AWFS Tool News: Austrian Engineering Comes to the U.S.
Ten years ago, when I first encountered Hammer machines, the value-oriented brand of the Felder Group, I found a slightly awkward attempt to de-engineer the vaunted Felder line of zero-compromise European machinery. Maybe that was because I am an American woodworker, but I was troubled by fences with too much flex in them, knobs that conflicted with each other, and small touches. In short there was just too much of a dropoff from the Felder perfection, where every single bit of the user experience is considered and made joyous. And a few poor reviews in magazines really hurt the Hammer brand.
All that has changed, I believe. I was blown away by the two new Hammer machines I saw at AWFS in Vegas this year. The new Hammer A3 jointer-planer and K3 sliding tablesaw are SERIOUS woodworking machines, at very attractive prices considering what they offer and where they are built: 100% in Austria. And everything that bothered me before has been re-engineered, and then some. I just couldn’t find any problems with either of the new Hammer machines.
If you have ever considered a jointer-planer, which puts the two main milling machines into one small footprint and gets you a wide jointer to boot, you have to take a look at the new Hammer. Like the Felder, the two jointer tables come up at once, which is a real timesaver, and they only come up to 90 degrees not farther, so you can put this machine right against the wall. The other space-saver at the back is the fence system, which is unique and completely retooled. It has the same mounting location, down at the end of the table on a T-square bar, but it also has a locking plate right behind its center point, which greatly reduces flex. Also the fence is an aluminum extrusion, common on these machines, but much beefier than in the past, with its face machined dead-flat.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Both infeed and outfeed tables come up at once, and stop at 90-degrees, making this machine a real space-saver. click to enlarge
The innovations and improvements do not stop there. The tables ride up and down on dovetailed ways, a U.S. concept that makes them much more stable and allows them to be adjusted quickly and easily with a single lever as opposed to the old screw-handle. The flip-over dust hood works for both operations and is much roomier than the dust shrouds on similar machines which are very narrow in spots, choking airflow.
And two cutterheads are available. The standard one is Hammer’s version of a Tersa head, with two sided knives that are self-setting. But I was happy to see that the knives can be slid sideways to deal with a slight nick in them. The prices for the two standard machines are super-aggressive as they say in the industry, part of Felders attempt to re-establish the Hammer brand in North America. The 10-in.-wide model is $2,500 and the 12-in. version is $3,000. There is also a 16, too. All are available with Byrd Shelix segmented cutterheads, a fantastic upgrade that adds $700 to $1,000 to the price.
K3-W Sliding Tablesaw
If you’ve never tried a European sliding tablesaw, it takes a while to wrap your head around it. Ripping is basically the same, but there is a big table and large crosscut fence where U.S. style saws just have a miter slot and a blank section of table. Imagine a tablesaw that is actually ready to do big crosscuts. No need to build several shopmade sleds, and you get a built-in stop system on the fence. Also, no need to go to the bandsaw to get the first straight edge on a wany board; just clamp it to the sliding table and rip away. That’s just the start of what these machines can do. They excel on big pieces of plywood, and all kinds of jigs can be clamped to the sliding table.
One problem for American woodworkers with these machines in the past was the rip fences. Europeans do a lot of rip cuts with the sliding table, so the rip fences were relatively wimpy affairs. Hammer has fixed that, and every other concern I had in the past, with the new K3-W series. The rip fence is rock-solid, riding on a polished round bar like huge panels saws have, but it is adjustable to all kinds of handy positions, like all European fences are. The other fence, the one on the sliding table, has an adjustable stop to return solidly to 90 degrees (one of my other complaints). And the scales on both fences are both recessed for zero-wear and adjustable. The arbor also accepts dado sets, illegal in Europe but invaluable to U.S. woodworkers.
There are other great touches throughout, too many to list here. The lower dust shroud is one. It hugs the front of the blade tightly, right where the chips shoot downward, carrying them through a hose to a port in the cabinet. And the riving knife, a full-featured European one of course, is hardened and ground, and very stiff and smooth compared to others I’ve seen.
This is a serious sliding tablesaw, with a 12-in. blade and a single-phase, 4-hp motor, and low-vibration and low-slippage poly V-belts seen in high-end machinery. And it is very user-friendly. That’s why I was so surprised by the prices. The smallest version has a 31-in. table stroke and 31-in. rip capacity, for $3,000; and a 48×48 version is only $1,000 more, making these saws clear competitors for the new Unisaw and the SawStop cabinet saws, neither of which has a sliding table.
Are American woodworkers finally ready for European-style sliding tablesaws? Hammer certainly thinks so.
The crosscut fence is long and solid, with an accurate stop system and a small stop block that returns it to 90-degrees.
The rip fence slides and locks almost effortlessly. It's also very solid, yet completely adjustable in a variety of positions.
The lower dust shroud is located strategically to catch the chips coming off the bottom of the blade.
The full-featured European riving knife is stiff and polished, I would opt for the beefy hold-down seen at left.
Hammer's A3 Jointer/Planer.
Unlike the other planer/jointers in its category, the Hammer allows you to lift both tables at once when switching to planing mode.
The jointer fence locks at the end of the table, like many others, but has a secondary clamping point to eliminate any flex.
The standard cutterhead features two-sided, self-setting knives similar to the Tersa system, but a Byrd segmented cutterhead is also available.