Moving Along a New Plane of Reality

Today’s post is all about transcendence, though concerned merely with aspects of physical reality not spiritual. Best I can do at the moment I’m afraid. That said, my spirits are definitely on the buoyant side, as a new capacity has materialized in my woodworking shop.

Regular readers may recall my luck in acquiring a new jointer late last year. I was absolutely delighted to have scratched that item off the shopping list, and it ‘only’ took three rounds of buy and sell – first I had a Felder 12″, then an antique Oliver 16″, and then finally the Martin.

The Martin has been associated closely, and rather uniquely, with a blue planer, though not quite what the folks at Martin would normally advocate as an ideal pairing:

It’s comical really, kinda like Laurel and Hardy, however recent projects haven’t required any heavy duty stock removal or large pieces of material, so I have been making do quite well with the Makita shoebox. It does struggle on bubinga and similar hard woods once you get wider than about 3″, and it does snipe a bit. Better – far better – than nothing though!!

I bought that little gipper thinking that when the time came to get a bigger planer the Makita would be great for taking to the jobsite, which is, after all, what they are made for. The writing was on the wall once I was able to set my shop up with a dust collection system, as that put me at last in a position to get a decent planer. You can run some machines without dust collection and get away with it, but the planer is not one of them. They make a lot of chips in a hurry ans spew them everywhere.

What is ‘decent’ as far as a planer goes, you might ask? Well, I’m sure there are different ideas out there as to what constitutes a great planer, but for me it would have to be a machine that was adequately sized and powered – a machine that would allow for decently wide material to pass – at least 20″ (520mm) – and would accept a stick at least 10″ deep as well. These were the first items on the old wish list. A 24″ (610mm) planer would be preferable to a 20″, but a 20″ would certainly do for a while. I was resistant to another ‘stepping stone’ purchase, but having a choice in the matter might not be possible really given the severity of the increases in the steps of price and my budgetary constraints. The problem with the stepping stone idea, as far as the current woodworking machine market goes, is that re-selling a machine, if you hope to not lose any money at it, can take months and months.

The list of machines that conform to this basic set of wants was already getting quite thinned out, but added to my wish list was: a minimum of 9 horsepower, powered raise and lower of the table, adjustable feed speed, a Tersa 4-knife head, and, if at all possible, doubled rubber outfeed rollers for improved stock handling. I wanted a table that was carried on 4 jack screws, in preference to tables carried on only 2 screws, or on a central hydraulic cylinder or other system. The four screws give the best support in my estimation. A digital readout and 2-speed raise/lower would be very nice to have, but not essential.

Those requirements dropped the list of candidates down to 4 or 5 makes of machines really, and most of those come from Germany. The top of the list was a Martin T45, however at $24,000 or so, and up, depending upon options, it really wasn’t looking in the cards, at least not for 2013. Used Martin planers seem a bit scarce on the market at this time. So, scratch that idea, and put into the maybe some day category, you know, after the yacht :^)

A new SCM planer would be another nice possibility, however there we’re looking at something like $18,000, which is also well beyond my budget. Hofmann makes a well-built but rather ugly looking machine, to my eyes at least, however a moot point as those machines are as rare as rocking horse poop in North America.

Actually, my budget wasn’t all that grand at all and I was intent on saving and saving, making do with what I had as best as I could, farming out any planing work which exceeded the shoebox’s capacity, and begging/borrowing time on other people’s equipment if I had to. With that plan in play, at the same time I have been keeping my eyes on the used machine market looking for the right machine to come along.

And it did come along, a lot earlier than I had been planning. Not especially convenient, but I found a way to make a deal work, taking on a small amount of debt which I expect to pay off in the next 2 months.

This new (to me) gem arrived today on a truck:

My first impression: it’s BIG! I was stunned at how massive this thing is, and it weighs around 2000lbs.

I really lucked out in terms of meeting my wish list. This planer accepts material up to 24.8″ (630 mm) wide and 11.8″ (300mm) deep, has a 10 horsepower main drive, a second motor providing powered raising and lowering of the table, and a digital readout.

Further, this planer has Tersa head with 4 knives, and dual outfeed rollers, which are pneumatically pressurized and the pressure is adjustable using a dial on the front of the machine:

As you can see, one screw removes a heavy steel (or is it cast iron?) guard over the Tersa head. To the right and left of my hand, and across the other side, are the pneumatic cylinders for pressurizing the infeed and outfeed rollers.

The cutterhead is oxidized and coated with resin, and looks worse in this picture than it actually is:

It should clean up well with some turpentine.

In case you were wondering what exactly I have stumbled into, this planer was made by SCM in 1998, and was used in a one-man shop for about 5 years, so it is really in excellent condition:

The picture really doesn’t convey how monstrous this machine is – the raised lid clears the top of my head by at least 12″.

The original owner apparently went out of business a few years back, and then took employment in a large millwork shop in Ohio. That same shop bought much of his old equipment at auction, including this planer. However, the large millwork shop already had a 32″ planer and a 2-side monster planer, so the 24″ SCM was surplus to their needs. I acquired it for $4950, which is about $3000~4000 less than what I might have expected for a machine in this condition and as it is optioned. And having spent time in a one-man shop, for about 5 years or so, the amount of wear and tear is truly minimal.

I gather that SCM has rearranged their line-up of planers and now you can only get the the big motor (9Kw) motor in their top of the line L’Invincibile model – and same for the adjustable pneumatic outfeed rollers. This S-630 model, which they still make, was a well-optioned machine when new, and I’ve gotta say pretty much ticks every box on my wish list, which means I am no longer going to be shopping for, or dreaming about, any other planer. This is IT!

Here’s a look at the controls:

Upper left is the two-speed raise/lower, the black switch giving fast movement and the red button incremental adjustments. The right hand upper corner has the variable feed speed dial.

The digital readout for cutting depth:

At the back of the machine is a secondary emergency stop, and an adjustable dial and manometer for the roller pressure setting:

A look underneath at the four lead screws for raising the table, and the lever for raising and lowering the bed rollers:

One of the boots is shot – from the machines I’ve seen it would appear to be a common thing for the boots to crack and segment. Replacement would be a hassle of course.

The machine came with a plastic service case, a bunch of wrenches, an original brochure, a factory service and parts manual, along with electrical diagrams:

The shipping from Ohio to my shop ended up costing only $350 or so, which was a great freight rate. I recommend freightcom to anybody – ask for Andrew Vindatello. And no, that was not a paid endorsement – they’ve been great to me over the past couple of years whenever I have needed anything shipped, so I felt it time to make mention.

So, the machine is not without a few added complications. For starters, the machine’s main motor is currently wired for 3-phase 460 volts, which is more than double the voltage I have on tap at the shop. I have been hoping that I could resolve this voltage issue without having to spend too much money, and was relieved when I saw the machine today: the build plate indicates that the machine was originally configured for 230 volt service. At worst, I had thought I might have to buy a step-up transformer, however after talking with SCM in Georgia today it seems like I can simply do some re-wiring and it will run on 230. I might have to swap out an overload protector on them main motor, but maybe not.

The pneumatic outfeed rollers are a cool feature, however that means I need an air compressor, a piece of equipment my shop lacks. The planer has a safety switch which will turn the machine off, and not allow it to be started, unless there is adequate air pressure to the rollers, so this option is not an option, if you know what I mean. The roller’s air cylinders don’t consume an appreciable amount of air, so I fortunately can get away with a very small compressor. I had hoped I could use an old dental air compressor kicking about the shop, but that turned out to be a 230v single phase model, which would have meant  more wiring hassles. After doing some shopping around, I chose a 1hp. GMC Syclone 1610A Ultra Quiet, Oil-Free Air Compressor, which is shipped for free and cost about $215:

This GMC is not associated to the automaker. This machine runs at only 60 decibels which is around the volume of a normal conversation, and it has an aluminum tank which won’t ever rust out. It’s an exact clone of the California Air Tools model, but a few dollars cheaper. A one year warranty, and the pump is supposed to last 3000 hours, so it should do for a good while at least. I like how quiet it is:

Given the very low air use by the planer, it shouldn’t need to cycle on and off very often, which will extend its lifespan. I can use it with an air nozzle to periodically clean the machine off as well.

I still have to get the S-630 planer down off the pallet and tucked in there next to the jointer, and complete the wiring, air compressor hook up and dust collection hook up work. I‘ll post pics when it is all tidied up and working. I’m really elated to at last have a planer that will facilitate my work process and improve outcomes. I can put all but one board in my shop through this machine, which is a huge improvement over where I was yesterday. Shopping for a planer is done, as far as I‘m concerned. Yay!

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way. On to post 2

4 thoughts on “Moving Along a New Plane of Reality

  1. Chris,

    Congratulations on the score. Pretty awesome shop you've set up.

    Thanks for the tip on the compressor as I've been holding out on getting one until seeing one that appealed to me. That is in my potential budgetary horizons. Martin and SCM, probably never!

  2. Tico,

    thanks. My shop is coming along a bit faster than I thought it would, however I still lack a table saw. Another machine purchase or two down the line also will mean increasing shop space which drives up my rent, so I'll have to think about that carefully.

    We'll see how the little air compressor does. It's a bit new on the scene however the reviews for it and its clone were good on Amazon, and the customer service at the company I bought it from, Wayfair in Boston, was very good. I was thinking I could find a little pancake compressor for $99, but their loudness turned me off.


Anything to add?