Hammer Trend B3 Sliding Tablesaw/Tilting Shaper
Hammer Trend A3-41 16" Jointer/Planer
by Paul Jordan
August 2000 Note: I consider these reviews to be "preliminary" not in the sense of really being incomplete, but rather in the sense that I have not put that many hours on the machines yet. I reserve the right to change my mind as the hours pile up!
Most recently I owned a Robland X31 combination machine. I have a small shop (about 9' x 14') and (mobile) combo machines make the most sense for me. Why sell the Robland and get the Hammers?
One note on the Hammer vs. Robland issue - the Hammers are clearly better machines than the Robland, no question about it. But they are more expensive than the Robland, and should be better machines for the price. I still have good feelings about the Robland and would buy it again given the position I was in and the deal I received when I purchased the X31.
Hammer Maschinen + Werkzeuge für Holz is an Austrian company which, along with Felder, is part of the Felder Group of companies. Felder and Hammer machines are distributed and supported by Felder USA/Hammer USA, located in Sacramento, CA. The phone # for Hammer USA sales and support is 1-800-700-0071. Hammer USA personnel and Felder USA personnel are one and the same.
Hammer machines are made and shipped on an as-ordered basis, so there is a varying lead time (I waited about 10-12 weeks). There is an exchange rate to consider and the machines obviously must be shipped via freighter into the U.S. and then ground transported to your location. As with all such extended delivery processes, this means that in some way, shape or form, your machines will likely be affected during transit. One of the prime reasons for buying a Felder or a Hammer is the reputation they have for "world-class" support, which means any transit issues will likely be resolved to your satisfaction, without fuss.
Machine Options and Configurations
As a side note and if you are wondering, I estimate my Hammer machines were roughly 25% less than their Felder equivalents, comparing capacity of the machines. There are certainly differences between the Hammer and Felder machines, which may or may not be worth the price to you – contact Hammer/Felder to decide.
Before ordering these machines you must understand the optional configurations are numerous. I will not go into all the possible options, contact Hammer for all the information. I will only cover the machines as I have them configured.
If I have one recommendation for a potential buyer – spend A LOT of time with Hammer in reviewing the optional features and configurations. There is a lot to cover and you should try to get all the info prior to settling on your configuration.
Since my shop is tiny and everything must be mobile, I literally had no room for a large sliding table. I ordered my B3 with the 49" slider, which fits just right in my shop. If I had more shop space, I would have ordered a larger slider in a heartbeat. If you have the space, stick with the 79" or longer slider. The A3-41 jointer/planer tucks nicely up against a wall, and the design for lifting the jointer tables (to get into planing mode) is such that the machine can stay close to the wall and only be moved for the abnormally large jointing jobs.
I had one snafu during the delivery process, in that the freight company did not realize they had to bring the machines to my driveway, despite Hammer USA having made those arrangements (and me having paid for them) beforehand. To make a long story short, I rented a truck and picked up the machines at the local truck terminal myself, and Hammer USA reimbursed my costs. The freight company dropped the ball, so recommendation #2 is to spend a lot of time making sure the arrangements for delivery are understood by all parties ahead of time – if I had to do it over again, I would have visited the truck terminal before my machines arrived, just to ensure they had the plan in place. If you would like to read a slightly less dry rendition of my delivery story, click here.
The machines are large when crated, and you’ll have to plan a solid day to get them de-crated, install the mobility kits, electric and other items and to get the cosmoline cleaned off. The skids produce a large amount of waste, so hopefully you have a dumpster handy nearby.
The B3 has a few items which need to be installed prior to operation, the A3-41 comes pretty much assembled. The manuals are slightly above average but "typically European", in that they could really use some organization and could use some detailed info on setup/alignment (I believe Hammer USA is working on this area). Most of the parts info you’ll need is in there, it’s just a matter of finding it. If you have any alignment issues, the Hammer USA team was very knowledgeable and responsive.
I ordered each of my machines with 3hp, single-phase motors (note: if you are interested in such things, be sure and ask Hammer what the jump from 50Hz to 60Hz – for USA - does for these motors in terms of rpm leaps). My shop already had 30a 220v outlets, so it was only a matter of installing cord (10-3) and a plug. The Hammers come with pigtail cords, which I replaced completely. The pigtail and machine connection points are sized for the Euro equivalent of 12g wire, so fitting the 10g cord required a little bit of fussing and reaming. No big deal. First machine took perhaps 30 minutes to wire, the next took about 15 minutes. Wiring supplies may cost you a few hundred dollars, so plan it out ahead of time and put it in the budget.
Both machines have a main power box (towards the rear of the machines) which provide overload protection and a cutoff point for electric. Each machine has a recessed "on" button. The B3 has two mushroom "off" buttons while the A3-41 has one. The "off" buttons must be turned about 1/6 of a turn to be "released" after they’ve been depressed. Each machine also has microswitches at various points to prevent power on when a door is not closed, or a table is up, etc.
All in all these machines will not turn on unless you really want them to. By far the safest electrical designs I’ve seen on woodworking machinery.
Options and Accessories
I ordered my B3 machine with both the 30mm shaper spindle and the high speed router spindle (with ¼", 8mm and ½" collets). Buying both spindles and swapping back and forth is not typically a "user option" per se, but you can order the additional spindle assembly by putting together the list of spare parts from the manual. Hammer helped me out here by figuring all this out and shipping the second spindle assembly already assembled. Since the machines are not really designed with this "user changeover" in mind, it was not designed to be a "quick change" process. But I must say the design for swapping out the spindles is excellent (remove and replace two nuts), and the only thing keeping it from being a five minute changeover (or less) is the shear mass of the spindle and motor themselves. It took me 20 minutes the first time I changed over, and I will be working on ways to decrease that time.
Keep in mind I ordered both spindles knowing full well they would not be "quick" to changeover, and my requirements are such that the shaper spindle will be in the machine most of the time anyway (due to limited shop space, I wanted the option to "retire" my router table if I chose to do so in the future).
If you order a B3 or other Hammer saw, make sure you get the trimming shoe (or the full trimming kit) as options. These items make sizing cuts a real breeze. I also ordered the "professional" crosscut fence for the B3, which is certainly nice, but I can’t compare it to the stock crosscut fence.
Make sure you get at least one table extension as well. The table extenders are a very good design and work flawlessly – I could use three of the extenders if I wanted to leave them on the machines full time. They are interchangeable between machines, so you can install them on whichever machine you are using at the moment.
While the B3 has four spots for crank handles (saw height, saw tilt, shaper height, shaper tilt), the machine itself comes stock with only one crank handle – the intent is for you to place it where you need it at the moment. I ordered three more handles to avoid moving the single handle around. I’d recommend you at least get one extra handle (total of two), but having four makes the machine quicker to use and makes it look more "complete". At $25 per, in retrospect I should probably have skipped two of the handles and put the $50 towards another table extension.
I also ordered the eccentric clamp which fits into the channel on the sliding table. Not inexpensive at $120, but the function is very useful. You may be able to come up with a home-grown version which suits the same purpose.
The B3 comes with a riving knife/blade guard which is not too bad (although the riving knife support bracket is a suboptimal design and I’ve had an issue consistently re-aligning the riving knife upon re-installation).
The stock blade guard, which attaches to the riving knife, has a 25mm port for dust extraction, which is suboptimal but probably workable. You might want to consider ordering the "upgraded" Euro II guard with a 50mm dust port. I have this guard and go from the 50mm port directly to 80mm hose. In practice, either guard works fine and is worth keeping on the machine as opposed to thrown in the corner.
General Notes, B3 Sliding Tablesaw/Shaper
If you’ve not yet used a "Euro" sliding tablesaw, there are some things to be aware of.
First off, the slider is directly to the left of the blade (there is no stationary table area to the left of the blade – unless of course you lock the sliding table while ripping). This means work is fully supported during rough-rip/sizing cuts (where the ripped cutoff is to the right of the blade and the workpiece is secured to the slider) as well as during a crosscut. This makes the machine extremely efficient and safe to use for those cuts. Performing sizing cuts this way means you can get a very straight, beginning edge from rough lumber, which really cuts down on the passes required over the jointer and increases jointer safety quite a bit when you don’t have to joint rough or uneven edges.
There are one or two tradeoffs with these sliders when compared to a traditional cabinet saw however. First off, with this design you lose the ability to use a stacked dado head, as the arbor is pretty much made to take one blade only since the sliding table is next to the blade (there are some higher-end Euro sliding saws which incorporate a design allowing the use of a stacked dado head). You’ll also lose the capability for full zero clearance inserts, but you could certainly come up with a "three quarter" insert system if you were so inclined.
Also, you have a choice on how high to adjust the sliding table. It can be adjusted to just a few thousandths of an inch higher than the main table, allowing little to no workpiece friction when crosscutting, or it can be adjusted flush with the main table. If you keep your slider higher than the main table and lock the slider for ripping, you may have a problem when your rip will leave thin waste strips - the waste strip can get hung up on the slider. As well, if you think over the geometry with this setup, this also means your rip cuts are not absolutely, positively dead nuts at 90°, but rather likely closer to 89° and 59 minutes. Practically speaking, your rip cuts are at 90° but in theory they are not. If you rip a lot of 12/4 stock or glue up ripped edges, you "may" notice this, but I highly doubt it. I’ve used this type of saw for going on five years and have never had issues in this area, I just thought I’d point out the theory of each approach.
You can always adjust the slider to be level with the main table, which simply means more friction when crosscutting but eliminates ripping issues. It’s your choice, depending on how you typically work. You may want to mention your preference when ordering the saw.
B3 Blade Notes
The B3 takes up to 315mm diameter (12") blades with 30mm arbor hole and two 9mm pin holes (the 9mm pin holes are for the braking action). So, if you don’t already have a Euro machine requiring this blade configuration, you’ll have to re-drill your current blades (the layout is available from Hammer) and/or order new blades (so leave some $ in the budget for blades!). I ordered a Hammer 12" combination blade and a Hammer 12" rip blade so I could run the B3 when it arrived. I have since added a 12" 30T Forrest Woodworker II (about $150 with all the holes drilled by Forrest) and re-drilled my current blades to the 30mm/9mm configuration. The drilling process is not trivial and needs to be done correctly and exactly, so if you don’t have a way to accurately do it yourself, have a qualified metalworker/machine shop do it for you.
Blade changeover is accomplished by moving the slider out of the way, moving the blade cover out of the way (tripping a microswitch in the process, so the machine cannot turn on), then using a open-end wrench combined with an allen wrench to take off the blade cap. A painless, decent design which prevents having to stabilize the blade itself while loosening or tightening.
The B3 blade arbor, at 60Hz, spins at 5,700 rpm, which is a decent amount faster than the average 3,450 rpm you might be used to on other cabinet saws. The increased arbor speed (as was recommended by Joel Cohen) is the reason I went with the 30T Forrest instead of the 40T, as the 40T might have a tendency to burn at this rpm. The Forrest leaves a beautiful cut, as do my older blades from Jesada. At this rpm and with an 80T ATB blade, the need for a scoring unit is more or less nonexistent.
Hammer offers a full line of blades. The Hammer combination blade is average for most cuts, nothing spectacular, but is about half the Forrest price. The Hammer rip blade is pretty good indeed, and for $50 you’d be silly not to order one.
Since the sliding table is directly adjacent to the blade, you will lose the use of your stacked dado head, if you have one, so plan on making dado cuts in a different manner. A proper rip blade offers a way to cut flat-bottomed dadoes in multiple passes.
At 5700rpm the B3 works up some wind speed when running - the saw is certainly not what you’d call quiet - the "whir" will be more than you are used to in other cabinet saws. I religiously wear hearing protection anyway, so the noise is somewhat irrelevant to me.
B3 Adjustability Notes
Adjusting the sliding table is done by loosening 1 to 4 bolts which hold it to the machine chassis. A magnetic dial indicator will fit on the rails and makes it relatively easy to move the table in .001 to .002 increments, if required. In practice, you want your slider to "slide away" from the blade at about 0.002" per the 12" blade diameter. This means that stock (secured to the slider) which touches the left side of a blade tip at the beginning of the cut should just miss the blade at the far end.
Adjusting the crosscut fence to 90° is a matter of a setscrew and a little bracket working on the "cam theory". In practice, this is a good design and allows perfectly acceptable and repeatable adjustment range. Performing the "five sided cut" to aid in alignment will both drive you batty and allow fairly precise setting of the crosscut fence. The crosscut fence can be used in the fore or aft position on the slider, but for tablesaw use, I typically leave it in the fore position, where the fence is behind the stock being cut. The crosscut fence must be used in the front position when using the B3 shaper/router capabilities. Getting the outrigger might change these work habits a bit. The crosscut fence must be slid along its bracket when moving from fore to aft and back, so you lose and have to re-set the tape setting when doing so. At first this was a nuisance, but there are numerous ways to make re-adjusting the tape a 5-10 second exercise, so it’s second nature now.
There are also adjustment features for the blade/arbor assembly itself (which I’ve not used) to align with the rip fence.
B3 Rip Fence Notes
Not to be too provincial, but if you are used to the beefy, adjustable rip fences which some from the USA demand on cabinet saws, frankly you’ll be somewhat disappointed in the rip fence schemes available for the B3.
My B3 was equipped with the standard "triangle" rip fence, which seems to be a carryover from the multipurpose machines. This fence is tall and bulky, and the three control levers are cramped together and "below" the fence assembly. All-in-all I found this fence to be accurate (within .004" over a 36" rip) but a real ergonomic challenge to use and get used to.
Fellow B3 owner Phil Bumbalough mentioned his concerns with the "triangle fence" and pointed out an optional fence, the "cam lock" design. After some thought and conversation with Hammer, I swapped the two fences.
The "cam-lock" fence is much, much better ergonomically, but it won’t make you forget your Biesemeyer anytime soon. It works, it stays locked and it’s accurate (I found a 36" rip cut to be accurate to three digits). However it’s just not that beefy (the far end of the fence will lift when you sock the cam lock down, then it drops back down on the table), the scale takes some getting used to and, as Phil points out, there is no provision for slight scale adjustments due to different blades (you’d have to reset the rail/scale for each blade).
Overall, both of these fences detract from the overall quality and feel of the machine, although I could find no fault in operation. If ripping is the raison d'être for your table saw, you might not be interested in the B3 with any of the stock rip fences – best plan on retrofitting your own aftermarket model.
B3 Shaper/High Speed Spindle Notes
My machine arrived with the high speed spindle installed and the shaper spindle separate.
The high speed spindle (router spindle) turns at about 17,000 rpm. I ordered ¼" and ½" collets as extra, the 8mm collet is standard. Whichever spindle is installed, it is tiltable – backwards from the operator, so this really expands the usefulness of your cutters.
When I first ran the high speed spindle, it tried to ramp up the rpm’s but the main electrical box would cut the power after the motor strained a bit. After some investigation, I found the drive belt was tensioned beyond all reasonable doubt. Loosening up the drive belt allowed the high speed spindle to run, but the vibration was past excessive – not what I expected at all. As well, I was disappointed that apparently no one ran the high speed spindle prior to delivery.
After a few phone calls and email postings, I decided to try the shaper spindle.
The shaper spindle allows varying speeds from 3,000 to 8,000 rpm. The changeover process was fairly simple mechanically, but takes some effort just due to the sheer mass of the spindles and motor. First time through this took about 20 minutes.
The shaper spindle fired up and worked like a charm – very low vibration, just what I was expecting for a machine of this caliber.
As of this writing, Hammer believes the excessive high speed spindle vibration was due to the belt, spindle or both. I am about to try a replacement belt, and if that does not work, they will replace the spindle.
In use, the shaper is a great piece of work. Between the sliding table and the tiltable spindles, it’s also quite safe and versatile. The fence system is nicely done, with aluminum extruded fences which can be micro-adjusted. The hold-in and hold-down mechanisms and the dust collection are all above average.
All in all, the shaper spindle is a real winner in my opinion. Jury is still out on the high speed spindle.
While certainly not detrimental during use, the 12" blade combined with 3hp on the B3 will make you aware of your feed rate. Nothing "bogs down" that I’ve yet found, but you can tell when the motor is under load. If you have a choice, and you have the mindset and technical ability to go with three phase power (the cost difference is not that great), I’d recommend at least 4hp/3ph on each machine. It might have cost me perhaps another $750 to $1000 total to go with three phase via a converter and accessories for both machines, and at this point it was not worth it for me. Even finding proper space for the converter would have been a challenge.
The on/off switches are well-placed, and there is a chart for shaper speeds vs. cutterhead sizes right on the machine.
The extension tables are really well executed. They can hang off any rail, and 99% of the time I have one connected to the saw/shaper outfeed side.
Dust collection on the saw is good to above average. All the external ports are 120mm (5").
General Notes, A3-41 16" Jointer/Planer
The A3-41 provides both 16" face jointing and planing capability. This machine is a different, and I feel superior, design than the "31" series of 12" jointer/planers from Hammer. The tables are spring assisted and have one central handle for lifting. As shown below, when in the "up" position, the tables are perpendicular to the machine, which means you can put this unit up against a wall and leave it there.
Really well-designed adjustment mechanisms make this machine easy to get into adjustment.
The infeed table is raised or lowered via the "L" shaped handle shown below. In practice, this provides a surprisingly precise feel, although this is not a setting I constantly futz with. The scale is more or less accurate, but such a scale is something I never utilize anyway.
The planer table must be fully lowered, or close to it, in order to go back to jointer mode. This means if you go from jointing to planing and back to jointing, you'll have to crank the planer table up and down quite a bit. For me, this is a small price to pay for the gains in capacity and losses in footprint this machine provides.
The planer provides more or less "perfect" dimensional results (i.e., over the 16" width there is less than a .005" variation in board thickness). Snipe is minimal to non-existent. The feed rollers and anti-kickpack pawls work as advertised. Dust collection is actually fairly good. I rarely if ever use the scale on a planer, but this one seems fairly accurate.
The machine is not quite as loud as I would have expected.
A3-41 in "planing" mode, with table extension on planer table
Safety Notes, A3-41
A main power box towards the rear of the machine allows power to be controlled "ahead of" the on/off switches. There are two microswitches which will also prevent powering up unless you really intend to. All in all, the electrical safety of the Hammers is the best I’ve seen on woodworking machines.
The cutter guard is the standard European hard, sliding, cupped cover which extends to cover as much of the exposed blade to the operator side of the fence as desired. I find this setup superior to the spring mounted "half moon" guards on other machines, although with the hard nature of the stock Hammer guard it will stick out in "operator space" when the fence is close to the operator as well.
The Hammer guard also allows differing heights so it can be used when face-jointing. All in all a decent setup.
Fence Notes, A3-41
The fence, in a word, is huge. It’s supported on the outfeed table rail and covers approximately ½ the infeed table – it’s 61 or so inches (1550mm) of triangular extruded aluminum. There is a dual-function support bracket which runs from the center of the fence and back (covering any exposed cutter area behind the fence) and then clamps to the rear of the machine. The two support points make the fence pretty stable, but for reasons I’ll get into, I rarely have the rear support on the machine.
My fence had a bow ranging from .008" on one end to .015" at the other end, Hammer replaced it with no questions asked. The fence itself, being triangular, allows accurate 45° cuts to be made when the fence is laying on one side. There is a full range of adjustment between 90° and 45°, and the "dead stop" mechanism for 90° is easy enough to set.
Did I mention the fence is big? It’s big, bulky and has sharp corners, so some care must be taken. Such a large cantilever design does not allow the fence to exactly "glide" over the table surface, it’s mostly bump and push/pull to get it moving and in place. The control levers (for locking and setting angles) are crowded together and are more or less "under" the fence. While it’s not a complete ergonomic failure, it is a minor nuisance to use the levers and move the fence.
I’d sum up the fence review by stating if your work habits mean you constantly move your jointer fence, you may be somewhat disappointed with this setup.
The manual states that when going into planing mode, you should remove the fence. Fair enough, but that’s a real hassle due to the bulk of the fence. And if you use the rear support/safety bracket on the fence, you HAVE to remove it and/or the fence to go into planing mode. I’ve decided to not use the rear support/safety bracket at all (it also gets in the way if you want the machine up against a wall), and I put the fence in about the middle of the table when I go into planing mode (it stays on the machine). So far this has not proven to be a problem.
Blade Notes, A3-41
The A3-41 has a three-knife cutterhead with quick-change, disposable knives, very similar to the Esta or Tersa blade setups. The machine comes with standard steel knives with HSS also available. I ordered a set of HSS blades as well.
The knives are easy enough to change and replace, I averaged about 10 minutes for changeover. They are truly "set and forget", which means once the factory gets the cutterhead machined just right, your knife changes are only subject to the tolerances in the disposable knives themselves.
The disposable blades fit right into the cutterhead cavities, which have alignment pins along one wall. Then a gib bar is torqued down with allen head screws. There are no adjustment features for the blades once in the cutterhead, so it's up to Hammer to get the cutterhead precisely machined. My cutterhead/knife/table tolerances allowed the knives to be set within .002" of an inch - both across the 16" cutterhead and knife to knife. This was truly impressive, and not something I was shooting for.
Adjustability Notes, A3-41
My jointer tables were both out of alignment upon arrival. With the help of John Renzetti and Geoff Shepard (in the flesh!) and Hammer via phone, we managed to get the outfeed table precisely aligned to the knives as mentioned above. This is a mechanically straight-forward process but demands a fair amount of trial/error/measure cycles, so it can be time consuming depending on how picky you are and what inspection tools you have handy.
During this process, the outfeed table had to be adjusted to the point where one of the cam lock devices would no longer engage. First off, Hammer incorporates a neat adjustment mechanism so it only took a few seconds to correct, but more importantly, this led me to believe the outfeed table might have been mis-set at the factory. However, it’s all user-adjustable and you can fuss with it to your heart’s content.
Aligning the infeed table to the outfeed table then became a matter of trial and error, but eventually we got everything "dead nuts". The total table/knife alignment process took perhaps 3-4 hours total. Someone more familiar with the machine (i.e., Hammer personnel) could probably cut that in half, or less.
Overall, the cutterhead was precisely machined and the table adjustability is there, so you can set the machine as you like.
One other "adjustability" issue worth high praise is the ability to use table extensions both on the planer outfeed side, and to take the standard 67" jointer tables and add extensions when required. With two 400mm table extensions, you can bring your jointer table length to about 97" in 30 seconds or less (800mm table extensions are also available).
The only slight caveat with table extensions on the jointer is that due to the fence bracket on the outfeed table rail, a table extension on the outfeed side cannot be up against or close to the fence (it can only get to about 1.5" away from the fence face). This means that if you are edge jointing, say an 4/4 board (up against the fence), it will not be able to ride on an extension table on the outfeed side.
Overall, the table extensions are an excellent design and work wonderfully in my shop, since the stock tables are fine for 90% of my jointing and I can install the extensions when they are required.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS OF MY SPECIFIC MACHINES
General Alignment Issues or Problems
[I classify these issues as an annoyance – while it would have been great if these problems did not pop up, it was no big deal to get them resolved. And most if not all are a one-time-fix, meaning you perform the alignment and forget about it. None of these issues are related to poor design or workmanship, most likely they were mis-set at the factory or fell out of adjustment during transit.]
Since in my case these machines were shipped halfway around the world, I expected (and found) them to be out of alignment upon arrival. Hammer offers a service where they will come to your site, help unload and install the machines and get them re-aligned. Depending on where you live and what the travel costs would be, this service could be well worth the expense.
The following items needed major adjustments:
B3: Sliding Table
A3-41: Jointer outfeed table, Jointer outfeed cam lock, Jointer infeed table
All in all I, with others, spent perhaps 15-20 hours adjusting and tweaking.
Resolvable Design Problems
[These are issues which I felt needed to be addressed after using the machines a bit. Some of these I feel Hammer should incorporate into the "stock" machines, some are a matter of work preference.]
B3: The triangle rip fence was functional but an ergonomic challenge. Perhaps over time one could get used to it, but I'm really not too sure why this fence is even offered. The cam-lock fence is optional, and even though it's not up to the standard set by the rest of the machine (in my opinion), it should be standard equipment;
A3-41: The fence adjustment levers are cramped together and are a minor nuisance to use. Replacing one or two of the three adjustment handles with nuts or knobs would free up space for the handle which locks the fence on the rail (which is the one used the vast majority of the time).
Quality Control Problems or Issues
[These are issues related to quality control, either at the factory or between the factory and my door. None have been too upsetting with the exception of the high speed spindle issue.]
I received an incorrect mobility kit for the A3-41 (Hammer sent the correct kit Fedex overnight).
Paint scratches from transit (Hammer Fedexed touch-up paint).
I had one irrevocably bent knob on the shaper fence (Hammer has replacement on order)
My jointer fence was warped (Hammer replaced).
The knife bolts on the jointer/planer were excessively torqued down and it took a good deal of "mechanical persuasion" to get them loose the first time around.
The high speed spindle problems as addressed above, still to be resolved.
Features or Functions Which Could be Improved
[These areas could stand some improvement in my estimation, although I can/will work around each of these issues without too much effort.]
B3: The rip fence options could use major improvement. If Hammer addresses no other issues on these machines, my hope would be they come up with a robust rip fence for the B3/K3 series (for the US market, anyway).
The extension wings on the B3, while beefy stamped steel, tend to sag over time due to the installation design. I have heard a rumor there may be a bracket to solve this, I’m currently waiting to hear back from Hammer.
The soundness of the riving knife bracket design completely escapes me. It takes some futzing to find "the spot" where the bracket falls into alignment with the blade, and there are two bolt heads which impeded on the main capture nut. Truly a questionable design in my opinion.
A3-41: The jointer fence is bulky for this machine and the controls are an ergonomic challenge.
The stock jointer guards get in the way when the fence is set close to the operator. Felder machines offer collapsible "comfort guards" (which won't fit the Hammer). I feel Hammer should look into making such gaureds standard equipment on the Hammer machines - these types of features go a long way in forming an impression of the machine when you stand next to it all day!
Appearance/Finish – the only, completely inconsequential item which bothers me in this area is that the logo and most other graphics on the machines are those cheesy, supposed-to-be-clear-but-aren’t stickers. They detract from machines of this quality, but in an overall sense, a meaningless point.
Features/Functions Where These Machines Really Shine
[These are the areas where you really get what you pay for, and make these machines worth owning in the first place.]
Heft – these machines are heavy, beefy and mostly vibration-free.
Adjustability – anal retentives can have a field day with the adjustment options on these machines.
Flexibility – you can add things like outriggers, scoring blades, etc. to the B3, and the tiltable shaper/router spindles add new capabilities to your current cutters. The A3-41 has a neat horizontal mortising attachment which can be added as well.
Electrical Safety – kudos to Hammer in this area.
High Speed Spindle Collet(s) – the collets are a nice design and can be reached (and the spindle locked) from above and to the side of the cutter (no stooping or bending down).
Cast Tables Fit and Finish – all three cast tables were flat and well-finished.
Mobility Kits – the mobility kits are a very good design and allow you to turn the machines "on a dime".
Sliding Table – I am a huge proponent of a sliding table directly on the left of the blade and the Hammer sliding table is extremely well-made and engineered. In my opinion it is a quantum leap in terms of safety and accuracy over the "standard" cabinet saw. Having the sliding table shaper/router table is a huge bonus as well. Once you use such a sliding table, I highly doubt you’ll ever go back to a standard cabinet saw.
B3 Tablesaw – the tablesaw functions themselves are superb, no disappointments there.
The Shaper – the fence is well done, the hold-in/hold-down systems are well done, the smoothness is superb, the flexibility in speeds allows a wide range of cutters, and the tilting arbor adds yet more options.
Finally, Vendor Support – The Felder Group owns Hammer, and as such the Felder USA and Hammer USA support personnel are one and the same. Felder has established a superb reputation for service and support, and I must say that approach carries over to the Hammer side of things. I’ve spoken with numerous support folks - all knowledgeable about specifics of the machines and woodworking machinery in general. But I’ve also conversed with the President of Felder/Hammer USA on several occasions, some on very specific issues. When was the last time you purchased a machine or tool and received direct support from the President of that company?
OK, after all the above rambling, what’s my take? The Hammers are not for everyone, if for no other reason than the cost alone. Some of the "features" take a little getting used to (i.e., the rip fence), however they provide functionality way over and above machines from "the usual suspects", and give those of us with limited shop space a way to own "large" capacity machinery.
If you are looking for high-quality combination machines at a price point below the likes of Felder or Knapp, I’d recommend the Hammer line without hesitation.