I have a 5 man face frame shop. We are making more of our doors now that things are slowing down a bit. So I am buying more hardwood than in the past. Orders for hardwood are made weekly or as needed and range from 300 to 800 board feet. Always have the hardwood supplier plane and straight line the stock for me. I can see us upping these order quantities to 1,000 bf or so a week.
We rip our face frame stock and stile and rail door stock on an old Davis & Well table saw with a powerfeeder. Then clean up the face frame stock edges by ganging through the planer. The face of our face frame stock is sent through the wide belt before cutting and assembling into face frames. I like the flexibility of ripping the face frame stock myself, as I can make whatever width I want and can use some of the small leftover rippings for small mouldings.
Does it ever make sense for a shop my size to plane and straight line in-house? Is there a better, more economical approach to buying and handling hardwood (besides outsourcing face frames and doors or going frameless)? I am curious about how other shops my size process hardwood.
From contributor A:
I haven't found a benefit to straight lining myself, but I do have a good local mill where I get my lumber dressed to 15/16" and straight lined one edge. I then skim pass 1/16" on either side. This takes out a good bit of planer chatter from the mill and eliminates the sanding before assembly... but I guess it really is the same amount of steps. This really helps when staining, especially in soft maple.
We build framed cabinets and I like to buy my face frame stock (2") pre-run through a moulder. This saves so much time, both in the prep and sanding. The inside edges don't require much work. I go back and forth on the cost effectiveness. Soft maple runs about $6 per board foot this way. I think, for me, it's nearly a wash considering the time required to prep regular 4/4 and the waste factor involved.
The gang rip is fairly smooth, requiring little effort to clean up, especially on doors, as most edges get machined anyway, and the rest get edge sanded while flushing the stile and rail joints. Face frames are a little more effort, and I've used both the moulded S4S and gang planed on edge prior to cutting frame stock.
What are your reasons for doing it the way you do it now? Do you like having the control over the materials or are you frustrated with having the extra function to perform and would like to get out from under it? I think this a question that we can't answer for you. You have to analyze this for your reasons and work it out by the numbers.
I get my lumber S2S and SLR1E. Unless you have a 2 sided planer, rip saw, and minimum wage labor, you won't come out ahead.
I do not run a ripping blade on our table saw. We use a triple chip grind blade (Freud). The cut is glue line smooth. This might eliminate the need to gang plane. You could just rip and sand.
Lastly... by getting it surfaced and ripped, you eliminate a heck of a lot of shavings to get rid of (more in house labor).
I am a two man shop with a SLR and Weinig moulder. I can have whatever size stock I need in just a few minutes. Machinery is the least expensive thing you will buy and having the right machine to do the job makes your life easy.
The only real issue is what kind of planing the supply will provide. We primarily use two lumber distributors. I will not have one of the distributors plane anything beyond 15/16. The other distributor takes it down to 13/16" perfectly.
A few years ago I started using a Woodworker 2 for ripping face frames. It takes the same amount of time to sand versus the planer/jointer/shaper. I typically joint/rip. So many of the edges are unseen, so very little sanding is needed anyway.
I agree that it is definitely cheaper and faster to purchase the material pre-cut, but I have had problems in the past with the material not being true and a lot of the time, the sides are not square to face. That really creates a problem when building the face frames. I have tried several different suppliers and it is hit or miss on the quality. Sometimes it is great and others, you just have to take a deep breath and relax before you call the supplier and tell them to come back and pick up this crap. I found that it is less stressful to just mill the wood myself and that way I have control over the end result.