Architectural mouldings on CNC routers

A discussion of the ins and outs of producing architectural mouldings on CNC routers. June 14, 2000

Can anyone comment on the idea of producing complex architectural mouldings on a CNC router?

Can it be done? Profitably? How? Which manufacturer? Is Thermwood a leader? What are the most critical factors in making the idea viable? I intend to produce some furniture components as well.

Forum Responses
You will not get the continous speed that you get from a moulder; you would need a horizontal arbor or aggregate that could accept a moulding head. If you are planning on curved work, you need a four-axis machine. Our Weeke has what they call a "planing" aggregate that will do mouldings.

What exactly do you mean when you say:

- continuous speed?
- horizontal arbor or aggregate?

I don't want to get into curved work.

When I say architectural mouldings I mean intricate repeating patterns and dentils, things I think cannot be produced on a moulder. Can you straighten me out on this?

Do you have any contact info for a Weeke dealer (preferably in the Northeast), or for the manufacturers themselves?

By continuous speed, I mean you will be able to constantly feed boards through a moulder, while on a router you must load and unload and the work. Although some heads may travel faster, the overall throughput on a moulder would be higher.

If you were to run a crown you couldn't use a vertical spindle to achieve an "S" shape in a single pass, and would require multiple tools. So you need an arbor that is horizontal for this, or you need an aggregate -- one that plugs into a router motor that has a horizontal arbor.

If you don't want to do curved work I think you should look at a moulder, if your primary need is mouldings that can be done on a moulder.

For your intricate work, if it is paint-grade, you could get a "compo" machine that applies patterns to mouldings with wood dough. I don't have any experience with real intricate patterns on a router, so hopefully someone else will jump in.

Weeke is sold and serviced by Stiles Machinery.

There are some interesting possibilities for complex geometries using two, half axis, surfacing techniques. The limiting economic factors are going to be cutting time, tool usage, and whether your CNC control will perform DNC (file feed from a PC).

The files will be fairly large. It might be possible to combine cuts from several form-ground cutters to get near the net shape, and thus reduce total manufacturing time.

I've made dentil moulding on a CNC router. It went fairly well - two operations w/table saw in between.

We've also made many specific radius cabinet parts, i.e. scotia, inset bead, door rails to match shaper knives, curved raised panels, face frame parts, etc.

I saw a multi-profile table saw moulding head that I want to try on the horizontal head of our Routech 220. Lots of possibilities for moulded stuff, but for production mouldings, you're still better off on a moulder.

If you are going to run curved mouldings on a CNC, the shape of the profiles will determine if you need a horizontal head.

You can also cut great curved blanks with a CNC and run the profiles through a horizontal moulder like the Schmidt, which also has a tilting head.

We have a twin-table Northwood CNC with a horizontal head. It is also sold by Stiles. It does a great job and is a good machine. It is a very large investment, however, and that is only the beginning. After the machine was set in place we spent about $30,000 for dust collection, electric hook-up's, tooling, etc. I'm not trying to discourage you, just prepare you for expenses you will incur.

Plan on two to six months of training and integration. I do not know Stiles, but the people at Northwood have been great to work with.

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

Comment from contributor K:
I run a 5 axis CNC and moldings are possible. We make custom moldings and custom furniture. A 4 axis machine will do it, but the time it takes is not worth it. On our 5 axis you can make special parts in a reasonable amount of time. Many times it's quicker to make standard moldings with it. It's quicker than re-tooling your shaper, if you are good at programming.