Powermatic’s 15HH planer features a Byrd Shelix helical cutting head and 1/8-inch maximum cut depth.
Powermatic’s 15HH planer features a Byrd Shelix helical cutting head and 1/8-inch maximum cut depth.

Anything But Plain Stationary Toolmaker Turns 90

Powermatic’s 15HH planer, decked out here in anniversary colors, traces its roots to 1921, when Leonard F. Smith, Sr., a McMinnville, TN, lumber dealer, built his own planer in an effort to mill superior lumber.

When a business associate offered to buy it, Smith built four more planers, then quit the lumber business and began manufacturing. In 1928, Smith moved to a larger plant and opened Powermatic, producing sanding machines, drill presses, and the latest concept, a table saw with a tilting arbor. In 1958, the company, now run by Smith’s four sons, added a foundry to ensure precision castings.

Acquired in 1966 by Houdaille Industries, a Fortune 500 firm, Powermatic tools donned the brand’s signature golden finish in the 1970s. In 1986 Powermatic was purchased by DeVlieg-Bullard, then in October 1999, by current owner Walter Meier Inc., owners of JET Tools and Performax Products. Now along with the Wilton Tool Co., Walter Meier Manufacturing operates a 400,000-square-foot facility in LaVergne, TN.  

To celebrate 90 years in business, a limited edition of the Onyx series of woodworking machinery was launched at the 2011 AWFS Fair this summer. Seven stationary power tools, such as the 15HH planer shown here (as well as a band saw, jointer, drill press, table saw, lathe and dust collector), are available until the end of 2011. The tools sport a distinctive black Onyx finish with gold trim and Powermatic’s 90th anniversary emblem.   

The spiral head on its 15HH planer provides smoother cutting and a finer finish than conventional knives, says Powermatic. Three V-belts transfer maximum power from a 3-hp motor to the Byrd Shelix helical cutterhead. A large cast-iron hand-wheel positions the cutterhead. A digital readout provides function status.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.