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Solid Combo Machine

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Review by Goodsh posted 03-09-2017 08:23 PM 2061 views 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Solid Combo Machine Solid Combo Machine No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Introduction

I bought this in 2014 and have now used it enough (and procrastinated enough) that it’s time to do a review. It’s a long one because when I was shopping for this there were no reviews anywhere and now I’m in the same boat with no reviews of table saws I’m looking at so I decided I needed to pay it forward and do my part by doing a detailed review. Hopefully someone finds it useful.

In making this purchase I looked at a number of alternatives. I looked at 10” combo machines decided against them because of poor reviews (of the Jet) and less durable design than the 12” models. I wanted something that would last and that I wouldn’t want to replace within a few years. I considered the Jet, Grizzly and Baileigh machines. All were all more expensive. The Rikon was $1750 Canadian and next closest was Baileigh at $1750 US plus $400 for delivery. So, basically, I purchased the Rikon by default. It was a 12” combo machine in the price range and I could pick it up at the store myself. There were few online reviews so I relied heavily on a positive review from Fine Woodworking. Rikon has now upgraded its machine to the 50-210 and they have actually addressed a number of the issues I have. The lighting isn’t great in my garage so the pictures are a bit lacking.

Machine summary:
12” jointer/planer combination machine
3hp, 220 v
3 HSS knives
Jointer bed length is 49”
Fence is 6” by 43”
Packing was solid and assembly very easy. There wasn’t really much to do.

Fit and finish/quality of tool

I’d say the fit and finish are good. Not great. The washer for the bolt to tighten the in-feed table is bent. The plastic caps on the end of the fence fall off and the end of the fence scrapes on the in-feed table and has left scratches on it (see picture). When it arrived bolts holding the planer table hand wheel were loose. The milling of the cast iron is a bit rough. These are cosmetic issues and not a big deal and don’t impact functionality at all.

Fence

The fence is a bit finicky to set to 90 degrees but once done it stays put. It stays true when moving the fence forward and back and along the length of the fence. The adjustments for the fence are four set screws on the bottom of the base that attaches to the table and four set screws where the fence attaches to the fence rod. If you need to adjust the fence I recommend only using the screws on the fence and also playing with the angle adjuster first as that may be sufficient. Tightening the fence will move it very slightly so you have to take that into account when setting up. I never use the 45 degree angle so can’t say anything about it or the stops. I set it and 90 and never change it. The fence is mounted on a cast iron rod for sliding back and forth. I see they have redesigned the fence on the new model. On mine there isn’t a lot of room for the locking handles for fence movement and fence angles so they can be hard to turn and the parts can get in the way. A minor annoyance.

My fence is flat across its width but does have a small bow along its length. It is out by about .04” along its 43” length. It does the job and while I’m sure some people would be concerned with it I don’t think it needs to be perfect. Squareness to the table is what matters and I get square results. The fence has minimal play in it. Less than 1/8” at the infeed table with moderate to strong pressure. Half that at the outfeed end. There’s no need to put that kind of pressure against the fence so I doubt it flexes much in actual use.

Tables

My tables are flat. They were coplanar on delivery to within 0.005” which is acceptable to me. The tolerance of the Veritas straight edge I used for checking this is 0.003”. The tables have not shifted at all over time and remain as good as they were the day I got it. The jointer tables are ribbed. I don’t know if they still make them like this. Supposedly it helps make for smoother running of boards across a ribbed surface rather than flat and avoids an apparent “suction” that occurs with a flat bed but I don’t buy it. I think this is gimmicky nonsense. I don’t really like the ribbed table although it doesn’t impact performance at all. It makes it a bit more annoying to check flatness and coplanarness (possibly not a word…) since a straight edge isn’t sitting on a flat surface. The top of the “ribs” is the only reference surface. It also can be a bit annoying for setting knives or checking tables because you have to make sure you’re referencing properly on the top of the ribs. Nothing major. The ribs are a bit more than an 1/8th inch apart so in theory a reference 1/4” wide could be balancing on one rib and not be sitting flat. Here’s a closeup showing the ribbed table with a combo square for reference:

Raising and lowering the infeed table is very smooth and locks very securely (although the locking bolt washer is bent).

The planer table is a relatively rough finish but it works fine. It takes a lot of turns on the crank to move the table up (40 turns from bottom to top) which is a bit annoying because you have to have it all the way down for jointer mode but the mechanism is very positive and solid. It can be moved up and down in very small amounts with no backlash. There are roller bars for the outfeed side of the planer that were perfectly set out of the box.

Changeover time

In my opinion this is an overrated measure of the quality and usefulness of a combo machine. It takes probably 30 seconds. Having a combo rather than separate machines means you have to plan your work differently and shouldn’t be going back and forth a bunch. You can’t mill a board at a time. You joint everything and then you plane everything. Saving a minute or two here and there doesn’t seem like a big enough deal to choose a machine on. In my opinion people (and woodworking magazines) sometimes make way too big a deal out of changeover time. Only the outfeed table is raised during changeover. When lowered back down it goes perfectly into place, holds its coplanar position and locks very tight. Planer mode leaves the infeed table in place which can get in the way when taking short stock out of the planer. I think this is changed on the new models so that both tables raise up. You can see in this picture how little room there is but it’s a minor nuisance only.

Guard

This has the European style blade guard on it. I’ve only used another jointer with the “porkchop” style guard a few times so I don’t really know the difference. I don’t have any issues with the European style.

Use

I generally get great results. Very little snipe. Most boards come out with a very nice surface as long as the dust collection is on. If not the chips will fall into the blades and board you’re planing and cause lots of tear out. I discovered this by accident when my hose fell off. I usually take small cuts but it can easily do heavier cuts. I do get tear out on difficult wood like curly maple but recently did some hard maple and cherry that came out with a very nice finish that I just did a quick sand on to clean up. Dust collection is good. There will be some chips on the planer bed after jointing but not much. Most is taken up with my 1.5 hp dust collector. The motor on this is plenty powerful. I can easily take off 1/16” off of an 10 inch wide board without issue and have taken up to 1/8” (max capacity cut) but I usually take smaller passes to avoid tear out. I’ve milled using nearly the full blade width without bogging the motor down. When I mill a board it is flat and consistent. Using a dial caliper I will typically have a flat board with consistent thickness to +/- 0.003”.

Blades and cutter head

Blades are hard to set because there are springs but no set screws. Set screws would have made this so much easier and would have been a minor thing to include. I find it hard to use some jigs because the cutterhead often moves while tightening screws. It’s hard to hold or wedge the cutterhead securely in place. I think they include set screws on newer machines so it would be much easier. It also came with a knife setting jig that I find to be useless and for which no instructions were provided.

I did have an issue with a knife lockbar. One of the screws stripped in place and lockbar and knife were stuck in the cutterhead. I had to cut the screw off to get the lockbar out. Rikon was great though and sent me three new ones in a week (only needed one).

One problem here is that the blades are a bit shorter than width of cutterhead but must be installed slightly closer to one side of the cutterhead rather than exactly centered. This is because if they are perfectly centered or closer to the front of the machine they are too close to the dust chute at the front of the machine and will hit the edge of it. I learned this the hard way and now have a chip out of the corner of one blade. This is possibly unique to my machine and an issue with the placement of my dust chute but definitely something to watch for.

Manual

The manual is terrible.. I really appreciate toolmakers who put time into creating good manuals that explain assembly, operation and maintenance. This one looks to have been written by someone in the same factory where it was built which means it is at times in broken English. For example, instead of instructions on loosening bolts and “raising” the motor for changing tension on the belt we get instructed to “increase” the motor. No explanation is provided for adjusting jointer tables, planer tables, feed rollers, tensioning belts, replacing belts, etc. All of this is now in the new manual so I’ve printed it out.

Customer service

I’m very happy with Rikon’s customer service. I called with a few questions and the lockbar issue and they were great and very responsive. Also called about the fence and was told that the bow was more than they’d like to see but they didn’t think it would impact performance and to try it for a while and get back to them if it was an issue. It isn’t. 5/5 for customer service.

Summary

There are a few issues with this machine but they are minor. It’s a great machine, especially for the price. I love having 12” inches of jointer capacity and have used the extra width many times. I would definitely recommend it with the caveat that, at least at the time I bought it, it was the lowest priced 12” combo machine so you have to manage expectations. It is not going to be perfect. The attention to fine detail is not bad but a bit lacking in minor respects. You can pay double the price of this for a 12” combo machine if you want perfection. This does the job well and will do so for a long time. I’m very happy with it. I would have done 4.5 stars if that was an option.

Based on looking at the new models I think they’ve addressed a number of the issues I have so I think the new model is probably a great machine and would maybe get a 5/5 from me.

Sorry for the novel! (But hey, if you weren’t interested you should have stopped reading a while ago…) Questions or comments welcome.




View Goodsh's profile

Goodsh

68 posts in 1551 days



8 comments so far

View waho6o9's profile

waho6o9

7704 posts in 2207 days


#1 posted 03-09-2017 09:44 PM

Thanks for the great review.

View JimDaddyO's profile

JimDaddyO

487 posts in 2709 days


#2 posted 03-10-2017 01:18 PM

Thanks for the review. I was just looking at the Rikon a couple of weeks ago. It was a 10” and had a helical head with carbide inserts on display. Looks like a nice machine and the least expensive combo machine out there. It made my “want” list get longer. Your review reinforced that feeling. Like you, I would like to go to the 12” machine.

-- my blog: http://watertoneworkshop.blogspot.ca/ my You Tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA5AretE3xPoVDV61AxUdUA?view_as=subscriber

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

6669 posts in 1959 days


#3 posted 03-10-2017 02:11 PM

Thanks for taking the time to write up a thorough review.

I have a good source for very inexpensive low grade rough cut green hardwood cants, which I resaw and then store for a year in the barn loft or my basement lumber racks… but they often twist quite a bit on me.

In order to straightening these out without loosing most of the thickness, I have to go back and forth between planer and jointer… and often the workbench for hand plane work. Something I’ve had to consider when looking at combo machines.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1753 posts in 1600 days


#4 posted 03-10-2017 03:42 PM

I am going to purchase one of these types of machines. Thanks for the great review. Nice to hear about it after a few years of use too

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View Ken90712's profile

Ken90712

17276 posts in 2819 days


#5 posted 03-11-2017 03:37 PM

Very interesting, thx for the review.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View AZWoody's profile

AZWoody

811 posts in 854 days


#6 posted 03-11-2017 05:48 PM

One thing to mention is that when you see ridges like that on the face of cast iron, it’s not a rough finish. It generally means that the top was planed rather than ground, which is actually a much preferred method so even though they may have said it reduced suction and calling it a gimmick, I would be happier to see it like that. One of my vintage planers has the ridges like that. That’s how it was done in the “good old days”.

View Goodsh's profile

Goodsh

68 posts in 1551 days


#7 posted 03-11-2017 06:43 PM



One thing to mention is that when you see ridges like that on the face of cast iron, it s not a rough finish. It generally means that the top was planed rather than ground, which is actually a much preferred method so even though they may have said it reduced suction and calling it a gimmick, I would be happier to see it like that. One of my vintage planers has the ridges like that. That s how it was done in the “good old days”.

- AZWoody

I didn’t know this so thanks for the explanation. I actually had wondered how they got a ribbed surface. Also, I could have been more clear. It was the planer table I was talking about having a rough finish (not that I think it matters that much). I guess I also could have mentioned that the planer table is not ribbed like the jointer table.

View Andre's profile

Andre

1238 posts in 1436 days


#8 posted 03-12-2017 09:08 PM

Great review! I am in the process of trying to get a combo machine, 95% sure it will be the Scorpion 12”.
I have a Laguna 6” jointer with the helical head and can’t see ever going back to blades again!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

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