Advice on spindle moulder purchase

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NoviceJimbo

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Hi, I am wanting to make some large windows, skirting, dados, and doors for my Victorian house. I have read all of the threads of router table versus spindle moulder and can see that the shaper is the way to go. I have some experience of working with wood, routers etc, and I have made a small number of casement windows. Really, I am just a keen hobby woodworker, definitely a novice. I have no experience of spindle moulders and frankly they look a bit scary! Wondered if anyone might point me in the right direction regarding these machines. What power should I be looking for? Are 2nd hand older machines off eBay worth a look or stay away? Budget is about £600 & I have only a small garage unfortunately. I have seen a decent looking 2nd hand Kity Bestcombi 2000 (with no tooling), is this suitable for such work? Many thanks in advance, jimbo
 

Jacob

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..... What power should I be looking for?
Biggest you can afford. 5HP or larger recommended. 2HP will do but a doorframe rebate might need two or more passes. OK for smaller window stuff.
Are 2nd hand older machines off eBay worth a look or stay away?
Can be good. They are simple machines and not much to go wrong.
Budget is about £600 & I have only a small garage unfortunately.
Might need to spend more. But they have smallish footprint unless you are doing long stuff. If you were doing skirting boards etc you could cut them to length first.
 
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Against_The_Grain

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Moulders can be picked up fairly inexpensively, what will sting you is the tooling, buying a new limiter cutter block and rebate block which are pretty much an essential pair will cost you about £250-300 alone, before buying any cutters for the limiter block.

Secondhand machines are definitely worth seeking out, there is very little to go wrong with a spindle moulder as they are such a simply constructed machine. As Jacob said, more power is better but you do have to be realistic with what kind of power you actually have to hand, if you only have 13A 240v you will be restricted to quite lightweight machinery such as the Scheppach, Elektra Beckum, or Kity Machines. If you have 16A 240v you could look at heavier machines such as the Sedgwick spindle moulders but these do command a premium especially in 240v configuration.

As your are a complete novice, I would avoid older tooling such as the Whitehill blocks with the nut clamp, these rely on friction alone to grip the cutters and were banned from commercial use over 20 years ago, and as such haven’t been made for as long either so there really aren’t many left in good enough condition to be used safely.
 

DBC

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If you are worried I know that Axminster used to run a one day class on the spindle moulder. A young guy that used to work for me a while back had done it just before we met and he said it increased his confidence as this machine had made him nervous too and he had avoided using it at his College. I think it covers, safety, cutter setup, guarding, coping etc. You could see whether or not this is still offered.

I only have a 13a 240v SIP machine in my joinery without a power feed: I think it is the kind of machine you will be looking at with your budget. I have had it over 10 years and it is the last of my original budget type machines that I bought when I first set up my business; everything else has been upgraded long ago to a more commercial heavy duty spec. While it is adequate for a lot of work I do - mostly grooving and panel-raising but also occasionally making windows etc as you will be - I often chastise myself for not upgrading it yet. But I have got used to struggling with it I suppose. It gets sworn at sometimes when making long or deep cuts. I will get over my deep pockets and upgrade it one day.

Don’t know it the above was helpful but you are right to be respectful of this machine as they are fast and powerful. I once sold a pad sanding machine to a hobby woodworker on ebay and when he came to pick it up his wife was driving the truck as he had recently lost 1/4 of a finger on a spindle moulder. Having said that if you take the time to learn how to guard it properly and break through a sacrificial backer each time you change the tooling it is nearly impossible to get your fingers anywhere near the blades.
 
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johnnyb

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my opinion is a preference for moderner machinery. obviously of good quality. I have an scm t40n which are available in single phase. it's a great machine almost silent without a cutter and the tilt can be useful(backward tilt better than forward tilt)
a power feed is almost essential in my book. the combination of big cutter inexperience setting up and power feed says you really need someone to help show the subtleties.
 

Jacob

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my opinion is a preference for moderner machinery. obviously of good quality. I have an scm t40n which are available in single phase. it's a great machine almost silent without a cutter and the tilt can be useful(backward tilt better than forward tilt)
a power feed is almost essential in my book. the combination of big cutter inexperience setting up and power feed says you really need someone to help show the subtleties.
I found out the hard way with the notorious Lurem Maxi26 combi machine, old fashioned Whitehill cutters (before they were deprecated), home made cutters. Much cheaper than using a router and hugely more versatile. I never really got on with routers.
Essential to always use 2 push sticks routinely, and/or better still a power feed, which I got into later
 

Jacob

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....Having said that if you take the time to learn how to guard it properly and break through a sacrificial backer each time you change the tooling it is nearly impossible to get your fingers anywhere near the blades.
And use two push sticks. Your fingers never need to be anywhere near the cutters. Much safer than "limiters" which only come into play if you are too close to start with and can still give you a very nasty cut
 

deema

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An older machine, recognised brand like SCM, Sedgwick, Wadkin etc will be a good investment, it will keep if not increase in value. Like Jacob has suggested, the bigger the better. The larger the motor the larger / heavier cutter block it can spin. The more mass the black has / the beefier the motor the smoother the cut.
Make sure you get a spindle with all of the table inserts it should have. It should also come with its shaw guards and also the ring fence.
You will need as a minimum a rebate block and a modern pinned profile cutter block. For home use don’t go down the serrated cutter route. Equally avoid like the plague anything that doesn’t accept limiters.
A set of modern pinned off the shelf 40mm cutters and limiters are around £20. A set of custom made 55mm cutters and limiters is £54. At these prices for the odd occasions you will need something a little different that’s not off the shelf, get a custom set made. The approach Jacob is proposing about grinding your own profiles is one that was common place when my father was running a workshop, but was one of the reasons spindles acquired their grizzly reputation.
The most important bit of safety gear you should get is a big and powerful powerfeed such as a Maggi. Not only do they produce far superior quality of work, but ensure that fingers cannot get anywhere near.
 

Jacob

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...... The approach Jacob is proposing about grinding your own profiles is one that was common place when my father was running a workshop, but was one of the reasons spindles acquired their grizzly reputation.
The most important bit of safety gear you should get is a big and powerful powerfeed such as a Maggi. Not only do they produce far superior quality of work, but ensure that fingers cannot get anywhere near.
I'm not actually proposing it I wouldn't dare!
Touchy subject safety - but the old Whitehill block, whether or not DIY or bought cutters, was the safety block of its day, back in the 80s. And grinding your own cutters was normal. Cutters don't fly from the old Whitehill blocks unless someone has forgotten to tighten them.
The grizzly reputation was more about the older square block - cutters just bolted on to the outside, liable to come loose and/or break - big heavy cutters flying across the room. Madness that they were ever used! French cutters similarly liable to break
The other modern safety development is about handling and avoidance of risk - power feed, or if not then 2 push sticks as absolute routine, hand never closer than 10" from cutters (or TS blades) which just about eliminates the contact risk.
Kick back is less of a risk with a spindle for at least two reasons; the cutter tends to be small radius and doesn't give quite the sling shot effect you can get from a large circular saw blade, also the work piece can fall away sideways onto the table before it gets picked up, unlike a table saw, where the workpiece can fall on to it or get jammed.
Once you've got the hang of it they are easy and a pleasure to use
 

Against_The_Grain

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Cutters don't fly from the old Whitehill blocks unless someone has forgotten to tighten them.

Not wholly true, over time if the block has been misused from using cutters that are too small or placing them right on the edge of the jaws, the jaws can become splayed which means no matter how much you tighten the block the cutter will not be gripped sufficiently across its face.

They are a reasonably safe block when they’ve been looked after in the hands of an experienced machinist, I use them often myself, but the secondhand market is a complete minefield even with blocks that appear in very good condition being completely unusable due to the issue I’ve stated above.

Here’s a post online that shows what I’m trying to explain:

 

RobinBHM

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people get carried away with specs and don’t consider the funamentals.

spindle moulders need fences that are at 90 deg to the table and parallel to each other - they nearly always aren’t, not even Wadkin machines.

If you want a spindle for windows, you need a quality machine, ideally a 2nd hand Wadkin, Sedgwick, Multico etc.

find one with a heavy cast fence with fine adjustment on each fence.

and crucially note there are two spindle sizes 30mm and 1 1/4” (31.75mm)
 

Jacob

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Not wholly true, over time if the block has been misused from using cutters that are too small or placing them right on the edge of the jaws, the jaws can become splayed which means no matter how much you tighten the block the cutter will not be gripped sufficiently across its face.

They are a reasonably safe block when they’ve been looked after in the hands of an experienced machinist, I use them often myself, but the secondhand market is a complete minefield even with blocks that appear in very good condition being completely unusable due to the issue I’ve stated above.

Here’s a post online that shows what I’m trying to explain:


Well yes but the same applies to many machines - if they aren't in good order they may be dangerous.
Old Whitehill cutter blocks are no exception, nor the more modern blocks.
Yes you do have to be cautious especially with older items.
PS and the block in the photo didn't look in great condition to me! First thing you need to look at is that the clamp faces meet flat.
Modern blocks are "friction held" too, with a peg to stop them flying out if loose. I wonder if the hole for the peg makes the blade more liable to break, if other things go wrong? Half a cutter flying loose instead of the whole thing.
Limiters ditto, double the risk of flying blades.
 
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Spectric

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An interesting topic and an ongoing debate between the spindle and a router table. It has certainly got me thinking about the way forward but I think the bottom line is power, you need power to spin that heavy cutter head and having watched a video where a guy made a curved frame section in a single pass I was very impressed but it was evident he was not using something with a 3kW or smaller motor which is what the router uses. So my train of thoughts are you either bite the bullet and go for a decent spindle with at least 5Hp as @Jacob has recomended or use a router table and work within its limitations.

Now you hit the next snag, do you have three phase which will be needed to power a 5Hp motor? If not then you cannot use an invertor due to the power requirements and will need to look at the more expensive digital phase convertor but that could open up more potential in your workshop if you have the space. From previous homework the spindle can also be cheaper for cutters once you have the head compared to buying router cutters and can be more versatile if you make you own cutters from blanks, it may have been @Jacob who raised that one. If I think how much I have spent on router cutters it has been some investment plus I have to take multiple passes when making heavy cuts which both takes more time and increases the wear on your cutters.

Lastly I do like the big old cast iron machinery, built to last and deliver when compared to the modern pressed tin fabrications and if I had the space and was younger I would fill a workshop with such machinery.
 

Jacob

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An interesting topic and an ongoing debate between the spindle and a router table. It has certainly got me thinking about the way forward but I think the bottom line is power, you need power to spin that heavy cutter head and having watched a video where a guy made a curved frame section in a single pass I was very impressed but it was evident he was not using something with a 3kW or smaller motor which is what the router uses. So my train of thoughts are you either bite the bullet and go for a decent spindle with at least 5Hp as @Jacob has recomended or use a router table and work within its limitations.

Now you hit the next snag, do you have three phase which will be needed to power a 5Hp motor? If not then you cannot use an invertor due to the power requirements and will need to look at the more expensive digital phase convertor but that could open up more potential in your workshop if you have the space. From previous homework the spindle can also be cheaper for cutters once you have the head compared to buying router cutters and can be more versatile if you make you own cutters from blanks, it may have been @Jacob who raised that one. If I think how much I have spent on router cutters it has been some investment plus I have to take multiple passes when making heavy cuts which both takes more time and increases the wear on your cutters.

Lastly I do like the big old cast iron machinery, built to last and deliver when compared to the modern pressed tin fabrications and if I had the space and was younger I would fill a workshop with such machinery.
I did make do with the spindle on a Maxi26 combi, which was probably 1.5HP. So you can get by, but moving on to a 5HP SCM T100 was a revelation.
I'm back to 3 HP on a Minimax lab 300, which is OK but could be bigger!
 
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NoviceJimbo

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Many thanks for all the advice. Lots of food for thought. The Axminster course is a great idea, DBC, and I will definitely look into that.

I have watched a lot of YouTube videos of the moulder in action, and one in particular by a chap called Roy Sutton was very good and covered some of the basics. However, I am old enough to know that the appearance given by an experienced woodworker on a video can make things look much easier than they actually are!

It is clear from all of you that new tooling is the best way to go, and I think also that I will have to increase my budget. I do really enjoy woodworking and with about 40 years before retirement, I will get a lot out of the investment!

Power is also something I will have to look into. I had planned to make the windows out of Sapele or Douglas fir which will likely need more power I am thinking? 3 phase is an option I will look into.

One further question I have is about table size. I assume a bigger table makes for a more versatile machine? I have noticed that some of the larger machines seem to have quite a small usable table. Does this matter too much?

I have seen what looks to be a very nice SMC T100 with Samco power feed in good working order. It looks a powerful machine though it is only 2 speed. Quite how I would get it into my garage I am not sure! From all of your advice it would seem that this is the sort of machine to look at.
There is also a nice Wadkin, but for double the cost! I think 1K is a more realistic budget really.

As said, I have used a router table to make small casement windows which turned out ok, about a 7/10, they certainly were not perfect. I just found that precision was difficult to achieve and setting up etc. the whole thing took an age. With 2 large bay windows, and 10 7 foot high, 4.5 foot wide monsters to build I might lose the will to live with the router table! also I would like to have a go at dados and skirtings, fancy mouldings etc.

Of course that is not to say that router tables are not effective, but I also have to consider my lack of skill/knowledge.

Many thanks to all of you and in advance for any further advice, Jimbo
 

deema

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A 3KW spindle moulder will do just about everything, which is the largest single phase motor you can run. I’ve made all sorts on a 3KW spindle including large oak doors and windows all with a single pass. The beauty of a spindle is you can make things to almost any shape relatively inexpensively.
I recently needed a bit of custom skirting to a profile you can’t buy. I had a set of custom 55mm cutters & limiters made that were in my hand from ordering 48 hrs later. The cutter still has the protective wax on it in the photo. the cutter was made from a sample of the skirting.
1FC56E0E-64A6-472A-871E-71D7BB5B76A9.jpeg
 

Spectric

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At the moment my view is that I don't think a router table can compete with a spindle fitted with a decent motor but there is a definate place for the router table and you just have to work differently. Thinking about some of the mouldings I have produced on my router table that took a day plus to produce I think the spindle would have done these in just hours or less going by some of the video's out there. I think going by @deema 's comments using a 3Kw spindle then the router becomes less attractive especially seeing those custom cutters, by the way what sort of cost?

This raises the question of why is the router table so popular, well I think this goes back to when people just fitted a plunge router into a homemade table to get more functionality and control from the router rather than buy an industrial spindle and from there it has just taken off with I dare say some American input, ie old Norm! When I was looking at machinery the spindle did not even cross my mind, all you saw were router tables being marketed and cutters which can cost a fair sum, it is only recently I have stopped and started to think about alternatives.
 

deema

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@Spectric I bought them from Brigg, whose web site is here

Cost me £54 for HSS delivered. I could have had solid carbide for £140.

Often you can get two profiles cut into a cutter (doesn’t change the price of a custom set) so you get two for one! In this case I needed the whole cutter area for the profile.

I’m biased, I can’t understand investing in a router table, router lift, dedicated router which ends up more that a really good secondhand Sedgwick SM4i for instance. (Which is what I use and has a braked 3KW single phase motor)
 

NoviceJimbo

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Thanks Deema, that is good to know. Might i ask who you go to for custom made cutters? Would a decent Kity 623 or similar be enough for windows doors, skirtings etc?

Thanks spectrum, i do agree that the router is a great piece of kit, and I love using it for freehand work.
 

deema

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@NoviceJimbo
I added the link to Briggs web site in my last post

I don’t have any experience with the Kitty 623. But I can suggest a Sedgwick SM3 which is the smaller version of the SM4.
 
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