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Planer/Thicknesser decisions.

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Ollie78

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Hi

So I have decided to get a new Planer/thicknesser.
A simple enough task you might think, but it is a confusing marketplace for the budget restrained consumer.
I make furniture and hardwood joinery, sliding sashes, occasional hardwood doors, restoration/ listed building stuff.

I am attracted to the spiral heads as the shear cutting for awkward woods and long lasting inserts look good, as well as the improved dust collection efficiency but particularly for the ability to change a single insert if it gets nicked and its indexed nature so no fiddling with setting the knives perfect for half an hour.
I then discovered that not all these helical heads actually shear cut or have radiused inserts, some have square knives square to the material which can cause problems. So perhaps a tersa head is the answer or the equivalent Felder system, many people love these.
I would prefer single phase, three phase is possible but will require electrician to add an extra socket and I may move workshop one day and not have 3 phase.
It must have wheels or be able to fit wheels, small workshop issues.

I have looked at the following machines:

Axminster at310spt which is great at a very cheap price but the fence looks like it might be super annoying. Not sure about quality of axminster machines I have a large belt sander which is good but not super nice ( a bit rough in the fit and finish not the best engineered).
£2400 ish with wheels

Itech 300c (scott and sargeant). Looks Ok but still have to remove fence to thickness, not sure if its a true shear cut head or not. £3300 ish with wheels.

Robland nxsd spiral, looks better built than above machines, much nicer looking fence. DRO is extra as is are wheels bringing price up to about £3600.

Hammer A3 31 , looks very nice, good fence and the advantage of the beds lifting up together. Acording to felder the silent power head is a true shear cut and does look very nice . About the same price as the Robland ( I have been offered some extras at discount) but I really prefer the way the beds lift up.

A second hand Sedgwick MB with tersa head again about £3500 if I can find one (can`t find any second hand with spiral and they £6000 new). no beds to lift up just extraction hood to store on the wall or somewhere.

Maybe Minimax 30 classic. looks pretty good about same price.

If anyone owns any of the above or has experience with them. Pros and cons I would appreciate your views. Also spiral vs tersa in general.

At this stage I am quite inclined to buy the Hammer with spiral head.

I am sure any of them will be better than what I have now ( a scheppach 2600 ) but I would rather buy once buy right than be dissapointed and have to buy something else.

Sorry for rambling on.

Thanks

Ollie
 

Yojevol

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Are you set on a PT? Do you have enough space for seperate units? If so that is the way to go especially if you a professional craftsman.
Brian
 

deema

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When I changed my PT I looked at spiral blocks. I decided for me, they would have just too many problems. My primary concern was around changing the cutters. Small screws inside the machine / build up of resin would make changing the blades a pain. I know changing the knickers on my spindle tooling is a faff, so 50 of the little blighters wasn’t for me. I settled on a Tersa block, and have been extremely happy with it.
Advantages.
Change the cutters in about 1 minute!
I can buy carbide Tersa blades as well as M42, HSS and Chrome, all at different price points.
I can actually divide up the cutter head to have say 4” of carbide, 4” of HSS and 4” of Chrome......so I have every option already loaded.
No setup, no fiddly screws, no cleaning where the inserts sit of resin build up etc

Downside.....well haven’t come across any.

I have the Sedgwick C.P., 16”. The dust chute is either in top of the machine or inside the machine. It’s never off the machine so you won’t need to store it. I selected it precisely because the beds don’t lift, and this IMO helps to ensure that they stay aligned. You only need a few microns of variance for the tables to get out of alignment and you start cutting tapers.

I personally wouldn’t buy Felder / Hammer, I have their bandsaw......worst machine I have, built of tin compared to say SCM or Sedgwick.

If I were to replace my machine I’d buy the older SCM LInvincible 16” PT. it has an amazing fence that doesn’t take up any room with a metal rod behind it. They go for not a lot of money normally, Id change the cutter block for a Tersa if it didn’t have one.
 

deema

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I should have also mentioned the Dominion, again another old obsolete machine. However, the 16” version is built to last for centuries. I’ve rebuilt a few of them, and they have superb engineering with nothing really to go wrong. The only thing to watch out for is there are pins under the tables that people aren’t aware of and pull the tables off damaging the cast iron support. Easy enough to change the head to which ever system you want.

The motor is easy to access and again an easy change / mod to make it single phase.
 

Ollie78

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Yojevol- It is mainly a space thing my workshop is a bit crowded I can leave my current machine near a wall mostly, but planing anything longer than about 1.8 meters requres me to move it sideways for clearance. Some re organisation is in order but still it isn`t that big.
Separate machines has its appeal though, but it would mean another cutter block to keep fed with knives.

deema- Interesting point about the many inserts, I can`t decide about this point I guess it depends how often they need changing, Tersa is attractive for is speed of change and availability.
I am always drawn to the solidity of the type of machines you suggest and I have a wadkin EDA morticer thats at least as old as me, still works well. I was looking at the more modern stuff as a sort of hassle free thing in a way, just buy it and start using it. I worry that if I buy an older machine and have to add a tersa head etc time and unforseen costs might get away from me.
I will have a look for one of those scm`s


Thanks

Ollie
 

Barramonday

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Hi Ollie, I own an A3-31 with helical head, the machine performs pretty well ( I don't like the fence ) but make no mistake this is a high end hobbyist machine not a pro machine. I could see a 1 person shop making 1 off small to medium furniture pieces with an A3, but from the work you describe I would definitely be looking to get something heavier duty, I'd be looking at a Minimax FS41E as a minimum for a new machine or something second hand. Having a helical head would also help the machine hold value over time.
 

Jonathan S

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I have a 240volt hammer A331 with the felder quick change system, its quick and easy to change blades and and initial price fitted my budget.
It's been a real workhorse in a one man shop, I also set up a power feed for planning big production runs.

If I was to buy again it would probably be Tersa head.....to change those little nickers in a spiral head look like a time eater.....alough the quietness of the head is appealing.

I've been very happy with my Felder/Hammer machines also here in Spain they don't bombard you with follow up calls.


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Mrs C

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I went for a spiral head to avoid the faff of setting blades. I have a friend who has a traditional machine and even after 30 years of practice it still takes him a couple of hours and a lot of swearing. I have had mine for 2 years and not had to change them; it gives a better finish than his Sedgwick with new blades. It is also oodles quieter.

The only downside was that they are more expensive so a tersa might be a compromise.
 

Doug B

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I find the argument over time saving re fitting tersa blades & spiral tips a misnomer, yes tersa are quicker to fit but the finish off a decent spiral block is so much better than that of a bladed block that the initial time saving is insignificant compared to the time saved in final prep of the planed timber.
I’m now on my second machine with spiral block & there’s absolutely no way I would go back to conventional type blocks.
 

mbartlett99

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Fwiw the Robland is solid generally but the fence is really poor especially if you're throwing big lumps around. I have heard that the Hammer fence is also a bit weak.
 

Ollie78

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Mrs c - This is the attraction for me, I wonder which spiral machine you went with.

Doug B- Good to see a very positive stance on the spiral blocks, have you had struggles with the little screws or indexing the cutters? I saw a video on youtube where a guy was really struggling to get them undone. (Axminster machine) .

Jonathan S- Glad to hear somone with the actual machine I am looking at, I am a one man band as well. Do you feel the fence is good enough?

BarraMonday- How is the blade changing experience on the hammer? I am not sure i can fit a 410mm planer in my workshop and the trouble is it is like a slippery slope. If I keep going I will end up with a 20 grand machine.
It is a case of finding a machine that is the right balance of size/capacity value for money and long term durability.

I think i have pretty much discounted the machines on the inital list except the Hammer or a second hand beast.
Looked into the cost of retro fitting a tersa to a sedgwick MB and its £1560 for a block can`t find a price for a spiral head. I think this option might go over budget though.
I did find these guys selling some restored machines so might give them a call.
https://www.targetmanufacturing.co.uk/p ... icknesser/

Shopping is tricky !

Thanks for all replies.

Ollie
 

deema

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There is no setting with Tersa blades, and if you search you will find replacement blocks for half what you’ve suggested.
There is an alternative solution for upgrading an ordinary block and that’s to use Barke turntable knives. You fit a cassette into the slot the standard knife goes and then just drop in disposable knives. No setting, change over is very quick, and only say £150 initial investment to get you up and running. You have to setup the cassette initially, but after that it’s just drop the new knives in.

I’d avoid anything with aluminium fences, you will wear then quickly if used for a business.

If your producing quality furniture, you will need to finish anything that comes off a P/T irrespective of the blade system. Knives produce ripples spirals produce a mottled surface.
 

Jonathan S

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Ollie78":37s79hf8 said:
Jonathan S- Glad to hear somone with the actual machine I am looking at, I am a one man band as well. Do you feel the fence is good enough?
Ive had no issues with the fence in the 6 years I've owned it......if your used to cast iron fence then I guess the aluminium will feel a little flexy.....the flex doesn't effect the angle, mine is always stop on 90°

Changing the blades is a 5 minute job to flip around or put in new.





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Ollie78

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Deema- I did just a quick search to be fair and found Appleby woodturning sell the tersa block for the sedgwick MB (£1560 knives sold seperately! you would hope to get your first set free ).
Those Barke turnblades look like a possible solution, similar to the standard felder ones. I am not expecting to get a perfect surface but the closer the better, its more about getting it flat and square I don`t mind a bit of card scraping or sanding.
Not sure I am chucking enough wood through to wear out an alloy fence ! the one on my existing planer (and the spindle moulder) is aluminium and I have not worn through the anodising yet. Must try harder.

Jonathan S- Thanks for that, I see you have the alloy extension pieces too (bit pricey but good idea) do you fit them on the thicknessing table as well ? My current fence is auminium and it is only fixed at the end so wafts about a bit too much I am assuming the extra fixing in the centre stops this problem.

Thanks for all your advice everyone.

Ollie
 

Doug B

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Ollie I would suggest if you go down the route of a spiral block you ask for at least a demonstration or better still be allowed to remove & refit the tips on the brand you go for before parting with your cash, you need to know you’re happy with maintaining the block.
 

Doug B

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deema":3djysmmj said:
If your producing quality furniture, you will need to finish anything that comes off a P/T irrespective of the blade system. Knives produce ripples spirals produce a mottled surface.
This is true of course but it’s the amount of finishing, I don’t have room for a free standing sander so any sanding I do I do by hand so I want the best possible finish off the planer thicknesser to minimise the time spent sanding, I’ve found the spiral block gives me the finish I’m looking for.
 

Ollie78

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Hi

An update.
I have spoken to Hammer about a couple of the points made here. As far as the aluminium fence they point out that the fences on all Felder even the high end format4 stuff is aluminium too, a fair point I think.
They say that indexing problems are mostly avoided by keeping the machine clean, which I do anyway. As for tracks or scalops they suggest that most of the reported issues are from pineapple style heads. They admit that if you change one blade due to a chip if it is much sharper than the surrounding ones a line will be noticable, suggesting that turning the adjacent tips reduces this.

Had a price for a Minimax 30c with xylent at £1000 more it has a bit smaller capacity but also a smaller motor at 2.2kw, also the fence comes off to lift the beds.

Jonathan S":1tgza2l1 said:
Ive had no issues with the fence in the 6 years I've owned it......if your used to cast iron fence then I guess the aluminium will feel a little flexy.....the flex doesn't effect the angle, mine is always stop on 90°
I think 6 years is a good test. This is reasuring.

Doug B":1tgza2l1 said:
I’m now on my second machine with spiral block & there’s absolutely no way I would go back to conventional type blocks.
I think this is a telling comment, and am quite sold on the helical heads.

Barramonday":1tgza2l1 said:
Hi Ollie, I own an A3-31 with helical head, the machine performs pretty well ( I don't like the fence ) but make no mistake this is a high end hobbyist machine not a pro machine. I could see a 1 person shop making 1 off small to medium furniture pieces with an A3, but from the work you describe I would definitely be looking to get something heavier duty, I'd be looking at a Minimax FS41E as a minimum for a new machine or something second hand. Having a helical head would also help the machine hold value over time.
Well, I am a one man shop, and though I do quite a lot of sash windows and restoration stuff as well as furniture I am generally only doing one or two jobs at a time. I am not chucking a M3 a week through it. An FS41e does look like a great machine but at twice the price.

The problem is, I keep lookong at nice machines and they are just a bit more than the last one I looked at, then I am looking at £10,000 machines which of course are wonderful but I can`t spend that money. The price difference between an A3 31 and a FS41e is a pretty nice bandsaw.

I do worry a bit about second hand I bought a second hand CNC machine and had a good bit of trouble getting it sorted, also a wadkin morticer which is great but did need a couple of parts and some fettling to get it spot on (both good now though).
The a3 31 is compelling at its price point.
I have "paralysis by analysis" as they say. Perhaps my initial instinct to get the hammer was right.

Ollie

edit. I can`t spell.
 

Hornbeam

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I have been looking to upgrade my Startrite SD310 and almost ready to go when Covid 19 appeared.
I looked at most planers on the market and this is where I got to
The spiral block was so much quieter than my SD310 that because noise is a factor for my due to locationthen I will go spiral. I didnt think the finish was much better on the timber I planed. If noise wasnt an issue I am drawn to the speed and flexability of the trsa set up.
Sedgewick with spiral absolutely rock solid and excellent finish, also has rubber outfeed roller. The factor I didnt like was having to bend down to feed material in/out of teh thicknesser. If you dont mind this and can justify the extra cost this is a machine for life
Hammer A3 31 spiral. Possibly quieter than the Sedgewick but marginal. Excellent finish. I like the lift up table but not the faff with winding thicknesser table up and down. Note if you are restricted for space the machine can mainly be left with the tables up reducing the effective footprint. The fence doesnt need to be changed to lift tablesEverything feels a lot less robust than the Sedgewick but I found it nicer to work with in overhand planing
I tech 310s. I understand that this machine is now no longer offered by Scott and Sargeant due to ongoing issues with going out of adjustment. The 310C model has tables which tilt up outwards and just get in the way when thicknessing
Minimax machine seems expensive for the package
Robland machine looks attractive, not tried it but issues with the way the tables tilt up and fence adjustments
Ian
 

Ollie78

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Hi Hornbeam

It looks like you are on a very similar shopping mission to me. Tricky isnt it !
Through my research I have come to very similar conclusions.
I would like to be able to afford the cost of the Sedgewick with a spiral, as you say super sturdy.

Hornbeam":3a29ccu2 said:
Hammer A3 31 spiral. Possibly quieter than the Sedgewick but marginal. Excellent finish. I like the lift up table but not the faff with winding thicknesser table up and down. Note if you are restricted for space the machine can mainly be left with the tables up reducing the effective footprint. The fence doesnt need to be changed to lift tablesEverything feels a lot less robust than the Sedgewick but I found it nicer to work with in overhand planing
I am glad you are impressed with the finish, I am restricted for space and part of its attraction is the fact the beds lift as one.
I dont think i am worried about winding the bed up and down as I have to do that now takes 30 seconds or so max.

The Axminster and Itech 300c both left the list because of the supremely awkward arangements for lifting the beds. I was wondering why i couldn`t see the old version of the itech, which I liked the look of better.
I think the robland is out too just because of the way it folds, ie you have to remove the fence.
Agree that the minimax seems expensive for its capability. Though I looked at a second hand fs41 e I decided its just too enormous, mainly the width when the beds are down and the fence back, the large metal rod sticks out miles and whilst very strong means the machine has to basically be in the middle of the room. I guess this is the advantage of clamping the fence at the end rather than the back.
As for space saving the felder ad531 and above seem to have sort of folding euro guards and a chain like rear guard so it can go very close to the wall though they may be options. I haven`t dared ask the price of the ad531.

I am wavering between ordering a hammer or going second hand.

Ollie
 

Jonathan S

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Ollie.....if you do decide to buy new, this present time is ideal for getting extras thrown in to secure the deal.... In and out feed tables, digital hand wheel etc





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