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A better machine
Just before we moved to Canada I bought a MiniMax CU300 combination machine. This is a big step up from the old X-31, like the difference between a cheap Chevy and a classy Mercedes. Everything is better built, better thought out, more precise, less hassle.
  • It has a much larger sliding table with a separate mitre cutting fence and a swing-arm to support the table so that a full sheet of ply can be dropped on it without worry. With two fences - the mitre and a large squaring fence - you can have two setups locked in at once, which is useful fairly often. Each fence has a sliding flip-stop, an accurate scale and both extend beyond their basic length; the squaring fence goes out to 8ft max.
  • It also adds a scoring blade to the mix; this is extremely useful when cutting plywood since it cuts the underside play first and then the main 12” blade cuts through. Result - no splintering, no waste. The dust collection around the saw is pretty good since it has a full shroud for both the scoring and main blades and a vacuum connected guard over the main. Perhaps the best thing about these saws is the properly designed riving knife; I’ve never been able to understand why most US type saws had nothing like this. I guess other people must finally have caught up with reality since they’re now required in order to be on sale in the USA. Combined with the way you use a slider -standing off to the side with the lumber clamped on the table - a good riving knife setup removes a lot of the risk of kick-back and finger chopping.
  • The jointer and planer units on the MM are quite a bit more solid than the X-31 and the jointer tables lift away from the user and out of the way. The Tersa cutter head is absolutely superb since it is self aligning and very quick for blade changing. All it takes is a sharp tap with a small block of wood and a mallet to release the blades and you can slide them out, swap them and then just run up the jointer and run a scrap chunk across to bed the new blades down. No messing with gib screws and screw jacks and micrometers!
  • I don’t make much use of the shaper unit but I did buy a 40mm Universal Shaper Cutter with 12 sets of blades a while back. So far I’ve only used the blades for raising some door panel profiles but it’s lot less scary to use than the shaper on my old X21; much quieter, more solid, just feels less alarming.
  • Lastly there is a mortising attachment that makes it really trivially easy to use loose tenon joints. I tend to use it to do ‘real’ mortise & tenon joints and simply square up the mortise with a chisel. The problem with the attachment is that it is rather intrusive when you are using the jointer or planer but it is also very heavy to lift off and store. To combat this I made a small utility trolley that carries the mortiser and all the small doohickeys the MM needs. Take a look at the mortiser trolley page for details.

Hot-rodding
I’ve made a few simple modifications to my machine, though none quite as serious as replacing the sawblade height adjuster on the old X-31.
You need small tools - the blade nut spanner, assorted allen keys, the blade lock bar - around quite often. To keep them local to the place they’re needed I found small rare earth magnets to be very effective. You could just leave the magnets stuck to the saw cabinet by their own awesome power but I’ve concluded that the smart thing is to attach each one to its associated tool with a blob of Goop.
The front apron of the sliding table did nothing very useful and frequently got in my way. It also blocked the table side slot that the mitre fence attaches to and thus made it a major effort to remove. I decided to trim the apron to a small stub, like this -


The bit I cut off

Much more useful; I can slide out the handle and mitre fence easily now

I added Wixey digital readouts to both the planer and the saw fence; these are proving incredibly useful and thoroughly worth the money. The planer unit required a small modification to provide a longer bar between the planer table and the sliding sensor so I could clear the rear planer table locking lever, but that was a very simple change. The saw fence unit was fitted per instructions and needed no changes.

IMG_0051
Sensor head with extend vertical bar
IMG_0057
Readout next to depth adjuster
IMG_0054
Saw fence readout

And finally (for now) this is how you move a CU300 when you move house - at least if you don’t do the really sensible thing and get a Hi-Ab crane truck to lift it for you!


OK, push it on to the ramp and I’ll catch it.

“Right,” said Fred....