W&WP January 2003

The Finer Points of Profile Cutterheads

Industry professionals give their expert advice and opinions on how to prevent and solve common problems when using profile cutterheads.

By Bernadette Freund

Wach day brings new challenges and in the tooling industry each new tool material and wood species brings its own unique challenges when creating and using profile cutterheads.

Recent advancements in profile cutterheads have come in the form of new and modified tool materials and higher speed capabilities as well as other technical advancements. John Michel, director of technical services and key account management for Leuco Tool Corp., says, "Profile cutters such as insert knives today offer profile repeatability, mating profiles that mate perfectly and edge life that is two to three times longer. Diamond today offers increased longevity and low applied tool cost."

As with any new technology, there is a learning curve for fully realizing the benefits of profile tooling developments. Problems will occur and mistakes will be made that can cost time and money. However, there are several common problems and mistakes that can be avoided by taking preventative measures.

Common Mistakes and Problems

Tooling industry professionals agree that many mistakes and problems stem from manufacturer and tooling supplier miscommunication, but there are common mistakes and problems to look out for when using profile cutterheads in a woodworking facility.

According to Anthony DeHart, president of DeHart Tooling, there are many types of materials that profile cutterheads are made of today such as high-speed steel, tantung, three or four different grades of carbide and polycrystalline diamond. Broken tools often result from the wrong cutting medium being applied in the wrong situation.

"It is not a one-size-fits-all with the materials," DeHart says. "For instance, if a woodworker has a tantung profile tool and runs it in a MDF panel door instead of wood, the tool is going to break. Woodworkers have to be aware of all the new profile tooling materials out there and make sure they use the correct type of cutter on the correct type of wood species."

Another common problem woodworkers can encounter is that the sanding head wears out more quickly than expected. Some machines have a profile cutterhead followed by a sanding head to smooth out the wood material, but the cutterhead profile and the sanding head profile have to match exactly for this combination to work.

"If the profile on a cutterhead is off, then the sander profile wheel wears out in certain areas too fast," says David Freund, president of Saber Diamond Tools Inc.

As the feed speeds on newer machines increase, woodworkers may also find profile cutterheads wear out more quickly. According to Freund, more and more machines are being introduced that are running at faster and faster feedspeeds.

"As the wood comes through these machines faster the tools can wear out more quickly resulting in a loss of production," Freund says. "This makes the accuracy, balance and longevity of the tool increasingly important to get the correct profile cutterheads that avoid wear out."

Woodworkers should also be wary of taking one profile tool off of one machine and moving it to another because the cut will be incorrect.

"Profile cutterheads are used on many machines today," DeHart says. "Something to keep in mind is that the same cut cannot be accomplished in the same way on a double-end tenoner as it would on a moulder, shaper or router even though the profile is the same."

In the same vein, blow out and scarring problems result from using the same profile cutterhead on several different wood species. In other words, slight geometry modifications may be necessary to achieve the same profile in tiger maple than in alder or aspen.

Profile cutterheads may also break or cause blow-out because the woodworker is using a generic tool that accommodates many different shapes in longer or repeatable runs.

"There is a place for multi-profile tools in short runs and sample pieces, but the repeatability of critical profiles is not advisable in that type of tool design because they can break easily," DeHart says.

A final common mistake is that woodworkers spend large amounts of money on moulders and tenoners but are not willing to invest in high-quality tooling.

According to Mike Vetter, southeast regional sales manager of Leitz Tooling Systems, tooling allows for full utilization of machinery. "Machinery costs are so much higher than tooling costs, but people scrimp on tooling which reduces the flexibility and efficiency of their machinery," he says.

Shared Solutions

For every problem there is a solution. In the case of profile cutterheads, there are a number of solutions that can solve several common problems or mistakes.

In order to prevent sanding head wear and profile cutterhead wear, all of the industry experts mentioned suggest that woodworkers e-mail CAD system drawings of the profiles they want for the tool. According to Michel, the CAD drawings provide accurate and detailed information for creating the most precise profile cutterhead.

"If tool suppliers have a customer's CAD drawings, the supplier can create an accurate and balanced profile tool that can reduce sanding head wear and wear on the profile tool itself from fast feed speeds," Michel says. "Woodworkers should even double check these drawings to make sure the measurements are not off."

A second solution that helps reduce wood blow-out, chatter marks and poor quality profile cuts is to send current samples of every wood species that will have a particular profile cut into it. Wood products companies should also submit a sample of the end product or piece.

"We insist on seeing the product they are producing, but that is only one piece," Freund says. "When we receive wood species samples we look at whether or not it is susceptible to changes in moisture content, what material will cut it the best and whether or not it has an overlay to produce the best tool."

To prevent profile cutterhead breakage, woodworkers should only use a profile cutting tool specifically designed for the material being cut and the speed of the machine that the cutting medium can handle .

"For example, a profile cutterhead may try to work too hard and break if it is running on a harder wood species than it should," DeHart says. "A woodworker may say, 'We already have that shape,' but they do not go further to say, 'Oh, but we purchased that tool for red oak or pine.'

"Also, if that profile cutterhead runs at a faster speed on one project and then moves to a longer run on a slightly different material the tool is only going to give in one area," continues DeHart. "The tool has to be very specific to the operation."

According to Vetter, to eliminate incorrect cuts because of machine differences, a woodworker should send the tool supplier a list of all the parameters which includes what machines the profile must be used on.

"Flexibility is the key to cost effective tooling," Vetter says. "One parameter a tool supplier must know is how many different machines the profile will be used on to make sure the woodworker gets the most cost-effective and labor-effective set of tools."

All of the tooling representatives agree that communication and education are keys to solving problems.

"The key to getting the correct profile tools and using them correctly is communication combined with education," DeHart says. "Woodworkers must have a tool supplier they can have an open relationship and responsive relationship with and that they can ask the right questions."

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