Review by Neil Scobie
I bought the three phase version of Carba-Tec's 20” spiral head industrial thicknesser ten months before writing this review so I had had plenty of time to assess it. It was delivered in a plywood crate and manoeuvred into place with the help of some machinery (it weighs 420kg). First off I cleaned the packing grease off the tables and rollers, assembled the in-feed and out-feed tables, and attached the dust collection chute. The instruction book makes all of this simple enough.
I fiddled around with the rollers: having them just a whisker (0.01mm) above the table gives the best result, too high produces snipe, too low hinders the auto feeding of the timber.
The machine has a footprint of 1000 x 1400mm. With a 5hp, three phase motor there is plenty of grunt. The 8hp machine it replaced was very robust but sounded like an aeroplane taking off. The Carba-tec 20” just hums along, even when thicknessing hard timber. I can easily talk to students around the machine, whereas with the old one there was no chance. A maximum cut of 3mm is recommended, but I think that’s pushing the boundaries. I tell my students to wind the depth handle one turn at a time which is around one millimetre. This way we are not overtaxing the thicknesser and end up with a better cut.
The panel of coolabah burl shown in the photo has just been run through the thicknesser, and I was surprised how clean it came out considering its hardness and curly grain. Some highly figured red cedar panels also gave pleasing results. A little more tear-out in the softer cedar, but very acceptable.
The cutterhead has 96, four sided, tungsten carbide cutters which can be rotated 90° when they get dull. The manufacturers claim these cutters will last five times as long as the usual HSS steel cutters. I have not rotated any of my cutters since January so that tells you the cutter edges last pretty well.
You can thickness wood up to 508 x 210mm thick and we have thicknessed down to 2.5mm. With a sacrificial table you could probably even go thinner. You can also change the feed rate from 16 to 20 feet per minute, but I tend to just leave it on the slower feed rate, thinking this will give the best finish. The two return rollers on the top come in handy when sending boards back for another cut.
The machine is also available in single phase with a 3hp motor. For the money I think it is good value. I have been pleased with its operation, small footprint and low noise output.
For Australian and New Zealand distributors of Carba-Tec machinery see www.carbatec.com.au