This article is not sponsored by anyone and I have nothing to gain or lose if you do or do not buy this machine. If this is the right machine for you, thumbs up. If this is not the right machine for you, thumbs up. I don’t care either way. The point of this tool talk series is to have a destination to point people to for the commonly asked questions about my tools. The subject of this one is the Hammer A3-41 jointer planer combination machine. I’ll cover some of the basic and more common topics first and then answer a lot of the direct questions I got on Instagram.
Hammer is a division or a sub-brand of Felder. Felder is an Austrian company known for making high quality machines.
Cost comparison vs other options
To make an accurate cost comparison you must compare it to the other options with similar capacity. It doesn’t make sense to compare a Chevy Camaro to a Chevy Cobalt as they are completely different types of vehicles. Grizzly and Powermatic are both common brands in the woodworking world. Both brands make a 16″ jointer and both brands make a 15″ planer. Neither makes a 16″ planer. I looked up the price for each machine with a carbide insert helical or spiral cutter head. As of February, 2019, the Hammer is the best buy in this scenario. This also assumes that 2 machines vs 1 machine is not an issue and we are simply comparing capability to $$$. I was shocked to see the Grizzly 16″ jointer at a higher cost than this machine. I used these two brands as an example as they seem to be the very common options here in the USA and I have personally interacted with both brands.
The 41 in the name is for the 41cm cutter head, which is about 16”. I got the spiral cutter head which they call Silent-POWER. The carbide inserts have 4 cutting edges so when one gets dull you rotate them 90 degrees to reveal a fresh edge. Carbide inserts last a LOT longer than traditional straight knives. My last jointer had a similar cutter head with carbide inserts and after three years of use I was still on the factory cutting edge. I expect the same performance out of these. Regardless of what machine you go with I HIGHLY recommend getting a helical or spiral cutterhead with carbide inserts. They also eliminate the need for calibration after installing a fresh cutting edge.
The machine has a 4hp motor. I’ve jointed and planed full width hickory and have not experienced any performance issues. Plenty of power to get the work done.
Dial indicator accessory ~ $150
I bought the dial indicator handle for the planer table. To set it up you plane a board and check it with calipers. The dial indicator needs to be spun manually by hand to read the same as the calipers. Then the dial indicator is installed in the elevation handle and locked with a set screw. If done properly you can set the planer to any dimension, plane the board, and the calipers will read the exact same as the dial indicator. Setting the handle to .75″ and getting a board that reads .750″ on calipers is very nice. The convenience of this accessory is something I cannot live without now. I do think it is a bit pricey though.
Questions from Instagram:
Do you find the knives wearing quickly because you are using the same cutter head for 2 operations?
No. Because the same cutting edge is doing both tasks there will no doubt be accelerated wear vs two independent machines but because the carbide inserts last an incredibly long time I don’t think it will be noticeable at all.
How well does it keep settings switching between jointing and planing? Would you have to reset the tables, fences, etc?
The fence needs to be pulled forward to clear the back of the machine when lifted up and the blade guard needs to be moved for convenience of lifting the tables. That’s it. No calibration of the beds. The beds rest on large dome head bolts that are locked in place with nuts. The only way the machine will get out of calibration is if there is debris on top of the bolts when the tables are lowered or if some metal is removed. I’ve not experienced any debris getting in the way and I do not expect any metal removal to take place as there is no sliding movement on top of the bolts. Just one piece of metal simply resting on top of another piece of metal.
Have you purchased or do you plan to purchase the mortising attachment? I know you already have one, but I have heard of other pro guys ditching their diy setups specifically for this feature on the Hammer machines.
I have not and do not plan on purchasing the mortising attachment. I honestly never looked into it because I have other options that are convenient.
I see the mobile Dolly system you have would you ever consider putting it on one of those mobile bases like shop Fox.
I briefly looked into a commercially available mobile base but couldn’t find one large enough and one that could handle the 880 pounds of the machine. I bought the one for the machine which was a bit pricey for what it is honestly. It works but you can make your own for a lot less money.
What is the mechanism for leveling the jointer beds? Is it difficult/frustrating to get them coplanar?
This machine was calibrated from the factory and no adjustments were necessary when I got it in my shop. That’s incredible considering it came from the other side of the globe. The machine does come from the factory set to produce a spring joint though. I believe the specs say it will produce a 1mm spring joint over a span of 2 meters. I might be wrong on that but it’s a very tiny spring joint. While jointing some thin pine I though the machine was out of calibration because I was getting too much of a spring joint when measured with a straight edge and feeler gauges. I contacted a Hammer representative and got the information to adjust it so that it makes no spring joint and then realized that the machine wasn’t at fault but rather the small piece of pine was moving as I was jointing. I edge jointed a wide piece of 8/4 hardwood and the spring joint was well within specs when measured. But I already had the information to eliminate the spring joint so I went ahead and made the adjustment. It’s extremely easy but arguably unnecessary.
What can’t a normal planer or jointer do that this one can do?
This joints boards and planes boards the same as individual machines. The “special” feature is that it takes up less space and costs less than to comparable machines.
2 in 1 machines aren’t generally as good as individual machines. Is that the case with this?
For many years I was told the same thing. I asked a few company reps from different companies and was consistently told that the older jointer/planer combo machines that open up on different angles suffered from calibration issues due to the way they opened. From my research and what I was told, that was solved by making the tables rotate on the same axis. I’m sure there were changes made to some parts involved in rating and locking the tables but I didn’t research it further.
Having had a separate jointer, planer. Does the combination machine feel like it slows you down? Having gone the other way, (I’m in th UK, where combos like these are the norm!) I feel like my workflow is smoother and less painful with separate machines!
Technically, yes it slows you down. It takes one minute to switch between the two. The machine capacity and smaller footprint vs two machines is more valuable to me than saving one minute when I need to use one or the other.
How heavy are the wings when changing function? How tall is the jointer bed compared to when planing? Do you need to bend down?
I’m not sure the exact weight but it’s not crazy heavy. Lifting the tables is MUCH easier than trying to pick up and push a full sheet of plywood through a table saw. There are springs in the joint that offer some resistance to help lift. The jointer bed is about the same height as my table saw so no ergonomics change there. The planer table height is about 6-12″ lower depending on on how thick of material you are planing.
I’ve heard that the fence can feel a little flimsy compared to a nice cast iron fence, what’s your thoughts?
I think flimsy is the incorrect word here. There’s nothing flimsy about the aluminum fence on the A3-41. The correct way to describe it is the aluminum fence on the A3-41 is rigid and a cast iron fence is even more rigid. I relate the fence concerns with the whole pocket hole vs mortise and tenon debate. I’ve only seen a pocket hole joint fail when used in a situation where it wasn’t supposed to be used. I only expect this fence system to fail when used in such a way that it shouldn’t be used. Excessive force on the far outfeed side of the fence will cause it to deflect backwards, just the same way as a proven reliable T-square style fence on a table saw. This is because extruded aluminum is not as strong as a large chunk of cast iron and the anchor points for the fence are on the infeed side of the machine. But excessive lateral force into the fence is not necessary, especially on the outfeed side. Enough force should be applied to the material to keep the material against the fence before the material meets the cutterhead. Then a flat spot is cut on the bottom of the material and less force needs to be applied into the direction of the fence. The fact that an aluminum fence isn’t as rigid as a cast iron fence is a moot point here. It simply does not matter.
What is the difference of the footprint between this and two stationary tools? Noticeable?
This machine takes up about the same length as my previous 8″ Grizzly jointer but it does take up more room front to back. And of course it completely eliminates the planer footprint. The real space savings comes from only having one dedicated infeed and outfeed area vs two dedicated infeed and outfeed areas.
Jay, Why did you decided to go for the A3-41 instead of the A3-31. Is the extra width worth the extra buck? do you ever plane such wide boards?
A 16″ jointer is definitely a “forever” machine and having one that joints and planes for less money than a typical 16″ jointer by itself is incredibly inciting. I’ve had several situations where my 13″ planer wasn’t wide enough and I’m starting to get a lot of nice stock wider than my 8″ jointer. Thoughts of both machine upgrades have been in the back of my head for a while and this specific machine has been on my radar for a couple of years. A dedicated 20″ planer would be nice but I don’t have the room for a large planer AND a large jointer. Getting the 12″ variant would mean I lose an inch in planing capacity compared to my DW735 and gain 4″ in jointing width compared to the Grizzly jointer I had. Buying the 12″ machine wouldn’t have as big of an impact on what can be accomplished in my shop. I have a lot of 13″ wide bubinga that I refuse to cut down just to go through a machine and have passed on a lot of wider stock because I didn’t have the machining capacity. Jumping up to a 16″ jointer is a huge leap of what can easily be done in the shop. Of course, one can argue that everything can be completely dimensioned with a hand plane and we can all walk to the grocery store instead of drive. Neither of those sound like fun to me at this time in my life.
Is the wheeled dolly gizmo the only way to move it around the shop? It looks like you could get a forklift or mini pallet jack
Any mobile base that fits the footprint of this machine and has a 880 pound capacity will work. I couldn’t find one but then again I didn’t look incredibly hard. The jointer beds are already the same height as my table saw so I didn’t want to add a pallet jack system to elevate it more.
I’m sure at first you checked the setup after every change from jointer to planer. Do you still feel it necessary to check now or does it really return to true and flat every time consistently?
It returns to the same calibrated position consistently. I checked the boards constantly at first but now I don’t. I have confidence in the results so far.
The fence is aluminum, is it firm? why isn’t it cast iron? Can you upgrade to cast? Is the bed long enough for 8’-12’ jointing? Did you get the extension arms? How did you make it level with everything else?
Fence already talked about above. No need to “upgrade” the fence. I’ve jointed 10′ long boards with the help of a friend to make a farm table. I did not get any extension arms. I don’t make anything in my shop level because every time you move it you need to make it level again. Luckily it’s the same height as my table saw so moving stuff around is convenient.
How about a discussion about how you find the safety guard — lift over, vs the swing-away-porkchop type. It’s very different from Domestic ones.
The European safety guard on this machine is just different than the typical North American style. It does the same thing but a different way. I’d say it’s the same difference between an automatic vehicle with the shifter on the steering column vs the shifter in the center console. They both do the same thing but your user interaction is different. It took a few boards to get used to it. The only benefit of the typical North American style guard is that you can use hook style push blocks with it.
It seems there are no infeed and outfeed tables for the planer part. Is there any snipe?
Snipe is evident when I do not lock the table elevation. Snipe is not evident when I do lock the table elevation.
How do you feel about the infeed outfeed for long and wide boards?
The jointer has plenty of infeed and outfeed area. The planer table has a about the same, maybe a little more, surface area as my last planer. I was used to not having a lot of infeed and outfeed for that planer so this one is not an issue to me. There are both homemade and manufacturer options to increase the table surface. I’m not sure if I will ever add any to mine. Maybe, maybe not.
Is a 4″ dust port enough for a 16″ cutter head?
In regards to actual dust, yes. My Dylos air quality monitor does not spike when using this machine. In regards to collecting the larger chips I’ll say that it is acceptable. It’s not flawless and it’s about the same as my last planer and jointer. Planers are bad about throwing chips out of the front of the machine when the last part of the board goes through the cutter head. This is because of the cutting direction. In jointer mode the chip collection is much better. Not flawless dust/chip collection but acceptable.