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Powermatic PM2700 Shaper
Accuracy, durability and power to spare
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 2-22-2009
POWERMATIC did not spare the cast iron nor innovation when they designed their PM2700 Shaper. This remarkable machine is loaded with very cool (and useful no less) features and gobs of power. It appears that POWERMATIC listened to their buying public because the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper is more capable and easier to use than any shaper I have seen.
Cabinet and Built-In Mobile Base
The liberal use of cast iron and steel means that the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper weighs in at a hefty 664-lbs yet it can be moved easily by one normal person. The cabinet itself is built from heavy gauge steel and is fully welded. The cabinet is mounted to a heavy cast iron base that gives the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper a remarkable stability, when its not gliding across the floor. Built into the iron base is a set of four high-end casters that can be extended up to about 3/8" and fully retracted using a 8"-diameter cast iron handwheel on the side of the cabinet. The casters have tough polyurethane tires that roll smoothly but leave no marks. If your shop is anywhere close to average, there is no single place where a machine works best. This caster system will be a huge plus on the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper for many woodworkers.
Of course, the cabinet also protects the motor and spindle mechanism. To help keep everything clean, POWERMATIC added a 4"-diameter dust port at the rear that is connected to an internal shroud surrounding the cutter. A second dust port built into the fence helps keep the work area surprisingly clean. A large door on the side of the cabinet provides easy access to the motor and drive system for changing speeds or adjusting the belt tension. The door also has a window that lets you see what speed range the belt is on without having to open it up.
Big Power, Industrial Controls
The POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper featured in this review (#1280101C) is equipped with a 5HP, 230V (only), 1 Phase motor. This shaper is also available with a 3HP, 230V (only) 1 Phase motor (#1280100C), or a 5HP, 230/460V (pre-wired 230V) 3 Phase motor (#1280102C).
The motor comes mounted in a massive cast iron mechanism that includes the belt tensioning and spindle systems. That same mechanism also controls cutter height and is operated with an 8"-diameter cast iron handwheel (with spinner) on the front of the cabinet. A spindle lock is located just inside of the door where it is easy to reach but out of the way.
The motor and spindle drive each has two step pulleys connected by a Poly-V belt. This belt is known for being tough, slip resistant yet transfers power smoothly and efficiently. A tool-free belt tension release mechanism on the motor mount makes changing between the 7500 RPM to 10,000RPM spindle speeds a no strain event. The belt tensioning mechanism is easily adjustable should the belt stretch in the future.
The POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper uses an industrial magnetic On/Off switch that protects the motor from potentially dangerous
power fluctuations. However, a magnetic switch is also a safety feature because should the power go out and then come back on unexpectedly, the On button must be pushed to restart the machine. It will not start on its own when the power comes back on.
The On button glows with a green pilot light when the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper is connected to electrical power. That green button is pushed to start the machine. A large red OFF ring surrounding the On button is pushed or "bumped" to shut the machine off.
The magnetic switch also has a round magnetic "key" that when removed disables the On/Off switch. This little disk can be dropped in a pocket or stuck to virtually any magnetic surface in the shop.
The POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper also has a three position switch that selects between Off, Forward and Reverse. Being able to operate in forward or reverse rotation allows great flexibility with cutter designs and setups.
The POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper ships with 3/4" and 1-1/4"-diameter spindles, each with a full set of various sized spacers to accommodate virtually any cutter body thickness. POWERMATIC also offers a 1"-diameter spindle as an accessory. Router bit collets in 1/2" and 1/4" capacities are also available for the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper.
The spindle has a 4" vertical travel range, adjusted using an 8"-diameter cast iron hand wheel with a center locking pin as found on table saws. The handwheel is equipped with a spinner knob that makes large height changes or bringing the cutter all the way up for changing fast and easy.
Even more trick is the digital height display on the front of the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper that clearly shows cutter height changes as small as 0.001". The numbers on the display can be changed from inch to metric scales with the push of a button. You can also push another button to zero out the scale at any height. That lets you dial in the exact height change needed without having to add or subtract in your head! It simply does not get any easier than this.
The POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper features a 30"-deep by 40"-wide, all cast iron table that has been finely ground flat. The surface of the table is a comfortable 35-1/2" (casters retracted) above the floor. This spacious top has a full-sized, 3/4"-wide by 3/8"-deep t-shaped miter slot running across its full width. This slot also allows using aftermarket sleds and your own jigs. POWERMATIC includes a real miter gauge with adjustable extruded aluminum fence.
The table opening size is adjusted with a set of three cast iron reducer rings. Those rings size the opening to 2-35/64", 4-5/32", 5-3/4 " and 7-3/8" with all rings removed. Each of the cast iron rings has three leveling screws so you can be certain that they are really flush with the table surface.
Both rear corners of the table are drilled and tapped for POWERMATIC three and four wheel (full sized) power feeders. These holes also correspond with bosses cast into the table for maximum strength. If you have ever tried to drill and tap cast iron, finding these holes will be a major relief.
The POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper features a very nice, full-function fence system. The fence halves are fully adjustable and completely tool free. Even all of the locking knobs are heavy metal rather than plastic. The center housing has a large clear guard, removable top and a dust collection passage that exists at the rear in a 4"-diameter port that is actually the main support tube. This tube incorporates a gear drive that moves the fence forward and back. A pair of large knobs lock the fence in place.
The extruded aluminum face halves are 18-3/4" long by 4-7/8" tall and feature slots for installing auxiliary faces or shop-made jigs and fixtures. The fence halves are individually adjustable left and right for sizing the opening around the cutter to the smallest possible to increase safety.
The fence halves are also individually adjustable front-to-back. Each has a micrometer-like dial at the rear that makes it easy to align the faces with each other or to create an offset for jointing or cutting full thickness profiles with extraordinary precision. Each full rotation of these dials produce 1/16" of change.
The POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper also includes a pair of fully adjustable featherboards. These featherboards have multi-position mounts that allow configuring them for virtually any cut or stock thickness to promote both accuracy and safety.
In the Shop
When I first began working with the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper it became apparent that this is one serious machine. Aside from its impressive size and bulk, the power and precision are remarkable. Everything about this shaper shows high-end materials and construction.
The idea of retractable casters makes the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper much easier to use in many shops. Most home woodworking shops do not have one place where a machine of this size can be installed and used without conflict. Being able to move this 660-pound machine to the best space available is safer and more productive - and I can do it alone without hurting myself.
Setup is pretty straightforward and is similar to most shapers. The parts such as drawbar, spindles and spindle nuts are heavy duty and very well made. The fence is also very simple to set up and operate, including making ultra fine adjustments. I like the fact that everything is tool free. The all metal, real-world size of the knobs make locking those settings secure and strain free.
The digital height display is far more helpful than I first thought. I was setting up a glue line cutter, made the first pass and found an error when I assembled the pieces. I measured the total error with a digital caliper, divided that in half and dialed that adjustment in using the digital display on the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper. The next test cut was dead on perfect. Being able to make such precise height corrections makes you way more efficient in terms of time and wood saved. If you don't get this kind of alignment perfect on the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper, you simple are not trying.
Needless to say the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper power is more than adequate. I have used many "3HP" routers in a table but a true 5HP motor (not peak HP like a router) is impressive to say the least. The POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper simply fears no cutter, wood or job. It can handle everything I could throw at it with ease. Also, changing the belt on the two step pulleys to change spindle speeds is very fast and very easy.
The POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper is easily the best made, most feature-laden shaper I have ever used. This is a serious piece of machinery that brings remarkable accuracy, durability and ease of use to the shop. With a street price of $3199.00 (2-18-2009) this admittedly represents a serious investment for most home woodworking shops. However, if you want a shaper that does everything right, has the accuracy and power you need now and in the future, plus the durability to keep doing all that for decades, (if not longer) the POWERMATIC PM2700 Shaper is an exceptional investment.
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