Matching Old Moulding Profiles

Advice on how to get custom moulder knives for reproducing historic old trim profiles. July 30, 2009

We are working in an old mansion from the 1800's. Some of the old hand planed moldings are missing. I need to reproduce them and am looking for a place to get cutters for my shaper made to match. Any suggestions? We are located in Vermont.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor J:
If you have samples of the moldings you wish to replicate, a local molding supplier may be able to help - they should have knife cutting capabilities. We have produced knives, many from old samples, which the customer wanted to make themselves.

From contributor F:
Buying custom shaper knives for one-off mouldings doesn't seem very cost effective. Shaper knives are expensive even for standard profiles. Of course corrugated molding heads can be run on shapers but for wide profiles, it is easier to run on a different machine.

A better alternative if you prefer to do things in house is a planer style molder. These can be used to make one-off moldings at a fraction of the cost of custom carbide shaper knives.

I grind my knives in house by hand and eye, but you can also buy them from someone like contributor J.

For one offs, I typically run a one knife head.

The other way to go is to hire a mill shop to run your footage. They typically have a knife charge and minimum setup charge per profile plus labor and materials.

From contributor K:
There is nothing at all wrong with you running your own mouldings. I do it all the time. For short run projects, many millshops won't even quote it for you. And when they will, you will find that you can actually buy the knives and run it cheaper than they will when you figure setup times and higher per foot costs for small orders. There are a number of companies that advertise here on WOODWEB. You can try Charles Schmidt Co., Bull Sharpening, etc. If you don't have it you will do well with 2 knife corrugated heads since you already have the shaper. As contributor J said, you will either need to have a sample to provide the tool shop or a detail drawing. I like running mouldings on a shaper as opposed to the small moulder contributor F referenced, because it's easy to run a 4 sided moulding up to 6" tall, but that's just what I'm used to.

From contributor B:
I've had Weinig make customs for me too for an insert head. Great quality. Last set were $200 per blade for a railing profile. I recall they also advertise that you can send them a sample or imprint. You might want to check Mirror Reflections too. They have 20,000 profiles listed.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all of your answers. I have looked at our local cabinet shops for help, but as you said, it is quite expensive to reproduce this run. I believe I might just get two cutters made for my 4'' spindle head.

As a side note, the craftsmanship put into this house is something I rarely see anymore. It was built for the governor of Vermont. It is quite stunning.

From contributor U:
I run a 2 knife setup in a 4" diameter corrugated head all the time to reproduce profiles. I am getting knives from Oconnors Profile knives. I believe he is charging me about 40 bucks per inch for the 2 knife set in high speed steel.

I have sent wood samples, reverse profile putty sample, or even a faxed drawing of molding profile. I just gave him a dimensioned sketch with shoulder sizes and setbacks, radius sizes and configuration. He plots in CAD, sends to me for approval, and then grinds away. Never a complaint. Always spot on and balanced.

Definitely a good idea and then you have expanded capability. This assumes that you have a real shaper and feeder of course.

From contributor C:
Another thing you might try is finding someone with a CNC. I often produce short run or single pieces for customers that way. As others have pointed out, short runs through a moulder often are very expensive, but I've found scanning, drawing, and cutting a 10' profile on the CNC is cost effective enough most customers are willing to proceed.

From contributor R:
For short runs definitely consider making it in house. If the house was built after 1895 there is a good chance that you may be able to find the profile in an old architectural catalog. That is when a lot of the mouldings you see from that era were beginning to be mass produced. A lot of those profiles are still available today. Check around.

From contributor T:
When I do this, if I am butting/mitering/coping into existing molding, I take a small cut of the existing molding and send it to the company that grinds my knives for them to match it. Then I run the moldings to match the cut of the molding. For crown moldings, for example, this gives you the back cut information as well, making it possible to match the molding and not just the profile, making it easier to install to existing.

These may well be custom moldings, perhaps even made on site with a Stanley 45 or with the cabinetmakers existing molding planes. You may find something close in an existing catalog. But if you have to interface with existing molding, close out of a catalog may not be close at all.

If the moldings are elsewhere in the house and only have to be similar to the existing moldings, then something out of a catalog may be close enough. But in my experience, the time you spend poring over molding profiles in catalogs will exceed the time it will take you to match the existing molding. Plus, if it matches, nobody complains.

Any company that manufactures tooling will be able to make you cutters that match the moldings.