Stile and Rail Shaper Cutter Options

A discussion of the pros and cons of reversible cutters, insert cutters, and more. October 30, 2005

I'm looking for a new rail and stile cutter set for my Powermatic shaper. Does anyone have suggestions for a quality set? What are the pros and cons of the reversible single cutters? Anyone else have trouble with getting a good fit with their Grizzly set?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor A:
I use LRH and have been pleased with them. Freud and Amana make nice cutters also but they are usually more expensive. I find the reversible sets to be a pain in the butt. If you only have a single shaper they might be fine, but I have three shapers - cope, stick and panel. I have a reversible sash set and I only have the one set so I am constantly switching back and forth from cope to stick. The next time I will buy two sets of reversible cutters and use two shapers. One of the pros about reversible is they are usually half the price.

From contributor B:
I make custom shaper cutters on a regular basis. I have a bunch of them in my online catalog already made. Feel free to take a look at my profile catalog, under door copes, 4 different qualities of steel available to make them from, or carbide, 24 hour turnaround time is our standard.

Regarding your question about reversible cutters, contributor A makes a real good point about the set up time. A lot of times we look only at end cost and neglect to look at labor cost and set up time, and in the end we end up paying more. I would not even consider making the profiles reversible for you. A couple of things come into play when you do that. Most important is safety. Two profiles back to back increase the depth of cut, making a bigger cutting circle, and the further your fences are away from each other, unless you cut thru the fence. Either way I try to keep your cutting circle as small as possible. Also, you reduce the amount of surface area available for the cutterhead and knife to lock into each other, creating a safety concern. I know people do this quite often, but when you look at the safety and labor cost, I do not recommend this and will not produce any of these types of cutters for anyone. Putting cost in front of safety is a risky and dangerous combination. Thanks for asking good questions.

From contributor C:
You might consider an insert cutter that is more repeatable for fit than ground cutters, and offers in-house maintenance flexibility that tipped cutters donít. Insert tools also are able to use a higher grade of carbide than tipped cutters and therefore provide a better finish.

Many manufacturers such as Freud's RS2000 system, Stark's CABINATOR, and a number of others offer insert tooling. The great thing about these sets is that the same head body will accept a number of different profiles. This really reduces your cost.

From contributor D:
I use Freeborn shaper cutters almost exclusively. I find them to be reliable and consistent. The components can often be swapped between sets without a problem.