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Thread: Hammer A3-31 Disaster!

  1. #1

    Hammer A3-31 Disaster!

    I love my Hammer A3-31 with a passion. The finish the spiral cutter head produces is as close to perfect as I'll ever need, the digital readout for the planer is extremely convent, always spot on and snipe has been dialed away to a distant memory. That said, I hate my A3-31 with a passion and would gladly throw, or wheel it with my mobility kit, to the 9th plane of a smoldering inferno. The problems I detail below are indeed unique and best as I can tell not indicative of the A3-31. So many people own and use these machines with great success and I was one of them. It was a great machine right up to the point it wasn't.

    For context, back in March I damaged my machine, my fault for working too late in the day and, in a fatigued state, failed to recognize I'd fed a tapered board into the planer. This jammed the infeed roller, sheared off gears and damaged the infeed roller, drive chain and gears. After posting my woeful tale here on SMC, and getting some advice, I decided to take the plunge and repair it myself. $200 in parts and some great phone support from several Felder techs got the job done and it really wasn't that bad. Happy, I proceeded to calibrate the planer first and it was a breeze, sort of, took a bit of time but got it all to within .0001 and boards were coming out like glass.

    Unfortunately when I turned my attention to the jointer beds I found myself struggling, lacking in patience or skill, or both as I just couldn't get the darn things coplanar. I read every article I could find, spoke to tech support a dozen times, read the manual, supplemental PDFs and even phoned a friend all to no avail. After days and days of adjusting this bolt and that bolt I thew in the towel and booked a service appointment to have a tech come out and get my beloved machine back to spec. Having a tech come from Felder is no cheap undertaking but I was fortunate that they're relatively close but still it was very expensive. Alas, I broke it and really loved this machine and looked at it as an investment to getting it back to perfect condition.


    Now here is where things got worse, not better... (insert mad face here). The technician from Felder came out and five hours later, decreed I was back in business. Several test boards confirmed the beds were aligned and snipe free. Great! Or so I thought... After a three week heat wave I finally got back in the garage for some woodworking nirvana. Upon edge jointed some shorter walnut boards I notice a distinct concave bow was being induced into the edge of the board... To make a "very" long story somewhat short... I measured the tables and found they were completely out of alignment... Infeed was drooping down by almost a 1/4 of an inch and outfield was not parallel to the cutter block... I was deeply concerned to put it mildly and upon further investigation found the locking bolts for the infeed table hinge had not been tightened down and one of the outfeed operator side castle nuts was also loose. Uggggg.

    Back on the phone with Felder and they agreed to send the tech back and get things squared away, very sorry and all that. So the tech came back and this time it took six hours to get the tables aligned... While six hours seemed like a long time, he really did put in some work and I was grateful for his dedication to getting things back in shape. Well he again declared his work finished and we ran a grip of bards thru, all different species and lengths and what do you know, Good To Go! All flat and looking like they should. I was a very happy camper. That feeling lasted all of six days.

    The very next weekend I finally had some free time so I went in to the shop, and for the first time since the repairs, fired up my good as new A3-31 and crap, WTF, are you kidding me??? The EXACT same concave bow was being induced. I couldn't believe it! Still can't believe it. Having no idea what could possible be going on, and vowing to sell this cursed machine, I called tech support yet again, spoke to a different guy this time, and he gave me some tips to check the machine and re calibrate it, myself... So I started looking everything over and first checked all the bolts again to see if any were loose, all good but I noticed this on the infeed table hinge locking bolts...

    2IMG_0799.jpg2IMG_0797.jpg

    As best as I can tell, the bolts have moved down from their original position revealing the bare metal beneath. Having no idea what would cause that or what it would mean to the set up of the infeed table hinge, I looked further and found the final straw that killed my love with this particular machine.

    2IMG_0801.jpg2IMG_0798.jpg2IMG_0800.jpg

    That is the 1/4 inch steel case frame for the machine itself and it's bent!!! The ruler should be sitting flush with the case its resting against but as you can see the frame has been bent inward where the hinge mechanism sits on the frame! I did confirm that section should be flush along its length with the outfield side, no pics as the dust hood gets in the way.

    How the heck does the steel frame of this machine get bent like that??? If it was damaged before the tech showed up, either time, I would think he'd say, "Hey buddy, info only, your machine is bent". I will say, it did work when he was here but yet again, now it doesn't.

    So after seven months of dealing with this machine, I'm done. Given all the real stressors we're all dealing with in the world, this is a rather small problem but I have to say, I'm tired of dealing with stress from this machine, I'm sick of talking to Felder support, I don't want tech guy back at my house, I doubt that damage could even be fixed and at this point, wouldn't trust it even if it was. Seeing as the machine is 3 years old, I'm sure Felder won't be receptive to a replacement and at this point I just don't feel like battling them for some type of fix or compensation. As almost every owner of this machine will tell you they are great and work really well, my only advise, don't break yours. Getting it fixed may be a wee bit of a problem.

    Ultimately I am now the proud owner of a $5500 + $1000 repaired machine that I'm pretty sure is the most expensive, stand alone 12" thickness planer in the country. 2020 sucks...

    Unless someone else has any insight or thoughts, I'm thinking of just pulling the tables off completely and using it as a pricey planer and getting a stand alone jointer. Or, so I'm not reminded of the problems with it, just dumping the thing completely and settling for new separate machines... Did I mention 2020 sucks?
    Last edited by Peter Lashley; 10-11-2020 at 3:25 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    So Cal
    Posts
    2,897
    What jointer are you thinking about getting. I’ve never been a believer in combo machines and have separate jointer and planer. I’ve had to wear many hats to pursue this craft electrician,mechanic,maintenance man, janitor,designer. The list goes on.
    Where are you located i am pretty good at setting up a jointer. I also have precision straight edges up to 5 ft.
    Maybe get it setup to sell and buy something you feel confident to work on?

    Good Luck
    Aj

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Yorktown, VA
    Posts
    2,630
    Sorry this happened. Do you think your DIY repair of the March problem may have caused this? The freshly exposed bare metal under the hinge bolts makes me wonder. Any chance it can be bent back if you remove the tables...and do you think this is the cause of the concave jointing?

  4. #4
    While reading through your post it made me think of a wrecked car that is never the same again. Hopefully not the case with your tool.

    I know nothing about this tool but if the piece that is bent is steel, it can be bent back. If it is an aluminum alloy, it would probably crack. But not steel. It may be distorted still from the flexing but the bend appears fairly small so it might not be noticable. I have been accused of being a hammer mechanic before but that is the tool I would probably reach for - probably with a piece of wood between it and the tool.

    I am sure I would be at least as frustrated but it might not be time to give up yet.

  5. #5
    Thanks all,

    Ted,

    the March repair was just the cutter block assembly and I didnít have to touch the tables or hinges at all during that process. It seems the bent part of frame, that the hinge rests on, has the effect of skewing the entire infeed table and not letting it rest inline with the cutter. My belief is this is whatís causing the concave jointing. I donít know if I get the table off the frame will take to bending back, I was thinking c-clamps or as Jim suggested, a hammer.

    i was just looking at the table and seeing what it would take to pull it and try and bend back the frame if possible then reseat the hinge and table. Not sure on removing the table as it doesnít budge at all and the thru hinge bolts arenít moving an inch. Dont know if I can remove the table from the hinge, then with the weight off get the hinge free...

    Andrew, thanks for the offer. Iím up in the Thousand Oaks area. Seeing as how the bent frame is pushing the table out of alignment, Iíd have to get that repaired or realigned before I can calibrate it but if so, Iíd be extremely grateful for any chance to get it reset.

    Appreciate the help and ideas.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Yorktown, VA
    Posts
    2,630
    Taking off the table is probably a two man job, but if you don't have access to extra hands, maybe an engine hoist and good straps to help lift off the table. Not sure what kind of clamping power you'd need to bend 1/4", but you should be able to rig something with blocks and a small bottle jack, or buy a new tool and get one of these HF hydraulic kits and use the wedge attachment with some blocks

  7. #7
    Peter,
    I'm sorry to hear about this. I sure understand your frustration. Ted mentioned your repair causing this. But I'm wondering if the bent metal occurred as part of the damage when the machine jammed originally - additional damage you just didnt see until now? A machine jam can exert a lot of force.

    I agree with the idea of trying to bend it back into alignment if you can.

    I hope you get it back into good working order.
    Fred
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  8. #8
    Progress!

    Thanks to everyone, especially Jim and Ted!!! Got the table off and with that weight off, got the hinge to wriggle free! The entire frame bracket was distorted on both sides but I guess Iím now a hammer mechanic because Jimís suggestion did most of the trick getting it back to shape. A little more hand tool work and itís only the slightest bit out of true and the table appears to now be sitting properly inline with the cutter head! I keep opening and closing the table expecting it to suddenly fall apart but itís holding steady for now.

    Im still doubtful on my ability to get her re-calibrated but you guys got me to literally take another wack at it and seemingly now fixed what I thought was a fatal injury to the machine. So I suppose thereís hope yet. Iím going to quit for the day while Iím ahead and try and see if itís aligned enough now to calibrate in a few days.

    I guess dealing with this thing for so long, finding that bent frame was the last straw and sent me over the edge.

    Really appreciate the encouragement to not throw in the towel and the advice on working a fix!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    NW Indiana
    Posts
    2,687
    Wow...You have gone thru a lot and glad you got it working again.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Perth, Australia
    Posts
    7,967
    One positive about 2020, Peter, is the education you have received. For sure, by this stage, you have lost all fear of diving into the bowels of your machinery. My reaction at the start would have been to call out Felder.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  11. #11
    Good for you!
    "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
    - Sir Edmund Burke

  12. #12
    Glad to hear you are making progress.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Yorktown, VA
    Posts
    2,630
    Glad you're getting it sorted out. I had a devil of a time getting my A3-31 tables lined up and they are still not as good as I'd like. I'm waiting for winter shop time to spend the extra time to calibrate further. Good luck!
    Last edited by Ted Calver; 10-12-2020 at 11:48 PM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    So Cal
    Posts
    822
    Peter, glad that you seemed to have resolved your issues. I second Derek's perspective. I have a Minimax CU300 combo and had to work on it several times (electrical components, primarily). While it is annoying having to repair the machine instead of woodworking, at this point I feel like I can fix most anything that could go wrong with the machine. Hope you feel the same, especially after a little time passes and you enjoy using the machine again...

    Quote Originally Posted by Derek Cohen View Post
    One positive about 2020, Peter, is the education you have received. For sure, by this stage, you have lost all fear of diving into the bowels of your machinery. My reaction at the start would have been to call out Felder.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Seattle WA
    Posts
    404
    I recently sold my A3-31 that I bought used for a fantastic price on Craigslist. They are not worth what they cost new at all. I ended up getting a Jet 8" with a helical head AND a Dewalt DW735 for only $200 more than what I sold the Felder for. A helical for the A3 was $1100 alone. The dewalt lunchbox can easily be stored under a work table, so its not like the 2 machines take up much more room than the felder. I cannot imagine paying $5000 for combo machine with REALLY short beds, then having to turn around and pay even more money for extension tables.

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