When we last left off 116 days ago, my planer had a blown bearing. It was an effort of monumental proportions to disassemble the thing to get to it, taking several days spread over weeks or months – whenever I had time and motivation to figure out how to get deeper into it. Removing the bearing showed the shaft had been peened to fit the bearing, and several people suggested that that was what caused the failure. Peened shafts are likely not concentrically aligned with the bearing, and at the high speeds and vibrations at which planers operate, it probably just shook the bearing apart.
I’ve been unemployed for over 5 months now, money steadily draining away, so I’ve not been able to get a new planer, nor order about $90 in parts for this thing. I did order the $4 replacement bearing, however. Then I tried to rig up something with holes drilled in large blocks of wood and several Bessey K-Body clamps. That didn’t work at all. You really need a hydraulic press for this, especially with the rough, peened shaft. I tried tapping it on with a hammer, but soon it was wedged tightly enough that I had to break out the gear puller again to get it free, and it looked like I bent the side up a bit, so that was over. I shelved it all in frustration again for months.
Recently I got it in me again to give it a go. I walked to the hardware store, which didn’t have any bearings of that shape, as figured. I took a look at the replacement bearing – the side was a little bent, but that was only the cap. The bearing still rolled smoothly and in-plane. Maybe I could try it once more. I did, and it failed again. I repeat, it’s not possible to put a very tight bearing on a shaft without proper press equipment.
I decided to call Craftsman and relate my troubles. Their improper build likely caused the trouble. The planer is years old now, but has only been used less than 10 hours in all that time. I haven’t planed much at all, mostly because it’s the loudest tool I own by far, and I live in a tiny neighborhood and seem to only find free time late at night. I told the customer support lady that any help she could offer would be appreciated, as I’ve been out of work almost half a year, and can’t afford a new planer, and even getting the parts replaced is rough. I asked if there was a way to get the cutterhead with the bearings already in place. There wasn’t. She basically had no alternatives for me, and there was a lot of silence on her end of the phone, as she had no idea what to do for me. She kept trying to push me to buy the 3 parts – bearings and cutterhead – ‘just so I’d have them’ if I figured out a way to get the bearings pressed on.
In the end I told her I’d have to think about it, as this was a big purchase now with how little money I have remaining, and she said “I understand, and I wanted to let you know that we have a really good offer today on new siding for your home. Would you be interested in that?” There was a really long pause as I tried to comprehend what had just happened. I just told her I’m flat broke and needed some help getting this jalopy of a tool back in order, and she offered nothing but “Oh well, nothing I can do,” and then rubbed it in by trying to sell me something very expensive and completely unrelated. I finally broke the silence and said “I’m completely broke, remember?” She still didn’t give up. “So… does that mean your not interested in the siding?”
Customer support ain’t what it used to be. I might get the parts and find a local machine shop to press them together for me, because $95 is a lot less than $400-$500, which is what this and the newer models cost new, but I’m done with Craftsman. I’ve had other problems with them in the past. It’s funny how badly one customer support rep can tarnish a company, but she sure did it. I’m even too angered to consider shopping at Sears again, and I won’t be recommending either to anyone.
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator