Hammer B3 Review
by Philip Bumbalough


Hammer B3Introduction

The Hammer B3 is a combination Tablesaw / Shaper. I ordered my machine equipped with: 3hp single phase motors, 78" sliding table with outrigger, rip fence capacity of 49", scoring saw, fence extension, tilting feeder support, and four saw blades of different sizes.

According to my research, European machines of this type are reported to have significantly better dust collection, safety, accuracy, and quality. My expectations were derived from this and a Delta Unisaw users perspective - in essence, I expected a machine that was measurably better than a Unisaw in every regard.

Delivery

I ordered my machine February 8 and was told to expect delivery at the end of April / first of May; the machine arrived June16. Depending upon delivery mode, shipping costs can be quite high compared to a couple of Delta stand-alone units.

Due to the size and weight of a combination machine, one should expect some problems from moving companies used to get the machine to the shop and expect more problems getting it off of the truck.

With regard to sample defects and missing parts, I needed to elongate 4 holes in the extension table support structure. The crosscut fence accessory shipped with a metric tape instead of the inch version, and there was a wiring problem that prevented the machine from starting.

Customer Service
A problem I had when talking to the dealer was getting a good quote prior to placing the order. It took some time to get a mutually agreeable quote and proper shipping cost.

After wiring the unit I found that it did not start. After several hours on the phone with the dealer and a few calendar days, the problem was located, it was an internal wiring error. Had I not discovered and fixed the problem, the dealer appeared to be willing to send a repairman out to fix the machine at some considerable expense to themselves.

Due to misinformation I expected the machine to be equipped with the cam-lock version of rip fence. Upon inquiry, the dealer agreed to send it to me at no cost.

I also had problems with a couple of minor parts or features. Eventually, the dealer solved all of these issues to my satisfaction.

It has always been my opinion that the best customer support number is the one that doesn't need to be called. I wasn't expecting to contact Hammer but once I did I found them to be helpful, knowledgeable, and willing to fix any problems and answer all my questions.

Safety

One reason I was attracted to a European machine was the perception of increased safety. Due to problems with the riving knife, this particular item is only about as good as the splitters used on cabinet saws. However, the saw guards do perform better and are more likely to be used than the cabinet saw equivalents.

The brake function also increases safety by reducing the temptation to remove stock near the blade while it's spinning. The brake will stop a 10" blade in 3 seconds; larger blades takes about 6 seconds.

The sliding table greatly increases safety by allowing the operator to more easily operate the machine while standing further from the cutters.

The opening around the saw blade is larger than an OEM throat plate on a cabinet saw and it is beveled on the right side. This allows small off-cuts to fall into the gap or linger near the blade tempting the operator to remove them. The leading edge of the blade can also catch an offcut and propel it into the cabinet or even on trajectories outside the cabinet.

Documentation

My initial impression of the owner's manual was high but upon further inspection I found it to be measurably deficient in assembly and alignment information as compared to similar Delta owners manuals. The assembly instructions (if any) are not as clear, the pictures are smaller, and the page count is less than similar Delta manuals.

As one example of this, there are only 10 sentences in the manual describing how to align the B3 including the options installed on my machine; there are 8 major machine features that need to have an alignment procedure.

It's not like these machines are rocket ships; I suppose if one is mechanically inclined enough to be a woodworker, one would posses the basic skills needed to assemble, align, and operate the machine without any assistance from the manufacturer - but a better manual would be nice.

Tablesaw Function

Upon turning the saw on for the first time (with a big blade in it), it seemed to be quite loud, much more so than the Unisaw it replaced. I measured the blade flange runout to be 0.00018" (one point eight ten thousandths).

Power

In comparison to the Unisaw I was used to, the 3hp motor in this machine seems to be noticeably more powerful and smoother but this is a subjective opinion.

Compared to the jump-start typical of cabinet saws, the Hammer uses a soft start feature, which eliminates the problem. In contrast to the soft start, the motor is braked upon hitting the stop switch.

Blade

It is fairly typical of Euro saws not to be able to use a dado blade and this unit is no exception. Many of the other Euro saws imported to the US are equipped with a 5/8" arbor but the Hammer line is not; it uses a European 30mm arbor and pin arraignment which means standard American blades cannot be used without modification. Due to the arbor difference, I had anticipated that blade changes would be a little more of a hassle than a cabinet saw but it appears to be about the same if not easier.

With a 10" blade the maximum blade height is 2.75", considerably less than a cabinet saw. With a larger 315mm blade the max height is 4". The blade spins 20% faster than normal due to the line frequency, I think this produces more noise and may have detrimental effects upon the quality of the cut. However this is difficult for me to prove.

Rip fence–triangle type

This fence uses a screw clamping mechanism instead of a more familiar lever clamp. The fence can also be displaced to the rear and used as a stop like the Delta Unifence. Also like the Unifence, the fence section can be rotated to present a narrow section along the blade; the fence section measured straight and the average repeatability was measured at 0.012".

In my opinion this rip fence is substandard and totally unacceptable for use especially on a machine at this price point; here are my reasons:

  • Unlike all aftermarket fences I know of, this fence has no alignment feature in the mounting head. For blade parallelism (and measuring tape) alignments the fence rails must be moved. Due to the way the fence rail assembly is designed this alignment is a bit more time consuming and involved than the alignment of common aftermarket fences. However, the unit can be aligned adequately.
  • In terms of ease of use and smoothness, this fence does not operate as well, requires more effort to slide, and is not as repeatable when compared to a Biesemeyer or Unifence.
  • This fence has three levers in a very compact space to operate the device. The triangle extrusion also has some sharp corners that should have been rounded over.
  • Compared to a Unifence, the unit will deflect about three times as much with the same amount of side force applied. This surprised me since the fence cross section is much larger than the Unifence.
  • Compared to all other rip fences I am aware of, this unit does not use a cursor to read the measuring tape; I much prefer a cursor.
Rip fence, cam lock type

I have also had the opportunity to evaluate the cam lock (B3L) rip fence. This design is reminiscent of the Delta Unifence but smaller. This fence is superior to the triangle type however it does suffer from some of the same sub-optimal design characteristics of the triangle type since it uses the same rail system. My example is bowed by about 0.006" over 24" of length. The average repeatability was measured at 0.004".

  • The B3L fence requires the same type of alignment as the triangle fence; there is no alignment mechanism in the head.
  • Compared to a Unifence, the operation of this unit is not as good, I would describe the B3L fence as "marginally adequate at best.
  • Compared to a Unifence, the unit will deflect about twice as much with the same amount of side force applied.
  • Probably due to the small head section (4"), the sliding action is more prone to binding when moved as compared to an American fence design.
Blade guard

The saw guard is clear and is equipped with a hose port on top. The guard covers the main blade but does not extend over the scoring blade. The guard does improve dust collection measurably and keeps chips from being thrown at the operator; a DC hose is not included.

The guard is not as robust as required for long term use, I already have a few cracks in mine and I expect that it will need to be replaced.

Riving knife

As mentioned previously, there is a problem with the adjustment of the riving knife. Depending on position, the knife measured out of plane to the blade by about 1/16", it was also twisted measurably and at an angle to the blade.

After asking tech support about this I was encouraged to use what I now call the "Teutonic fine alignment tool" (large Crescent wrench) to bend the (sturdy) bracket into alignment.

The riving knife itself is straight, the errors are induced by its mounting bracket. It is my assumption that this device needs to be aligned within about 0.01" for optimal performance. Since there is no way to align the knife to this degree of accuracy and this is an important safety device, it seems out of place with the proclaimed better safety features of a European machine.

Instead of bending the bracket into submission, I have temporarily adjusted the riving knife by using a tapered shim. Due to the alignment issue, I rate this device equal to the splitters used on cabinet saws.

Scoring

The scoring saw on this machine is driven via a pulley from the main saw motor. After some initial setup and tests using Melamine I could produce good results in the small samples I tried. I did not achieve 100% chip-free cuts all of the time but it was certainly much better than I could have done on a cabinet saw without scoring.

The scoring blade width is adjusted by means of three different sized shims that came with the blade. The side to side alignment and blade height adjustments are made via bolts accessed from holes in the saw top. I had expected that the scoring blade raise control would be a little inconvenient but have not found it to be so.

The scoring blade is used in what would normally be called a "climb cutting" operation but it's not difficult to control by hand when ripping and when the main blade engages, it seems to make the cutting process smoother. The maximum diameter main blade with scoring fitted is 10".

Dust Collection

I was expecting the dust collection to be greatly improved over the typical cabinet saw, by comparison this unit will allow the DC to collect more but the goal of a dust free cabinet is still not achieved. The DC fittings for both the saw and shaper will accept 4" PVC thinwall fittings.

Operator controls

The main electrical controls are located on the front side of the main cabinet. Depending on operator position, the switchgear is not as conveniently located as the rip fence rail mountings typically used on cabinet saws. If the operator is near the stop switch on the side of the machine, that is quite convenient. The main power switch is located on the back of the machine far away from the main controls.

Hammer uses a single removable crank handle for cutter raise / tilt versus the dedicated crank wheels used on competitive equipment. The blade raise function is a little stiff and induces some flex in the plastic handle; this imparts a "cheap" image to an otherwise sturdy machine. All other raise / tilt functions work well with the handle.

For blade angle the resolution is fairly fine at 39.25 turns for 45 degrees. For blade raise the resolution is more course at about 4 turns per 1" of blade raise. The blade raise requires more effort when compared to a cabinet or contractor saw.

Table

The table surface is milled, not ground like a typical Delta or even Grizzly; it looks somewhat unfinished but has no detrimental effect in use. My iron table has an area about the size of a hand that is dished down by about 0.007" in the center, otherwise it is flat.

The iron table has 15 small diameter holes in it; only five are required for use from the top, 2 for the shaper fence and 3 for scoring, the multiple holes look chintzy. Unlike typical cabinet saws, the B3 does not have a leading edge bevel on the iron table. What is more odd is that the leading edge is not de-burred either, all other edges have a 1mm chamfer on them.

The extension table is made of four thick painted metal sections attached to the rip fence guide rails and supported by a cabinet extension assembled by the user. The metal table provides a sturdy surface however the sections must be individually aligned with the iron table in order for the rip fence to slide over them smoothly.

Shaper Function

The shaper is fairly quiet especially compared to the saw. One unique feature of the Hammer / Felder equipment is the rearward tilting shaper spindle. Another differentiating feature is that the Hammer does not use insert spindles. The entire spindle must be removed and replaced with another to use a different spindle size or to change to a router bit.

I measured the spindle runout to be 0.00015" (one point five ten thousandths). On the 3/4" spindle, the spacers are 1 15/16" in diameter, this could limit the use of some small diameter - deep profile cutters.

The center of the spindle is about 6.3 inches away from the sliding table. There are two rings and one cover for the shaper, the outer ring measured even with the iron table, the inner ring was 0.002" below and the cover was 0.014" below the table

Fence

Both the infeed and outfeed fences can be offset as well as closed or opened. One fence half was tipped in toward the cutter by 0.007" when compared to the other. The fence is 90 degrees to the table but the faces can be easily deformed if tightened down too much. The shaper fence uses aluminum extrusions for the face material. Compared to cast iron shaper fence systems on other machines, the Hammer fence is much easier to install and lift off the machine.

Power

Changing the belt position on a three-step pulley controls the shaper speed and it is easy and quick to do so. Like the saw, the shaper is equipped with a soft start and brake function. One drawback to the Hammer is that the shaper does not come with a reverse switch; however, if one were electrically inclined, a reversing switch could be installed.

Dust Collection

The dust collection is acceptable but it is not like the more expensive Felder line; there is some accumulation below the rings.

Operator controls

The shaper shares the ON switch with the saw and is located somewhat inconveniently on the front of the machine; however, there is a stop switch that is easily reached on working side of the shaper.

The resolution for the angle adjustment is fine at 38.5 turns for 45 degrees of angle. The resolution for raise is fine also at 12 turns per 1" of raise.

On my machine the crank handle interferes with the tilting feeder bracket when the spindle is at 90 degrees. This is an obvious design flaw and causes some inconvenience (see addendum).

Sliding Table and Outrigger

The sliding table is what starts to make these machines worthwhile, they are far better than any aftermarket attachment. On the 78" slider, the stroke with scoring is 68". The maximum size piece this unit will crosscut without scoring is 72". The slider is long and can get in the way sometimes, however, I do think the basic slider concept is superior and worth the trade-off.

On the Hammer there is one T-slot track in the sliding table with can be used to attach clamps, jigs, and the crosscut fence; this system is superior to the normal miter gauge slots in a cabinet saw or shaper. The sliding table has two very sharp corners that should be rounded off. Like the iron table, the leading edge of the sliding table does not have a bevel.

The crosscut fence on the outrigger is sturdy, straight, easy to align, easy to remove, and maintains its alignment when removed and replaced. I have found the stop block to be a little disappointing in that it doesn't glide as well as others I've used and the fence clamp handles interfere with the stop clamp knob on occasion. Like the ripfence, the stop block has no cursor.

The European sliding table saws are optimized to operate in the "fence forward" position. Although the outrigger table can be positioned elsewhere, the fence cannot be positioned in a more American "fence aft' configuration without running into either saw blade access, outrigger support limit, or slider stroke limitations. Without running into any of these limits, the maximum fence aft position yields a 29.5" crosscut capacity (10" blade) or 25.5" with scoring on the 78" slider.

Apparently if one opts for the outrigger accessory, the normal crosscut fence system is omitted from the machine. I asked the dealer about this and was sent the necessary hardware for free. At this stage of use, it seems like the best configuration of the sliding table is to keep the outrigger at the far end of the slider with the crosscut fence in the aft position for cutting sheet goods. This is not the optimal position for small crosscuts and that is where a smaller auxiliary fence located on the infeed side of the slider would be beneficial. The normal crosscut fence system works well, it is attached and removed very easily and retains its calibration when moved.

The outrigger is a sort of pivoting drawer glide affair which supports a table attached to the sliding wagon. Although the machine can be operated without the outrigger it is very handy when cutting sheet goods. Even with a heavy load, the sliding table action is smooth and accurate. There are two sweepers on this device to keep the sliding action working well. Both of these were rendered useless by improper installation. After a slight modification, they worked fine.

Accessories / Options

The 78" sliding table, outrigger, and scoring options were all installed on the machine at the factory.

Sliding table 2meter $360

This option replaces the 48" sliding table with a 78" version. For the additional 30" or so of capacity I feel this is a very worthwhile option if space is available. The sliding table was not aligned very well when delivered, it measured 0.15" out over 10" of travel.

Outrigger $740

This accessory seems overpriced (to me) but it greatly improves the operation of the machine when cutting large panels or sheet goods. The outrigger will easily support a 100lb load.

Extended rip capacity, 49" $235

This option was included with the base machine at the time of purchase. For a tablesaw with a large sliding table, the smaller size would be all that's needed.

Scoring $300

This option is worth the money if the machine will be used to cut Melamine and veneer plywood. Although I think this accessory could be added afterwards, it looks like it would take considerable time to install.

Tilting feeder support $149

Being able to use a stock feeder on the tablesaw and shaper without having to either purchase another one or move it from machine to machine is (in theory) worth the price of this bracket.

There is a problem with the way the design is implemented. Due to the proximity of the bracket to the shaper raise screw (at 90 degrees) the user cannot grasp the handle normally and the handle may even contact the bracket.

When the feeder is in its "stowed" position, there are some exposed edges that could mark a workpiece if they came into contact with them. The bracket is about 2mm below the iron table when it is in the "stowed" position. The bracket could benefit by some sort of cover in this position.

With the 1/4hp Delta stock feeder I have fitted, the feeder must be fully extended to get into a useable position. The Hammer brand of feeders may have more reach. There are no provisions in the machine electrical system to power an accessory like a power feeder.

A typical stock feeder is not designed to be flipped upside down. If the vertical column is not locked down tightly, it could come out of the bracket when placed into the stowed position. The Hammer brand of feeders may not have this problem.

Crosscut fence extension $55

This device will extend the crosscut fence capability to over 80". There is no way to calibrate the tape measure on this device; it must be installed precisely. This accessory is basically a glorified stick.

Blades $54 - $80

Since the blades are labeled Hammer or Felder, I was expecting the cost to be much higher. One free blade was included with the saw at the time of purchase.

I'm not sure if it's the blade itself or the higher speed but the Woodworker II blade I was using on the Unisaw produces much smoother cuts than these blades.

Summary

The changeover to a European type machine does take some time to get used to but the basic design of the machine is superior to traditional stand-alone machines. The Hammer B3 is a much better platform than a cabinet saw could ever be, the only thing that I miss is the dado capability. By including a tilting spindle shaper into the machine, the capability and convenience of this "core" power tool of the woodworking shop is greatly enhanced.

The overall fit and finish of the Hammer is roughly equivalent to more common Delta machines. The Hammer uses less plastic and the sheet metal is thicker and it is generally more robust. However, I do think the Hammer could have benefited from a little more attention to design detail, especially considering the cost. I was also expecting the machine to aligned much better than is was, nearly every thing that could be aligned needed to be re-aligned by small or large amounts.

The following are what I view as the primary high points of the machine:

  1. Sliding table and outrigger
  2. Tilting shaper
  3. Scoring

The following are what I view as the primary low points of the machine:

  1. Rip fence
  2. Operator interfaces
  3. No shaper reverse
  4. Riving knife alignment
  5. Tilting feeder bracket interference
Addendum

In troubleshooting the wiring problem, the dealer suggested that I obtain an Amp probe to use with my voltmeter. I was reimbursed for the tool and allowed to keep it.

The crank handle / tilting feeder bracket interference issue was eventually solved when the dealer sent me a discontinued part that extends the reach of the crank handle.

Notes

The measurements given for saw arbor flange runout and shaper spindle runout are at the outer limits of my measuring equipment and it is possible the parameter is actually better than reported. Saw shaft runout was not measured due to obstruction by the arbor pins.

I've tried to make this review as objective and informative as possible. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at: pmb_generic@yahoo.com


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© 2003 by Ellis Walentine by special arrangement with Wayne Miller of Badger Pond. All rights reserved.
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