I don't see much discussion about combination machines. Like Felder etc.
Is it because the the hefty prices or, are there other reasons we don't
They make some sense to me. Retirement is highly overrated.
No way you are at retirement age if you know who Rael, The IAK is. Uh
uh. Nope. Unless you are the coolest hipster on the continent.
As far as the equipement goes, the only thing I can say is that they
are monstorously heavy, and they require a good amount of floor space
around the machine. Probably all in all no more than the sq ft needed
for all the stand alone machines, but still it seems like a lot due to
the hub type approach. My garage shop buddies roll their big machines
around as needed; not so with one of these beasts.
There was a doctor here in town that had a Rojek for sale.... forever.
It was a battleship. It weighed in at something like 1600 pounds and
had a three phase 4hp motor on it. Additional circuits were needed to
complete the installation. According to him, it did everything well,
but it was more machine than he needed and he could never easily move
it out of the way for any reason to use his shop for anything else.
It cost a fortune, and he sold it pretty cheap compared to what he paid
for it as he finally got tired of waiting for someone to buy it. It
was rumored that he paid something like $6000 for it delivered to the
door a few years ago. One of my amigos at Wood Craft that sets up
their demo machines helped the doc get it set up and while he wasn't
overly impressed with the amount of polish on the metal surfaces, he
was blown away by how well everything fit and worked together. He said
it was like a giant watch.
I think too that it is a question of bragging rights. Not much
gloating in telling your buddies or posting here "well, it finally
came. I got the Hammer B3 sitting in the shop (or the Rojek for that
matter) waiting for the first project". I think the reply would be,
"what the hell is that?"
Lots more fun to talk about the new Powermatic or Unisaw, or an old
piece of iron. It is hard to connect to the woodworking ancients when
your friends cannot pronounce the name of your new machine correctly.
You might check this out for a more informed look:
I don't think that hand work has anything to do with it.. I think that for
most people it comes down to maximizing shop space. Getting a 12" sliding
table saw, shaper, 12" jointer, 12" planer, and tenoning machine into a shop
with separate components takes a lot of room. Combining them into a single
machine saves a lot of space.
I do. I can make that one extra mortise easily, take an extra pass with
jointer or planer, etc without a problem with dedicated power tools. Not
to mention I can have a couple projects going without trouble.
They're great at single-man stock preparation, as I said. After that -
BTW, my shop's 13x18 (and out the door), and I learned how not to waste
central space with machine wings and sliding tables and such, so I have a
good set of dedicated tools on caster-mounted cabinets. I am thinking of
moving the lumber storage out to gain some more floor space for a thickness
I am completely confused. Your original statement said that combo machines
were good for shops where most of the work was done by hand. Now you are
saying that they great for a one man shop, which I totally agree with. I
don't see how the two are related.
I also agree that the problem with combo machine is that it is a pain to go
back and make one more of an item.
If, by "an item", you mean a part of the piece you're working on
- it's gonna be a pain to go back and make one more even if you
have a dedicated cabinet saw, jointer and planer. You still have to
join the face and one edge of some stock, and on most combi machines
you've got a 12" wide joiner, not 6" or 8".
And even if you left the planer set to the final thickness of the
you're remaking, you're going to have to change that setting if
raw stock is 1/16th or more too thicker than you need - unless your
knives are really sharp or you don't mind a little tear out AND your
planer has enough ooomph to take off 1/16th of an inch in one pass
(The X31 can take 1/4" off in one pass - in oak, but it isn't
Unless the part you need to make another one of (to hell with proper
grammar) is the last one your ripped you'd still have to reset the
And if you had to use the shaper to make the part and you didn't
make up an extra length of stock as insurance. . . Shapers are
trickier to use than router tables.
And let's get real about it - saw tables and joiner tables are often
partially, or totally covered with "stuff" so you have to find a
on which to move it but there isn't any space to move it to and
why it's on the saw table or joiner tables in the first place.
The "You have to move EVERYTHING in order to move ANYTHING"
seems to be one of those universal truths in a small shop and a
much bigger PITA than any combi "problem".
My experience is that it's the length of matching parts that's
usually the most critical. Even with a 6' long infeed table,
a four foot long outfeed table and TWO flip stops on my SCMS,
a dedicated machine BTW, I sometimes have to shorten all
matching length parts if I have to remake one of a set. That's
the only way I know of to insure that all parts that are supposed
to be the same length in fact are - exactly. (I also find that
"loose tenon" joinery frequently makes life simpler - no
"and don't forget to add in the teneon lengths" opportunity
To reduce the need to remake parts, I've found that making
a spare or two of critical parts when making up parts is a
good idea. But then I don't make up ALL the parts for a piece
first, then assemble them. For me, it's an evolutionary
process. Make the key components, do the joinery to hold
them together and dry fit. Measure the next parts off what
I have so far - using "slip sticks" and a clothes pin or two
- and use the slip sticks to set my SCMS. No misreading
a pocket tape measuring off the piece, no misreading a
tape when setting the stop for cutting to length. Two more
potential screw ups eliminated.
To do woodworking well, and have fun doing it, you have
to develop methods of work that work for you. Being
methodical and finding the methods to do it with is a
major part of making "stuff" - the learning curve.
The old apprenticeship program taught the tried and
true methods. We hobbiests/amateurs have to discover
and use them however we can.
So back to combination machines - if you're methodical
and plan your work flow, their advantages far outweigh
their disadvantages - especially in limited shop space.
AND having just one power cord for the equivalent of
five machines is pretty nice.
(the sometimes incoherent)
Wow Charlie the combo machine thread has brought out the writer in you!
Like you, I have used both and now I am using a Mini Max CU 300 Smart. My
current shop is much smaller than my last so I made the switch to a combo
machine. After using both there are things about both systems that I like
and things that I hate.
I love having a real sliding table and scoring blade. I hate that the rip
fence is a toy compared to my old Biesmeyer.
I love having a 12" jointer. I hate that the jointer fence is a toy
compared to the fence on my old DJ20.
I LOVE the Tersa cutterhead. I hate that the jointer tables are much
shorter than the tables on my old DJ20.
I love that I have room to assemble projects in my small shop because of the
combo machine. I hate that I have to remove the rip fence to plane a board.
If I had the space I would add a traditional table saw with a quality rip
fence. In two years I have not been able to get the MiniMax rip fence to be
accurate with the scale. I have to use a tape measure to set the fence
before a rip cut. I don't have the room so I am investigating adding a Inca
fence for accurate ripping.
Charlie.. some very good points, indeed...
My 20+ years with a shopsmith before having room/funds for stand alone machines
MADE me get in the habit of planing a project step by step and double-checking
at the end of each step to make sure I hadn't forgotten to trim one piece or
With some advance thought (which I'll admit that I don't do enough of now), you
really don't mind the few minutes it takes to change to the next setup... it's
usually faster than going to another machine, clearing the debris off of it, and
setting it up.. *g*
Combination machines are like Swiss army knives; they do a lot of
things, but none of them well.
My Dad started out with a Shopsmith. As he got tired of making the
adjustments to convert from one operation to another, a real shop grew
up around it. It now sits as a pretty much dedicated disc sander.
I reiterate, they are fine if you have the time to convert them for
every stage of a project. The 'high end' machines you discussed still
have to be converted and adjusted for a different operation no matter
how well they work.
For the most part changing from a TS to planer to mortiser involves
selecting a power switch much like turning on a machine.
Changing from a jointer to mortiser to TS only involves selecting a power
switch also much like turning on a machine.
So NO, in most cases the high end machines can change to different
operations almost instantly with out loosing settings.
Now if you want to go from jointer to planer you do have that 15 second
change over but still no loss of adjustments.
Your statements are not true for the MiniMax machines that I have used &
currently own. I have to remove the rip fence to joint or plane. I have to
switch the height setting to go from planing to jointing. I can use the
sliding table with the jointer fence on if the cutoff isn't too wide.
To me it isn't the time that is the problem, it is losing the settings. I
have tried everything to get repeatability, like counting the exact
revolutions of the height setting wheel of the planer, but have had very
What combo machines have you used that allow you to retain settings?
That is a great feature for a combo machine. You probably can't tell from
the video but it would be nice if it also had an accurate rip fence. The
MiniMax machines have a horrible fence and the true believers always say
that you just have switch to using the slider for ripping and find a way to
index the wood parallel to the blade. I would rather that it shipped with a
real rip fence.
Well I am sure there will be times that the fence will have to come off.
IIRC it mounts in 2 locations for wider rips.
IIRC again the fence looks a lot like the Delta Unifence. It slides back
for repeated cut offs. Check into getting their Demo DVD. I was really
impressed when the owner of Laguna sat on the cross cut sled and pushed
himself away from the machine with one finger to its limits. The video is
incredable. Regular price for the base machine however will buy you a car.
Almost $20K. But you can get it on sale now. LOL
To order the video,
Interesting thread about combination machines.
It's an obvious lead into to an underlying topic
U.S. vs Euro woodworker approaches to woodworking
and their expectations.
As stated previously, I've got a Robland X-31 combi and I'm an American
so I'm a Tweener - tween the U.S. ways of doing things and the Euro ways
of doing things.
Let's compare stock preparation
- one face flat (joiner),
- one edge flat, straight and square to the flat face (joiner)
- second face flat and parallel to its opposite face (planer)
- second edge flat, straight, square to the face and at the desired
distance (width) from the opposite
edge (table saw rip)
- one end flat and square to both the faces and edges of the board
(cross cut on table saw or chop saw or miter/mitre saw or
compound miter saw or sliding compound miter/mitre saw)
- second end same as first end BUT at the desired distance from
first end [length] (see above)
New hobbiests/amateurs probably don't do stock prep but go
with "cut to length" and maybe "rip to width" because they're
using primarily ply and store bought "kiln dried" boards.of
the desired, or close to the desired, width. Only when they get
beyondlag bolts, screws and biscuits and begin playing with
traditional joinery does stock prep become an issue.
So let's talk about the approaches and expectations once one
begins to get into some "real woodworking" - rabbets/
rebates,dadoes, half laps, splines, mortise and tenons,
dovetails, half blind dovetails, triple miters/mitres, frame
Proper stock prep is essential to making good traditional
joinery for solid wood furniture making, or even box
naking. You just can't make rectangular objects out of
trapezoidal parts (ok - it is possible but you've got to be
a really great woodworker to do it and if you are good
enough to be able to do it you do it anyway)
So back to the differences in the approach and expectations
Group "A" - The Instant Gratification Group
"I want to buy a machine or several machines
that will allow me to make pieces that would
otherwise require a lot more knowledge and
skill than I have time to acquire or are willing
This huge and growing market that is being fed by clever
"With our Super Deluxe Blurfle, YOU can be making
our patented Fantasmagoric Wonder Joinery System
furniture - over the weekend! NO adjustments necessary,
perfect and effortless heirloom quality furniture making
right out of the box. Just follow our simple, step my step
instructions and you'll have a house full of heirloom quality
furniture in no time! AND if you act NOW, we'll even
GIVE you our Space Age material, precision Drill Gauge!"
This is the instant gratification "microwave" thing
- a delicious six course gourmet meal - in minutes!
( Wine not included, void where
prohibited, consult your state
attorney general's office for
details. Batteries not included ,
side affects may include nausea,
head ache, cavities, neuritis,
neuralgia and flatulance - consult
your doctor if an errection lasts
longer than four hours.
Offer good for only as long as we can
make money offering it).
This group wants a "cabinet saw" with a "precision fence"
that lets you set it for 16 and 63/128th of an inch and
rip a board that's EXACTLY 16 and 63/128th of an inch
- preferably with digitalread out but a maginifying, vernier
window which compensates for parallax and micro-adjust-
ment fence positioning will be acceptable. AND if it's
motorized AND remote controlled! No test cuts or
calibration if you buy the expensive machines- right?
Of course this requirement also requires that you don't
ever change saw blades - thin kerf/normal kerf, or teeth
patterns and that you replace your dulling blade immediately
- with exactly the same type of blade you calibrated your
fence to (you did calibrate it right?)
This group tends to work from plans,either purchased or
that they created themselves.
The novices in this group typically make ALL the parts,
EXACTLY as the plans show and only THEN assembles them.
This subgroup is identified by ground down teeth (gnashing
your teeth a lot has consequences), furrowed brow (now why
in hell is there this gap right here?) and is often surrounded
by not quite square, not quite flat, not quite right PAINTED
furniture which, for the most part, works OK.
The intermediate checks the plans more thoroughly, looking
for gaps and errors and then makes ALL the parts, EXACTLY
as the corrected plans show and THEN assembles them. This
group is calmer, has a calculator that can work with fractions,
a pocket protector with colored pens, a 0.5mm pencil and carry
a small pad of paper with them at all times. The furniture
they make is EXACTLY like the original the plans were made
for - and looks EXACTLY like the ones done by all the other
people who built their piece from this particular plan -
assuming they checked for gaps and errors - and made the
The advanced guy/gal may start with someone else's plans,
goes through them looking for gaps and errors, modifies them
to suit his or her personal preferences - or does his or her own,
thorough and detailed plans, and then starts to make the parts,
in phases / assemblies - building as he/she goes. Along the
way things often get modified to make the final piece more
personal. EXACT dimensions aren't so critical - as long as all
the parts that MUST be the same size ARE the same size. If
the final piece is an eighth of an inch taller or wider or deeper
- it don't matter.
These folks have a cabinet saw with 52" cross cut fence -
that locks both fore and aft, an 8" wide joiner with three
foot or longer tables, probably a 20" planer AND an18/36
drum sander. You'll probably also find a LEIGH DT jig, a
LEIGH FMT "device"with ALL the bits, guides etc. , a router
table with a precison fence and precision router rasiier/
lowerer and a 12" sliding compound miter/ mitre saw
with six foot long tables and multiple flip stops.
Members of this group will be quick to point out ALL the
mistakes in each piece of furniture they've made
Group "B" The Mechanically Inclined/ Close Enough Group
"What do I NEED to make the furniture I WANT to make? I'm
pretty good at figuring things out and I enjoy the 'making' part
of the hobby/addiction more than having and using the pieces
This group is identified by the fact that they own, or as part
of their initial purchase of tools and equiptment include,
some basic set up tools - a pseudo machinist straight edge,
square, dial gauge and a feeler gague set. They probably
already had a metric and/or imperial socket set, set of
allen wrenches and box/open end set of wrenches.
The novice in this group uses a hand held circular saw
and maybe a chop saw, a hand drill and dowels to make
garage benches and shelves out of some wood left behind
by the previous owner of his house, or from pallet wood
he scrounges. He doesn't care what the final piece looks
like, it just needs to do its job. Often it will not only
do its job, but probably could support a car or small
truck. Shims fix any wobbles.
The intermediate may find a set of plans to study, not
to build from and will spend time looking at and
understanding the joinery and the structural concepts
used. The book he/she buys on joinery will no doubt
stress the importance of proper stock preparation,
layout and marking tools. If he/she is lucky, it will
also have a stock marking sytem and stress the
importance of using reference faces and reference
edges and ends.
He/she will get a good table saw, perhaps a hybrid
initially, a 4 or 6 inch joiner and a bench top planer,
the former probably found in the newspaper or on line,
maybe inherited from a woodworking relative. And
there will also be some hand tools on the list of things
to acquire - initially a block plane, some bench chisels
and a dovetail saw, western back saw or japanese dozuki.
The intermediate's pieces may not be the most aesthetically
pleasing to the eye, but every thing will fit together squarely.
Parts that are exactly 1/2" or 3/4" thick will be rare, flat,
square and straight - and of the same thickness is what's
more important than a specific thickness. This is the
genesis of the Close Enough approach, the importance of
specific dimensions will, for the most part, diminish,
replaced by the understanding that what's needed is to
have ALL parts that are supposed to be the same length
or width ACTUALLY BE THE SAME length or width.
The advanced "close enough" woodworker sketches
ideas, does one he/she likes and goes and looks
through his or her wood stash for stuff that go with
his/her idea of the piece. A fare share of that
wood stash will be rough cut wood with a wainy
edge or two, perhaps even some bark.and thicknesses
measured in "quarters" - four, six, eight and maybe
even twelve "quarters".
More time will be spent selecting the wood than spent
on any "plan" and a great deal of time will be spent
doing the "rotate, flip, shuffle and slip" process for
deciding what's going where so that the grain patterns
in the finished piece go together nicely. This is NOT an
"optimization, minimize waste" thing. If the desired
piece of wood is in the middle of an 8 foot long,
12" wide board then that's what gets used. There
will always be a future project that will use most
of what's left.
And the machines and tools this person uses to make
parts for pieces are old friends whose little quirks
are familiar and accomodated for. If a "close enough"
part is a little wide then a pass or two with a hand
plane will take care of it.
This person's stuff will be crisp and clean and,
at first glance, simple and unassuming. But if
you think about it and look more thoroughly
you'll notice that EVERYTHING goes together,
not just the parts, but the proportions, the grain,
the hardware and the finish - a whole, integrated
piece rather than a few interesting components
/elements held together by other "stuff".
Two approaches to woodworking, two sets of
expectations. Me- I'm somewhat in the middle,
being a self confessed tool phreak.
In the U.S., there never seems to be "enough" time.
The "time is money" thing spills over into time
that has nothing to do with money. And so we get
into buyig "time savers" and marketing folks
exploit our "need for more time". Europeans
and Latin Americans see time as just time -
time for work, time for family and friends
and time to play. You'll find few Europeans
or "latins" who brag about regularly putting
in 50 and 60 hours a week at "work".
Life is not a race to the finish line - the
finish line is death.. Take your time,
develop some skills and appreciation of
things - and enjoy the trip - it's a one-
way ticket. The stuff you make are just
post cards of the journey.
(babble mode now being set to OFF)
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