TESTED: Minimax FS41E planer thicknesser
Review and photos: Dom Dudkiewicz
Having recently committed to pursuing a life as a furniture maker, I quickly realised that I would miss many opportunities if I wasn’t able to take on larger work. When quoting on some larger commissions, including a 3.4m long dining table,
I knew my smaller machine was not going to cut it – literally – and so recently I upgraded to a SCM Minimax FS41E. You need to spend money to make money, or so the saying goes. I just need to work on the second part.
The FS41E has a two-speed thicknesser with manual lift and accurate height gauge.
I chose this machine because it was heavy (420kg), robust, made in Italy and importantly, had long jointer beds. I also wanted a single-phase machine as I don’t have three-phase in my shop and this was about the largest in that category. Ironically, I ended up buying a 6.6hp three-phase version and running it on a VFD as I couldn’t wait for stock, however I don’t recommend this given the choice.
The 2000mm total length of the jointer beds, along with a custom 1000mm outfeed table have allowed me to accurately process up to 3600mm long boards without issue. Even with the occasional knock to the infeed table while miss-manoeuvring large stock the machine has proven its robustness by maintaining alignment.
The 2000mm heavy-duty beds allow jointing of large stock.
The jointer beds are solid, thickly cast monsters with surfaces machined in SCM’s low-friction pattern and mine arrived nice and flat. Some initial adjustments needed to be made to bring the beds into alignment, but this was easily accomplished. Notably, the design uses a rotary knob on the back side of the infeed table to adjust depth of cut, rather than the more typical lever, and offers finer control but is slower to adjust.
The fence assembly is a strong point and comprises a heavy 1200 x 150mm aluminium extrusion that is able to tilt from 0° to 45° and importantly, holds reliably square. The fence is supported by a central, heavy-duty round steel bar that provides direct and robust support; locking solidly and holding the fence rigidly.
Showing the SCM Xylent 66-cutter 87mm helical head.
I chose the Xylent helical head for my machine, comprising an 87mm diameter cutterhead with 66 four- sided carbide inserts. The cutterhead leaves a great finish on all the timber I have run through it, dealing admirably with reversing grain and running relatively quietly.
Utilising 120mm diameter ducts, the dust collection is effective but not a strong point of this machine. The design also requires that you swap ducting between ports when changing modes. Thankfully, changing from jointer to thicknesser is a painless process, taking less than 60 seconds at a relaxed pace. The thicknesser table’s handwheel turns smoothly and is geared such that the heavily cast 430 x 775mm table raises with minimal effort.
The robust fence assembly provides accuracy and confidence.
Two selectable speed settings of 6m/min and 12m/min allow me to speed through bulk stock removal before slowing down for final passes or when processing more cantankerous timber. The machine will thickness stock from 230mm down to 3mm in height and a full 430mm width. The corrugated steel feed rollers work well without marring timber and I’ve found the digital counter on the handwheel to be very accurate and repeatable.
Another view of the solid fence assembly.
Overall, the machine is an honest and beautiful beast. It is pleasingly robust and accurate and I’m yet to detect the slightest hint of strain by the 6.6hp motor, even when taking irresponsibly thick passes. It has allowed me to process much longer, heavier stock accurately and reliably, and has given me the confidence to take on large pieces. This machine is a great investment for my business moving forward and I would make the same choice again.
Dom Dudkiewicz is an engineer and furniture designer maker in Melbourne, Instagram @dudkiewiczdominik
SCM machinery is available from www.shopscm.com.au