Recommendations for a Planer/Thicknesser

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Gandalfs Staff

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I am a DIY woodworker, working out of a double width garage. Nothing professional, just making bits and pieces for myself and friends. Recycling old scaffold boards, making outside tables, Adirondack chairs etc- its all a bit rough as I am really new to the hobby having only started wood working at the beginning of the pandemic. There is no interest in turning it into any form of business.

I am looking for a planer/thicknesser to give me the opportunity to mill my own timber as and when required. The machine won't be used daily. Ordinarily that would lead me to conclude I could purchase something from a Craft range ala Axminster. However having read around a little I am minded to purchase a machine with a spiral block rather than straight cutters. I can't stand the thought of faffing around having to reset blades and/or get them sharpened.

I have been looking at machines such as an iTech260S, Hammer A3 26 (although I don't know what the price of this is I can't seem to register for the felder site), Axminster Trade AT260SPT. The machine needs to be single phase.

Can anyone give offer any thoughts on the macines I have mentioned or indeed any similar priced machines. I have a budget of £2k-£2.5k.

Thanks
 
I can't stand the thought of faffing around having to reset blades and/or get them sharpened.
Get one that takes disposable blades and maybe the Tersa system which gives easy blade changing. Changing all the cutters in a spiral machine will be expensive and time consuming, from what I have read the helical cutter is better than the spiral due to angle of the cutters.
 
PTs are one of the most sensitive machines in the wood working shop for setup. The machines need to be very robust to stand a chance of retaining their precision if they are to perform as intended. Things to look out for
1. As much cast iron as possible, the heavier the machine the better.
2. Cast iron fence, aluminium extrusion is not any substitute for a proper cast iron fence that will not flex.
3. A very robust system for holding the fence, a big large diameter bar and big clamps are what are traditionally used.
4. The casing that holds the planning beds and the thicknessing table should be cast iron. Fabrications unless really we’ll designed which most arnt will move too much and not keep the precision the machine requires. Cast iron is probably the best vibration absorbing material which is why having a lot of it is a good thing.
5. Cast iron thicknesser table.
6. Tersa or traditional knives, you can always add Barke knives to a traditional knife block to have simple no faff blade changing.

I would suggest with your budget to look for a secondhand Sedgwick, Wadkin, SCM or Dominion to be sure to get a well built machine. Sideways and I are restoring an old Sedgwick on a separate thread which might be of interest.
 
I would spend some time looking for a good old cast iron machine. See what's out there before splashing out on a new one, but the good ones are absolute monsters, weight wise.
 
Firstly, please do not put a used scaffold board through a planer/thicknesser !!

I agree with deemas main points except I do like my silent power head with its many inserts, its great on crazy timber and is quiet and easy to set up.
To add to the above info I would say look at the way the machine converts from planer to thicknesser mode, on my hammer A3 31 you can leave the fence set and both tables fold up as one so its very quick. However many others have annoying setups where you must remove the fence every time. Might not seem much difference but it really can be a time saver. Or of course the Sedgwick you dont have to lift the bed at all

I looked at the Axminster and rejected it immediately for many reasons, not in the same ballpark as Hammer or Sedgewick, SCM do a decent small one.

Second hand is where to go, I would have a word with deema about his Sedgwick, you know it will be working great when hes done it.

Ollie
 
Get one that takes disposable blades and maybe the Tersa system which gives easy blade changing. Changing all the cutters in a spiral machine will be expensive and time consuming, from what I have read the helical cutter is better than the spiral due to angle of the cutters.
Thanks - Just had a quick look at the Tersa 'system' - it does seems easier than I first envisaged. That said I am still leaning towards a spiral/helical (are those terms interchangeable?) head for other reasons such as 1)noise reduction, 2)cleaner cut and 3) the ease of turning/rotating a blade if you knick it somehow?
 
PTs are one of the most sensitive machines in the wood working shop for setup. The machines need to be very robust to stand a chance of retaining their precision if they are to perform as intended. Things to look out for
1. As much cast iron as possible, the heavier the machine the better.
2. Cast iron fence, aluminium extrusion is not any substitute for a proper cast iron fence that will not flex.
3. A very robust system for holding the fence, a big large diameter bar and big clamps are what are traditionally used.
4. The casing that holds the planning beds and the thicknessing table should be cast iron. Fabrications unless really we’ll designed which most arnt will move too much and not keep the precision the machine requires. Cast iron is probably the best vibration absorbing material which is why having a lot of it is a good thing.
5. Cast iron thicknesser table.
6. Tersa or traditional knives, you can always add Barke knives to a traditional knife block to have simple no faff blade changing.

I would suggest with your budget to look for a secondhand Sedgwick, Wadkin, SCM or Dominion to be sure to get a well built machine. Sideways and I are restoring an old Sedgwick on a separate thread which might be of interest.
Thanks for the feedback. I had thought that generally speaking the machines in the £2/2.5k range would be of sufficient quality, being more aligned with Trade rather than hobby - does that generalisation not hold true? I appreciate that with that price range I couldn't run them all day every day but was hoping that broadly speaking machines in that price range would suffice for my needs - perhaps I am being naive?

The problem with the second hand market is that I don't really know my ars* from my elbow and I could very easily be sold a pup - I wouldn't know what to look for! :)

That said if I were to think about second hand would there be any specific models you might suggest would be suitable?

Thanks
 
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Firstly, please do not put a used scaffold board through a planer/thicknesser !!

I agree with deemas main points except I do like my silent power head with its many inserts, its great on crazy timber and is quiet and easy to set up.
To add to the above info I would say look at the way the machine converts from planer to thicknesser mode, on my hammer A3 31 you can leave the fence set and both tables fold up as one so its very quick. However many others have annoying setups where you must remove the fence every time. Might not seem much difference but it really can be a time saver. Or of course the Sedgwick you dont have to lift the bed at all

I looked at the Axminster and rejected it immediately for many reasons, not in the same ballpark as Hammer or Sedgewick, SCM do a decent small one.

Second hand is where to go, I would have a word with deema about his Sedgwick, you know it will be working great when hes done it.

Ollie
Thanks Ollie - no scaffold boards through the planer - is that in case the blades get nicked or is there another reason?

Silent Power Head - just looked that up and watched this demo of the Hammer A3-26 - he was impressed! Do you happen to know the cost of the A3-26 (I can't register online and need to call them tomorrow).

I spoke to Axminster today and they have discountinued the AT260SPT. They have a new model coming out in a few weeks where the in/out feed table rise/fall as one - not separately as in the vase of the AT260. I am guessing this is so the fence can stay in situ when changing between modes?

I've got to get whatever machine I buy through a single doorway as my garage up/over door is fixed in place and cannot be opened....if you have got any thoughts on specific models I would be obliged.

Thanks
 
I have the AT260SPT at home, I'm happy with it overall, eventhough it took some effort to get it where I wanted it (or where it should be from new). Here issues I have faced and resolved:
  • When converting from thicknesser to planer, the guard arm is in the way of removing the fence. Axminster wanted me to slide the big profile out of it's holder. Nonsense. Where the guard arm is fixed to the outfeed table, I have put a number of washers between the arm and table to move it out a bit more. It is now enough to remove the fence easily. Solved.
  • Thicknesser bed was not parallel to the cutter head. Axminster had it in shop, said 0.2mm is within tolerance. Nonsense. There are screws at the bottom of the pillar that lifts the bed, you can adjust it there. Solved.
  • The outfeed table was not flat, it was cupped along a diagonal (0.15mm out). This took a lot of elbow grease, but I have ground it flat with sand paper disk in agle gringer, random orbit sander, and large floating glass with lapping paper. Not sure I would advice others going down this route, but I was brave enough, and the result is there, so for me, also solved.
  • I had to have a special socket, and circuit braker installed. Not a big deal, had a sparky over to sort it. The machine has a large initial draw, when spinning up.
I'm aware this might sound negative, but I would buy again. After these things, and overall calibration, the machine is spot on for my needs. It is fairly sturdy, and it keeps the calibration well. Fairly quiet, and the cutter head seems to stay sharp forever... Would not want to be without this little machine.
 
Thanks Ollie - no scaffold boards through the planer - is that in case the blades get nicked or is there another reason?

Silent Power Head - just looked that up and watched this demo of the Hammer A3-26 - he was impressed! Do you happen to know the cost of the A3-26 (I can't register online and need to call them tomorrow).

I spoke to Axminster today and they have discountinued the AT260SPT. They have a new model coming out in a few weeks where the in/out feed table rise/fall as one - not separately as in the vase of the AT260. I am guessing this is so the fence can stay in situ when changing between modes?

I've got to get whatever machine I buy through a single doorway as my garage up/over door is fixed in place and cannot be opened....if you have got any thoughts on specific models I would be obliged.

Thanks

Yes, because old scaffold boards (and pallets) definitely will have embeded grit and or metal in them, they will nick the blade and can scratch the tables as cast iron is relatively soft.
If you really must do it then get a wire brush on a grinder and give them the once over to at least give yourself half a chance.

Can`t tell you the price of the A3 26 I bought my A3-31 a couple of years ago now and with the current worldwide situation who knows, they do actually build them in Austria though which is closer than China at least.

Most machines should go through a single doorway once you take the guards and fences off, obvously 24 inch Wadkins are out !

My shortlist when shopping for mine was the Sedgwick, Hammer, SCM minimax , or a big old Wadkin.

You could get 2 separate machines which can be nice and you often see surface planers quite cheap especially if you have 3phase.
Seriously though, message deema about the Sedgwick.

Ollie
 
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The Sedgwick MB (12”) PT that Sideways and I are refurbishing has a new home waiting for it, however Sideways has a really nice Sedgwick PT (10”) that he will selling shortly. This is his own personal machine that we have fully gone through when he bought it. Its a lovely machine, and one that you can feel assured will work as it should and be able to buy with confidence.
 
I am a DIY woodworker, working out of a double width garage. Nothing professional, just making bits and pieces for myself and friends. Recycling old scaffold boards, making outside tables, Adirondack chairs etc- its all a bit rough as I am really new to the hobby having only started wood working at the beginning of the pandemic. There is no interest in turning it into any form of business.

I am looking for a planer/thicknesser to give me the opportunity to mill my own timber as and when required. The machine won't be used daily. Ordinarily that would lead me to conclude I could purchase something from a Craft range ala Axminster. However having read around a little I am minded to purchase a machine with a spiral block rather than straight cutters. I can't stand the thought of faffing around having to reset blades and/or get them sharpened.

I have been looking at machines such as an iTech260S, Hammer A3 26 (although I don't know what the price of this is I can't seem to register for the felder site), Axminster Trade AT260SPT. The machine needs to be single phase.

Can anyone give offer any thoughts on the macines I have mentioned or indeed any similar priced machines. I have a budget of £2k-£2.5k.

Thanks
Your situation sounds pretty much the same as mine and as such I faced the same considerations myself when making my choice last year. Having owned a small bench top planer which was horrifically noisy my decision process was weighted towards machines that were supposed to be quieter and ,like you again, wanting to avoid lemons I aimed for a machine that would come with a warranty, hence my choice of an iTech260s. It doesn't come with a wheeled base so I knocked one up myself and as it requires a a 16Amp power source I had my sparky upgrade my garages consumer unit with a 16A class C MCB feeding two wall mounted 16A sockets (one for my table saw and one for the P/T) Other than that the only weakness I find with it is the fence and the mechanism for adjusting it leaves a bit to be desired. If ,like me, you spend a bit of time ensuring it is as accurately set at 90° and then leave it well alone with periodic checks to ensure its still plumb you'll be fine. The change from one mode to another is pleasantly simple and fast.
 
There is a lot of debate about the upsides of Tersa, Spirla, Helical and standard knives for PT’s. To the best of my knowledge you only find standard knives and Tersa heads being used on the larger 4 / 6 headed moulding / planning machines such as that made by SCM. Typically a new moulder will be fitted with Tersa heads as the blade change is both extremely quick and is fully mistake proof. If the blade is in, it’s in with no danger of it ever coming out. Ie commercial machines have not gone down the spiral / helical road.
Standard knife setup is fairly easy to change over, it takes a bit of time, but isn’t difficult. you can buy a drop in carrier that will take reversible disposable blades that takes all the pain out of standard knife setup and is almost as quick as a Tersa head Making older secondhand machines very attractive.
For me, and this is a personal perspective having looked at the Spiral / Helical systems I can only see potential issues. For instance if you Knick a cutter and need to rotate it without rotating all of the other cutters you will get a tram line that will need hand planning / sanding. If you use softwoods where resin build up around the cutters is common turning/ replacing cutters requires all the resin to be cleaned a difficult and very time consuming endeavour. A full set of replacement cutters is eye watering expensive.
The claimed upside of Spiral / Helical is firstly they produce smaller chips so they compact better in the extraction bag. Secondly they allegedly are quieter. Now for a hobby person who doesn’t work it 7 days a week 8 hours a day neither of these is really that relevant. I would equally suggest that a good cast iron machine with either standard knives or a Tersa block is probably just as quiet because the cast iron absorbs the vibration. Its my own view that fabricated light weight machines benefit from noise reduction with a Spiral head as it compensates for the design / manufacturing compromises that fabricated construction presents.
 
A lot of people have bought modern machines that don’t carry the price tag of say a Sedgwick which are cheaper than SCM New. They have had a good experience and have produced excellent work with them. However, they often need adjustment to get them to work properly and need checking and adjusting periodically. I have worked on a number of these machines over the years, and come to the conclusion that I prefer to avoid them. As a hobby I enjoy refurbishing machines. The machines falling into the category you highlight don’t tend to hold their value and depreciate, they more often than not are seriously worn when secondhand and won’t hold a tolerance I’m happy with. Selling them is difficult as people expect machines I refurbish to be at least as good as one fresh out of the factory….and probably better. the machines in the category you highlight have only ever caused me problems.

The list of machines I gave I know are all well built, stable and good quality. They are a pleasure to work on, and their owners will be delighted with them. They hold their value / increase in value if looked after. The only caveat I add is that I haven’t yet taken the latest updated Sedgwick PTs apart, they appear to have value engineered the cast iron out of them going down the fabricated body approach. If this is the case, and I might be wrong, the latest machine may well have lost the quality that made them desirable.
 
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The claimed upside of Spiral / Helical is firstly they produce smaller chips so they compact better in the extraction bag. Secondly they allegedly are quieter. Now for a hobby person who doesn’t work it 7 days a week 8 hours a day neither of these is really that relevant. I would equally suggest that a good cast iron machine with either standard knives or a Tersa block is probably just as quiet because the cast iron absorbs the vibration. Its my own view that fabricated light weight machines benefit from noise reduction with a Spiral head as it compensates for the design / manufacturing compromises that fabricated construction presents.

Something not often mentioned is the required power for helical cutters is much greater than the conventional type, some people have said that the power draw is over 100% more and some machines that have had cutter blocks retrofitted have required more powerful motors. I believe this is to do with the geometry of the cutters with the cutting angle being less as well as the block being in constant contact with the piece during cutting, so there is a constant load on the motor.

The only caveat I add is that I haven’t yet taken the latest updated Sedgwick PTs apart, they appear to have value engineered the cast iron out of them going down the fabricated body approach. If this is the case, and I might be wrong, the latest machine may well have lost the quality that made them desirable.

I feel the same way, it's almost like they've totally forgotten what their machines are supposed to do. The new morticers are rubbish compared to the older pre-2000 models, the most uncomfortable clamping handwheel of all time (the cast iron knobbed knob on the original ones was great) and they've added some totally unnecessary stop system as standard which I honestly cannot see anyone using. Their new tenoner looks reasonably impressive though, but for the asking price, I would've wanted a cut-off saw on the machine too.
 
Hi gandalfs staff, you mention you are a hobbyist so have you considered a smaller, cheaper, slightly more portable machine such as a German made elektra beckum hc260? I recently acquired one for a total snip, literally in perfect condition and does a great job for me as a hobbyist too. It comes with a wheeled base so easy to move it round the workshop - just remember not to try and move them using the beds! These machines generally go for anywhere from £300-£700 and I think they are great. Obviously a total different ballgame to the other machines mentioned but might be worth considering if you want something to help you with your hobby. I don’t know how readily available the instructions for these machines are either as I’ve never had to look. Mine came with the original instructions so if you do ever decide to go down this route let me know and I can email them across to you.

Cheers
Pete
 
A lot of people have bought modern machines that don’t carry the price tag of say a Sedgwick which are cheaper than SCM New. They have had a good experience and have produced excellent work with them. However, they often need adjustment to get them to work properly and need checking and adjusting periodically. I have worked on a number of these machines over the years, and come to the conclusion that I prefer to avoid them. As a hobby I enjoy refurbishing machines. The machines falling into the category you highlight don’t tend to hold their value and depreciate, they more often than not are seriously worn when secondhand and won’t hold a tolerance I’m happy with. Selling them is difficult as people expect machines I refurbish to be at least as good as one fresh out of the factory….and probably better. the machines in the category you highlight have only ever caused me problems.

The list of machines I gave I know are all well built, stable and good quality. They are a pleasure to work on, and their owners will be delighted with them. They hold their value / increase in value if looked after. The only caveat I add is that I haven’t yet taken the latest updated Sedgwick PTs apart, they appear to have value engineered the cast iron out of them going down the fabricated body approach. If this is the case, and I might be wrong, the latest machine may well have lost the quality that made them desirable.

when I ran a joinery business, I bought a Wadkin 16" RZ surface planer

I owned it for 18 years

how many times did I adjust the 90 degree stop on the fence?
A = once, when I bought it

I used to check it periodically and every time it was spot on

the rise and fall of the infeed table was smooth as silk


but then thats a Rolls Royce engineered machined
 
Hi gandalfs staff, you mention you are a hobbyist so have you considered a smaller, cheaper, slightly more portable machine such as a German made elektra beckum hc260? I recently acquired one for a total snip, literally in perfect condition and does a great job for me as a hobbyist too. It comes with a wheeled base so easy to move it round the workshop - just remember not to try and move them using the beds! These machines generally go for anywhere from £300-£700 and I think they are great. Obviously a total different ballgame to the other machines mentioned but might be worth considering if you want something to help you with your hobby. I don’t know how readily available the instructions for these machines are either as I’ve never had to look. Mine came with the original instructions so if you do ever decide to go down this route let me know and I can email them across to you.

Cheers
Pete
I started with one of these 30 years ago and recently bought a 2nd hand Metabo equivalent for £300 whilst I get set up my Wadkin thicknesser etc

It works really well -the beds can go out of alignment and they dont like anything longer than about 1200mm, but they are great little machines
 
spiral/helical (are those terms interchangeable?)
No they are different beast and essentially the spiral cutter, cuts the same way as ordinary knives whilst the cutters in the helical cutter block are angled and so cut with a shearing action, think of a guillotine blade.
I have the AT260SPT at home, I'm happy with it overall, eventhough it took some effort to get it where I wanted it (or where it should be from new). Here issues I have faced and resolved:
Yes this sounds like what a lot of people go through with this mid range type of re badged asian machinery, my record PT107 was something I would not have brought had I had the knowledge I have now but with some expense and fiddling it is now a working machine. Changing over from planing to thicknessing was a real pain because removing the fence was just a joke, engineering at it's worst without enough thought. On these you had to remove the actual fence mounting block, but removing 40mm from the fence slide solves the issue because it can now be removed just by sliding fully forward and it is still long enough to reach the front of the cutting block. I also fitted the ESTA system to enable the blades to be easily fitted and without the faff of trying to align.

Given the choice, space and if a lot younger then I would buy second hand cast iron machinery over any modern fabricated, imported and or rebadged stuff as stated by @Sideways and @deema ,
 

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