Shaper and Moulder Choices

Observations on the relative capabilities of shapers and moulders. January 9, 2006

I am in the market for a Williams and Hussey or similar machine, and I want to get a shaper with a power feeder. I love the idea of being able to make crown and other moldings in house, but on the shaper I can raise panels. Right now I do this on a nice router table extension on my table saw outfeed system. Can you raise panels on the Williams and Hussey machine? Are there knives available to do this? Which type of machine I should buy? I already have a 20" brand new planer and jointer, wide drum sander and decent tablesaw, but I want to make the next step into doing my own moulding. I have a small cabinet shop in my outbuilding.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor M:
W&H moulders are indeed able to do raised panels, and the knives are part of their standard collection. They show you in the owners manual how to do it safely. I've had my moulder for a few months (bought it used), and it has already paid for itself in custom moulding runs.

It is a down and dirty machine, and I'm always surprised how clean it cuts with no chip-out. It sets up really fast, and even custom knives are turned around in days, turning your shop into an asset for others. Buy it already!

From contributor J:
I'm interested in the machine as well. How practical is it to do raised panels? How much sanding is required after cutting a molding?

From contributor R:
I would not use it for raised panels. I think you'd have way too much tear out on end grain. I've done cross grain molding on plinth blocks with less than desirable results. I think it'd be the same.

From contributor U:
In my opinion, the shaper is a more versatile machine than the WH. I have not yet come across a moulding I can't do on my shaper. The only process the WH can do better than a shaper is curved mouldings when you're profiling the face. Otherwise, one shaper will cut your panel raising, cope, sticking, wider, narrower, longer, shorter, a variety of arched top panel raising shapes, etc. that the W.H. can't do. I would love to have a WH as well, but if I could only have one, I would go with the shaper.

From contributor A:
The best combination for a small shop is a really good 3 or 5hp shaper (for so many cuts I can't list them all). A real powerfeed 1/2 hp and up is required with these shapers. Then if your budget and/or projects require lots of wide trim, 4 1/2" or wider, get the W&H moulder. It is hands down the most affordable and capable machine for curved/elliptical work.

Raised panels ideally should be done on a shaper with a powerfeed and a rub collar (bearing) and if necessary, a backcutter.

From the original questioner:
I use a rather large Delta 7 1/2hp shaper at work all day with a large 3 phase power feeder and it is, in fact, everything you say it is and more. They have a massive selection of cutters for it as well. I like it very much, but the problem is I cannot afford one like that at this time, let alone the power feeder. The kind of shaper I can afford is more like the 3 HP single fixed spindle non-sliding table type with the max of 1" spindle. The other problem is, as far as I can see, the cutters are prohibitively expensive due to their complexity and more massive metal composition. Most crown moulding cutters are over $300, easy. I have tried to find a decent machine used, to no avail.

The molder is all-in-one, and as far as I can tell, does about any kind of moulding I can think of and the knives are rarely more than $100. I thought that if I could raise panels on it, I could cut the stiles and rails for most jobs on my nice router table. My shop is in its infancy right now and I guess I am just looking for the most machining capability for the dollar. The average small beading or simple molding I can do on the router table, as well. I was not happy to hear it would tear out the panels. Of course, our shaper does its share of tearing despite our best efforts. I think that running the end grain first, then the sides and using a spoil board is the best way I know of to get decent results, and then it still needs concentrated sanding. If the moulder does a reasonable job of raising panels, I would go for it. I would probably get it just for the large array of mouldings available and the safe and easy use of the machine. We have two guys at our shop that are missing digits from shapers and I basically never run it without the power feeder. What do you think?

From contributor T:
I have the W&H molder and 4 shapers for raised panel doors. You will not be happy making raised panels on the molder. The width of the molder is only 7" and anything wider creates a problem with the chain that feeds the material. If I had only one machine, it would be the shaper with power feed. There are a lot of knives available to make moldings with the shaper, but the wide stuff you won't be able to do on the shaper. There will be a lot less sanding with the shaper, also. The molder does have its limitations, also, as you can only remove so much material with the molder, so keep this in mind when choosing your molding profiles.

From contributor A:
Check out the Bridgewood 3hp sliding table tilting head. If you seriously want to make doors, this is an excellent machine. The consensus amongst the contributors to WOODWEB is shapers should definitely be used with a powerfeed. As for crown/casing cutters, most people use standard or custom ground high speed corrugated steel. A 4" custom crown would cost somewhere between $100-$200 for a set of two. You would be buying similar (HSS) knives for the W&H. Once again, I would not do raised panels on a W&H. I would use a 3hp router table instead.

From contributor F:
Although the W&H is capable of raising a panel, it just doesn't have the RPM to cut the end grain passes cleanly, even if you run the ends first. For almost any other cut of molding, I really like planer style molders and the cutters are quite a bit less money than shaper cutters. You do have to be willing to sand the millmarks out, which will be more noticeable than the ones shapers leave, due to fewer cuts per inch.

From contributor W:
I am not a fan of the Shop Fox brand, but their molder does seem to be a little bit more robust than the W&H. Worth checking into.

From the original questioner:
I am kind of surprised to hear that the moulder is more robust than the W & H. Usually people bag on Grizzly machinery. I have a Grizzly tablesaw - an older one I bought from the shop I work at for a song when they bought the Streibig panel saw. It was, however, their go-to machine until that one came along and I have tuned it up considerably. I think a large cause of complaint on Grizzly machines is due to the cast pulleys they install. My saw's pulleys were a tad out of round and caused some vibration. I chucked it up on my 12 inch lathe and machined it true, and now it sings like a bird! I have a friend who owns a grizzly shaper and loves it, but it also vibrates. I looked at it for him and it is also seemingly due to the pulleys. Different speeds seem to make it vary as well, but I have not gotten around to getting him to remove them, so I can fix them for him.

I do own a 2hp dust collector from Shop Fox, as well as a couple roller stands, and I am very happy with them. I did not know what to think about the moulder, though. I am in a tight situation for this purchase and I would love to think that the machine would be adequate for my small shop. I keep telling the wife about a houseful of custom mouldings when the machine arrives. I've got to keep her in the game, ya know.

I am also looking at a shaper from Accura tools that is basically the same as the small sliding table machine from Wilke machinery. It is supposed to have a 1 1/4" spindle and heavier duty bearings, as well as the sliding table. Sounds great and the price is reasonable, but I am still up in the air. The cost of the knives makes it a bit iffy for me. I am also thinking about getting the moulder and maybe the large router, and building a table for it to do the panels. I agree that the shaper can be an invaluable tool and I am sure I will own one at some point, but I need to get the machine that will do the most for me right now.

From contributor K:
I plan to get a W & H as soon as I get my Shopbot paid off. I've been admiring them for years at the shows. I saw the Shopfox version at a local retailer a few weeks ago and it doesn't appear to be all that. Several of my key machines are Grizzlies, but I'm holding out on this one because I believe the W & H is that much better.

From the original questioner:
My only experience with the W & H is in a shop I worked in Florida. It was purchased just before I moved to Tennessee. I helped them put it together and made the first few test runs on it. It seemed to be well made and very straightforward in its design. How did the Shop Fox machine differ from the W & H? I am used to the import machines not having the same quality castings and paint, but was there something particular that you did not like about the machine? Have you gotten an up close look at the W & H in comparison? Thanks in advance for your comments.

From contributor B:
I have a W & H and find it does very well. I would not use it for raised panels, though. I have upgraded the motor to a 3 horse and added the variable speed option, too. I would not use it without the variable speed. You can slow it down or speed it up depending on material and grain, so your finish is really good. You do tend to lose the last few inches due to snipe. I would like to know where you're getting your knives for 100. I have been paying 250 a set (granted, they are larger knives - 5 inch crown).

From contributor W:
The W&H is about $2500, the Shop Fox is $1000. I have never used either, but a lot of shops in the area use the Shop Fox brand to run their moldings, usually in walnut and other hard to find species in moldings. So far as I know, no one has complained and a couple of shops have at least two of them. I do believe that you would want the larger motor and variable speed on both brands, though. The Shop Fox comes with a 2hp and a 15 FPM feed rate. A little small and fast for serious crown molding. As far as knives, I had looked into the Shop Fox and the knives I wanted were around the $250 range for a 5 1/2 inch crown.

From contributor N:
Space was more of an issue for me. I have a WH moulder and a Grizzly 3 head shaper without any power feeders. I use the shaper 10:1 over the moulder. I use a jig in the T-track to make it into a slider and it works just as well as any slider. The power feeder would be nice if I did big runs, but my business is one-offs and exotic.