Preventing Tear-Out with Curly Maple

Curly maple is tough to machine. Here are tips for success. August 8, 2006

I'm having a terrible time trying to make the stiles and rails for raised panel kitchen doors. I'm using curly maple, which I have never used before, and the wood keeps tearing out as I run it through the router table. I'm using a 31/4 hp router with sharp blades and I've tried running the router at high and low speed. Any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor M:
Try several very small passes, or go to a square shoulder profile.

From contributor B:
Curly maple always is a pain in the butt to work with. You have to find a method to the wood. I always take small passes, increase depth as I go, especially if I'm running boards through the jointer. If I don't, it chips out because of the heavy curls in the lumber. Also, keep all your blades and bits sharp. It's a very dense wood and in my experience only cuts well when everything is nice and sharp! Best of luck - it is an amazing lumber to finish.

From contributor A:
That's always a tough one with your setup. You need a power feeder and to run the work piece through backwards. That's called a climb cut. Don't try it without the feeder, as you can not hold the work piece.

From contributor L:
I use my 2HP router and climb cut by hand all the time. I take the first pass by climb cutting until the bearing (or fence) is about 1/16" from the stock. Then I do a standard push cut and it usually leaves a clean cut without chip (chunk) out. If I am using a large cutter (1" cut), then I will do the climb cut in two passes before I do the push cut. Not hard at all, been doing it for 15 years, and I do it with 90% of my profiles.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question. I'm going to give your suggestions a try before I commit myself to turning down this job. This might be a job for either someone with better toys than me or more experience with curly maple.

From contributor B:
So you ruin a few boards, that's how most of us learn. It's better to figure it out now than keep outsourcing it and get so busy that you can't figure it out later. Curly maple is really nice once it's finished, an end result that hard labor is worth working for, even if it means doing things backwards or slower.

From contributor W:
I haven't tried this on curly maple, but it's worked successfully on some highly figured cherry that was tearing out like crazy. Try just dampening the wood right before sending it through the router.

From contributor J:
Don't turn down the job even if you can't make the doors. Outsourcing the doors might be a better option because you know exactly what they will cost. Doing them yourself with a tricky wood, your labor costs can quickly double if you spend all your time fixing bad parts. We have 3 5hp+ shapers, a wide belt, clamp table, and an edge sander for doors and I still think it's cheaper than building them. The added bonus is you get to do twice the gross in the same amount of time or less.