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Hammer A3-31 an updated Review

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Review by Kopion posted 11-21-2014 11:13 PM 12040 views 0 times favorited 34 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Hammer A3-31 an updated Review No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I’m going to start from the beginning: I first contacted Felder/Hammer (just “Felder” from here on out) around spring of 2012, a few months before I was going to go back to school (while still working). Not having a Jointer and Planer was really interfering with my woodworking project list (there’s only so much you can do with plywood and borrowing others’ machines, right?). I spoke with their salesperson and he was pretty quick to provide me with a quote (I only really considered the straight-knife cutterblock, though from what Felder’s management and their tech suggested to me, I’m very much missing out by not having the sprial head cutterblock. I absolutely believe them, by the way. When the technician found out I was using the straight knife block, he genuinely seemed disappointed for me!)

I almost pulled the trigger at that point in 2012 – I had signed the agreement and done everything but send it over. Looking at the next two years, though, I didn’t see any time for “fun”, so I waited. “My” salesperson didn’t pressure me at all. I called back once or twice during that two years just to check in, but the price was holding relatively steady. I finished the program in July of this year (2014), and placed the order. Initially, I purchased the machine, the mobility kit, and the digital handwheel kit. I followed up shortly with an order of the extension table for the outfeed side of the planer and a set of cobalt knives. I didn’t mind forking over the money for the machine, and though the shipping was initially a surprise (two years prior), I had gotten over it. And, while I thought that the digital handwheel may have a little bit expensive, it really didn’t bother me (it works very well, by the way, a must have). But, the price of the mobility kit really left a bad taste in my mouth. It is absolutely very well constructed, and is perfect for what I need (and the Felder technician whom I eventually met with assured me that they’re not earning excessively high margin on the accessories), but it is something that just seems to cost too much. They’re made in Austria, too, though, so there’s going to be a price for that. And it isn’t though I had to buy it, after all. A minor thing to be sure, but it can almost overwhelm a buyer out of buying the machine if mobility is something the buyer must have (which I do).

I’m going to make some recommendations along the way, and here is the first one: While the mobility kit works for my purposes (just like the integrated mobile base on my sawstop mostly worked for my purposes), I upgraded the mobile base on the sawstop to the hydraulic mobile base. Now, THAT is a mobility kit! If Felder had made a hydraulic mobile base available, I would have happily paid for it. Such a nice machine deserves an awesome mobility kit! Think how you could even further distance yourself from your competition! Ok, back to my narrative . . .

After I forwarded the agreement and payment info, the salesperson said that another individual at Felder would be following up. The next day I received confirmation from that individual who kept me up to date on shipping. Maybe I’m lucky that I live in a part of the country that is a central hub for transportation, but I had the machine in no time (If memory serves, it was three business days, and definitely no more than 4 – and that’s placing the order very near the close of business). So, Felder gets high marks with respect to shipping the machine timely.

The machine arrived in a bombproof crating arrangement. It really was something else. The “main” base of the “pallet” (in quotes because it was much more than just a pallet) was a combination of steel and wood, and the whole thing was screwed (make sure you have the correct Torx bit for your driver) down extremeley well . . . so well that it probably took more time to get the machine uncrated than the rest of the setup! Plan on having a bonfire with all of the pallet wood!

After I had removed all of the screws, it was time to remove the machine from the “pallet”. As tempting as it was, I resisted the urge to lift the machine off the crate with my chain hoist. You may have read elsewhere that Felder recommends a pallet jack and ramp to get the machine off. That’s great if you have a pallet jack around, which I don’t/didn’t. Since I had the mobility kit, I ended up mounting the mobility kit while the machine was still on the “pallet”, and constructing a VERY long (almost 12’) ramp and slowly and carefully wheeled the machine off the pallet. Nice and easy (if you have to factor in pallet jack rental into your cost calculation, you can justify subtracting out that amount from the price of the mobility kit . . . . at least that’s what I did, ex post facto!).

Once I removed it from the pallet, I set about giving the machine an inspection. With respect to the jointer table flatness: that process has been thoroughly documented elsewhere. At the end of the day, I have a machine that yields boards of exceptional flatness and squreness. From my conversations with Felder management, I am confident that Felder is really improving a lot of things when it comes to communicating with customers receiving and inspecting the machines. If my expectations are correct, I would expect that future purchasers of a Hammer product will not only be assured that their machine will outperform other machines in its class (or below), but will also have video and/or excellent manuals that show how some adjustments can be made, if the purchaser thinks they are warranted (which, most likely they will not). In other words, if you’re on the fence about buying one of these because of a concern for quality, I think you could safely dismount said fence and rest assured that your machine will be what you expect it to be, and probably much more. Here’s just one reason why:

When I met with the technician, he showed me how in Felder’s manufacturing process, each step is checked and documented as being checked (and by whom) for each machine. They keep this on record for each machine. Consider the accountability that this produces. If there’s ever a problem with a machine, they can go back to the exact time, date and individual to attribute the error. I’ve been to a good number of manufacturing facilities – from Mercedes to ThyssenKrupp, and I’ve never seen anything quite like that (of course, Mercedes is all robots). Moreover, I can do all but guarantee that Felder’s competitors are not doing things this way. It’s another good reason why this machine costs more than a Jet or Grizzly (in addition to the superior design, engineering and overall quality, not to mention the location in which it is made).

I’ll restate what I said about the above-mentioned technician with whom I met: He (I’m not using his name, because I didn’t ask him if I could) was EXACTLY what you would want from a company like Felder. He was professional, kind, and you could tell he cared a lot about Felder – he takes pride in his company as if it was his own (side note: I also work for a family-owned company that is a little larger, but not too much larger than Felder, and family-owned companies that can instill the kind of pride that Felder has instilled in [this particular technician] are doing a lot right in most areas of their company. I can’t say enough good things about him.

Before I move to the rest of the inspection, I want to comment on what some have commented to be a downfall of the “euro-style” machines. Some say that the design of the lifting tables will cause there to be an inherent instability in the table flatness over time as they are raise and lowered. Is that true? Sure, but the flipside is that the tables can be adjusted over time to try to address that problem. I’m not a metallurgist, but my understanding is that when a traditional dovetail-style jointer’s tables start to sag, there’s no going back short of having the thing reground. Just keep that in mind.

While I’m on the jointer tables, I’ll just go ahead and mention that lifting of the tables is a breeze. I’m sure I could do it with one or two fingers if I tried. There’s also a spring (or more) that keeps them from crashing down hard once they’re up. In fact, the whole changeover process is a breeze. Tables up, flip the dust hood, raise the table, engage the feed rollers, and you’re in business. A minute or less if you’re good at cranking the wheel.

So, what about the rest of the initial setup and adjustment? Well, armed with my One-Way multi-gauge, my straight edge and feeler gauges, I went about checking for coplanarity of the jointer tables. How long did it take me to adjust? Zero minutes and zero seconds. If you followed my earlier review, you know that I care about thousandths, and still, no adjustment was needed for coplanarity (including the height of the outfeed table with respect to the cutterhead blades – all three of them). It was perfect “right out of the box”, so to speak. Thank you to whichever Felder employees in Austria made that happen!!!

There’s nothing to adjust on the planer. Assembly of the handwheel was a no-brainer. Felder initially sent me the wrong wheel (that counted the wrong way), but it was quickly replaced when I let them know. A note to Felder: put that wheel in a box, please. Mine (the first one that I received) was just placed inside the plastic surrounding the machine itself, and went flying toward my car (I caught it in midair) when I was pulling off the packaging. No harm, no foul.

The other thing that people will gripe about is the “cord” that comes with the machine. Bottom line is that in all likelihood, you’ll have to add your own cord and definitely will have to add your own plug to the machine. I’m guessing, but don’t know for sure, that Felder doesn’t bother with a “real” cord because they have no idea what the end use is going to be. Is it going to be mobile? Is it going to be stationary? Festool puts super-long cords on their vacs because they know that the thing is going to be pulled all over the place at one time or another. But Felder shouldn’t be expected to know whether the user will need 4, 8, 12, or a 20 ft cord. I know it is an irratant for others, but again, for me, it wasn’t a big deal. Just know that you’ll have to make that adjustment when you receive the machine and it won’t bother you either.

In terms of how Felder explains the operation of the machine, really the only thing that I would point out as a shortcoming is the feed roller mechanism. Had there not been a youtube video on it (I watched every youtube video out there and read every review on the machine before I bought it (I even set up a google alert for “Hammer A3”)), I could have missed it altogether. If you’re buying one of these, you should know that it is important to disengage the feed rollers whenever the machine is in “jointing” mode. This fact is barely mentioned in the manual, and the “sticker” on the machine isn’t immediately intuitive. It’s a minor issue , and if you seach youtube, there is apparently a way to build your own “alert” system in case you forget. I’d gladly pay for someone to make one for me :).

I hope that this comes as a well-balanced and objective review with suggestions and not as complaints. As it was, post adjustment, the machine is very close to perfect. It is well constructed and produces fantastic results. For my purposes, it is exactly what I need. It tucks away nicely when not in use, and is the absolutely only way that I’m going to get a 12” jointer (let alone a planer) in my garage. By the way, do you need a 12” jointer? Well, I’m on my first project after getting the machine squared away, and I’ve already used at least 10” of that width, so I’d say absolutely! The Hammer A3-31 is a very impressive machine and is certainly capable of producing fantastic results. What’s more, I don’t even have the spiral cutterhead, so if you order the machine with that option, you’re likely going to be blown away.

Some of the above may seem like a lot of minor nitpicking – because, by and large, it is minor nitpicking. If you’re buying the machine for results, you’re buying the right machine. If the machine is so great, why did I only give it four stars? The answer is simple, but it may seem petty. The machine itself gets five stars, and it would have sustained that five star rating even though I did end up having to meet with the technician. But, during the process when Felder and I were sorting some issues out, one of their employees sent an email about me to another customer. Without going into the subject matter of the email, it was that email that lost the 5th (and almost the fourth) star. You probably won’t have that happen to you, so in all likelihood, it will be a five star machine for you. Happy woodworking!




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Kopion

17 posts in 1440 days



34 comments so far

View ontheworkbench's profile

ontheworkbench

55 posts in 1712 days


#1 posted 11-21-2014 11:50 PM

This review seems rather suspicious, given that the previous review was so negative, then it was pulled down and replaced with this review, which reads like it was written by a PR person for Felder.

View Kopion's profile

Kopion

17 posts in 1440 days


#2 posted 11-21-2014 11:54 PM



This review seems rather suspicious, given that the previous review was so negative, then it was pulled down and replaced with this review, which reads like it was written by a PR person for Felder.

- ontheworkbench

I assure you that it wasn’t. Nor did Felder ask me to pull down the review (though they did ask that I pull down the youtube video). I’ve had a lot of conversations with Felder, and they’ve communicated a lot of different ways that they will prevent my experience from happening again. Because I believe that they will, I think the above review is much more relevant to a would-be purchaser than my initial review. If you want to message me directly, or even phone me, I’ll be happy to discuss.

View Paul's profile

Paul

721 posts in 1711 days


#3 posted 11-22-2014 04:53 AM

Your horrendous testimony, spitting on the company, etc has turned into fairy tales and unicorns? Paint me pessimistic.

Paul

View gtbuzz's profile

gtbuzz

427 posts in 2588 days


#4 posted 11-22-2014 01:51 PM

I’ll have to admit, this does seem weird after the original review. There was a huge issue with table flatness before but suddenly it’s not a problem anymore? Did Felder come through and make some fixes / replacements for you?

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ChuckV

3171 posts in 3674 days


#5 posted 11-22-2014 02:27 PM

Why would the original review be retitled and reduced to a link to here? It was titled:
Tables are not flat, and Customer Service is lackluster.

How does anything that happened recently change the fact that the customer service was horrible at first?

I never understand why the stories about having to go through all sorts of gyrations to get a problem solved are presented as a good thing. I don’t want to have to get to know the CEO of every company I deal with. I want the customer service department to do what it is expected to do.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

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ontheworkbench

55 posts in 1712 days


#6 posted 11-22-2014 05:25 PM



Why would the original review be retitled and reduced to a link to here? It was titled:
Tables are not flat, and Customer Service is lackluster.

How does anything that happened recently change the fact that the customer service was horrible at first?

I never understand why the stories about having to go through all sorts of gyrations to get a problem solved are presented as a good thing. I don t want to have to get to know the CEO of every company I deal with. I want the customer service department to do what it is expected to do.

- ChuckV

I agree 100%

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ontheworkbench

55 posts in 1712 days


#7 posted 11-22-2014 05:30 PM


(though they did ask that I pull down the youtube video).

- Kopion

I think this speaks for its self, if Felder send a unit with warped or twisted tables as was shown in the original video, then that is just factual. I saw the feeler gauges fit under the straight edge in various places. Removing the video seems like it was a PR move by Felder, unless you had a warped straight edge. In any case, and even more so now with the revised review, I’ll stay away from Felder.

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Manitario

2631 posts in 3029 days


#8 posted 11-23-2014 01:06 AM

The frustration and crap that Felder gave the O.P. before finally stepping up speaks far louder than any fix that Felder did and/or their promises to do better in the future. This sanitized, whitewashed version of the original review seems oddly out of place after the expressed frustration in the first review.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View iminmyshop's profile

iminmyshop

287 posts in 2140 days


#9 posted 11-23-2014 08:17 PM

This is an odd update. Other than to whitewash the original problems, there was really no point in starting a new thread. An update can always be tagged on to a post as a comment and those following the thread will see it.

-- http://www.alansfinewoodworking.com/

View BinghamtonEd's profile

BinghamtonEd

2298 posts in 2516 days


#10 posted 11-24-2014 02:36 PM



I hope that this comes as a well-balanced and objective review with suggestions and not as complaints. – Kopion

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Not only did you take down the other review in which you detailed the horrendous customer service and your displeasure in the product you received, you never even mention being upset at all. Clearly the only way to get acceptable customer service from them is to give them a lot of bad PR, and finally they’ll come around and try to shut you up, er, sorry, make it right.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View UpstateNYdude's profile

UpstateNYdude

917 posts in 2129 days


#11 posted 11-24-2014 02:59 PM

Seriously, this seems copied and pasted from a PR rep at Felder, in the original review he was irate and there was no love lost, but somehow now your as cool and calm as ever. Unless they gave you a new machine or refunded you entirely and fixed the old one, which after your last review was very unlikely to happen, or you’ve been taken hostage and forced to write this…blink twice if yes once for no.

-- Nick, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” – Vincent Van Gogh

View Kopion's profile

Kopion

17 posts in 1440 days


#12 posted 11-24-2014 03:17 PM

I appreciate the feedback here, and believe me, I understand what you’re saying (I’m the one that went through it, after all!). I’m sticking by my position that a review is for the benefit of future consumers. Contrary to some of the statements above, I did allude to my previous experience with Felder in this review. But if Felder has (or soon will have) altered the way in which they handle cases like mine, and still produce a machine whose fit and finish is superior to something like a Jet or a Powermatic (and not made in China), then why shouldn’t consumers be aware of that, too? For me, the only other option would be a Minimax J/P (I do love my Minimax MM16), but they don’t seem very widespread. Take it for what it’s worth.

View BinghamtonEd's profile

BinghamtonEd

2298 posts in 2516 days


#13 posted 11-24-2014 03:26 PM

I think part of the problem is that Felder is not in a negative light now, which is a complete 180 from your original interview. Also, this :

“But if Felder has (or soon will have) altered the way in which they handle cases like mine”

I think that one should not have to post scathing reviews and youtube videos to get proper customer service. “Cases like mine” does not mean “unhappy customers”, it means “cases which are detrimental to sales”.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Matt Przybylski's profile

Matt Przybylski

566 posts in 2524 days


#14 posted 11-24-2014 04:40 PM

To follow up on what Ed said and that particular portion that he quoted, there is no way to know if Felder is actually going to follow through and make videos and updates to the text that the Austrians apparently have told the Americans countless times not to do. Your review shouldn’t be based on what you think will happen rather what did happen to you. While I appreciate you clearing the air I think it’s unfortunate that you don’t include what you went through to get to where you are today. As someone who did read the original it’s now stuck in my mind that I may have to jump through the same hoops to get a machine of the caliber that I actually ordered and who knows how Felder would handle my situation.

Also, a future reader may see this and say “whoa, an employee sent an email about you to someone else and it was bad enough to knock off almost two stars? What was in that email? What happened that that email had to be sent in the first place?” That would raise suspicion to me as a potential buyer and make me think otherwise about the purchase. I think you’d do well in explaining what transpired in a not-so-hateful way for everyone’s benefit instead of sounding like your new best friend is the CEO of Felder :)

-- Matt, Arizona, http://www.reintroducing.com

View lj61673's profile

lj61673

261 posts in 2546 days


#15 posted 11-24-2014 08:30 PM



I m sticking by my position that a review is for the benefit of future consumers.

Then why delete your original impressions and observations? Were they not valid? How does a potential future customer benefit from their exclusion?


Take it for what its worth.

At this point, nothing.

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