I have been asked quite a few times over the years if I made moulding. I never really wanted to get in to it since I had plenty of other things to work on. Now with the economy the way it is and me being slower than in years past I am seriously considering purchasing a W&H molder. Recently someone came to me wanting 400' of 4 1/2" base and 400' of 3 1/2" casing for their upper level and 400' of 2 1/4" casing and 400' of 3" base for their basement.
Figuring the purchase of the required knives and a bd ft tally and 30 - 40% waste factor it seems it could be a pretty fair profit. My question now is the board foot total and 30-40% waste an accurate estimate? Also since I have never done molding before, is it something I can jump right into with the W&H?
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor L:
The W&H's keep their value pretty well, so you can always resell if it doesn't work out. It might be worth a shot to try it out, but that is a pretty good run for that machine. They aren't that fast, or intended to do large molding runs. Their best use is for small custom runs.
I now have the electronic variable speed motor for the feed. It is a wonderful upgrade. I can do most of my moldings in one pass, just by slowing it down to about 8 ft/min instead of the mechanical trannies 17 ft/min. I have done a baseboard that is 6 3/8" wide out of 6/4 stock and the thinnest part is a bead that ends up 7/16" thick. This molding pushes the capabilities of the molder and I really wish it had a 3HP motor to do it.
For short runs of molding and custom milling it is a great machine. You could do about 2000 LF of molding a day if you were making your own blanks and running them. You could probably to 5000 LF a day if you were running pre milled blanks. It can be a good money maker if you charge the right amount of money. If you are going to try to compete with the box store, forget about it.
I have a formula for running most moldings. I charge .75 per inch of width up to 4" anything wider than 4" I charge at a .25 rate. This is per foot. I also take the cost of the wood and add 15% to it and add them up. So a 5" molding would have a milling charge of .75x4+.25x1=3.25, if I was running it out of poplar that cost me $2/bd ft I would add .84 to the cost.
We run a small Weinig 5 head at30 to 40'/min. 20hp top head that is sometimes maxed out even when we drop our feed to the slowest it will go (20'). Our charges are: setup $65, $0.40/' + mat'l. That includes all the things that go into making a molding: office time, material ordering, storing, selecting, waste, straight line ripping, knife, head and machine maintenance, bundling, collecting. We can custom make knives and more importantly if a knife picks up a nick while running the job, we can sharpen, measure and reset the molder very quickly and still deliver on time.
An interesting side note is that two of our regular customers have W&H molders that they use for a few very short runs. We run a lot of crowns, doorjambs, picture mold, and etc. often as part of the entire millwork package. None of these can be completed on the W&H, but can be completed by using a shaper and feed and matching knives.
You can make the shaper knives form either lock edge or corrugated just by eye with a bench grinder and the right wheels. The disadvantage is the added time/cost. If you really have the demand in your area I'd buy a decent used 5 or 6 head molder. A 4 head is really best suited to S4S rather than moldings. If I had it to do over, I'd buy a 6 head (two tops). I'd also put an infinite reverse profiling top shoe on it (about $4K). How many times have any of you put 5,000 feet through your W&H in a day?
WH's and the knock-offs are light duty - key word there being "light". Light machines are prone to more chatter, and the WH will chatter even on modest profiles. A decent shaper with a power feed and min 1 1/4" spindle will outperform a WH hands down, with a better finish. It’s a bigger machine, so there’s more mass, and less vibration.
Sure the WH has its merits - also detailed here. But I bet more than half of the WH you'll see in shops have been braced up, welded, bolted, screwed down to the floor you name it, just to get the vibration in the machine settled down. Go with a shaper, get a couple corrugated heads (they give you infinite adjust ability) and outsource your knives. Work your way up to a small moulder and you'll be on your way!
If you do end up with the WH, check around and you should be able to purchase knives with the WH bolt pattern that are also corrugated. Lets you use the same knives on your WH and shaper. I think I've also seen shaper heads with the WH bolt pattern which lets you run the smooth WH knives on your shaper.
I used to work for a guy long ago who ran a pretty good sized moulding shop with a big old Wadkin and a Weinig. Let's just say he did very well for himself. Two things he told me back then stuck. He said "When I got my first moulder I was feeding it material and I thought 'this is great!' then he frowned and said "but there's a lot more to it than that". A decent profile grinder, grinding wheels, knife stock, bearings, bedwear, and etc. And a solid SLR will also be a requirement at some point. Be prepared for the expense as it relates to support equipment
Later on he says "everybody's labor is about the same, you make your money on your materials". You need to zero in on the absolute best width boards to cut your blanks with the very least amount of waste. He'd come out of the office and yell like crazy when he saw the offcut pile. Simply put that off cut cart is profit. When your volume grows you'll get better deals on materials and can purchase wider boards. Soon, every board you pick up will be a "counter" and your moulder will be backed up with blanks!
I agree about the face ref. on a shaper but many times that's not an issue since the blanks are pre-planed to final thickness. If the entire face is being removed then you have more problems to deal with. For edge shaping you can go to an outside fence and have exact width. Large area face molding on a shaper has the issue of the soft (feed rolls) backup that the cutter head is working against allowing some chatter marks, the deeper or wider the cut the worse.
Short story: you will get better, lower cost moldings from a real molder. You can use the same knives on a heavy shaper as on a molder, which can be an advantage on some work. A heavy shaper can be jigged to make curved casing or if it is a tilt shaper it can also do curved crown mold.
If you are going to run very small batches of the same molding the W&H is a good bet for cheap entry into custom. The draw backs are its slow speed, multiple passes required for deeper cuts due to the limited power and rigidity, greater blank prep time, and issues about buying and sharpening the knives.