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Rick sent us this great writeup of the Robland X31 combination tablesaw/jointer/planer/router/mortiser, and he’d like your opinion as well.  He writes, “The Robland X31 Combination Tablesaw/Jointer/Planer/Router/Mortiser is just one of this class of machines.  It seems to be a popular — though not inexpensive — choice. Overall, my submission is about this class of machine in general.  I’ve been reading up a lot on these style machines.  They hail primarily from Europe where they are very popular for hobbyists and one-person woodworking shops.  Some of the benefits are: a more compact size, a tend toward VERY solidly build, and — in the case of this X31 — a fairly powerful set of motors.  (I think there are like five separate 3hp motors running the show.” 

“For some reason, though, this style of machines just isn’t popular in the US.  Maybe it’s the whole US mentality of wide open spaces, etc.  It’s tough to worry about space for equipment when you’ve got a 1,500 sq ft shop sitting on three acres of farmland, etc., whereas in Europe you have folks with a closet for a shop that’s attached to the back of their home in a small urban neighborhood.  This is similar to how the US tends to like bigger cars, and it’s only been in recent decades that we’ve embraced small cars (to some degree).”

“The primary disadvantage I see is cost.  These machines aren’t cheap.  The X31 is $7,000 and that’s somewhat on the mid-range of the scale for this style machine.  That said, when you get this delivered, you’re set for quite some time.  These aren’t some cheap multi-tool that has all of these functions — and does none of them well — and is rife with compromises made in design and functionality.  The Shopsmith lathe-based multi-tool comes to mind.  It has a bunch of functions running off one relatively underpowered motor, etc.  Perhaps that’s the other reason why folks to tend to shy away from them here.”

“If any one is interested in getting something like this, I’d advise you to look for them used.  Very frequently folks who have more money than time or skill will pick something like this up and find that it’s more than they need and just want to cut their losses and get it out of their shop — or they’re hardcore and are trading up.  Either way, good deals are to be had in the used market if you can find this style machine.  Other good brands are:  Felder and Hammer from Austria that are both part of the Felder Group and Knapp, which was purchased by Robland a few years back and are also sold by Laguna Tools in the US.”

“I’m really curious if others here have had experience with this class of machine.”

Let us know in comments!


9 Responses to Hot or Not? Combination Stationary Tools

  1. Paul says:

    This machine sure looks to me like it’d be a solid foundation for any serious woodworker. I worry that these all in ones end up doing just one task after a while. That, and if something goes wrong with one element of the machine it could impact other functions also. Though these do look well made so I find that highly unlikely.

    I cannot tell, and the article stated that everything had its own motor, but if there was any reconfiguration between operations that would make me somewhat hesitant too. Then dedicated machines would have a decided advantage over this style.

    For anyone that wanted an integrated shop though this sure looks like the modular package to me. Woodshop in a box.

  2. nrChris says:

    The single motor setup of the Shopsmith seems to be a deal breaker. My dad has had two different SS models. Currently his only acts as a lathe–all of the other components have been replaced over time with better standalone versions. The tool mentioned above certainly showcases a more diverse set of powertools though.

  3. Rob says:

    Paul makes a good point. You can’t keep setups on one tool if you changeover to another tool so you have to plan your work accordingly. That’s not a terrible trade of if you are hard up for space but separate dedicated tools will allow you to work faster. Of course what do I know, I have 2 lathes so I don’t have to change setups while turning things.

  4. Michael says:

    They definitely fit a need for small one man operations or shops. I do know someone that owns a similar Felder and he loves it. He does have a tiny shop though (and come to think of it he’s Swiss-German too).

    I think that their slow acceptance here in the US is most likely do to the fact that most woodworkers here tend to buy one machine at a time as they can afford it. The high price doesn’t help either. Fine Woodworking had an article (winter 2006/2007 Tools & Shops annual issue) not to long ago where they set up an entire shop for about $5000.

    They included a tablesaw, planer, jointer, bandsaw, compound miter saw, drill press, dust collector, shop vacuum, two routers, random orbital sander, drill/driver, belt sander, circular saw, biscuit joiner, block plane, smooth plane, shoulder plane, cabinet scraper, dovetail saw and a set of chisels.

    That being said, I’m in the process of looking at buying a combo jointer/planer because of shop size limitations. At this point of my life I wouldn’t buy a machine like the Robland because I already have most of those tools. I wouldn’t mind having one, I just couldn’t justify the cost.

    So I think they’re Hot, but not for me at this time.

  5. My father – a Master Carpenter – has a Felder – i think – and had it since we build his house in the 70ies. We made virtually every wooden component of it – except the windows, and he´s really fond of wood: carved ceilings, wooden furniture, bases for his hunting trophys, huge balconies, a wintergarden, you name it, a real tirolean Lederhosenhütte. He uses it almost daily, has tweaked it over time – originally it came with one motor, now it has three i think or four, though it is not selvpropelled yet, despite the fact that his workshop is tiny and he has to move it around when handling large pieces. When we cut long pieces we push it to the door and feed the machine from the outside. I have never heard that anything was broken, except maybe that we exchanged some ball bearings.
    He’s 70 now and asked me if i want it one day, what a question, i have allready placed my name on it.

  6. Dusty says:

    Quality always remains an issue for me when I buy power tools. Quality translates to longevity. For what I have invested in my Shopsmith, I could have purchases several standalone tools; however, I could not rely on those tools to last as long as my Shopsmith has. I twenty+ years I have done nothing more than routine mantenance and yet my Shopsmith just keeps on working. The standalones that I could have purchased for that same investment would have certainly been replaced by now.

    Furthermore, I can still get support from Shopsmith if and when I need it. Most other power tools purchased twenty years ago are no longer supported. If you doubt that, just try to buy parts for your old timer.

    You can’t beat good customer service but these days that is hard to find. Not with Shopsmith. The customer service line is available and is always staffed by qualified technicians. I have spoken to several of them many times over the years. They are friendly as well as qualified.

    I am more than just satisfied with my Shopsmith. It has provided me with years of dependable service that I don’t believe can be matched by any American made power tool on the market today. If you disagree – let’s hear what you have to offer. I doubt that you can change my position because it is based on years of reliable performance – not just opinion.

  7. Joaquim Ramos says:

    I did work work the older version of Robland, the configuration are almost the same. You would be suprise what this machine can do. There is a limition of what you can at same time. I starting working with Robland and other wood machine since 80’s

    George — Boston, MA

  8. Paul says:

    I have an X31 combination saw for sale if you know anyone who is looking for one. Its in good shape with extras.

  9. arthur sollee says:

    I have a 11 year old X31 for sale. Little used. Memphis TN

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