POWERMATIC PF3-JR 3-Wheel Powered Stock Feeder
High-end power feeding at a budget price
Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz
Posted - 2-26-2009
Power feeders are natural companions to shapers, router tables, table saws and jointers. Their ability to move stock across a cutter smoothly and keep your hands well out of harms way at the same time is of real interest to woodworkers. The PF3-JR is a rugged stock feeder that has been built with the typical POWERMATIC focus on design, materials and workmanship. There is little doubt that the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder is intended to perform well for a very long time.
The POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder features a heavy-duty 1/4 HP, 115 V, 1 Ph motor. Keep in mind that POWERMATIC rates their motors using a continuous duty cycle, rather than those "peak" or "max developed" numbers other manufacturers still think we believe. This motor is big and tough, starting with the iron case with cast-in cooling fins that help keep this motor cruising along when the job runs all afternoon.
This reversing motor is controlled with a simple rotating switch. The switch has three positions: Off, Forward and Reverse. Though a seemingly simple feature, being able to reverse the motor/feed direction makes setup and use of the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder far easier with more options for the operator especially on a shaper.
A sealed, oil-filled gearbox transmits the motor power to the wheel drive. The oil bath keeps the gears running cool and well lubricated, substantially extending its trouble-free life. A screw-on cap makes checking or refilling the oil simple.
The drive wheels are turned with a roller chain and sprocket that eliminates slip while a two-gear drive controls the rate of feed. POWERMATIC includes a second pair of gears along with a diagram in the instruction manual that shows how to arrange them to produce four feed rates. The POWERMATIC PF3-JR
Stock Feeder can move material at 13, 26, 33, 62 FPM. (feet per minute) This range of speeds should be more than adequate for any home or industrial setting. A finger-operated knob secures a gear cover for easy access when changing the gear sets.
The POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder features 3-1/8"-diameter and 1-3/16"-wide non-marring rubber tires on metal wheels. The rubber used has lots of grip and is soft enough to conform to the surface of the wood for excellent traction. Each wheel has a grease fitting at its center to make maintenance simple. The roller wheels can be changed individually rather than in full sets as is the case with some other feeders. You can use the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder with the center wheel removed for running curved workpieces.
Each roller wheel is mounted on an independent suspension arm with approximately 12mm of travel. That lets the tire follow uneven surfaces as well as applying a small amount (1/8" or so) of preload to be sure that the wood stays firmly on the table surface.
The steel and cast iron column and arm assembly is very rigid when mounted as described in the instructions. The solid steel (not tubular) columns are 1-5/8"-diameter and finely machined to be sure they are straight and round. The column mounts into a heavy cast iron base that bolts to a solid surface. POWERMATIC includes an easy to use template for drilling the hole pattern right the first time.
The joints that make this system so easy to work with are also made from heavy iron castings and equipped with tool free locking levers. The combination of these joints means you can put the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder in virtually any position to drive the wood smoothly and keep it firmly on the table and against a fence. You can use the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder with the wheels pointed down or 90-degrees to the table for when the material is moved on edge against a fence as on a shaper.
This column system gives the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder 6.5" of vertical movement (6" stock thickness capacity) and 10" of horizontal travel. The feeder can also be swung 360-degrees on the column making it very easy to position for the job or to "park" it out of the way when not in use.
In the Shop
Using the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder is surprisingly easy from installation to setup. Set it up so that the drive wheels are pressed snugly onto the wood, make sure that the line of wheels are aimed slightly into the fence and all that remains is getting the direction right.
Changing feed rates is easy and the four speeds provided are way more than most of us will use. I expect that the majority of people will settle on one or two speeds that best suit their shops and let it go at that. It is nice to have the choice and that the extra gears are included. I also like being able to reverse the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder with the flick of a switch. That makes setup a virtual no-brainer because you can install it where it works best and worry about feed direction later.
Where the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder really shines is in how smoothly it moves the wood across the cutter. That translates into super clean cuts that make your woodworking look better. Of course, the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder also handles the feed chores close to the cutter and keeps your hands out of harms way. Being able to apply pressure and feed force so close to the cutter does great things for the quality of cut but it also dramatically improves safety. Trying to do this without a power feeder would be foolhardy at best.
The POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder is an exceptionally well built piece of machinery that will make your life around router table, shaper and many other machines easier, safer and more effective. With a street price of $653.99 (2-26-2009) the POWERMATIC PF3-JR Stock Feeder (with the column assembly and extra gears) is an investment that can be more than justified by both production quality and safety. Also, this is an add-on that can be easily moved to a new machine should you replace the one to which it is mounted.
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