Tooling Up with Your First Moulder

A woodworker gets advice on accessories to go along with his first moulder purchase. October 4, 2007

I am looking at moulders and will probably get a Unimat Gold 5 head. What do I need to get in the way of tooling? It looks like I will be doing a lot of S4S and parts with grooves. Are there any recommendations for aftermarket cutter heads, or do I need to stick with Weinig? What are some additional things that I need that are not included in a startup package? Do I need their spider manifold? What size collector do you recommend if I will be running a 15" - 20" planer, rip saw and this moulder?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor J:
The manifold you can have done anywhere. Air Handling Systems is a pretty good company. Heads are readily available all over this web site. If you don't plan on buying a profile grinder, you might want to look into carbide insert tooling. If you're set on the U-gold, I'm sure Weinig will talk you through everything you need for your application. Just keep in mind you don't necessarily need all Weinig accessories. However, you might want to look into the warrantee details before running other heads.

From the original questioner:
What are some of the accessories that I need to get? I have heard some heads are worse than others, while some are comparable to Weinig's. What are the good ones? Anything special that I need to look for with insert tooling?

From contributor M:
You will never go wrong buying Weinig heads and tooling. I bought some other brands when I first got mine and regretted it. Even the dealer I bought it from acknowledged that Weing makes the best, but you pay for it. When the dust settles, it's really not that much more, and now that's all I'll buy. As for the manifold, I bought mine from Sprial Mfg. They were much less than Air Handling or Oneida and designed it for me. As for dust collection, I think you will need at least 20hp. 5000 cfm @ 10" of static pressure will do the job that you are looking at. That's what I'm running and it works.

From contributor J:
I do agree with contributor M. Many people have found other tooling that works for them at a cheaper price, but it usually reflects on what they are doing. For instance, if you are just primarily s/4/s, then you might get good results from some of the leading brands of quick change straight blade heads. What you're running for stock will impact that. Everything you need should come with your new moulder, including a free week's training seminar in NC on top of your initial week of training at your shop. They will take care of you. There are other quality moulders out there too. Customer service is important.

From contributor T:
I'm not too familiar with the gold series, but if you can swing it, get a 6 head machine. You won't ever look back and say, "boy, I wish I would have got the 5 head." Also look to see if that model offers adjustable table plates on your side heads, a very handy feature.

As for tooling, stick with Weinig. If you buy a new machine, you can usually negotiate a good deal on lots of tooling also. Better than if you were to go to an off brand. Look to put a carbide head on the first spindle either straight or spiral, and if you get the 6 head machine, a carbide on your first top. Make those a 20 degree head, as they are purely a roughing cut. If you mostly cut hardwoods (oak, poplar, maple, cherry), get 12 degree heads for the finish heads. How ever many heads you think you're going to need, get more. A good start would be 6pc 2 1/2" 4pc 9" 4pc 6" and 4pc 4". Some other things to negotiate for may be feed rollers. Extra urethane rollers (the replaceable kind) and extra steel feed rollers. I use an aftermarket set of pushmaster rollers on the first feed spindle. Not cheap, but they have replaceable inserts when you need to sharpen, and in five years and millions of feet I've never needed to do more than replace a few cracked ones. Other must-have things would be several bars of knife stock in various widths and a balance scale if you plan on making your own knives. Something else to negotiate in is bed lube. A couple 5 gallon cans will get you well on your way.

Skip the manifold from Weinig, waste of money. Little trick I've learned is to pipe a slightly larger pipe down to the machine, like 7". It's kind of like sticking your thumb over a garden hose, except in reverse. Really helps clear the chips out. As far as a collector goes, a 10-12000 cfm will probably be enough to get the job done comfortably, won't offer much room for expansion, but should do for a while.

From contributor R:
Some great information in the above post.

In general, 1000 cfm per cutterhead is a good rule of thumb for the moulder. As for the rip saw and planer, ask their manufacturer. The spider can be done by anybody with a good reputation, but you're on their timetable and you would want it ready when your moulder arrives.

I agree with contributor T; if you can swing it, get the 6 spindle machine, you won't regret it!

You said you will be doing a lot of grooves. Be aware you can't make square dadoes with tooling that is ground from the back of the knife. Rule of thumb is no 90 degrees in your tooling if you want the tool to remain axial constant, on knives ground from the backs. Reason you can't resharpen it without changing the profile. Rabbets are okay, but your axial will move every time you resharpen, and it is more prone to burning. Dadoes will be okay the first time, then you will have to offset the knives (real pain in the butt). Braised on tooling or insert tooling will work best for this type of application unless you don't mind being out of square on your groove. Reason... Braised on tooling they regrind from the face of the knife and the 90 degree is resharpened with no trouble. Insert tool is fine if it is resharpened from the face, or maybe it's thrown away after use.

Contributor J makes a great remark. There is nothing like great customer service when it comes to Weinig. Great people on their staff and that says a lot when it comes to price. As for others' tooling, there is a lot of great tooling out there, and a lot of not so great tooling. Look for balanced tooling as well as bore tolerance (+5 to + 20 microns). Be aware Weinig will not back up your finish product if you use others' tooling. Training is a trademark of Weinig. Great techs, great teachers in the school, great people in parts that understand what you need and when you need it. In general, do your homework; you will be pleased with your machine and the products it produces.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the information. I don't know enough about moulding to ask the right questions, but you seem to be doing a great job of getting me up to speed. I guess if it takes a week to train an operator in NC, there must be a lot to learn.

Contributor R, I appreciate your comments about grooves. I was not aware of the issues with 90's, but this makes perfect sense. I guess the same is true with tongues. I guess I could get by with it if I have shorter runs that do not require sharpening, or I could buy new knives to maintain the tolerances... but I would have to set up every time I change the knives. I am thinking that replacing the steel might be cheaper than brazed cutters, for smaller jobs. Any idea what a cutter would cost that would groove .500 deep by .875 wide?

And how long does steel last? I know there are different kinds. Please bring me up to speed on that. We will be running hard maple, poplar, and possibly some MDF. I would appreciate your thoughts.

From contributor R:
Rough guess about $100.00 with the template included. High speed steel not an option on MDF; carbide is a must. It will melt your high speed steel. The cost of carbide is triple the cost or more. Hook angles, I would use 20 degree unless I had a tearout problem, then switch to 12 degree. Try and get dual angle cutterheads; that way you're covered both ways. Two pockets 12*, two pockets 20*. Remember 12* your knives are not going to last as long.

From contributor J:
One thing to consider when buying tooling: are you planning on buying a profile grinder too? If you go with high speed steel and no way to sharpen it, you might want to buy 2 sets so you can run stock while the other set is sent out for resharpening. Contributor R has a great service, as shows. The downfall to that method is you can hit a staple anytime. It's nice to have in house sharpening, but expensive to get into at the start. Maybe something to consider down the road when you see how your process is working for you.

If you end up buying a grinder from Weinig - "the axial constant system" - they will train you on that as well. Learning a moulder is fun. Remember when you first learned how to use a computer? Kind of the same, in a way. The basics take a few days and then you're on your own. But after that, you will keep learning, and learning, and learning all these little tweaks that fit your bill. It doesn't stop, only gets better.

From contributor A:
I just bought a Unimat Gold and installed it two weeks ago. I added the short stock roller/feeder and anti-kickback. The latter because I am doing splits.

I am using a 10 HP dust collector rated at 3500 cfm. It works fine. It is a few feet away and we actually split some of the air from time to time without any trouble (much to my surprise). Weinig suggests 4500 CFM. I am doing cedar, which is very light (22 lbs per cu ft) and I am only taking off 1/8 inch. Training was great, the local sales rep was great, and they have supported me well.