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POWERMATIC PF-31, 3-Wheel Powered Stock Feeder
Capacity, performance and power for your shop
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 3-5-2009
The POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder is tough, powerful and has the capacity to handle the needs of even busy shops. From its heavy-duty and fully adjustable support column, arm and multiple universal joints to the large rubber tires the POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder keeps the material moving consistently across the cutter.
Motor and Control
The POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder (#1790807K) featured in this review comes with a heavy-duty 1 HP, 115 V (only), 1 Ph motor. The PF-33 is identical but can be purchased in 230V (#1790800K) and 460V (#1790810K) versions. Keep in mind that Powermatic motors are rated using a continuous duty cycle, rather than a "peak" or
"max developed" numbers that have little to do with the real world. POWERMATIC motors are impressive looking in part because of the hefty cast iron case with its integral cooling fins. This case helps manage operating temperatures even through extended periods of operation.
The motor is reversible, the direction selected with a rotating switch. The switch has three positions: Forward, Off and Reverse. A second lever-actuated switch on the end of the feeder body (single phase models only) shifts the feeder between high and low feed rates. On 3-phase units, the speed change is built into the forward/reverse switch. The motor and switch on the 115V models come pre-wired with a cord and three-prong grounding plug. The 230V and 460V versions do not have a cord or plug installed.
The POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder motor power is sent through an oil-bath gearbox that keeps the gears lubed and running cool. A screw-on cap on top of the feeder body provides access for checking, changing or topping off the oil.
From the gearbox power is sent to the drive wheels via a set of gears and a roller chain system. This gear and chain drive eliminates slip so stock feeding is smooth and consistent. The pair of gears can be reversed to create a second feed rate within the 13, 36, and 43, 108 FPM. (feet per minute) capability. With the big gear on top the feed rates are 36 and 108 FPM. Put the large gear on the bottom the feed rates are 13 and 43 FPM. A diagram in the instruction manual and a label inside the gear cover show the gear positions and the feed rates they produce. The drive bay cover is retained by a pair of finger operated knobs.
The three 4-3/4"-diameter by 2-1/4"-wide drive wheels are covered with non-marring rubber that has been designed to produce lots of grip but resist wear. The tires are soft enough to allow them to get a firm grip on the wood. The wheels can be changed individually rather than in full sets as some feeders require. That cuts down on cost and downtime. To help keep the POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder running smoothly the wheels, gears and chain sprockets each have grease fittings. POWERMATIC includes a hand-operated grease gun that uses locally available cartridges.
Each roller wheel is mounted on an independent suspension arm with approximately 14mm of travel that lets it follow small deviations in the wood surface. This suspension also lets you set a small amount of preload (1/8" or so) to help keep the work piece firmly on the table or fence during the cut.
The POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder unit is supported by a heavy-duty steel and cast iron support column that is as rigid as it is rugged. The column and arm are made from 2.28"-diameter heavy-walled steel tubing. The column is secured to the machine with a heavy cast iron base. An easy to use printed bolt pattern template makes installation on most machines easy. The base bolt pattern matches the pre-drilled and tapped holes at the rear corners of the POWERMATIC PM2700 shaper. A set of M12 X P1.75 mounting bolts is included.
The POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder has a series of universal-type joints that are made from heavy iron castings. Each joint is locked in place with a tool free lever that makes securing them at any angle easy. These joints make it possible for the roller wheels to be positioned horizontal or parallel to the table surface to handle stock flat on the table or on edge against the fence.
The column assembly has 9-3/4" of vertical movement using a top-mounted crank that turns a lead screw. That gives the POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder a maximum stock thickness capacity of 8-1/2" with the wheels parallel to the table surface. A handwheel turns a gear drive that moves the horizontal arm through 18" of movement. The column can be swung 360-degrees making it easy to "park" the POWERMATIC PF-33 Stock Feeder out of the way when not in use.
In the Shop
I installed the POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder on my POWERMATIC PM2700 shaper so it was a simple bolt-on task. The full-sized bolt hole template they supply should make it easy to get this installed on any flat surface that is strong enough to handle it.
The support column and arm make moving this 70-some-pound feeder around very easy. The gear drive and lead screw work smoothly and require surprisingly little effort to operate. I also like how you can swing the POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder out of the way for making cutter changes or when it is not needed.
While the POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder looks rather large, the spacing of the wheels make it work very well for moving stock across a cutter. The grip of the tires translates to a consistent movement of the stock, which is crucial to a smooth cut. Plus, you don't have to put your hands anywhere near the cutter, which is especially nice on a shaper with its scary big tooling.
The toughest part of using the POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder is learning how to use the universal joints effectively. I found that it really helps if you can keep your brain from over-thinking this. Once you see how each universal joint controls movement of the feeder, setting it up gets way easier. The column and arm controls make putting this feeder exactly where you want a no-strain event.
The controls on the POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder are very straightforward and easy to use. I changed the gearing that control feed rates just to see how tough it is and found it to be very easy. However, I suspect most users will quickly settle on one gear setup that works best for their shop.
The POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder is obviously very well built and performs smoothly. It has more than enough power and is not afraid to work all day long. With a street price of $1009.99 (3-2-2009) the POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder certainly isn't cheap. However, this is essentially an industrial piece of equipment that is going to last forever in the busiest of home woodshops. Considering the safety and quality of cut the POWERMATIC PF-31 Stock Feeder brings, I think this is a worthy investment.
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