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Axminster tools - apalling build quality!

Why does everyone 'rate' it

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g d07/05/2011 09:02:54
5 forum posts
Having done some research, I plumped for a AWC4 - the combination machine, according to the reviews, it seemed to be the best DIY / light trade machine. I bought a barely used machine off fleabay - some of the original wrapping was on it, and there was no dust in the saw, so I can assume it hadnt been used (apart from the planer). I am a wood newbie, so please excuse any machine part name errors.
 
How the hell do they get away with it?????
 
Examples found so far:-
Main saw fence, held to sliding clamp with 4 x M4 screws into 2mm of ally. No dowel fixing, no security, no adjustment. bit of leverage on the 'saw' end of the fence, and the screws work loose. No loctite or similar on the threads. Considerable re-machining requied, and much bigger bolts loctited in to fix this most commonly used item.
 
Saw angle end stops - tiny M4 screws which butt up against a hand-ground stop bolt (they took a M8 bolt, and ground the threads off it with an angle grinder by the looks of it). Not straight, so if you wind the handle to the end 'enthusiastically', the M4 bolt slips round the ground down M8 shank, bending it. Adjustment only possible after taking several covers off.
 
Planer blade jig - a 'precision' part, one end the guide was at 10 degrees, with a self tapping screw wedged roughly in. No way would this jig work. Had ot be taken apart, filed and adjusted, and re-assembled with something more delicate than a ham fisted monkey.
 
Main angle guide bar - the one you use to cut an angle on the sliding table, cannot be adjusted to 45 degrees, as the clamps hit one another. A simple re-design, with one of the clamps moved 1/2" across would fix this - zero cost except a brain that works better than a prawn.
 
Spindle moulder guard - weighs about three tons, but the fence is ally, and wobbly. Main clamping down bolts (M8) so badly made I couldnt thread then into the table. I had to re-machine them. As you put the ships anchor - sorry - guard - onto the table, the two clamp bolts take all the weight. Either - allow for more loose movement in the bolt, so that they dont hit the table, - or machine off the end of the thread (dog point) so that it doesnt mush the thread. Neither options are exactly high cost solutions.
 
OK - I am not buying top quality kit - I apreciate this, but the build quality is no better than a cheap and nasty ryobi (in fact I think the ryobi threads are better than the axminster) - but the ryobi table is made of thin ally, the axmister from cast iron. I am slightly regretting my decision to buy 'new' vs old wadkin or dominion or similar 1950's kit, as I thought that new would be better, and not as worn out.
 
Anyone want to buy an AWC4? lol.....
Oddjob07/05/2011 10:17:40
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1635 forum posts
79 photos
Having spent such a large amount of money and showing such knowledge I doubt that you are the "newbie" you claim to be.How could we know? You have no profile!

However, having spent a lot of money you are entitled to expect reasonable quality and it is unusual for Axminster not to provide it. That machine has no reviews on the Axminster site nor can I find any with a Google search. I guess they haven't sold many.

Have you spoken to Axminster about your problems? They are usually good to deal with and I'm sure that they will listen to your complaint even though you didn't buy new.

Richard
Big Al07/05/2011 10:37:51
1599 forum posts
73 photos
Just had a quick look at this machine on axminster's web site, some of the photo's show that the build quality isn't wonderful.
 
I have never bought or used a combination machine, but if I added up the brand new cost of my table saw, planer thicknesser and spindle moulder it would only be a couple of hundred quid more than the cost of this machine. And I haven't had to make any modifications to get the machines to work properly, just routine maintenance.
 
Al
BillW07/05/2011 12:06:33
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711 forum posts
21 photos
I have some sympathy for you GD but I have a few rules that I impose on myself regarding buying second hand or new.
I will not pay more than two thirds of the new or present day price, for S/H, ebay is pushing S/H prices up.
I wouldn't buy without a full inspection of the machine.
 
You cannot compare DIY/Light Trade to Wadkin/Bursgreen, Dominion, if you do buy such machines you need the facilities to move them and most are 3 phase.
 
Bill.
g d07/05/2011 20:55:34
5 forum posts
Odjob - sadly - I am a newbie - to wood - I have a background in mechanical engineering, and some film industry manufacturing.... My background for wood is thus:-
 
I bought a draper contractors table saw, for 50 quid (later sold for 250+ on fleabay ) - and found that it was very useful for making stuff around my smallholding - stakes, frames, etc - all pretty rough. I only expected to use it hack up some plywood sheets. I then needed a new bench for the kitchen, so made one from pre-planed 1" pine and some matchboard - its 10 feet long, and a massive box for all the plastic containers we use from the takeaway..... Recieving praise for this, from the mrs, as well as passers by, and surprising myself by actually enjoying the experience, (as opposed to the forced woodworking at school) I decide that I should get some decent kit. Having learnt that cheap stuff (eg 9.99 angle grinders) doesnt last, I now buy almost exclusivly blue bosch - 300+ for a cordless 36v drill, 120 for an angle grinder, etc etc. OK - I'm not on the dole, obviously, but I appreciate good kit. My research - including a review from Andy of the magazine (goodwoodworking?) said it was an OK bit of kit for light trade - which is about where I class myself.
 
Sadly, its crap. But its 2 grand crap, not 50 quid crap.
 
 
New bits found today of crapness:-
 
Re sharpened planer blades - two fitted perfectly, but the third, couldnt get spanner in the slot to tighten the lock bolts. took out 'wedge' piece, to find it bent like a banana - by about 6mm. Vice, tube, anvil, and 8 oz hammer rectified this to less than 0.2mm bend.
 
3 tonne spindle moulder guard is 3mm too wide to be able to miss the plate holding the guard for the planer. So in order to use either of the devices, you need to remove the other guard - yet the wood would be mutually exclusivly in different places (unlike the saw/moulder interface). If they, said aforementioned prawn brained ham fisted monkeys, had sited the spindle moulder 5mm across, or made the guard 5mm thinner, or the planer 5mm across the other way, then you wouldnt have to do this. Why? Thats just dumb, unthinking, illogical, annoying and poor design. I have hacked at the side of the moulder guide with my grinder, but so far have only removed 2mm of re-cycled locomotive engine crankshafts. Oh - and I had to re-thread the lock down bolts for the 3 tonne guard too.... There are also two holes for the right hand bolt to go into - about 1/2" apart - and identical. It doesnt show / say which hole is correct, so I have resorted to a permenant marker tick to show which one to use. There is not mention in the manual of this - or of the purpose of the extra threaded holes.
 
 
Planer fence - a bolt to define 90 degrees - yay - its a 10mm bolt (17mm spanner) and nice and solid in a lump of cast iron. The fence is a weighty bit of cast iron - yay, nice and solid. The wanky bit of tin that holds the two together is a loose fitting, sloppily made half moon track, with two clamps (that rotate to tighten, meaning that as you tighten them, they try to alter the angle you have set), where the track is so loose to the clamps, that there is a 5 degree wobble every time you set 'zero', depending if you tighten the left clamp or the right first, or if you push or pull the fence (difficult to describe) whilst tightening. Whats wrong with an over-centre clamp - like the ones that hold my bicycle wheels on? No rotating there.... and no expense.
My uncle - who is a cabinet maker (I believe that is the correct term - he makes nice tables, dolls houses, bespoke oak kitchens from scratch etc) agreed that it was a bit crap.
Andy King09/05/2011 11:48:16
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170 forum posts
8 photos
19 articles
Hi g d,
 
Yes, there are poor areas of the machine, many of which I pointed out in my initial writing up of the review.
On your machine you seem to have more than I had picked up on, and that can be the problem with Far eastern machines. I often comment on the consistency of quality control from such areas, and it makes it difficult when the model I look at seems pretty good when another can be poor.
I did comment in my review that the model I looked at had been the one sent to Axminster for evaluation and that a I had hoped a couple of problems would be ironed out before they actually sold it, but it may be that it hasn't been the case, and the target budget may be responsible for this, but only Axminster can answer that.
I don't have the printed version of my review to hand so i'm not sure was actually edited out until I find the correct issue (it was a couple of years back at least I think) but I do keep all of my original unedited reviews for reference, and if any one is interested in reading my initial thoughts, I've pasted it below.
 
cheers,
Andy

Well, good things so say come in threes, so if you take a combination machine at base level, its three workshop machines, although often referred to as a five function machine (six if you opt for a morticer)

So on the premise that three is good, this one has a three knife planer block and three speed spindle, and operates on three separate motors so if it came in at three grand for what are certainly desirable attributes it would have to be a bonus! Well, it gets better, this one is being sold for less than £2000, and you get a lot of machine for that amount of money, so let’s look a little closer.
First off, the Far East market has gone in for cast iron in a big way, so this one meets that same specification, and the finish on all the cast work is excellent, but as with most Chinese stuff, the quality of the adjusters and knobs is hit and miss with some very good, others pretty poor, even though they all do the job as intended.
If the initial specification has you intrigued, then knowing that the machine also has a scoring blade for the saw function really does put it in a good position.The main blade is 250mm with an 80mm scoring blade, giving a ripping depth of 65mm at 90 degrees. On some saws you can remove the scorer for a bigger diameter main saw blade. Not so here, but the scorer drops below the table when not needed, and is fully adjustable to tweak to the left or right as needed.You do need to wind it fully down if you are ripping bevels as it will project through otherwise, even if it sits below on a 90 degree setting.The maximum ripping width is 460mm, which while not the best for economical sheet conversion, is decent enough.
The fence is made just for the saw, the planer has a separate fence which is a bonus, and it’s a solid enough box extrusion construction with a sliding auxiliary fence for ripping work. There is slight flexing at its full extent, often the case with saws that have long fences held only at the front rail. There is a fine adjuster on the fence and here is a definite case of budget over quality, its rudimentary and pretty flaky, almost like the apprentice made it without supervision!
The aluminium crosscut carriage is utilised by both the saw and the spindle, with the carriage itself sitting directly on board, tight to the blade, seen as a better feature for accuracy over the off board types.
The fabricated steel table fits to the carriage and cantilevers the weight back to a lower running rail with a cast bracket so you don’t have a large outrigger to contend with.
The carriage is fully adjustable for travel and height and position dependent on spindle or saw use, with 965mm of travel.
Adjustments for blade height and tilt are independent, each adjuster is very fluid, with the wheel handles hinged to sit flat when not being used so you won’t catch yourself on them as you work, a simple addition often found on higher end machines so very welcome on a budget one.
With the carriage locked, the spindle has plenty of table in front of the block for general long grain moulding applications pushing the work through manually, while using the carriage for end grain work.
The three speeds are belt adjusted using a belt swap method through the microswitched door. You need the supplied box type spanner to slacken the motor so the belt can be moved, but it’s a simple enough operation.
Block swaps requires both spanner and hex wrench, again, easy enough. The tapped spindle should allow the use of suitable blocks for flush cut tenon type work.
While the hood is solid enough, made from cast alloy, the hold downs are hinged to the back of the hood so are a touch springy until the work feeds in which in itself is not too much of a concern, but I’d have liked a bit more solidity here, even guarded, a spindle is still pretty hairy on big cuts.
The plastic hood cover is certainly cheap, it looks like it was made from an old discarded carton of some sort. It does the job intended however, so you have to accept such corner cutting at the expense of better specifications.
That said, the adjustable outfeed on the hood is very stiff, although in fairness, this machine was the evaluation machine sent over, so any niggles such as this should hopefully be addressed.
There are alloy facings on the fence, although I’m of the old school and prefer wooden facings for false fences to be tacked to. No reason why you can’t adapt to suit if you fall into this camp though.
With both the saw and spindle sharing identically sized motors at 2200watts, I was surprised that the planer is shy of this
Andy King09/05/2011 11:50:19
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170 forum posts
8 photos
19 articles
Continued review...

... at 2000watt, but it doesn’t seem to have any detrimental affect to the machine itself, coping well enough with wider stock fed through it.

The feed speed is fast at 8 metres per minute although at 4000rpm block speed this equates to 12000 cuts over that distance, equal to 1.5 cuts per millimetre, pretty average in this respect so the finish isn’t the premium you may be expecting, but certainly very good nonetheless.

A basic setting jig is supplied for setting the knifes.

Where combi’s often share fences, this one has a separate one for the planer, and something for other manufacturers to take note of, its cast iron, so its rigid and solid throughout. The adjusters are fabricated steel, linked to a dovetail slider so everything stays put once set, and that for me is a huge attribute over some of the aluminium ones out there.

Planing is where you need the accuracy and consistency and why manufacturers cut corners here is beyond me.

There can be issues with flatness on cast iron, but I’d still much prefer the rigidity it offers, and if you do have problems, a timber fence could easily be fitted and packed to suit should you have one that moves over time.

Where I did find it a faff however is the need to fix the fence clamping plate to the table each time. A hex wrench is supplied, but having to take it on and off each time for the sawing and spindle functions for me warrants at least Bristol levers for clamping, but it would likely need a redesign to allow the fence to tilt when pushed right back.

Shifting to thicknessing mode, you have to swing the beds away. These are gull wing types so you get good access into the infeed and outfeed areas, but they tilt outboard so you have to walk around them. Not a massive problem as the beds are only 1050mm long when in surface mode, but I like the easier access of an inboard tilt.

The thickness table sits on a big beefy centre column with an additional support in front of it, so it stays very stable and adjusts smoothly throughout its travel, with a maximum of 250x180mm capacity through it.

> >

While the Axminster has some issues on quality in the odd area and the need to fit a bracket each time for the surfacer, it has an amazing specification for the price, beyond anything else at this level.

The saw is a little growly sounding, and a little rough feeling through the cut, but a good blade will certainly help reduce noise and lift the performance here.

There is always the fear of the internal workings and the durability of it on budget gear, and the end user needs to address some of these concerns by assessing their own requirements.

I doubt a universal at this price would last long used for hours on end on a daily basis in a busy trade shop, but for the keen amateur or one man band tradesman doing smaller batches of work, it’s undoubtedly a well specified machine.

If you have a floor that can take the 370kilo weight and also a 16amp power supply, the positives of this machine outweigh the negatives.

g d09/05/2011 12:29:56
5 forum posts
Thanks for your thoughts Andy,
 
the version I have the clamp for the surfacer isnt dovetailed, its just a flat bit of metal, 2" wide 1/8" thick, which goes through a small 'bridge' of steel, and is clamped with a M6 handwheel. Odd that such a lump of iron is held with one tiny bolt...
 
The spindle guard is iron now - with impregnated lead by the weight of it... with wambly alloy fences as per your review.
 
<ot> is there any facility for posting images on here, and host them (ie not just an [ img ] tag?

Guy

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