By today’s standards in N. American machinery the K5 is not impressive in terms of power or capacity. When these were still available they were priced at around $1400 I think and that was 20-30 years ago. Mine is 1983 vintage.
Now I have some really good machinery and I didn’t need the K5 but I had an opportunity to get one at a good price and I am curious about the engineering of European combination machines. I’ve owned several INCA combo machines and a Robland for awhile.
The Kity has a 5” jointer, a 5” thickness planer, and a x-y slot mortising table that mounts to the planer bed. This is by far the coolest part of the machine and the main reason I bought it. I don’t intend to use the mortising table because 1) due to the direction the jointer/planer cutterhead spins it requires left-hand end mills and I have right-hand ones, 2) the chuck is too small to take 1/2” shanks, and 3) I already have a more robust slot mortising machine and 4) I don’t have a need to do slot mortising on job sites. Still I should mention that the x-y table on the KITY is very similar to the INCA ones and equally well made. In fact I’d say it’s the part of the machine that exudes the most quality and I suspect that’s because KITY used it on higher-end machines as well. At some point maybe I’ll set it up with a router as the engine.
While I’m writing about INCA I should mention that I believe the French-made INCA machines were made in the same factory as the KITY machines and that KITY borrowed some engineering ideas from INCA. KITY machines use a lot more formed sheet metal parts while INCA machines use mostly Injection Molded Cast Aluminum (which is what “INCA” stands for) for the same sort of parts.
The power unit, 1 HP motor, is mounted to the base of the table saw. The saw is pretty chintzy in terms of how the tilt works and the blade raises and lowers. Very chintzy in fact. There is no positive stop for a 90 degree angle to the table and the “trunions” are just slotted pieces of sheet metal. The design does keep the weight down and the cost of manufacture as well. All the tables are nicely finished anodized cast aluminum, so it’s not like the machine is cheap through and through, it just makes a lot of compromises.
The table saw does have some cool things about it though. It takes a riving knife, which mine didn’t include. The rails can be slid to the left or right to support cuts and 2 support tables are included. The fence is kind of lame and you have to clamp it at both ends. The saw is certainly not designed for heavy work at all, but I’m actually thrilled because the miter gauge is well made and has this right-angle casting with allows it to be used for cutting tapers.
The shaper is small but well though-out. I didn’t test it because using this shaper doesn’t interest me. When these machines came out the small spindle moulders (shaper) was what people in Europe used, since handheld routers were expensive and the explosion of supply of 1/2” shank router bits had not occurred yet. These days a 1/2” router inverted in a simple table will outperform this little KITY shaper in many ways at not much cost… so unless you were to acquire a K5 with a whole bunch of cutters for the moulder I would recommend investing your tooling dollars in router cutters instead.
In the past I owned a larger KITY shaper with a 1.5 HP motor and used it for a few jobs. It was a compact and neatly engineered little machine, but underpowered. It had a really cool little sliding table I was sad to part with when I sold it. This shaper appears on a higher end KITY 5-in1 combo models and the sliding table can be moved to the table saw as well. On a later version of the K5 the mortiser runs on its own motor, the jointer/planer is bigger and in fact the whole machine is bigger and more robust.
Now you have to understand that I bought this machine to take it apart and use it as a jobsite tool. I have little use for the shaper so I took everything off the stand and disassembled the stand. I am going to use the jointer/planer and table saw only as a portable unit for installations where a little jointer and planer would be most useful. I mentioned earlier that the saw’s miter gauge is usable for cutting tapered filler strips, which are needed often installations and hassle to cut safely on site with most common jobsite power tools. Really, ask anybody who does installations. The ability to cut tapers and manipulate straightness and thickness of small parts on a jobsite are difficult to do quickly and safely without bringing a lot of conventional gear. The table saw and jointer/planer combo however solves that problem in a compact package that is light enough for one person to carry up stairs.