In the average woodshop, floorspace is always at a premium. And in large part, that’s because so many machines need more working room than their actual footprint. They demand space to feed materials in at one end and harvest parts at the other, plus room to perform such mundane tasks as keeping aisles clear, programming, and attaching dust collection components. CNC routers are usually about as compact as they can be, where the manufacturer is able to tuck peripherals under the worktable and out of the way.
But there’s always room for improvement, and a good example of innovative space saving is the Evolution series of vertical CNCs from Holz-Her (holzherusa.com). The three machines (7401, 7402 and 7405 4mat) can mill virtually any casework component and do so within a very small footprint – simply by handling parts on their edges instead of laying them down in a traditional flat orientation. Solid wood suction cups are available for machining solid wood frames and panels. Even curved solid wood parts and MDF furniture fronts can be cut, drilled and engraved. The Evolution machines can also handle processing of countertops. The patent-pending vacuum clamp system is material-friendly and equipped with software-controlled, fully automatic suction cup positioning with hole recognition. It can machine workpieces up to 1,600mm long (63”) on all sides without re-clamping. This means there are extremely short cycle times and maximum precision even on long parts. Evolution is compatible with Lamello’s P system.
Another innovative compact solution comes from Stiles Machinery (stilesmachinery.com). The Homag DrillTeq V-200 is a line of vertical CNC processing centers that can be used for drilling, trimming and grooving, and they’re particularly well-suited to just-in-time production. There is no setup required, thanks to a vacuum-free clamping system. The machines can accommodate up to 13 vertical high-speed drill spindles, including a quick-change drill system and an automatic tool change magazine. And they also come with the PowerTouch2 controller. Best of all, the footprint is only 54 sq. ft.
Holding parts on edge is a logical way to save square footage, and vertical panel saws have been doing that for a long time. They were invented by Safety Speed Mfg. (safetyspeed.com) in Ham Lake, Minn. The company offers 10 vertical panel saws and the model 3400 vertical panel router. All of them are designed to save space (they’re only 3’ deep), and also make work easier and safer. The panel router can perform tasks such as plowing standard dados, blind dados, rabbets or V-grooves. The vertical orientation of the saws is especially efficient for small shops where the owner is often working alone. They also come with cutting depths ranging from 1-3/4″ to 2-1/8″, so an operator can cut multiple panels at one time (which can be a lot quicker than single panel cutting on a sliding table saw). The saw models are designed for three different workloads – 15 hours a week, 25 hours, and 40 or more. And some of them can also accept an interchangeable router head.
Another vertical panel saw manufacturer, Saw Trax (sawtrax.com), also offers a comprehensive selection of space-saving options – including the extremely compact 5’-wide Varsity. In fact, many of the Saw Trax models can be ordered as either compact or wide versions, and the smaller units can be set up quickly and easily right on a jobsite to rip and crosscut sheet goods. Woodshops can also buy just the panel saw kit and build their own vertical saw at a bargain price.
That idea of having a machine perform more than one function is another way to save space because it can eliminate one or even several stand-alone, single function machines. Multi-tasking machines have always been popular in Europe, and they’ve been slowly edging their way into small- and medium-sized woodshops in North America. Their biggest perceived restriction is that they have to be torn down and set up again between tasks, so they lose accurate repeatability and also eat into a shop’s man hours. But many newer machines are so beautifully engineered that they set up in seconds and can often retain fence and depth of cut settings so they can quickly revert to a previous task.
SCM Group (scmgroup.com) offers a half dozen Minimax combination machines, ranging from the c 26g to the larger cu 410es. They include a sliding table saw, a thickness planer/jointer, mortiser, and shaper/molder. They also have three separate single-phase motors for easy setup and plenty of power. The sliding table is well engineered with built-in support so that boards don’t sag and each crosscut is at a true 90 degrees. The sliding mechanism is a linear bearing that rides in opposing tracks, and it delivers exquisite action. The larger machines have scoring blades, four-speed molding, four-knife planing and ergonomics that have been worked out over decades of Italian engineering.
Felder Group (felder-group.com) also offers a full catalog of combination machines that perform up to five functions. There are six Hammer models and five sold under the Felder brand. All have short changeover times and compact dimensions that don’t sacrifice anything in terms of both performance and versatility. The functions include jointing, thickness planing, molding, cutting and mortising. The planing heads range from 12” to 16-1/8” wide, and even the smallest machine, the Hammer C3, has a sliding table saw with scoring, and the machine can be set up with optional mortising and doweling.
The Robland HX310Pro from Martin (martin-usa.com) is a five-in-one combination machine with very tight dimensions. It includes a panel saw, spindle molder, planer, jointer, and optional mortising machine. It also has a tenoning table. Martin Woodworking Machines in Charlotte, N.C. is the official U.S. importer and service partner of the Belgian machinery manufacturer Roblund.
Jet’s (jettools.com) relatively new JJP-12HH planer/jointer comes with a helical carbide insert head and its 3-hp, 230-volt motor delivers 12” x 5/32” of planing capacity and 12” x 1/8” of jointing. It also features extremely quick changeovers between jointing and planing functions, and the fence does not need to be removed.
Dust, belts, tape and glue
One area where smaller woodshops can save a lot of floorspace is by going to a single cyclone dust collector, rather than installing separate collectors at each workstation or machine. Laguna Tools (lagunatools.com) has created a family of dust collectors that includes the T/Flux: 5, a single-phase, 220-volt, 5-hp unit that can handle up to 54 gallons of residue down to 1 micron. It comes with a 10″ port that splits into three 4″ ports. There’s a remote controller with an LED warning for both clogged filters and full drum, and an automatic filter cleaner. But what’s really nice about this unit is that it stands tall (110.7”) on four sturdy legs that take up only 39” x 73” of shop floorspace, which is less than 20 sq. ft.
One might be tempted to think of a wide belt sander as having very little capacity for saving space. These are big machines doing a single, dedicated job, right? Well, the Timesavers 2300 series belies that notion, as it has a lot of versatility built into a relatively small footprint. Beyond having two abrasive belt length choices (75” or 103”), the 2300 is a planer/sander that can run up to three heads (knife, drum or combination). And the available 37”, 43” and 52” widths make it ideal for shops that need high stock removal.
Grizzly Industrial (grizzly.com) recently introduced a new single-phase automatic edgebander that only takes up 102-1/2” x 60-1/2” (43 sq. ft.) of floorspace. The G0854 handles panels from 1/2” to 1-3/4” thick, uses edgebanding tape from 0.5mm-2.0mm thick, and features a 16 fpm feed rate and a 10-1/2” wide x 69-3/4” long table.
For shops that need to be able to make veneer and thin stock in-house for edging, Cantek (cantekamerica.com) makes a 32” wheel diameter vertical re-saw. The HB-800 takes a 4” blade and has a 20-hp motor. It accommodates the company’s HF-150 feeder and can handle stock up to 15-3/8″ wi
Castaly Machine (castalymachine.com) offers several vertical assembly tables that use gravity to help keep parts aligned until pressure is applied. Being vertical, they have very small footprints. For example, the PT-0509PC pneumatic assembly table is ideal for gluing up cabinet doors and face frames, and it has compressed air clamping on board so it’s a one-person operation. It handles parts and assemblies up to 5’ x 8’ but takes up less than 10’ x 5’ of floor space.
Castle (castleusa.com) has used the vertical technique in its three frame assembly tables to augment its pocket screw system. The 4’ x 5’, 4’ x 8’ and 4’ x 12’ tables have quick clamps with center-mounted switching for easy access from both sides. And their open back design delivers more work area and can handle oversize frames without taking up valuable shop space.
Handling parts can take up a lot of space, too, and manufacturers such as Fanuc (fanucamerica.com) and Biesse (biesse.com) have invested major resources over the past decade to help shops remove the people in this process and to streamline movement using robots. The machines in Beisse’s ROS (Robotically Operated System) can be seamlessly integrated with CNC, sizing, boring, edgebanding and sanding machines. They can position, sort and move parts, virtually eliminate downtime and parts damage, and thanks to their compact size take up less floorspace than other handling options.
Woodshops that use a table saw to crosscut stock to specific lengths might want to take a look at an up-cut saw such as the 5015 from Oliver (olivermachinery.net). With a footprint of only 31” x 30”, it is much smaller and a whole lot faster than working with a miter gauge or a sliding table.
The bottom line is that many manufacturers recognize the need for compact solutions, and space saving machinery is available to perform almost any task in a woodshop.
This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue.