A moulder’s productivity starts with good practices in the tool room.


An efficient, well-functioning moulder can become one of the main workhorse machines in a custom woodworking business. Industry experts say that the key to achieving top productivity is to follow proper procedures in the tool room. The following are their specific recommendations:

Bob Metz, product manager, Moulder Division, SCM Group USA:

The setting up of a moulder should begin in the tool room. Properly designing your profile knife template using “constant axial positioning” not only is a proven technique, it is common-sense woodworking geometry. The axial positioning of a moulder spindle is the up-or-down movement of a vertical spindle or the in-or-out movement of a horizontal spindle.

By selecting a consistent axial offset, for example 1/4-inch, and applying that offset to each and every profile template, 30% of the moulder setup is achieved in the tool room even before the cutterhead is brought out to the machine. The machine operator needs only to make certain that the axial settings of the moulder are positioned at 1/4-inch. No “poking and hoping” is required.

Then, all that is required is the tool radius setting and adjustment for the finished part dimension. Even machines equipped with computerized spindle positioning can be set up more efficiently using the constant axial technique.

Another tip: Optimize your machine setups. With the demands of today’s “just-in-time” production, organizing your daily moulder production is critical to achieving optimum productivity and efficiency. Many moulder manufacturers engineer a minimum of 80mm axial travel for the right and left vertical spindles. This permits you to stack or combine families of profiles on one tool.

For example, chair rail mouldings, casings and base mouldings generally require straight edge tools positioned on the right and left vertical spindles. Crown mouldings, however, require beveled profile tools positioned on the right and left vertical spindles. By designing your straight-edge tools to incorporate the crown bevel at the bottom of the tool, simply raise the vertical spindle to align the bevel portion of the tool into position to mould the crown bevel. No vertical spindle tool change is required.

Another example of this principle is found in cabinet manufacturing. Several cabinet door edge profiles can be stacked on one tool. To change to a different edge detail, simply axially adjust the tool to the desired height. This concept is even more efficient when combined with a moulder equipped with computerized spindle movements. Profile changes can be achieved in less than 30 seconds.

Finally, I recommend that you have enough tooling. An efficiently equipped moulder department will have enough cutterheads in circulation so that one set of tools is on the moulder producing mouldings, two sets are on the tool cart waiting for the next two scheduled jobs and another set is in the tool room being prepared. All productivity is lost if the grinder-man must wait for the cutterhead currently being used on the moulder to prepare for the next job.

Chuck Carter, technical team leader, Solid Wood Technologies, Stiles Machinery Inc.:

Not too many years ago, the moulder only functioned as well as the operator in front of it. Today, the moulder only functions as well as its tool room can support it.

Improving tool room performance starts with practicing proper tool room techniques and good organizational skills, which are key to any moulder’s success. Poorly prepared tooling can decrease the finish quality and how long the tooling will last. We often see inexperienced operators taking 45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours to produce one set of knives that are still poor quality. With proper training, professionally ground knives can be produced within 15 to 20 minutes.

Also, by using good quality tooling, moulder efficiency can be increased. There is plenty of cheap tooling on the market today, and the only benefit is that it is cheap. Good quality tooling can last three to four times longer while only costing 30% more than cheaper alternatives.

You also can improve performance by using good tool room organizing and measuring techniques. All modern moulders have devices to indicate the position of the machining spindles in relationship to the machine bed and fence. By properly measuring the prepared tooling, a moulder can be dialed into the right setting for first-piece accuracy. Efficiency is increased as set-up times are minimized, and waste is reduced, since no set-up pieces are required. It is alarming to see how few companies actually use these features to their benefit with their existing moulders.

Once these basic principles of design and function can be realized and practiced, then added benefits of computer setting systems can be justified and maximize the moulder’s efficiency.

There has never been a time that so much affordable technology for moulders has existed in the marketplace as it does today. But the reality is that many moulder users do not incorporate the basic practice of proper tool room techniques and organizational skills that are the foundation of these systems.

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