REVIEW: Martin T54 surface planer
Review: Evan Dunstone
The new machine arrived at the workshop well packaged on its own sturdy pallet. Weighing in at a hefty 1250 kgs, our forklift was just able to unload it safely.
The T54 has a total table length of 2840mm, 500mm bed widths and gives a maximum 8mm depth of cut. Our model has the control panel on the lower right, just above knee height (there are other options). There is a sturdy metal bump guard around the control panel which has a prominent emergency stop button in the middle.
The on/off switch activates a soft-start function with no star/delta on the 7.5hp three-phase motor. The machine reaches working speed within five seconds. The cutterhead is on an electro-brake and comes to a complete stop in a whisker under six seconds. There are positive safety implications for this fast, smooth, start/stop function.
The infeed rise-and-fall is electric, smooth and very responsive. There were reservations about this, but now that we’re used to it, we appreciate it more and more.
We chose the Tersa head over the helical head. This offers rapid blade change and still gives an excellent cut. It takes less than 15 minutes to replace all four blades. They are dead flat and sit perfectly flush with the outfeed bed every time. We can swap fresh for worn blades if we ever want to run recycled timber, MDF or plywood edges.
Unusually, the extraction port on this machine is at the infeed end. Our old machine had this in the traditional position under the outfeed bed and it never extracted as cleanly as the Martin. The T54 has the best extraction flow of any surface planer that I have used.
The T54 has a concave/convex function. You can cut a board ‘flat’ (like a traditional surface planer) or deliberately introduce a slight hollow into a long board (as for a tabletop) by dropping the ends of the infeed and outfeed bed slightly. This gives an especially tight glue line.
The working face of the fence is dead flat. A prominent handle releases and locks the silky smooth sliding function. This is so smooth that it’s imperative to properly engage the lock before machining, otherwise the fence will slip away at the first touch. Like most surface planers, the fence tilts from 90° through to 45°. Returning it back to 90°, is via lift-twist motion that took a little while to master. The primary fence is fitted with an auxiliary fold-out fence for machining thin/low/short stock. When used in conjunction with the Suvamatic guard this revolutionises machining small stock.
Suvamatic guards combine the best features of the old leg-of-mutton style guard with the more modern linear top cover guards. Pressure is applied against the fence directly over the point of cut, making thin stock much safer and more accurate to machine. This combination is extremely user-friendly and much safer.
The infeed and outfeed beds of the T54 are dead flat, but the grind is relatively coarse with distinct parallel ridges. Initially there was some friction on the outfeed, however I believe this is designed to limit the vacuum/suction formed when a dead flat board travels over a dead flat outfeed bed. Applying Silbergleit (a dry lubricant) to both beds reduced the friction without much suction.
The T54 has a big footprint and is seriously heavy. If you put your hand on the bed of the machine, you can just discern that it’s running through vibration. We placed a glass of water on the bed near the cutterhead, and there was no vibration detectable on the water’s surface.
Above: The auxiliary fence in use
The manual says that the T54 produces 77dB at idle and 88dB processing and is significantly quieter both at idle and under load than our previous machine.
Designed as a production machine the T54 is meant to go all day, every day, with minimum down-time and with maximum safety in mind. Everything about this machine supports the brief.
My understanding is that this is the most expensive machine in its class on the Australian market. I believe the cost is reflected in every aspect of the machine. My staff love using it, and that was not how they felt about the machine it replaced. It would be hard to justify a machine like this for a one-person operation, but it certainly suits us.
Evan Dunstone is a furniture designer maker in Queanbeyan, NSW, see www.dunstonedesign.com.au
Martin Machinery is supplied via www.eurolegnomachine.com