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POWERMATIC PF-41, 4-Wheel Stock Feeder
Power and capacity the Powermatic way
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 3-11-2009
The Powermatic PF-41 was designed to feed stock across a cutter consistently, do that work for a very long time and keep your hands out of harms way at the same time. This is an exceptionally well made piece of equipment that embodies more than the Powermatic gold color. Everywhere you look the traditional Powermatic high-end engineering and manufacturing theme is obvious. Good enough just doesn't get it for these guys.
Motor and Controls
The Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder (#1790812K) in this review is powered by a heavy-duty 1 HP, 115 V (only), 1 Ph motor. Powermatic also offers a PF-43 that is identical to the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder except for its 230V, 3Ph (#1790811K) motor. Keep in mind that Powermatic motors are rated using a
continuous duty cycle, rather than the "peak" or "max developed" numbers conjured up in the land of smoke and mirrors. Just check out the heavy cast iron case, complete with integral cooling fins. This motor doesn't just look tough, its operating temperatures stay low even when the job takes hours to run.
The motor has a rotary switch with three positions: Forward, Off and Reverse. A lever-actuated selector on the lower case lets you choose between the low or high feed rate. This shifting lever is only on 1-phase units. The 3-phase version incorporates the feed rate control into the forward/reverse switch.
The motor power is sent through an oil-filled gearbox that in turn delivers the power to the wheel drive system. Using an oil bath gearbox insures that this
mechanism stays cool and fully lubed, extending its life by a bunch and a half. It's not the cheap way to do it but it is the effective way.
The feeder wheels are driven with a roller chain and sprocket system that eliminates slip within the mechanism. A pair of gears in the drive section can be reversed to create a second pair of feed rate speeds within the overall 13, 36, 43 and 108 FPM (feet per minute) range. Put the large gear on top to generate 36 and 108 FPM speeds. With the smaller gear on top you get 13 and 43 FPM. Powermatic provides a diagram in the instruction manual and another inside the gear cover that shows the gear arrangements and the speeds they produce. An easy to remove cover provides access to the gears and chains. The shafts have grease fittings at their centers for easy maintenance. Powermatic even supplies a grease gun with the feeder!
The Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder has four, 4-3/4"-diameter by 2-1/4"-wide wheels that move the stock. Each is covered with a special non-marring rubber that develops lots of grip without excess wear. Unlike many feeders, the wheels on the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder can be changed individually rather than in sets. To help maintain the feeder a grease fitting is at the center of each wheel.
Each of the roller wheels are mounted on individual suspension arms that allow them to follow variations in the wood surface to maximize their grip and keep the feed rate consistent. Each wheel has approximately 14mm of vertical suspension travel. The instruction manual suggests applying 1/8" to 3/16" of preload (wheel suspension compressed) to generate pressure that keeps the wood firmly on the table or fence.
Part of the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder kit is a remarkably strong steel and cast iron support column. The main components are made from 2.28"-diameter heavy-walled steel tubing. The column attaches to the machine with a heavy cast iron base. A bolt pattern template is included that makes installation on most machines easy. The base matches the bolt pattern drilled and tapped into the rear corners of my Powermatic PM2700 shaper. The M12 X P1.75 mounting bolts were also included for bolting the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder on to the PM2700.
The stand has a set of cast iron universal joints that make positioning the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder as needed very easy. These joints permit using the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder with the wheels positioned for moving stock along the table surface or holding the stock against a shaper fence. Each of the joints has a tool-free locking lever. Vertical movement is done with a hand crank that runs a lead screw. The horizontal movement is done with a handwheel that engages a gear drive on the horizontal arm.
The Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder has 9-3/4" of vertical movement that puts the feeder wheels (when level) 8-1/2" above the table. There is also 18" of horizontal arm movement. The column itself (and the arm) can be rotated 360-degrees and locked at any point with a lever on the base.
In the Shop
Setting up the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder on my PM2700 shaper was a no-brainer and took just a few minutes. The template and related instructions supplied will make installation on most machines a near no-brainer as well. Other than positioning the feeder for use, there really is no adjustment or alignment needed. I did swap the gears to use the slower feed rate but that was the full extent of getting the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder ready to use.
The main "getting used to" part of using the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder was learning how to use the universal joints when changing from vertical to horizontal use. The good news is that once you make the change a few times, setting the universal joints is way less mysterious.
The feeder itself is dead simple to use. Set it so it is flat on the table or against the fence (depending on how you want to use it), then use the column adjustments to accommodate the stock thickness. All that is left is putting a slight amount of angle on the feeder so it keeps the wood against the fence and table. It really is just that simple.
Though I use the slower speed range exclusively (so far), the high/low shift handles everything I need on my PM2700 shaper. The higher feed rate of 43 FPM is plenty fast for the initial cuts. Flip the lever to the slower 13 FPM and the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder creates a smooth, consistent finish cut that is very difficult to match by hand.
The 4-wheel assembly is wide enough that it can surround the cutter area. That means you can introduce the wood on one side, hold it against the fence to be sure the leading edge clears the fence opening and then walk around the other side to catch it when it gets done. Your hands never get close to the cutter. Also, because the wheels are very close to the cutter, they hold the stock steady during the cut far better than featherboards can. Very effective, very safe and very simple. I like all of those things happening at one time.
The Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder is a must have if you use a shaper or do a lot of molding-type work on full-sized table saws, router tables and even jointers. It certainly makes working on these machines safer but it also brings a major load of consistency that improves your work.
With a street price of $1099.99 (3-10-2009) the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder is a long-term investment that will pay dividends for many years in terms of quality work and safety. With just a little common sense care, the Powermatic PF-41 Stock Feeder will last as long as anything in your shop.
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