-MattK-

Hammer A3 (-26 -31 -41) Combo Machine Review

Recommended Posts

1 hour ago, Pwk5017 said:

In general, im skeptical of european design and manufacturing quality. I have machines from several different origins, and i dont perceive wild differences in quality.

I have had a very different experience although all the machines in my shop work well my A3-31, Laguna 16HD (Italian), and Festool are top notch in both design and quality of work they produce. They all share a couple of things in common, first they work as advertised out if the box period. I have never had to make an adjustment on my J/P in 12 years. The American tools that are comparable in my personal experience are Sawstop and several hand tool manufactures like Lie Nielsen, Bad Axe, Veritas etc. the other thing they all have in common is they are expensive. Which begs the question are they worth it? To me they are but I totally understand why to others they could be viewed as overpriced.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Fair enough, i need to qualify my statements with some substance. I watch videos and an accented man narrates to me the increased safety of their machines. Looking at the euro guard, it looks like a complete pain in the ass when it's sticking out. Not to mentioned i keep reading it is limited to about 2.5" in height before you have to retract it completely. What the hell is that nonsense, European design!? That doesnt sound like increased safety over the american pork chop at all. Next, the design of the fence is supposed to be vastly superior. I loved my unifence's extrusion, but it appears incredibly flimsy as a jointer fence. I dont put 1/10th the pressure on my table saw fence that i do on my jointer fence. It therefore needs to be 10x more robust. Once again, the fence is "designed" to be light weight and sophisticated. The machine weighs upwards of 1000lbs, why on earth are we concerned with fence weight!? They design the tables to be spring loaded and assist you in lifting the tables, so why can they not design for another 50lbs of fence? Im not hung up on the fence material, but i want my jointers to be beyond robust. I dont need them to do clever things like cut 1/2° bevels or anything other than flatten boards and give me a 90° edge all day every day. When i hear the fence wiggles from owners and i see the thin extrusion, i dont understand the design intent. I dont ever want to own a tool that "wiggles".  Finally, one last design critique on the table extensions. Do they need to be 5-6" wide? I frequently use the entire width of my planer to process boards. This means i do not solely focus on 5" sections of a 20" machine. It is silly that i need to stack up 3-4 extensions on each end of the table. As far as superior manufacturing, im not educated enough to know what this equates to in the real world. People tell me the bearings are better. The machining is better. Fit and finish are better. The last point i cant argue; the machines look very sexy. The former two leave me wondering what that equates to in the final product. The bearings will maybe last 20 years instead of 10? Ive swapped bearings numerous times and the best in the world arent that expensive. Maybe my powermatic planer could be better cast/machined? Who knows, but i dont understand how or what this equates to in the finished product, the wood. 

 

This isnt Felder specific, btw. I feel the same way about my italian ACM bandsaw in some regards. $4500 retail and its OEM fence is such a letdown. I get it, bandsaws arent reknowned for the best fence systems, but the stock one is just pitiful. Conversely, the powermatic saws come with this great looking t-square fence with a tall and long extrusion. Maybe the ACM casting and machining are better, but i find features need to be apples to apples before i begin to get onboard with the supposed incremental benefits of better manufacturing. 

 

Trust me, I am like most other woodworkers and i love expensive and awesome stuff, but im struggling to qualify the expense of some of this equipment. Im on board with the Tersa head, segmented infeed rollers, multiple pressure bars, the parallelogram jointer fence design, and suva guard, but most if not all of these features do not come on the hammer or felder 500 and 700 products. It isnt until you step up to the format line or maybe the 900 series that you get the true benefits of all the superior design marketing material. You also pay $15,000+.... At the end of it, i need to get my hands on the machines somehow and see them in action. All i know is from reading their catalog front and backwards, every online review, and every video online. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pwk5017 Thanks for providing more detail I actually agree with you on several points. The Euro guard definitely takes some getting used to and I am still not a huge fan but IMO if used correctly it is a better design. Regarding the fence and the shorter tables I had the same concerns. I would advise you to go use one of these machines I think you will find, like I have, they work great and these are not issues to get your wood square. The only time I felt hampered by the shorter tables was while building my roubo bench, lugging around 8' long, 11" wide, 4" thick slabs required the use of roller stands. Now if this is a common occurrence I can see where the longer tables would be needed. The only other comment would be I have the Hammer A3-31 JP and it has the Tersa straight blades (3) and cost about $3300, when I bought it 12 years ago. Bottom line IMHO you would be hard pressed to find a 12" combo machine that would give you the same cut quality for the price. The good thing is these are all 1st world problems I know many many wood workers here and elsewhere that consistently put out amazing work with tools that many would consider less then top quality :) 

So let's all get out to the shop and make something...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll be happy to provide a thorough review of my machine upon delivery once it's in place. I'll measure the deflection in the fence, and address any other concerns...

In all honesty, to some degree the above reasons led me to the Felder AD941 over the Hammer. My machine has longer bed length than the Powermatic machines... so that isn't an issue.

The Euroguard on my machine is segmented, unlike the Hammer and most all other euro machines, mine allows the guard to fold down to avoid having to step around it. As stated in Matts video, it would really suck to have to step around a 16" porkchop...

With this machine weighing around 1600 lbs, I doubt they skimped on anything to lower the weight. I assume it's made from a solid chunk of steel (kidding)...

And my machine was not quite 15K. I paid $11,138 with delivery. Which should be soon. So excited!!!!!!! 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not sure if this was mentioned but Felder/Hammer sells an adapter for the dust collection port.  I paid $14 for it several years ago.  It brings the output down to a standard 4" dust port size.  This accommodates the standard dust collection hoses and accessories that I typically find in my local WoodCraft/Rockler store. 

I also notice that the machine is listed for about $1,200 more now than it was a few years ago when I bought it.  I may have received somewhat of a discount as the Felder store was just opening in Dallas. Check on the prices.  Felder does run sales.  I'm not sure if there's a Felder store in your town, but it's worthwhile asking a sales associate for details about their sales.  I used to be on their mailing list and they would notify me by email when sales were starting.  Just something to keep in mind to save a little money.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A big reason that I bought this machine (Hammer® A3-41 "Silent-POWER" spiral blade cutterblock) is to never have to remove, sharpen and reinstall blades in a jointer again.  I've found that I really dislike doing this and I'm not particularly good at it.  Given the option of paying some money to remove a big hassle from a hobby that I really enjoy, it was well worth it to me.

Installing the cutters and getting them at just the right height was a job on my previous jointer that I dreaded doing.  This may or may not be an issue for you - it was for me.  In the years that I've owned the machine, I have never had to change or rotate the carbide cutters (please note that I am a hobbyist not a production shop).  It's not inconceivable that a few sets of carbide cutters might last my entire woodworking hobby/career.

I have a limited amount of time to do woodworking.  When I have time, I like to do projects, not tinker with my machines.  I admire those that enjoy wrenching - more power to you.  I just want to get in the shop and start making expensive sawdust.  Is this machine necessary to produce top quality work?  Absolutely not.  It is a really good machine that's quiet, powerful and a dream to use.

ONE GRIPE: Can we please get a small LED light that turns on when the planer feed rollers are engaged?  Or even better, can we come up with a method to engage the feed rollers when the machine is put into planer mode and disengage them when it's in jointer mode?  This doesn't seem unreasonable.  Sometimes I forget to engage/disengage the feed rollers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, SeventyFix said:

ONE GRIPE: Can we please get a small LED light that turns on when the planer feed rollers are engaged?  Or even better, can we come up with a method to engage the feed rollers when the machine is put into planer mode and disengage them when it's in jointer mode?  This doesn't seem unreasonable.  Sometimes I forget to engage/disengage the feed rollers.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, SeventyFix said:

Yeah, I saw this video a couple of years ago - I'm pretty tempted to do it.

Just noticed your avatar - a friend from New Braunfels posted this yeaterday.

21230909_1400005600035323_7257613796456250878_n.thumb.jpg.afc86987acbb1295c65dfc49db86d8eb.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh those armadillos!  I haven't had any problems with them this year until last week.  There must be one around my backyard, tearing things up. I had been trapping and relocating 8-10 a year in previous years as construction took over their habitat around my home.  We were infested with them.  Now the area is pretty built up and the coyotes have moved off.  The rabbit population has exploded!  They're stripping my landscaping bare.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No armadillos here, but I have seen 3 bobcats this week. One was casually strolling down our entryway to the house.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/31/2017 at 2:10 PM, Llama said:

I'm not sure I understand this:

Why?

Most of them are used by people too busy to be on the forums :)

 

A friend of mine in Dallas has a massive Felder sliding table saw (he has a business - not a hobbyist).  This thing is bigger than a car!  I didn't understand the beauty of the sliding table system until using his saw.  He also has a huge Felder jointer with Tersa knives.  Also an extremely nice machine.  Both professional machines though - unless you're quite serious or wealthy - his machines aren't what I would think a hobbyist would use.  Just think of the shop space one would need for them.  But yes, very nice machines.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, SeventyFix said:

A friend of mine in Dallas has a massive Felder sliding table saw (he has a business - not a hobbyist).  This thing is bigger than a car!  I didn't understand the beauty of the sliding table system until using his saw.  He also has a huge Felder jointer with Tersa knives.  Also an extremely nice machine.  Both professional machines though - unless you're quite serious or wealthy - his machines aren't what I would think a hobbyist would use.  Just think of the shop space one would need for them.  But yes, very nice machines.

They really are great machines. I have a friend (hobbyist) with a complete Felder shop. Beautiful stuff. But he built a 1500 sq ft shop to house them. 

Matt - I have an A3-41 on order thanks in no small part to your review. One of the very best I've seen. You covered what really matters to a potential buyer with honesty. Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, SeventyFix said:

Sometimes I forget to engage/disengage the feed rollers.

Ok can someone explain why this would be necessary? I have been through my A3-31 manual 3 times and the only place I see this is if you attache the mortiser. I also looked at the machine the rollers aren't touching anything when in jointer mode so what is it hurting if they are turning? I have never done this and I am perplexed as why you would need too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, pkinneb said:

Ok can someone explain why this would be necessary? I have been through my A3-31 manual 3 times and the only place I see this is if you attache the mortiser. I also looked at the machine the rollers aren't touching anything when in jointer mode so what is it hurting if they are turning? I have never done this and I am perplexed as why you would need too.

I've wondered the same thing myself. I keep seeing this objection and I don't see why. Aren't they just spinning in air when not engaged?

And honestly, what difference would the mortiser make?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, Mick S said:

I've wondered the same thing myself. I keep seeing this objection and I don't see why. Aren't they just spinning in air when not engaged?

And honestly, what difference would the mortiser make?

 

Lol this was the first I heard of it so having never done it I was like oh sh$& but like you I can see no reason too. Re the mortiser it does say in the manual to do it but not really why. I think I will call tech support next week and just see what they have to say.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've worked with Inca, Robland, Felder, Luna, Elektra Bekum, Minimax

and others and I've never heard of the need to disengage the feed rollers.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/1/2017 at 9:35 PM, Mick S said:

I've worked with Inca, Robland, Felder, Luna, Elektra Bekum, Minimax

and others and I've never heard of the need to disengage the feed rollers.

 

What I was told is that something that drives the feed rollers may prematurely wear if they're engaged all of the time - often when not in use.  Accurate?  I'm not sure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, SeventyFix said:

What I was told is that something that drives the feed rollers may prematurely wear if they're engaged all of the time - often when not in use.  Accurate?  I'm not sure.

That's no doubt true. I misspoke in the above statement. I know Inca, and EB had levers to disengage the drives. I was under the wrong impression that the rollers themselves were somehow prematurely wearing out if left engaged.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/3/2017 at 8:17 AM, derekcohen said:

I purchased The Hammer N4400 bandsaw about 7 years ago, and then the A3-31 three years ago. I build exclusively in hardwoods, and I would say "medium size" furniture - which is to say, about 5-6' long is the longest I tend to joint (although I did longer than that with to door frames in my recent kitchen build). 

Derek - Thanks for posting the pics of your shop. I have been looking at the N4400 along with several other bandsaws, mainly for resawing. Have you tried resawing wide boards and if so, how did it perform? I'm thinking 325mm to 375mm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Mick S said:

Derek - Thanks for posting the pics of your shop. I have been looking at the N4400 along with several other bandsaws, mainly for resawing. Have you tried resawing wide boards and if so, how did it perform? I'm thinking 325mm to 375mm.

Hi Mick

My N4400 will only resaw a maximum of about 295mm. I am told the newer ones will resaw more. Still, this is a lot of wood to resaw, especially with the very hard woods I use. I recently built a kitchen made of 10" wide Hard Maple, and the bandsaw had no difficulty with this (blade was a 25mm 1 1/2 tpi bimetal Timberwolf). 

My Rule of Thumb for choosing equipment is that they need to match widths. So the resaw of the bandsaw needs to match the width of the jointer and planer (thicknesser). One could get a bandsaw with a deeper resaw, but how often do we find boards greater than 12"/300mm? 

Regards from Perth

Derek

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
53 minutes ago, derekcohen said:

Hi Mick

My N4400 will only resaw a maximum of about 295mm. I am told the newer ones will resaw more. Still, this is a lot of wood to resaw, especially with the very hard woods I use. I recently built a kitchen made of 10" wide Hard Maple, and the bandsaw had no difficulty with this (blade was a 25mm 1 1/2 tpi bimetal Timberwolf). 

My Rule of Thumb for choosing equipment is that they need to match widths. So the resaw of the bandsaw needs to match the width of the jointer and planer (thicknesser). One could get a bandsaw with a deeper resaw, but how often do we find boards greater than 12"/300mm? 

Regards from Perth

Derek

You're right. I was looking at the specs and saw 16 1/2" and didn't catch that that was the width of the saw. I just redid our kitchen, also. I resawed mesquite (hard, but not as hard as hard maple) for the door panels. I used a friend's Felder FB510 and it sailed through it. Thanks for the reply!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Matt Great Video.  I have the A3-31 and love it.  A few comments.  First, I think the only thing that I would add to your video is that when you want to joint super thick boards I think you would be better off flipping the blade guard out of the way by going to the lever where it attaches to the table all the way to the left on the machine and loosening that and swinging it 180 degrees so it then is totally out of the way and below the table - it snaps back into place once it is under the table out of the way.  That way you have an unobstructed path.  Mine is about 2 years old and I'm pretty sure yours should be able to do this.  That said, you only would need to do this when you are using over 12/4 stock so I've only had to do it a few times ever since the blade guard is fine under 3" or so. 

In that sense I think the guard isn't as bad as it looked in the video, because that one issue is easily avoidable, but I still think I'd rather have a pork chop so I didn't ever have to take my hands off the wood as I passed over the cutter (but I've never had a pork chop so I may be wrong).

I also had the Felder tech come to my house.  We have a small bridge on our street that Jet/Powermatic etc refused to deliver across so I was going to have to hire someone to deliver my machine no matter what, but Hammer was willing to deliver it and set it up in my shop for a reasonable price even though I am 6 hours from them.  (I think it was just under $400 including delivery and about 4-5 hours of labor here.) 

I agree change over was something I worried about.  If it was bad, it would make it a pain to use the machine, and make me wish I had space for separates but it is quick enough that I don't bat an eye and the read out is so accurate that I can get back right where I left off on planing.

I've had a couple minor issues that required phone calls, but tech support has been fantastic even though I am not under warranty.  The first time I wanted to decrease snipe and they did a skype with me showing what I should adjust to take care of it.  The second was an alignment issue that I needed to fix and that they helped me take care of.  More sophisticated users might not have even needed tech support, but I was thrilled with the service I got (and by the end the machine was running like new or better).

I got two of the smaller extension tables that do not have legs.  I usually keep one on the outfeed side of the jointer and one on the outfeed of the planer, but can always put both on the jointer when doing long boards.  They are nice and fit in my 1 car garage shop, but do have a little flex so it isn't exactly like having a super long jointer (I think yours with the leg probably fixes that issue, but does need extra space).  That said, thanks to the extensions I've never had a project where I wished I had a longer jointer.  I figure if I can make it through the Roubo, which I did, I'm unlikely to do a longer project than that.

Many times I've used over 10" width jointing, so given the choice I'd rather have the wider bed than say an 8" jointer with longer beds (but again I never had a long bed jointer so I can't miss what I've never had).  The thing that I would change if I could do it magically and at no cost is make it even wider as I do sometimes want to plane or joint something wider than 12" (and, of course, Matt's a3-41 does give that extra width). 

In tune with the comments about the feed rollers above, I was given 2 bits of advice for making the parts last as long as possible by tech support.  The first was to turn the feed rollers off when not in use.  The second was when starting the machine they said to hold the on button for a couple seconds as it results in less wear on one of the components (I think they said the start capacitor, but I could be making that up - perhaps it was a flux capcitor). 

All in all great review and I agree with your take. Thanks for posting this!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.