Comparing Line Boring Machinery

      Cabinetmakers discuss how to shop for a solid, reliable line boring machine and how to get the best use out of it. January 2, 2012

I've narrowed my choices down on line boring machines and have done quite a bit of research. I am looking at the single row, 21 to 23 spindle, pneumatic version of these machines. These are as big as I want to go, and I only have single phase power and am not interested in phase converters. Both of these machines look equally good to me. I have found several Ritter machines used for sale but not one single Powermatic. Makes me think that the people that buy the Powermatic machines keep them. Any advice on these brands or others, like Conquest, Unique, etc.?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor M:
There are so many Ritters for sale because they are the most popular by far. Powermatics would be few and far between. I have a Conquest and it works great. It has a Baldor motor, and is well built.

From contributor J:
I'm one of those few I guess that had and sold a Powermatic line boring machine. I thought it was a well made machine for the money and would certainly recommend it. One feature I liked was the Powermatic had quick change collets for the bits, which makes replacing them much faster and easier. Not sure if the Ritter has them, but I wouldn't buy a machine without them, or something similar. I sold mine when I brought in a CNC boring machine, otherwise I'd still be using it.

From contributor P:
Ritter builds great, solid machinery, and has been building line boring machines forever - Powermatic's entry into the field is relatively recent. My '80s Ritter R-46 will be punching holes long after I'm finished. I see no earthly reason for quick-change collets on a line borer. Once set up, the bits are very rarely changed.

From contributor J:
Hmm, I swapped bits out all the time. You're not going to be drilling the same amount of holes in a 30"H wall cabinet as you are in a 42"H cabinet, right? Unless you're one of those guys that just drills holes top to bottom with no regard to the look of the cabinet? Most of my clients aren't going to accept that.

With the quick change collets you simply pop out bits so you can drill the quantity of holes required. Without them you're drilling 21 holes at a shot regardless of the size of the cabinet side.

From contributor P:
In that case, the QC will be an advantage. On the rare occasions where I change bit positions, an Allen wrench works fine.

From contributor H:
I am one of those guys that lets the holes fall where they may. Never had a complaint in 30 years and our work is not cheap. I have had clients that want 3 holes every foot in a bookshelf, or no holes at all with permanent shelves, but those have been few.

Powermatic was always a company that built for the solid wood industry more than the panel producers that do mostly frameless. Their entry into boring machines and sliders has been fairly recent, but a single line boring machine is pretty basic and cannot be ruined by anyone.

The only thing I would add to any machine is fences on both sides with flip stops. Much easier and more accurate than registration pins. On a long panel, you don't need as many hands. I learned a great trick from my tech guy. Make a repeater stick that is based on 32mm factor and after you've set your first starting flip stop, just put it between the next stops as you go down the line. It will keep your holes in perfect order and at 32mm spacing. I found that registration pins are not as accurate as flip stops. On a 22 spindle machine you will not need more than 3 stops for your average closet height of 84" for most pantries.

You can't go wrong with any of these machines, but try to get the most throat depth for your money.

From contributor J:
My cabinets always have the minimum amount of holes required for a decent amount of adjustability. I guess it comes down to personal preference, but I just don't like the look of holes running top to bottom.

And when you need/want to swap bits in and out, the collets really are a timesaver. Comparing it to just using the hex wretch is like comparing a corded drill to a cordless (x21). They'll both get the job done, but one is a heck of a lot more convenient.

The Powermatic does come with flip stops as well as the registration pins. The pins were accurate as they were pretty big and mounted in the head next to the drills. They come in very handy for closet pantries and such. If I recall correctly, there were 2 flip stops on each side. Those were a little trickier to set exact since you had to flip the panel to get front and back. If you were out even a little bit it gets doubled when you flip and you would get some slight shelf rocking. That's one reason I was looking to get into a double row machine. I think the repeater stick is a great idea and would save a lot of frustration.

I don't remember offhand what the length of the stop rails was, but I did up to 84" fairly regularly.

Anyway, I don't want to sound like I'm pushing the Powermatic, it's just what I happened to buy. The other machines mentioned may be as good or even better!

From the original questioner:
I appreciate the responses. As far as alignment goes (remember I know nothing about these machines), it looks like for pantry sides, if you had a reference mark centered up with the center bit and squared a reference mark on each side of the side panel, then drilled one side going by that mark and flipped it and lined the mark up again, it would be right? Does that make sense?

I didn't know that Powermatic hadn't been making these machines long. That would explain not seeing any used ones. I will be looking at buying probably next month, so I guess it will depend on what I find at that time.

From contributor H:
All referencing is done from the flip stops. One on the right and one on the left. You set this at the distance you want the holes to start from the top of your panel. If you set the stop at 3" from the center of the first bit, you will then bore one panel starting from the right side and one on the left side. If you build frameless, then the setback will always be 37mm for overlay doors. You can use the same 37mm setback for the back holes on upper cabinets because it's just for shelves. If you want to bore the back holes for base cabinets, you will have to move the fence to the proper position but you will not have to move your flip stops. I don't know if the single line machines have any digital readouts. If they do, then it's a simple matter of cranking it into position. If there is no digital readout there may be a scale and pointer. Upper cabs go fast, bottom cabs take a little longer, but it is a tradeoff against cost and power availability.

From contributor M:
You can buy quick change collets. I think they are universal for most machines.

From contributor P:
Do you have a particular source? I'd love some for my CB.

From contributor J:
One thing I used to do to move things along quicker was to have spacer blocks made up for doing the front holes. I would have the fence set to do the holes at the back of a panel first, since they were deeper. Then when I flipped the panel to do the front, I put a spacer block between the panel and fence to get the front depth. Much quicker than moving the fence.

From contributor H:
That's a great idea. I remember doing that when I had my single line machine. It is faster and I had a notch in the bottom to avoid dust buildup. Still nothing like a double line machine if you have the power for it.

From contributor U:
When I did my research I found the Unique was the heaviest, had the biggest throat depth, was American made, and came with a 5 year warranty! I do not see this machine ever wearing out.

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