We spoke recently with Jim Martin, one of the first production woodworkers to operate one of Woodmaster’s new WM4000 4-Head Planer/Molder. Here’s his experience with this revolutionary new machine.
“I’m a master millwright and I’ve worked in every trade there is. Electrical, plumbing, pipe fitting, pipe welding, any kind of welding or fabrication work, I’ve done it. I’ve run cranes and heavy equipment my whole life. Now I’m a Shop Manager, turning reclaimed barn wood into flooring with the Woodmaster 4000 Planer/Molder .
4-head planer/shaper — shape 4 sides in 1 pass
This machine has 4 cutterheads. There’s a cutter on the top, a cutter on the bottom, one on the left and one on the right. The top and bottom cutterheads hold 18” planer knives. The two side cutterheads are 2” shapers, one on either side. It’s extremely flexible. You can plane with the bottom cutter by itself. Or you can plane with the top cutter by itself.
You can shape with one side cutter by itself, or with the other side cutter by itself. Or you can run all 4 operations at the same time. You can cut 1 side, 2 sides, 3 sides, or all 4, all in one pass. All depending on what you want to do.
You can change any of the knives easily, whatever pattern you want. Each cutterhead has its own motor. So that’s 4 motors, plus one that drives the variable feed rate. Everything’s all tied together on one panel. You can choose from several motor sizes – we chose a 230 3-phase unit because it’s efficient electrically.
And its adjustable feed rate is a wonderful feature. It’s standard, not an option. It really helps when we’re running a big stack of different kinds of wood. I can speed up or slow down as needed without changing anything besides the feed rate.
“Best reclaimed barn lumber in the USA”
Mike Hudson opened this business about 6 years ago. He saw there was a market for reclaimed barn wood and took down probably 40 barns board-by-board. The business has grown and now we’re buying barn lumber from others. We take it all: sheet metal, rafters, rafter nailer boards, wall boards, beams, columns, everything.
We pride ourselves on having the best reclaimed barn lumber in the country! We cut barn material into all kinds of products. Veneers, 2” material for bar tops and counters, 1 to 3/4” thick for flooring, and even 1/2” for wainscoting.
We have lots of different kinds of customers. Retired folks fixing their homes, to young people remodeling older homes. One customer’s a flooring installer who does restoration on 1850 to 1880’s homes. Then we have contractors and do-it-yourself homeowners who need reclaimed Douglas fir flooring to match their home’s original flooring.
We even sell to a contractor who’s working for the National Park System, doing restoration work on the state park buildings. I just made him flooring for a hunter’s cabin in a state park in Wyoming.
“This machine does what you tell it to – does what Woodmaster says it will”
We enjoy the 4000; it does just what you tell it to do and what Woodmaster says it will. As far as we know, we’re one of the only businesses in America running reclaimed barn wood through this machine. We’re really putting this machine through its paces.
Best Woodmaster for tough, high-production manufacturing
There’s very little setup with the WM4000. And it’s a fully commercial duty machine. That’s important because the barn wood we’re putting through it is very hard, very difficult. After all, barns were put up with green wood 100 or 150 years ago. Over the years, as barns sat in the weather, the wood got harder and denser. Some material we cut, you can’t drive a nail through it.
World’s first American-made 4-head planer/molder
This was our best choice for the kind of work we do. And the fact that this machine is made in Kansas City, USA is a big deal. Parts are easy to get. Other 4-side machines like Logosol are made overseas so getting parts for others can take a long time. If I need parts for this 4000, they’re here the next day.
Quality output, easy to run, fast
Once the machine is set and you start cutting, the cut stays where you put it from first cut to last. I just cut 2,150 square feet of Douglas fir and the first and last pieces came out just the same. I started with 4,805 linear feet of Douglas fir and turned into 2,150 square feet of individual Douglas fir boards.
Once you get the machine set up, you run a sample. Get it where you want it, push start button, and go. You better have somebody on the other end who’s ready to run. It’ll eat Douglas fir at 36 to 42 linear feet a minute. It’ll run one man’s tail completely off. If you run white oak, it’ll run 15 to 20 feet per minute. I can run red oak at 18 to 32 feet per minute, depending on density and how many knots are in it.
Running it is easy, all from just one control panel. There’s a start button and a stop switch that shuts everything down. It has safety features built in to protect the machine and the operator. There are 2 safety switches. There’s an over-thickness gate on the front. If the board hits it because it’s too thick, that’ll stop the machine. If you open the lid it shuts down.
You learn to run it by ear, not by eye. You can hear the lumber as it goes into each cutterhead. It hits the bottom cutterhead first, then the right cutter, then the left. Then the top cutter kicks in. Each cutterhead makes a different sound. Then they all tune in. Even with ear protection, learn to listen. You can hear if the heads slow down – that’s where variable feed comes in. You listen and dial the right feed rate for each individual board.
Woodmaster makes big promises – are they true?
Yes, it’s everything they say it is. We’re feeding the most difficult wood in the world — rough, dense, hard, knotty woods like elm, walnut, sycamore, and more. We’re making it exceed Woodmaster’s promises. This machine was made to work and I really work it.
It does what I expect it to do. As a welder, I push things to the extreme every day. I’ve pushed this machine past my expectations. I’m pushing it harder than everyday woodworkers would. After using it, I wouldn’t give you my 4000 if you gave me 2 Logosols!
Advice for other woodworkers?
We’ve had a very good experience with everybody at Woodmaster. They’ve all been polite, easy to get along with, and helped with any issues. You won’t believe this machine until you see it operate. It will exceed your expectations even if you know what machinery will do. It will surprise you by how well it handles any material you put in it. It’ll surprise you every time you use it.
Are you happy with it?
On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it about 9.95. We’ve used it and have zero issues with its mechanical ability. Setup is simple. We keep samples of wood products we’ve made and use them to set up the same cut the same pattern the next time.
It’s easy enough to set up that an accomplished woodworker can set up the machine and have it running production in 15 minutes.
A knife change-out for top and bottom planing knives take the same time it takes a regular planer, 10 or 15 minutes. To change side molding knives, the cutterheads come out. You unbolt them, take them out, and change knives in 5 or 10 minutes. Everything’s really easy to get to.
There are no shafts to change out. You add or remove knives, change knives, but you never have to change shafts. It’s a planer/shaper. Not a gang saw, not a rip saw. It’s a 4-head planer/molder. If that’s what you want it for, it’s great.”
— Jim Martin, Shop Manager, City Limit Antiques and Reclaimed Materials, Higginsville MO
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