Arched raised panel doors

      Using jigs to make arched raised panel doors. September 25, 2002

What are the proper jigs to make arched raised panel doors? I saw some from a company named Weaver, but am wondering what others use.

Forum Responses
From contributor D:
I have the Weaver machine but no longer make my own doors. They do sell everything separately and you may find their cathedral jigs helpful.

From the original questioner:
Did you have the manual jigs or the air-controlled? Also, why don't you make your own anymore?

From contributor D:
About six years ago I bought a supply of oak cheap and used it for years. When it ran out two years ago, I had to order oak for a door order and when I saw the price I did a cost analysis on making my own doors - time/wood/dollars/etc. and found I was losing money. I then started to outsource my doors and the truth is they are better than I could make myself. If there is a defect, I simply make a phone call and a new door is on its way in a few days.

My Weaver is a new machine and I probably never made 200 doors. It is a great system, but just doesn't work for me. If you can buy hardwood cheap, it might work. There are many cabinetmakers that just can't get away from making everything. I want to make the highest number of dollars per hour in the least amount of time possible, so I can do the really important things in life - spend time with my wife, kids and grandkids.

From contributor B:
I have had the manual Weaver jigs for years, also universal hold down, under dead collar and fence for my already purchased other brand shaper. The air fixtures are a delight to use but a little expensive for a small shop. If you are building more than 10 doors a week, you need them. If you have not purchased your shapers yet, go with Weaver. Setup for change over on other than Weaver shapers, to arched rails is a snap.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the feedback. The cost difference between manual and air controlled would be about $1,000. Nothing to sneeze at, but I've begun buying tools with an eye on speed (producing doors quickly) and being able to absorb increased capacity. For instance, if I buy the manual jigs now at $600 (with templates), then business improves so that I would need a higher production tool, I would spend another $1,600. But I clearly understand your point and appreciate it.

From contributor B:
Sorry, I should have said that the jigs were needed, not the air float jigs. I also use three shapers, set up just for doors, and need four, to reduce setup and teardown time, for arched rails, but I have more time than money. I was blessed to have four cabinetmakers for customers, but alas, they are now closed down. Their business paid for the machines I'll have to use in my retirement. So, I agree with contributor D - I did outsource when overloaded, but had lots of time and grandkids too far away to visit often.

From the original questioner:
What is your unbiased opinion of the air versus manual as far as efficiency is concerned?

From contributor B:
I'm a physical type - worked at a workbench or machine in another life and have to be in control of all I do. Air float should relax other types of workers and help with their fatigue. I also believe they are safer than the manual type.

From contributor D:
The only real need for air float is w/r/p's . They are so large and a bit scary with manual setup on Weaver. It also will help with crown rails, as they are a bit difficult to feed. The manual works, but it just seems to be better to have that heavy air jig in between you and the shaper cutter. The Weaver hold downs are very well engineered and ingenious and the Weaver folk are great to work with.

I agree with contributor B on this.

I would encourage you to do an unbiased cost analysis before you jump too deep - if it is possible for you to really get outside your love for new machinery! It gets really expensive to offer even a few molding styles, etc. and no matter how good Weaver machines are, they cannot be expected to compare with an operation like Decorative with a million dollars worth of automatic equipment, especially on the sanding end of things.

I did a make-versus-buy study on doors, and it turns out I can make money doing my own, especially slab doors and Shaker-type recessed panel. But I'm a one-man shop and I find I can turn jobs faster by ordering out (if I don't misorder), thus keeping a larger client base happy.

I think that to be efficient at making doors you need several shapers or one really expensive one and a wide-belt sander and cheap, reliable labor.

From the original questioner:
I have a good shaper - a Delta 3hp. What I really have in abundance is time. I'm still working full time so any job I do I space the delivery time accordingly. When I venture into my basement shop, I donít want to fight with my tools. I'm looking for value and efficiency. So far, so good with my tool collection, and I want the jig to make arched doors to have the same impact.

From contributor B:
Here's a short story in the life of a door maker with only one shaper. You have just spent hours planing, ripping, cutting stiles and rails, and have shaped the ends of the rails and changed over to cut stiles and arched rails. While cutting that arched rail, POW, your cutter splits off the end of the rail and you have to change over to cut a new rail and then back for the edge cut. Itís okay if you only have one per door set, but if you happen to have bought a load of stressed dried oak, it may be five or six times you have to change over cutters and thatís like fighting your machine. I didn't mention all the adjustments and test cuts to get it cutting correct after change over. Not trying to discourage you, just telling of my experiences when starting with one shaper.

From contributor D:
Contributor B is correct. The only thing I will add is the Weaver system can be workable with one shaper. I have a one-shaper system (although I don't use it anymore). It takes about 5minutes for changeovers, but the unique thing about Weaver is there is no adjusting ever! Their jigs and hold downs are amazing and they tell you when you buy their system to adjust nothing. All of their jigs and hold downs are very precise and require no setting changes. Even without changes, it does get tiresome to keep changing setups and is better with 3-4 shaper setup. Mine cost just over $5000 and sure does a good job for that small investment.

From the original questioner:
Points well taken. After the discussion, I am considering the Multi Shaper system. By the way, I inquired and received a video on the RBI PanelMaster (three arbor machine - raised panel doors in 2 minutes). The video was not impressive at all; certainly did not equate to three shapers.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
I want to respond to the posts concerning multiple shapers and setup time. I run one shaper and one router table and I change hardly anything. The shaper is setup for RP's only. I built a precision router table, designed with 3- 9x12x3/8 phenolic inserts mounted to 3- Bosch variable speed routers. Each is removable and drops directly in the table. I'm sure most of you have seen this done. The routers are setup for cope, stick and fingerpull. The only setup is lining up the fence, which takes less than 30 seconds. The only bad thing about going with a router is I found my choices of cope and stick bits are limited. If I had the shop space and the money, I would definitely go with 4 shapers, but the routers provide just as much power and more choice of RPM than your basic shaper does. The router I use is the Bosch 1615EVS, best router on the planet!

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