Hammer B3 Comparison
Philip Bumbalough


Purpose

The purpose of this article is to illustrate the differences between the Hammer B3 Tablesaw / Shaper combination machine and separate function machines as well as the combination machines made by competitors.

Combination Machine

One obvious question would be if a woodworker already has both a tablesaw with a sliding table and a shaper, why consider a combination machine in the first place.

For me the answer to that is first for space considerations. A combination machine usually takes up less shop space. Secondly, the tablesaw is usually considered the core power tool of a woodworking shop. This is especially true for me and I have always had the saw setup ready to use at a moment's notice for that reason. If a tilting spindle shaper is added to that core tool with all the convenience, and capability benefits enjoyed by the saw. The result is that the core tool is greatly enhanced.

Lastly, I had continually modified my tablesaw for greater functionality with good results. However, the basic 1930's design of the cabinet saw can only be evolved so far - I had reached that point.

Comparisons

Separate Machines

For many people, it will be natural to compare the capabilities and features of the B3 against a more common cabinet saw and stand-alone shaper. For comparison purposes I am using a Delta Unisaw equipped with a Unifence, a separate Delta 3hp shaper, and the Excaliber sliding table attachment as the baseline.

One very obvious difference between a combination machine and separates is that on a combination machine, only one function can be performed at a time. For myself this has never been an issue, I have never operated my saw and shaper at the same time. A corollary issue is machine setups. For example having to reset the shaper after using the saw. I view this as a concern but no more so than having to duplicate a setup on the same machine.

Value

A Unisaw equipped with a factory table board, DC port, Modulus scoring unit, and 48" Excaliber sliding table would cost about $2570, the Delta 3hp shaper is $1500 bringing the total to $4070. A B3 equipped with a similar sized sliding table, outrigger, and scoring would cost approximately $6450 delivered.

For the $2380 cost increase, the major differences are:

  • Smaller overall machine size
  • Soft start and brake
  • Better sliding table
  • Tilting shaper
  • Can't use shaper and saw simultaneously
  • Can't use a dado or molding head
Cabinet Saw
  • The electrical controls on a cabinet saw are more conveniently located. This makes it easier to turn them on.
  • Noticeably absent from the iron table of the B3 are miter gauge slots. There is a T-slot in the sliding table that can be used to attach jigs which is far better than using a miter gauge slot on a cabinet saw. The only negative aspect of no slot in the iron table is the loss of a convenient reference to align the rip fence.
  • Cabinet saws do not have soft start or braked motors. A very common phenomena on cabinet saws is the "bang" on startup, the soft start eliminates this. The braking feature increases operator safety.
  • The B3 saw is louder than a cabinet saw.
  • The owner's manual for a B3 is measurably deficient in assembly and alignment information when compared to Delta manuals.
  • In order to equip the B3 with a more powerful motor (4hp), a three phase electrical system must be available. Some cabinet saws can be equipped with 5hp motors operating on 220v single phase.
  • Cabinet saws are equipped with nearly universally disliked blade guards. Some of these units even interfere with blade changes. The blade guard on the B3 is attached to the riving knife, which raises and lowers along with the blade. The blade guard is easily removed and re-attached.
  • The B3 has better dust collection. A cabinet saw would be more accurately described as a dust accumulator.
  • Hammer uses a single movable crank handle instead of dedicated crank wheels. For the blade and shaper tilt functions, this is actually desirable since any standard crank wheel located on the left side could be accidentally nudged by the operator when the slider is used.
  • The B3 iron table is milled, not ground like a typical cabinet saw.
  • The Hammer uses a 30mm European arbor instead of the American 5/8". This will preclude the use of any accumulated saw blades unless they are re-machined.
  • The Hammer arbor will not accept a dado blade or molding head.
  • The maximum blade diameter for most cabinet saws is 10" which will give a 3.625" depth of cut. With a 10" blade in the B3, the cut is 2.75". To achieve a 3.625" depth, a 12" (300mm) blade is required.
  • There are scoring attachments than can be fitted to cabinets saws, they cost a little more than the scoring option on a B3 which is designed from the outset to accommodate a scoring blade and should perform better.
  • All cabinet saws come with a rip fence superior to the Hammer triangle type. The Hammer cam lock type is marginally acceptable at best.
  • None of the aftermarket rip fences available for cabinet saws will fit (without modification) the B3 except for the Jointech and Incra. There at least a dozen aftermarket rip fences to choose from to fit a cabinet saw.
  • The B3 extension table is made of thick painted steel sections as opposed to laminate covered plywood. That doesn't make it better - just different.
  • At 23.2 square feet, the B3 (48" slider) occupies more space than a typical cabinet saw without any attachments. However, when the size of a cabinet saw and sliding table (36.3') and separate shaper (7.5') are combined (34.8 square feet), the B3 is significantly smaller.
  • The lead-time on a Delta saw or shaper is usually about a week and there are numerous dealers. Unless a suitable unit is available at a dealer, any European saw will take about 4 months to get.
  • Delivery of a separate cabinet saw and shaper is not a problem at all compared to a large machine like the B3.
  • The blade opening on a cabinet saw is effectively much smaller than the B3. This tends to keep small pieces from falling down into the gap with the possibility of the blade flinging them out. There are numerous sources for zero clearance inserts to fit cabinet saws that solve any problem with small cutoffs.
Shaper eg: Delta 43-420
  • The Hammer shaper does not have a reversing switch.
  • The tilting spindle is not available on a stand-alone machine at this price point. On higher end shapers it can be found but often the tilt angle is limited to +5 and -30 degrees.
  • Shapers at this price point do not come equipped with a sliding table. To add a sliding table attachment would cost at least $300 and double the footprint of the machine.
  • Adding the shaper function to a base Hammer saw (K3) is much more economical than buying a similar separate machine.
  • Adding the shaper function to a base Hammer saw (K3) does not increase the footprint of the machine.
  • Shapers like the Delta usually give you 1/2" - 3/4" - 1" - and sometimes 1 1/4" or stub insert spindles in addition to router collets.
  • The B3 shaper fence uses aluminum extrusions for fence face material. Although the 43-420 also uses aluminum, many others use wood.
  • The 43-420 fence halves are coplanar with a gap of about 0.020", the Hammer measurement is 0.007" over the same length.
  • The B3 shaper fence is much lighter than the 43-420 fence and easier to lift off of the machine.
  • The B3 shaper fence would not be left on the machine as is the case with a stand-alone machine since it would interfere with sawing operations.
  • The 43-420 fence halves can move in and out without unclamping the fence itself. On the B3, the moving side must be unclamped.
  • The stock hold-in / guard device on the B3 cannot be moved out of the way as quickly.
Sliding table attachment
  • Due to the basic design of the cabinet saw, the sliding table surface cannot come any closer to the blade than about 10". Although this is acceptable, a sliding surface closer to the blade will perform better and present a better platform for jigs. The B3 sliding table is about 0.3" away from the blade.
  • European machines like the B3 use a sliding table mechanism similar to a full extension drawer glide. This allows them to be considerably smaller (statically) than aftermarket sliding tables available for cabinet saws. For example, the 78" table on a B3 occupies a footprint of 10.2 square feet statically. A 60" stroke Excaliber would take up (effectively) 22.8 square feet. The amount of space required for use is controlled by the workpiece size and is the same for both units.
  • The outrigger can be easily removed and replaced on the sliding table wagon. When removed, the static size of the machine is reduced by 4.3 square feet.
Other Euro machines

I researched several European machines, the following is a brief comparison between the B3 and the other models I considered.

It should be noted that the shorter list of differences noted here are due to two factors, one is that the machines are more similar in form than the stand-alone units mentioned earlier. The other is I don't have one of these machines sitting in the shop next to the B3 to compare all the details.

In selecting a combination machine like the B3, the main differentiating features are the saw arbor size, the shaper spindle configuration, and the shaper tilting feature.

Felder KF7
  • The cost of a similar Felder machine would be 4 or 5 thousand dollars more.
  • Although they look similar, the Felder uses a different and more precise mechanism for the sliding table.
  • The controls on a Felder are different. Dedicated crank wheels with folding handles are used in place of a single crank handle and each function has it's own electrical switchgear.
  • The Felder is heavier by 200 - 400 pounds, this weight indicates heavier components or structures in some areas.
  • The components and accessories used on the Felder are more numerous, a little better, and more robust in general.
  • The Felder spindle is a "quick change" type, it takes much longer to change out the B3 spindle.
  • The Felder shaper fence can be removed and replaced without loosing its reference.
Rojek KPF300
  • The Rojek KPF300a costs almost $2240 less than a similar B3
  • Lighter by about 150 pounds.
  • Larger. The KPF300 may not fit through a doorway like a B3 will.
  • There are fewer accessories available.
  • The rip and crosscut fences appear to be more robust and better than the B3.
  • The saw arbor is a standard 5/8" and will accept a dado blade.
  • The shaper spindle is a stepped 1 1/4" - 3/4" type with no other options.
  • The Rojek shaper does not tilt.
  • The shaper fence face is made of wood.
  • The sliding table mechanism more similar to the Delta sliding table attachment and does not come as close to the blade as the B3.
Rojek KPF300a / Griggio
  • The Rojek KPF300a costs almost $900 less than a similar B3. A similar Griggio costs at least $600 more.
  • Lighter by about 200 pounds.
  • Larger due to outrigger table. The KPF300a may not fit through a doorway like a B3 will.
  • There are fewer accessories available.
  • The rip and crosscut fences appear to be more robust and better than the B3.
  • The saw arbor is a standard 5/8".
  • The shaper spindle is a stepped 1 1/4" - 3/4" type with no other options.
  • The Rojek shaper does not tilt.
  • The shaper fence face is wood.
Mini Max ST3w
  • The Mini-Max ST3w costs at least $1000 more than a similar B3.
  • The ST3w is 300 to 400 pounds heavier.
  • Larger due to outrigger table, probably would not fit through a doorway.
  • More powerful motors standard, 4.8hp single phase.
  • The shaper tilts forward and a reversing option is offered.
  • In one configuration, a router collet is installed on a 1 1/4" shaper spindle.
  • The saw arbor for the imported St3w is a standard 5/8" but will not accept a dado cutter.
  • The rip and crosscut fences appear to be more robust and better than the B3.
Robland XTZ

I've seen this machine in person. The Hammer has a higher level of fit and finish by comparison.

  • The Robland costs almost $2480 less than a similar B3
  • The crosscut and rip fences are not as robust.
  • Although the saw arbor is different than a cabinet saw, it will accept standard 5/8" arbor blades and a dado.
  • There are fewer accessories and options available.
  • Blade raise is controlled via a lever instead of a crank.
  • The saw is not designed for scoring.
  • The shaper is a stepped 1 1/4" - 3/4" type with no other options.
  • The shaper does not tilt.
  • The shaper will reverse.
  • The sliding table uses a different mechanism than the B3. The table does not come as close to the blade as the B3 but the guide rails can be slid forward out of the way if desired.
  • A non-standard miter gauge slot is available.
Why I Chose the B3

When I began to research combination machines, I almost immediately ran into an information void. Aside from one very helpful Rojek owner, the only other combination machine owners I was able to get any information from were three Felder owners.

Compounding this is the lack of any detailed information and pictures of machines from the respective dealers. The exception to this is Felder / Hammer, I believe this substantially biases a potential customer in favor of this manufacturer. The following is the logic I used to select the Hammer B3 over the others listed in this article.

The Felder cost about $4000 more than a similar Hammer. Although I'm sure the Felder is a better machine, I just couldn't see how it would be $4000 better.

The ST3w scored highest in my comparison chart and was a close second choice. There are two features that dissuaded me from this machine, the first is the larger size and the second was the forward tilting shaper spindle.

I considered two different Rojek machines, the kpf300 and the kpf300a. I was willing to sacrifice the dado capability of the 300 for the better sliding table of the 300a. The 300a was about $1000 less than the B3. The primary reasons for not selecting this unit were the tilting shaper spindle, greater spindle choices, and smaller size of the B3.

My evaluation of the Robland XTZ was that the positive and negative aspects of this machine canceled one another out such that it was not appreciably better than what I was using.

One aspect that figured in heavily in my decision was the reputation of the Hammer / Felder dealer for support. Although I did not expect problems with any of the machines mentioned, I thought that any that I would have would receive far better attention from this dealer than either MiniMax or Rojek; that is not to imply that either of these two dealers are deficient.

Recommendation

Although I have had some problems with my B3 and there are certainly aspects of the machine that could use some improvement, I think that I did make the right choice of a combination saw / shaper. I would recommend the Hammer B3 to anyone shopping for a tablesaw / shaper combination machine or standalone separates with the following advice:

Both types of Hammer rip fences are substandard and should be replaced with a better unit. According to my information the fence itself costs $209 and the 49" extension is $235 for a total of $444. The machine could be ordered without these and replaced by better aftermarket systems.

If any of the issues raised in this article are of concern, they should be discussed with the dealer to try and resolve them before a purchase.

Try and arrange for a demonstration from an owner.

Closing

I've tried to make this comparison 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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