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These modern machines aren’t just for space-constrained carpenters.
I have a beautiful carpentry, but it wasn’t always like that. I started with a contractor saw in the garage. Some time later I moved to a larger house where I could have a dedicated shop. One of the first things I bought for the new store was a vintage 16“ planer. That plane produced a lot of snipe and the dust chute got clogged when I ran wide boards through it. Then I bought a nice 13“ planer lunchbox, but kept the larger one “just in case”. Next, I added a 6“ jointer. I finally had everything I needed to effectively work with rough sawn lumber, but that jointer left a lot to be desired and I started looking for something better.
A few years ago, a friend got a 16“ jointer / planer combo machine, and is thrilled with it. He talked about perfect cuts from the helical cutting head and how nice it was to have a wide joint. Then another friend of mine told me about his 12 years“ combined car and how much he liked it. With the limited space in my basement, it seemed like the way to go for me.
A combined jointer / planer machine is just that. It is a machine that converts from jointer to planer and uses a single cutting head for both operations. Combo machines have been the norm in Europe for decades, but are becoming more and more popular in the United States. And for good reason, beyond just saving space.
Small footprint compared to separate jointer and plane.
The need to leave space in the shop only for an entrance area and an exit area
Much less expensive than a comparable set of jointer and planer machines.
Most of these machines are available with helical carbide cutting heads.
Expensive. While they are less expensive than comparable separate machines, they usually require a high initial cost.
It takes some time to go from joining to planing.
Heavy and difficult to move in basement shops.
Things to consider
Jointer tables on 16 “machines require more effort to lift than 12” machines.
It will require 220 volt wiring.
It takes getting used to the European jointer guard, but some people love them.
Ask the seller if there are any upcoming discounts or sales.
Desktop extensions aren’t available from all manufacturers, so be sure to check if this matters to you.
Switching from jointer to planer
it’s similar on most combo machines, but they’re not all exactly alike. Again, try them out before placing your order.
Need for updating
I wanted at least 10“ of splice capacity and 16“ of gliding ability. I also wanted a helical cutting head. I considered keeping my two planes and buying a 12“ jointer, but I finally decided for a 16“ combined machine. The advantages of a combined machine in my space are:
Small footprint. I could replace my three cars with only one.
Requires less space than separate machines. For example, emerging a 9‘ advice requires nine 9‘ of play on both the inlet and outlet sides. With separate machines you need this space for each machine, but with a combo machine you only need it once.
Extra splicing capability. I would like to I was thrilled with a 12“ jointer, but 16“ it was like going
With a new combined machine I might have a carbide helical cutting head for both joining and planning and wouldn’t have to worry about sharpening multiple sets of straight blades.
Several companies offer 12“ machines, but there are fewer options for 16“ cars. After much research and tormented by the decision, I chose the Hammer A3-41 with a helical cutting head. For me, this met my needs in terms of price, functionality and quality. It was by far the most expensive car I’d ever bought, but it was worth it. I found an end-of-year special, and it’s a lifelong machine. I will never need to buy a jointer or a plane again.
I have added some accessories. The plane doesn’t have an exit table, so I bought a 16“ extendable table for the exit almost always attached. The jointer table is 70“ long, which is fine for most furniture projects, but I wanted to be prepared for anything, so I bought another tabletop extension for that. I don’t use the extensions on the splicer very often and when I need them I also “borrow” the one from the plane (they are interchangeable), which extends the jointer table to 102“. Hammer also offers a mechanical height indicator for the plane that mounts in the handwheel and I’ve added a mobility kit as well. The planer height indicator allows for repeatable cuts that are accurate to within a few thousand inches.
My car arrived about two months after I ordered it. It weighs 650 lbs and my shop is in the basement of my house, so I hired pianists to take it in and down the stairs for me. The setup was pretty straightforward. A little cleaning, add a plug to the end of the cord, mount the fence and I was good to go.
I was initially disappointed as there was some snipe from the plane and I was unable to adjust the splicer output table. I called Hammer and they sent a factory technician from Delaware to my home in Minnesota to fix it. Their customer service is outstanding! Everything was perfect when he finished the adjustments and things are still made up after a year of use and moving in my shop. I couldn’t be happier with how well everything works.
The jointer has an aluminum fence. It looks a little weak compared to a cast iron fence on a traditional jointer, but there were no problems and it works great. The blade guard is also different from what I’m used to. It has a European blade guard rather than a “pork chop” guard like the one that was on my 6“ jointer.
The guard is a thin piece of aluminum that extends over the entire cutting head. Instead of moving when a board passes over the cutting head, a European blade guard stays stationary and the board passes under it. Some people love European blade guards, but I had a hard time getting used to them. One of the problems is that the guard protrudes beyond the side of the machine when adjusting the stop for narrow boards or edge seams. My job was to buy an additional blade guard and cut it into two shorter pieces. I now have guards in three different lengths. The shorter blade guards don’t hinder me when I’m joining narrow boards.
The glide function looks familiar, like both of my old 16’s“ and lunchbox versions and is easy to use. It doesn’t have a power table, but surprisingly that doesn’t affect how it works.
Switching from Jointer to Planer
It only takes about 40 seconds, but I still try to minimize the frequency with which I change between splicer and plane. This means that I try to tackle and join all my pieces for one build before shimming them. There are still times when I need to go back and forth, but it’s forced me to be more efficient, which isn’t bad.
Exchange is a four-step operation:
Unlock and raise the jointer table.
Reposition the dust cover for planing.
Raise the plane table as desired thickness.
Engage the planer drive rollers.
The jointer table on my 16“ the machine is quite heavy and requires some effort to lift it. Some of my friends are 12“ the cars and theirs are not that heavy. The extra effort to lift the 16“ The jointer table isn’t a puzzle at all, but it’s something to consider.
I am very satisfied with my decision to purchase a combination machine. I was surprised at how much space it freed up in my shop (despite being a great machine to start with). Having a wide splicer has greatly improved my work process and I love the finishing of the helical cutting head! PW
Charlie Kocourek is a carpenter and inventor of the height-adjustable Jack Bench. You can see more of his work at jack-bench.com.
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