Variable Angle Chamfers in a Production Job

Shaper? Router? Table saw? A woodworker wants to know the best equipment choice for machining large quantities of beveled flat stock at various angles with high accuracy and ease of adjustment. June 4, 2012

I need to saw about 10,000 ln ft of 3/4 x 1" stock with a chamfer on one 3/4" side, like a stave, but only one side. They will have angles varying from 0 to 30 degrees, but mostly in the 5 to 20 degree range. I have to be able to adjust the angle precisely to within 1/2 of a degree or better. What tool would you recommend for this? Tilting shaper with feeder? Table or band saw with feeder? What have you seen that offers good angle control? There are digital gauges and protractors for table saw blades and band saw tables. They claim 0.1 degree accuracy. Can anyone comment on how well they work? Any better ways to quickly and accurately set angles for chamfers?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor S:
For quality of finish and accuracy, a tilting shaper with stock feeder will be the thing. Could be done on table saw with feeder with some reduction in quality though feed rate could be higher. Digital protractors seem to be consistently accurate in my experience - use a known reference (square) to set and re-check. You could make reference blocks on the chop saw to speed setup of machine.

From contributor D:
I agree that tilt spindle shaper would be best and easiest to work with. An alternate is an adjustable bevel insert cutter in a non-tilt spindle. Most good shaper tooling makers have these. The carbide inserts are nice, and the adjustability and accuracy is good on the better makes.

From contributor T:
I would use my table saw, because that's what I have and what I am used to using. Have produced hundreds of staves, and I built a fixture to hold them precisely as they go through the saw.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. It sounds like so far the options are as expected, and good to hear that the protractors are accurate. I like the block idea, except that I would need one for every tenth of a degree from zero to 30, so too many blocks. I like the variable angle cutter idea, but I suspect setting all those angles would be too fussy and take a bit longer to test and adjust each angle setting. Maybe the table saw is the way to go, with a digital protractor that can give me tenth of a degree accuracy and a small power feeder to keep things consistent. It's easy to adjust the angle of the blade on a table saw, and quick to check the angles against the blade.

From contributor N:
I don't know what you're building with those staves, but I remember being frustrated with keeping accurate angles and the awkward glue up afterward of a sailboat mast. Then I discovered the "birdsmouth" technique. I've used this technique to build tapered architectural columns without a lathe. It may be of some interest to you, as it not only solves many headaches but actually increases glue surface (v-shaped versus flat to flat), and makes dead perfectly aligned glue-ups a snap on cylinders.

From contributor B:
How about buying a Martin Shaper? :)

I would use my shaper with an outboard guide, and a set of 1" wheels on my PF. It sounds like you have quite a few different setups. To adjust the spindle angle for this project, I would mount a Siko gauge on the handwheel shaft of your shaper spindle. These things are extremely accurate and you will be able to make quick adjustments. There is some fine tuning at the start to get it set right, but after that, you are good to go. You would probably need a machinist square and a calibrated 45 degree gauge for the setup. It is a little more expensive ($200 or so), but you will not have to try and hold the protractor and adjust the angle at the same time. Jim at Siko is quite helpful.

From contributor J:
I'm pretty much with the others here... a tilting shaper equipped with an insert style cutterhead would give you the most accurate, cleanest, and fastest output for producing these. The adjustment on mine can much more easily be dialed in than my 12" table saw. Especially if you're going to be shooting for 1/2 degrees, I'd go with the shaper.

Since you're asking, I'll assume you don't already have one, but if you think you'll have use for it on other projects and you have a budget, now is a great time to buy. I've seen 2 of the shaper I use selling here recently for less than $2k. An Amana cutterhead runs less than $200 I think.

From contributor T:
10,000LF is a job for a moulder guy, not a shaper. With an adjustable angle side head you can crank this type of product out at the rate of 3000LF/HR without batting an eye. When this type of small profile is contained in a moulder, it is also much safer when one wants to fly apart.