Moulder Purchasing Advice

      A woodworker going into the moulding business gets advice on moulder choices and related issues. December 26, 2007

I am interested in purchasing a moulder to make standard and custom mouldings for our cabinet shop and for contractors. What brands should I look at to do this? I am looking to run as much as 1000-2500 ft per week. I am looking to spend $5000-$10000 for the machine and I suppose at least that same amount for accessories and knives. In that price range, which brands are easy to set up and service, and produce the best quality, for the most profit? I will get a bigger machine if the business growth permits me.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor T:
Some people out there may think I'm crazy, but in the past 35 years I have run a lot of different moulders, including Weinig, Deihl, Watson, SCMI, and a few others. I have run feed through and push through. But for the money you are talking and the low footage you want to run and your inexperience in operating a moulder, the good dependable Matison 276 moulder stands out. You can pick one up used and parts are easy to find. It is a workhorse. Easy to set up. Drawback is the low spindle speed, will means low feed speed. Get the jointing attachments if you want to increase your feed speed.

These machines are no longer made, but enough of them were made that they can be found fairly easy and parts are easy to find. But with your low amount of footage you have to run, this is maybe an hour or two production a week, including setup times. If you want to go high speed production, get a Weinig.

From contributor J:
I'm only familiar with Weinig and it sounds like a small Profomat or Unimat would fit your application, but used ones are still a bit pricey. The 22N is also not made anymore, but one of the best moulders Weinig built at the time. You could probably pick one up reasonable.

When buying a used moulder, check it out physically. Look for wear, listen to the spindles, run with no cutter heads on (bearings). Move the feed beam, look at the bed plates for wear. Just don't take someone's word for it. Look for yourself. A well built used moulder is often just that - used!

From contributor L:
A lot of Weinig 22N's were sold to small shops, so you can probably find one that hasn't been run to death. We bought one new 15 years ago and it's still a fine machine. We don't run it hard, maybe 30,000' a month. That's less than 20 hours a month. Weinig is a great company. Parts are available and so are technicians to do training. You can pick up a used 950 profile grinder to go with it and have a good setup for short run custom moldings. You will not be able to compete with lumberyard stock moldings. Just for fun, go to Weinig's web site and look at the Hydromat 6000 molder. 3000'/minute! That's not a misprint! 25 year old Hydromats will run 660'/min. Ever wonder where all that molding could go?

From the original questioner:
What do you think about the Woodmaster and the Lososol ph260 moulders? I was a little off on the amount I think I might run. I know a lot of places that I could do business with, and could potentially do 3000-5000 a week in mouldings. I want to consider price, fastest setup, service if problems arise, and customer service for help. Need something that produces quality as well. Once business grows, I plan to invest in a bigger machine. At the same time I will need to buy multiple types of knives to get started. What are your thoughts on purchasing blanks vs. hit and misplaned wood to make the mouldings? Am I saving money by buying the blanks vs. buying rough wood and resawing/planing everything down?

From contributor E:
You mention somewhere around $20,000 for everything? I think the first thing you need to do is make a list of all of the things you will need. You can start with the lumber. You talk about producing a quality product. I can tell you that the customer doesn't care what type of machine it is run on. What they care about is what it looks like and how much it is going to cost. So you really need to put some thought into where you will be getting your lumber. What type of quality does the lumber supplier have, and at what price will you have to pay to get it? You can run a crap piece of lumber through the moulder and it will become a crap piece of moulding. The moulder doesn't care what type of material you run through it, but the customer does. So your quality is tied directly to the lumber. How much the material is going to cost you will also directly effect the final cost to the customer. And no matter what you think they are willing to pay, I can assure you there is a limit. You need to find out what your potential customers are paying now and what type of quality they are getting. If they are paying $2.75 a foot for 3" cherry crown, that should give you an idea of where you need to be with your cost and quality.

You will have to figure out how much it will cost you to do the work versus buying the blanks. No one here can give you those answers. You will have to go back to your lumber supplier to find out if they will do that work for you and how much it will cost. Again, depending on your lumber supplier, you should be able to buy it surfaced two sides as well as ripped one edge. That will save you some time for cutting the blanks if you don't have the machines to do it yourself. Running a couple of thousand feet doesn't sound like much until you have to sort through the lumber to get a good yield for the blank size you will be cutting. Plane it down, joint it and rip the blanks to size. Keep in mind that getting a good yield out of random width lumber isn't as easy as it sounds. You don't want to end up with a bunch of pieces that you can't make anything out of. And it will detract from your bottom line, as you are paying for the scrap.

There is a big difference in price, quality, and the way the machine is run. You can buy a new W&H for $1500.00 or a new Woodmaster for a thousand or so dollars more. But there is a big difference in running one of those machine versus a high speed moulder like the Weinig 22N or similar 5 head machine. First thing being the amount of time required to run the moulding. You can take a slightly oversized ripped blank, either planed both sides or rough on both sides, and run it through the five head machine to get a finished piece of moulding. No messing around with multiple passes. You can change out the cutter heads very fast and get repeatable results. There are cost drawbacks to consider with these machines. First off would be the power needed to run it. You can figure around 150 amps or so. The dust collection is a must. So is where to put and get rid of the dust generated. Then it is the cost of the tooling. Between the heads and cost of running multiple cutters at once, you will tie up a lot of money in these machines. The W&H or Woodmaster is a steal for the money in comparison. But you will have to spend a lot more time preparing the blanks as well as running them. The W&H, as well as a few other open side machines, will also produce arch mouldings, which can be a plus if you can find customers looking for it. But keep in mind that three quarters of the work in making arches is making the blanks. Running them on the machine is the easy part. In the end it comes down to your time and how much it is worth to you and your customers, and how much you are willing to spend up front.

The same goes with a profile grinder. It is not just the cost of the grinder, but the cost of the knife steel, the scale to balance it, the time and cost of producing an accurate template, and the time to produce it. If you are just starting out, I would suggest that you buy your profiles. There are many companies out there that can make the knives and templates for a reasonable price. You just have to worry about sharpening them. You can ship them out to be sharpened or get a cheaper grinder to do it yourself later.

The best advice I can offer you is to make a plan and study the market before spending a dime. You have to figure out what the market is in your area. By that I mean what your customers are willing to pay or are paying now through someone else. Talk is cheap, and even though people say they will order from you, this doesn't mean they will. From there you need to figure your material costs. How long will it take you to make the moulding going from raw material to finished product? How about the cost of the machinery that you end up with, and the cost of running the machinery and shop? Once you break down the costs, you can figure out what you need to make a profit and where you are in relation to your competition. Only then will you know if it is worth it to produce moulding.

From the original questioner:
Thank you so much for your input. I understand everything you said and now I just need to figure everything out. As far as investment, I am looking to try and stay in that budget area to start off. I will be going out to the other two custom places and getting some quotes to see where I need to be for price. I will also be checking into the places we get lumber from for our cabinets as well as some others I know of. Can you tell me some of the major pieces I might need? We have a lot of machines already for making custom cabinets and furniture.

One more thing - what do you know about the Logosol ph260? It seems like a great piece of equipment with all of the heads. One thing that concerns me is that you can turn off any of the cutters and only run the ones you need. It says that each of the 5 cutters is run by a 2hp motor. Is that good enough, since it could potentially plane 4 sides at a time?

How do you price the moulding? Is there a certain formula to help?

From contributor E:
There is no standard way of coming up with pricing. Each shop will have different factors that go into their price. If you haven't done it already, you really need to figure out a shop rate. In order to do that you will need to figure out how much running the shop costs you right now. Then add on a profit for yourself and the business. Divide that out to an hourly number. That is your shop rate. Or the minimum you need to get to pay your bills and make some money. Now obviously, you will not be making your shop rate each and every minute. But it is a good number to know when pricing out jobs. Or how much you need to make each week or month, if you want to look at it that way, to stay in business.

Then you can start to figure what your costs will be for the moulding. Start with the lumber cost. Again, it will depend on how you are buying it. But you can come up with an estimate at least. Then, how long is it going to take you to run the moulding, going from the lumber pile to finished moulding, and including the time it will take to set the machine up? This number may be a little misleading because it will be slightly different with the amount of footage. It would be a waste of time to say it takes you two minutes to run over to a planed lumber pile, pull a piece off of the top, rip it and run it through the machine that is already set up with the profile. Assume that you need to run 1000 feet of moulding. Getting 100, 10 foot blanks will take you much longer to cut than just one. How long will it take you to set up the machine? It will depend on the machine you purchase and the experience of the operator. Most people get quicker as they get some time with the machine. So you will have to estimate how long it will take you until you actually do it. Then you can track the actual time.

Once you have those numbers, you can average it out and come up with a labor cost. So if your shop rate is $60 an hour, and it takes you on average 3 minutes to run a ten foot blank, then basically it is costing you $3 in labor or $0.30 a foot of labor on the moulding. That will tell you how much it is costing you in labor (with profit added in). Add in the cost of the material. That will give you an idea of what the minimum price should be. You can add on whatever the market will bear if you like. But if you don't make that minimum, then it won't be long before it catches up with you.

That may not give you a true reading on your costs, as I have left out a few items like the cost of the cutters, material waste, various maintenance items, as well as buying new tools or sharpening costs. But it should give you a starting point. In any case, it is good to know what your competition is charging. But keep in mind that their costs are different from yours. So their price can only be used as a guide.

I can't give you any advice on the Logosol. It is not a high speed machine, but it looks like it has its good points and for the cost, is a good starter machine. There are some things that I can point out in comparison, such as the feed system. The Logosol as well as the other small machines uses powered single rollers. So the contact with the wood is only very slight in two places. It will operate like a planer. If the board has some warp, it will follow the warp, just like a planer. I know that they state that the Logosol's infeed table can be shimmed down to compensate, but the reality is that it won't take out the warp. You will just be taking off more material on the bottom. This shouldn't be too much of a problem if you are running quality material or buying it pre-planed, as more than likely your lumber supplier will be surfacing the material through a Stratoplaner or similar machine. I also think that the Logosol has 4HP on the top and bottom. Maybe I am wrong. You will have to look at their website for the specs. What you need to worry about is the maximum amount of depth you can take off. You might have some trouble with deep profiles, as the wider and deeper you get, the more HP it requires. Here is where you either need more HP, or to be able to run a couple of passes through the machine, which may or may not be able to be done with the Logosol. You would have to ask them about that.

From contributor D:
I have a Woodmaster 718 that I custom ordered with a 10 hp 3 phase drive motor and a 1/2 hp feed motor that I use exclusively for gang-ripping blanks for my moulder. Running moulding on one of these would be too slow for me, but if you aren't in a hurry, it should work well. It is very well made and simple in design. I use a Logosol 4 head moulder to make the wood components I sell (flooring, wainscot, cabinet parts, etc.). It does a good job for me.

Check into leasing a moulder. I started out with what I thought I could afford and ended up spending much more trying to make things work than if I had done it right to start with. The money I saved in labor costs more than covered the lease payment for the Logosol moulder I now have. I have a 4 year lease with a $1 buyout at the end of the lease.

From contributor L:
Contributor D, what feed speed do you use when molding a typical 6" crown? I've often wondered how the very low HP machines could run common moldings. I know we max out our Weinig P22N when running bar rail. That's when it is running at its slowest feed rate. When it has to make the bar rail in maple, it will bog down badly on the top head with 20 HP. On casing and the like we run at 35'/min with no problems. On non-show moldings we will run up to the machine max at 80'.

A note about feeding on a molder: most will come with either a manual or automatic bed lubricant pump (eases the feed and preserves the bed plates). Small molders like ours have 4 serrated steel feed rolls and a top and bottom urethane out-feed set of powered rolls. Bigger molders have bottom powered feed rolls under the top ones. If your machine can't maintain an even feed, you will get hesitation marks on the molding.

Good dust collection is a must and it takes a lot to keep the chips from re-circulating. If you get re-circulation marks, it's not quality molding! The dust duct from our 5 head is 14" in diameter with a 3800'/minute flow rate. That is near the minimum required.

Some wood contains mineral streaks (dark lines) that will put a notch in steel knives, requiring a regrind, or else producing poor quality moldings for the rest of the run. Maple and walnut commonly have these mineral deposits. So you will have a choice - poor quality, tear down the setup and send the knives out for sharpening (delayed delivery to customer), buy a grinder, slip the head off the molder, do a touch up grind, put head on measuring stand, put head back on machine, adjust the spindle using the digital readouts to compensate for the ground away steel, press green buttons. Elapse time 15 minutes. Deliver a quality molding, on time. There are several other things that will damage the knives also: sand in the end checks, metal that the trees grew around, staples from the plastic lumber covers or tags, and a slip-up when handling the knives or head.

We buy our lumber from the wholesalers skip planed (4qtr at 15/16). It gets rid of most of the dirt, and allows us to see the wood better than in the rough, while preserving most of the thickness. We tried using the straight-line service but found it cost a lot in lost wood. Best guess almost off every board. We bought an Extrema SL-rip saw and it is much better than trying to use a jointer to straighten the edge, and we can rip from random width material with little waste. If you were doing a lot more, a multiple rip with moving blades would be the best.

Your time and knowledge are the only things you have to sell. Make the best use of them!

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