single purpose machine and that may be the cause of the louder "idle" sound. It is far less noisy when you pass a board over the cutter head compared to the old three blade 6-inch machine. Spiral cutters are the way to go!

BTW - unless I am mistaken this is the same base machine as the Scheppack 3.1 but with the spiral head - you decide:

Scheppach 3.1.jpg


Will continue to add thoughts as I get more done.
 

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bonzo

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Thanks for the update. It looks like you're pleased with your purchase.

The Scheppach 3.1 does appear to be the same machine without the spiral cutter block. The question is, is it worth the extra £400? :-k
 

Mooose

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I think it depends on how you use the machine

For a business doing large production milling then I would say it is a must. The speed and ease that a spiral head gives when changing cutters to a new "face" would be very beneficial over changing and setting blades. Down time costs money when you are paying staff by the hour. The improvement in noise and dust collection are also great for these environments.

However, as a home/DIY user, I am less sure. Yes, I like the advantages and as I had the budget I thought it would be worth taking the plunge. But if I had limited budget (or wanted to purchase additional equipment) then I am not sure that the advantages are worth the extra $$. Honestly, if you needed to buy a dust collector I would go for the standard head and use the savings to get both at the same time.

Finally I would add that so many talk about the fantastic finish with a spiral head over blades. Sorry - I just don't see it. As long as the blades on a standard head are in good condition the actual result is about the same. Possibly that changes with the more exotic figured woods but you have to ask yourself how much of that you will be using.
 

gasman

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Interesting discussion. I used to have a Record C26Plus combo machine which had a standard 3-blade planer thicknesser. The finish was fine but it was sooo loud. I could only use it during working hours as it could be heard all over the village. I also had the Makita 2012 bench top thicknesser - supposedly the quietest of the standard bench top ones - and again was so noisy when wood was going through it.
A year ago I bought the Axi spiral head P/T when it was on offer and got rid of the other two - it is a different world. I can run it at anytime of the day or night and no one knows. So for the 'amateur' with a workshop close to other people this is an extra factor
I do think the finish is much better though - esp on woods like walnut and all the mahogany looks-likes such as sapele, iroko etc - you don't get anything like the tearout
Just my ha'pennyworth
Cheers Mark
 

Trevanion

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Mooose":1u6ekctz said:
I found this thread interesting on the same subject: spiral-cutters-t109635.html
"Imagine a Sedgwick PT with a spiral head"

It wasn't too long before that was a thing! :lol: They don't even offer old-style HSS knifes anymore, Tersa is standard and helical is the optional extra.

There's a lot of very good points raised in that thread. Most systems have their pros and cons, old-style HSS can be reground many times and to various angles to suit the work which can even include a back bevel for planing really interlocked and figured timbers with almost no tear-out, Tersa is lightning fast to change out knives and there are various knife types available to suit your style of work, Helical cutters are quieter and the carbide has longevity (Tersa can also supply carbide knives) plus a smaller 15mm or so chip is taken off the material rather than a full-width shaving which results in less clogging (rare but it happens sometimes) and fuller extraction bags/box because the shavings aren't so "fluffy".

I quite like old-style HSS knives despite it being unpopular opinion, I find a bit of relaxation in setting the knives in a totally dead-silent workshop and listening for whether both knives hit the material about the same amount spinning the cutterhead by hand.
 

LoveMonkey

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I decided to go for it an buy one of these myself. As I haven't had a planer thicknesser before there are a couple of things I'm not sure are normal.

Regarding the fence, the guide at the back of the fence that screws into the body of the PT is not straight, so the fence sits at an angle across the width of the table. This does not seem to be much of an issue as the fence is still perpendicular to the blade/table, but it means I technically lose some width with the fence in place. I can't see any obvious adjustments to make here to straighten it up.

Also regarding the fence, the handle that tightens the fence onto the machine needs to turn through the fence to get fully tight, meaning I can only tighten it when the fence is about half way across the table of more. I can't see an obvious adjustment for this either, other than turning around the guide so it faces the other way on the main body. When I do this, however, there are two prongs the protrude over the blades, again losing me some width.

Finally, the thicknesser seems to have a minimum limit of around 5mm. I got around this by planing and thicknessing a 9mm piece both longer and wider than my work pieces and placing them on this, then adding 9mm to the thickness I dialled in.

Are all of these normal 'features' of a planer thicknesser, or should I get in touch with the supplier about any of them? I have some photos if that helps.

I've already been able to put the machine to good use on my current project, but I can see that there is some learning to do and experience to be gained on getting good results from it every time.

Thanks
 

Mooose

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The handle for the fence is one of those where you can reposition it. If you push down on the centre you should be able to lift the handle up and move it around to avoid having to turn through the fence. It helps to tighten it a bit first so you can lift and turn the handle without moving the "bolt" in its thread. Once you get the hang of it you will fund a position where it locks and unlocks without having to move the fence.

Hope that makes sense

Not sure about the 5mm - have not tried something that thin yet. But your solution would be a good workaround
 

Mooose

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Yeah -that's not right. I would call Scott + Sargeant and get them to replace that part.

How does the rest of the machine look?
 

johnnyb

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the really interesting thing is the date of the spiral cutter thread. christmas 2017. I've had axminster 12 inch spiral p/t for quite a while now and the spiral block is brilliant. so good that to an extent that aspect planing four square is just taken for granted. finish and flatness are excellent. the machine itself design and build are only ok though. these lift up table machines are always prone to co planer issues unless there over engineered. also the max cut on the thicknesser isnt huge( it's quite easy to stall)
 

HovisB

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LoveMonkey":11ehexie said:
Thanks for the comments. I will have a look at that handle tomorrow. Here is a picture of the guide that isn't square.

Thanks
I just took delivery of one of these a few days ago and also found the fence "guide" to be a slightly at an angle with the bed. However if you loosen the 4 bolts with an allen key, there is enough play in the hole to allow readjustment. Mine is dead square now.

I do have my own issue with it though in that the fence is not flat along its height, its a concave shape. Will speak to SS to see what we can do. Hopefully I wont have to DIY flatten it.

Otherwise I'm super impressed with it. Built quality is similar to a Jet 260 I previewed (fence excepted)
 

HovisB

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Anyone have any thoughts on whether this level of flatness is "within tolerance"? Scosarg say the tolerance is 0.5mm. I don't have a feeler guage to measure with but it's enough of a difference to throw of square if jointing boards say half the height of the fence vs more than the height of it.
 

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