Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Keeping Company

Funny things keep showing up at my shop, though not altogether unexpectedly. The other day, a fairly imposing crate was maneuvered in by some unlucky blighter (me):

A panel came off the crate to reveal a machine and some related supplies within, all safe and sound:

Looks kinda like a bandsaw, huh? But I’ve already got two of those, and no interest in collecting more. So, what could it be?

Well, here we have it, a Zimmermann PS ½, the ‘PS’ standing for Profile Sander:

All grey cast iron, except for the access doors with the plaques on them. The hand wheel at the bottom front is used for tensioning the belt.

It seemed like my Zimmermann pattern mill could use some company (hence the title of this post), and as I said previously, if I could have one of everything Zimmermann makes, that would be very fine indeed. Not that I have the room for such a fantasy - this machine takes practically the last available piece of real estate in my shop.

A view of the other side reveals that this machine was optioned with the built-in dust extraction unit:

A closer look at that extractor:

The machine was the top of the line offering from F. Zimmermann, and combines two models, namely the PS-1, which is the lower table and platen portion only, and which can be used for sanding into the middle of circular objects. To that they add the foldaway overhead arm, making the machine a PS 1-slash-2.  The upper arm gives a more precise and rigid control of the platen, and yet can be swung out of the way and the machine converted, with a changeover to a shorter sanding belt, to what could be called the 'PS-1 function’. The upper arm in fact tilts to 45˚ as an intermediate position, or can be swung right down to rest upon the floor if you needed more room to maneuver:

Like Zimmermann bandsaws, table tilt adjustments are effected by a rack and pinion drive, the table on this machine tilting in both directions:

The only broken piece on the machine is the on/off switch, which is still functional however:

I’ve sent an email to Zimmermann in regards to parts, but hopes are low in that regard. I’ll be able to fabricate something with new switches though. Other than that, a couple of plastic knobs are chipped, but as these are Kipp items, can likely be sourced easily enough.

A second switch on the front gives two speeds in either belt direction:

Later machines from the company (they made these up to around 2010 I believe) had a control box mounted on a swing arm.

The tilt is adjustable in 0.25˚ increments:

A new belt is put on but not yet tensioned up:

The lower guide gives more precise control of the belt and has ceramic guides fitted. Note the sweet planed table - seeing the condition of the table in photos from the seller is what told me that the machine had seen modest use at best. He told me that he machine had been acquired for one particular (unusual) job, and had seen sporadic service since.

Originally this unit came out of Ohio in 1977, back in the day when Zimmermann maintained an office there:

Another aspect which convinced me to buy this machine was that it came with every available option, save for the table lamp, including a complete set of solid steel profile bars:

You might say I’m getting back into heavy metal. Including the platen mounted on the machine currently, that makes for 10 bars altogether.

4 of the bars have convex profiles:

And 4 offer flat profiles in different widths:

Many of these look unused. The pulley on top of the bar allows for 'PS-1’ functioning, with the belt traveling up and around the platen. They can be used with the overhead arm set up as well.

Two of the bars, including the one currently on the machine, are in a dovetailed profile, which allows sanding access into acute corners:

In the background you can see the auxiliary guide which is fitted to the tops of the bars in the 'PS-1’ configuration.

I wired in a new 3-phase outlet, and picked up a piece of (ridiculously expensive) 4" flex hose to connect the machine to dust collection. After I wired a plug onto the cord, it fired up and ran perfectly. It’s decently quiet too!

I had long been considering this machine, however I had only seen them for sale in Germany, which, when factoring the shipping cost with the typical price you might see, made the machine one I would never likely purchase. However, when one of these machines appeared for sale a few months ago in Pennsylvania, my eyes opened wide. I hadn’t realized that there were any of these in the country for one thing. Then to find a fully optioned, top-of-the-line machine with low usage, and hundreds of sanding belts to boot, well, I was chomping at the bit. Trouble was, I had very little spare cash and couldn’t make the purchase price ($3000) happen. Is this a familiar situation to any of you? I hate being in that position where such an opportunity comes along at the very time one is under-resourced, because you never know when you are going to come across something like that again. Probably never. The time to buy something unusual and desirable like that is when you see it.

Then I decided offer the seller his full asking price, on the condition that he would allow me to pay the machine off in 3~4 payments over 3~4 months, and said that if I fell through on my end, he could keep a portion of my payment. To my surprise, the seller, the owner of the Lebanon Pattern Shop in Lebanon, PA, who was retiring and clearing out his stuff, agreed to my offer. At the end of the process, he was also willing to crate and deliver the machine for shipment for $150.00, which was very fair I thought.

The shipping was another interesting aspect, and something I normally dread due to hassles with past shipments and trucking companies who do not seem have the most careful folks operating the forklifts at times.

A friend of mine on the CW forum mentioned that he had acquired a Hitachi bandsaw and was having it shipped through Fastenal stores’ '3PL’ program. 3PL stands for '3rd Party Logistics’. This is a system of shipping between Fastenal stores using their own trucks. If you can have an item crated on a pallet and delivered to a Fastenal store in the seller’s area, then the item can be shipped from there to a Fastenal store near you for a low price.

How low a price you might ask? Well, Lebanon PA is some 330 miles (500km) from my location, and they shipped the PS ½, which weighs nearly 1000lbs (400kg) for - drum roll please: $75.00.

That was not a misprint. Just $75 to ship the machine, which I then picked up at my nearby Fastenal via rental of a Home Depot pickup truck. Since the item was fully crated, it was also insured for full replacement value. You can ship stuff without a crate, but then it will be uninsured.

Any downsides? Well, yes. They have a long list of items they won’t ship, so forget it for farm animals, household effects, etc. The item will ship on what might be termed a 'loose’ schedule, and could take anywhere from 4~14days to ship, depending upon what room they happen have on their trucks. And you might think they would have a tracking system that you could use online, so you would see where you item was at any point in its journey. They do not. And if you call 3PL customer service, you will be hearing an automated recording telling you to visit the website and submit a quote. Typical piss-poor customer service stuff that is becoming rather the norm these days with a lot of larger companies. People at the Fastenal store are of little help either with the 3PL shipments ,and also have difficulty connecting with a human in the 3PL department. According to the local store I dealt with, the shipment was due to arrive on the 7th of this month, and when that day came and went without the item arriving, I got a little frustrated with the process and ended up calling their head office in Minnesota. At first they referred me to that same phone number with automated message, but after I was having none of that I eventually, a day later, I was put in touch with a real person at head quarters who could actually give me useful information.

So if you are in no hurry, are okay with your shipment being largely MIA while in transit, have a cooperative seller you can work with who lives near a Fastenal store, and you like to save money, then shipping via Fastenal might be for you. I will use it again where I can, now that I know what to expect.

All for this round. Thanks for visiting!

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