Slotting in Something New

A crate has arrived at my shop. In lieu of the ‘unboxing video’, I present a few images, starting with this one:

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Let me know, if you feel like it, by which picture can you identify the type of machine, and which specific make and model. It’s a game with no prize at stake I’m afraid. Don’t worry, if you’re not savvy about machinery, it will all be revealed soon enough.

With the lid off the crate, a bit more can be seen:

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I’m guessing that some readers have figured out what sort of thing it is by now, but probably not make and model.

Here’s a teaser that I’m sure gives away way too much info:

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Mind you, that sort of device does appear on various sorts of machines….

Some electrical switches on view here:

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Okay, a big reveal – can there be any doubt now?:

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If you’re still unsure, well, it’s a mortiser. More specifically a slot mortiser, or as I see it, a horizontally mounted router-like cutting machine with 3 axes of movement.

As the plastic comes off, it all becomes a bit clearer:

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It’s interesting to me how European and Japanese 3-phase machinery comes with rather slender power cordage, 16 g. perhaps for the individual wires, while the US specs for similarly-rated plugs, cord  and so forth are gigantic. I find it kinda weird that there should be a difference of opinion, it would appear, as to electrical part ratings between the three most developed areas in the world for manufacturing.

This machine features a swiveling head. The table is fixed, and the head moves. That means you can park fairly heavy stuff on the table without worry. Many other mortisers come with the cutter fixed, and the table being the moving part.

The head features a standard 2-jaw chuck, though I have plans to upgrade to a newer type collet chuck in the future:

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The company that makes this machine, still in business, has hardly changed this model in 20 years, so parts and accessories should not be a significant problem.

That above statement was a big clue as to the manufacturer because there aren’t a whole lot of woodworking machine manufacturers these days, for one thing, and those who have kept the production of a machine like this essentially unchanged, and who actually stock spare parts reduces the number even further. This is not a company that buys so much into the pre-planned obsolescence idea.

Still, there are a few companies that come to mind. I haven’t narrowed the options down to one quite yet.

The table is in perfect shape and is planed, as you can tell by the telltale lines in the surface:

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That’s another clue, because fewer and fewer companies, engaged as they are in cost-cutting, plane table surfaces these days and instead resort to grinding.

I didn’t get a manual, but I did pick up one accessory, which is the double-sided protractor, visible in the upper left of this photo:

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On the right is the depth stop rod assembly, perfectly straight. Also visible is the chuck key in the middle. Everything is just STOUT.

The seller gave me an option of a pair of Festo pneumatic clamps, or a single factory manual clamp. Perversely, though the pneumatic clamps offer many advantages, I decided to keep the stock parts together and chose the manual option. The company that makes this machine does offer a pneumatic clamp so I could upgrade later if need be.

So what is it more specifically?

A Hofmann LB760S mortiser!:

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The metal bar on the left is for the hold down clamp is is upside down at the moment. There are four stout attachment positions for the clamp on the table, and the table also has a lip on each edge, to which a transverse hold down bar can be fitted (an option).

This machine dates from 2001, and has seen very little use. The previous owner happened to be around when Laguna Tools lost the right to distribute Hofmann at that time, and was in a position to acquire several showroom machines, including this one. He was running two shops and had other mortisers, so this one didn’t see a bunch of use.

I could find but a few chips in the paint, and the only damaged item is the aluminum psa-backed protractor label, which is upturned slightly at one corner (and still has its factory plastic sheet covering attached). That is it as concerns wear and tear, as far as I can see at this point – a gem:

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Looking around at what is one the market, I don’t think there is a better slot mortiser to be had, and I am delighted to have scored my first Hofmann machine, a brand have I esteemed greatly since around 2001 when I first saw a video of their machinery at a house in Redwood City California (thanks Matt C.).

In the near future I will find a place for this machine in my space (a challenge in its own right), get it wired up and hook up some dust collection. It has three (!) dust collection ports so I guess I’ll need, as it seems with every new machine purchase, some additional duct parts and flex hose. I have no tooling either, so I’ll need to look into that, though I am planning to make use of router bit tooling so I’ll be able to get started at least. Once it is up and running I’ll take a video.

I hope you enjoyed the unboxing, and let me my know how many pictures it took before you twigged on to what the surprise in the box was. That’s all for now, thanks for visiting.

14 thoughts on “Slotting in Something New

  1. What a beauty. That is a fine piece of machinery, and after much struggle with my own I can greatly appreciate the efforts they’ve gone through to make a hefty and solid machine. Those mechanisms must be smooth as can be.

    The engineering team at Hofmann must be some serious woodworkers, they just seem to get it. The front stop is heavy and easily removable based on the type of connector. The table stand offs are extremely nice and better than the normal bolt with three nuts arrangement that is a PITA to adjust within a meaningful degree of accuracy with any sort of speed. The table stand offs are attached to what appears to be a machined cast iron landing so they can actually be set accurately.

    The clamp mounts are ingenious and completely out of the way. Really cool, I’ve been very excited to see detailed pictures of this machine.

    1. Brian,

      I think the cool thing, reading your comment, is that having been through the travails you have had with the FD-250, you now know exactly what you are looking at when you see the Hofmann, and can see the places where design details and approach to machine building can add up. And that in turn informs me when you share that. Thanks!

    1. Maybe I should start offering prizes and new contests every week? Just kidding, though it is a popular feature of some blogs and channels out there.

  2. Chris:
    The cord size on this machine is not an issue of being three-phase, but simply that it doesn’t draw much current (which actually IS an issue of being 3-phase…). The Hofmann site shows this machine as 1800 watts on the high speed, and I assume that this is output power. Assuming 240V, motor efficiency of 90%, a power factor of .75 (pessimistic), 1800 watts out means only 6.42 amps of 240V 3-phase in. 16 AWG is usually taken as good for 10 amps (McMaster shows 10A for the 16-4 service cord I just checked), so 16 ga. is plenty. If you’re running 440/480, current is half, and the cord is even more than adequate.

    Some of the “bigness” of industrial service cords is 600V insulation so they can be used on 440V.

    1. Roger,

      I thank you for your informative comment. I probably could have done a bit more explicating on the assertion made in the post above.

      Here’s what I have found to happen consistently in the past: Take my German-made shaper, for example. The motor output is 11/13hp, about is 10kw, in other words. Assuming a power factor of 0.9 on the motor, it therefore draws around 32.5amps. If I go to the NEMA standards for plugs sand receptacles, I see that there is a 30 amp category for plugs and receptacles, however, my only option is the next step up at 50amp. So, I buy the 50 amp rated plug and receptacle, and when I wire the plug onto the factory cord, I find the cord to be just swimming in the end of the receptacle and my recourse has been to buy portions of rubber hose that slip around the outside of the cord so that it can be clamped by the plug properly. This has happened on several machines now, including all the machines which I own that originate in Europe or Japan.

      Taking the Hofmann mortiser, as you note it is only going to draw about 6.5 amps. The lowest rated NEMA plug/receptacle for 208v 3-phase is 15amp. I am sure already, looking at the machine cord, that it is also going to be swimming in the plug if I try to connect them as-is, and will need additional rubber jacketing to pack the end so that a good clamp between plug and cord can be achieved.
      This is why I have come to wonder why US electrical products seem oversized. Does that make sense?

      1. Well, that confirms what I was saying, and the reason given for the difference in NEMA and IEC specs made perfect sense:

        “Historically, NEMA motor controls have been sold primarily in domestic markets, while IEC motor controls have been sold primarily in the European/global markets. In Europe, much emphasis is placed on small size and efficient use of materials. This statement is true in general – not only with motor controls. While Europe’s emphasis on small size, effective use of materials, and the high priority given to international trade have led to the type of product that is designed to IEC standards, those criteria have not been given the same priority in the United States.

        Domestically, the emphasis has been placed on reliability and maintainability. Also, the practice has been to provide performance in almost all applications without the need to go through a lengthy and complicated selection procedure. The U.S. has a high level of automation, requiring that equipment be maintained quickly, rather than having to buy a new product. The emphasis has been on easy installation with a high level of confidence in the integrity of the installation and the equipment.”

  3. Hi Chris

    Picture 5 I guessed that it was a slot mortiser. But I had fixed my head on that it was a Martin, why I can’t tell.
    They are also blue and grey, but with much more blue coloring than grey, so the opposite combination of the Hofmann.

    Congratulations for finding such a fine machine. I think that going with manual clamping is a wise choice. The pneumatic clamping might be faster if you plan on doing a long production run of 1000 similar pieces, but somehow I have a difficult time imagining that it is the intended use of the machine at your shop 😉

    Brgds
    Jonas

    1. Jonas,

      appreciate the comment. The Martin slot mortiser is of course actually a Griggio product, the TRC-N model, which has been in long production and ‘badge-engineered’ by several companies over the years, including Maka. It’s I am sure a perfectly fine machine, but slightly disappointing that Martin is simply slapping their paint and stickers on it. And yes, unless some sort of opportunity comes along for mass production, perhaps I will be just fine without the pneumatic clamping. We’ll see, as I’m a newbie with this machine, and slot mortisers in general, having had one only once previously as an attachment on a Felder combo machine. So, that good old learning curve lays ahead to be sure.

  4. Hi Chris,

    but the cherry on the cake would be to come once to Germany and visit the production site of this machine. Bad Windsheim has a really wonderful outdoor museum with a wonderful little brewery. And your milling machine comes from near Stuttgart with the wonderful museums of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.

    1. Klaus,

      yes, that (visiting the Hofmann factory) is something I would very much like to do one day. I’ve never been to Germany.

    1. Yes, it’s not common to find machines in that kind of condition. The price I paid reflected that, but it was still less than half what a new machine would cost from Hofmann.

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