The case for the Spindle Moulder my Lord

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deema

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If you are considering or have a router table I think it’s worth having a look at a Spindle Moulder.

There are lots of references to Spindle moulders being ‘hand removing’ machines, which I think is these days an outdated image. Clearly with the old style of blocks some of which are shown on another recent thread about making spindle moulder cutters the opportunity for them to grab and pull your hand in is justified. I’ve known a few spindle moulder machinists who can’t count to ten any longer. However with the introduction of regulations that mandate that the cutters can only project 3mm they present a blade that protrudes no further than say a router.

Many people seem to be totally happy using a router freehand or in a router table where they can use very large diameter cutters. There appears to be far more poor practice with routers than with almost any other machine. Nobody seems to attach the same stigma to a router that they do to a spindle moulder, yet a router table setup is in essence a spindle moulder.

Spindle moulders secondhand are about the same price for a good one as a new router & table arrangement. With a false fence, the appropriate guarding and either push sticks (or as well as) / power feed I personally think they are at the very least as safe as a router if not safer. There are lots of uTube clips with people pushing stuff past router cutters in a table setup where their fingers are scarily close to the cutters without any guarding. Some of them originating from the UK!!

I’ve found routes can snatch / stall when too deep a cut is attempted in haste or ignorance. This can lead to massive kick backs if not cutters breaking and flying around. A spindle, which typically has a much more powerful motor than a router is very unlikely to stall. The spindle shaft is typically 30mm and with modern pinned or (serrated) grooved blocks is never going to loose a cutter. The risk of a kick back is reduced and the depth of cut does not become a real consideration since it can make virtually all moulding in one pass.

It’s often stated that cutters are more expensive for a spindle moulder than for routers. With the exception of the spindle block which can be a significant outlay if bought new, (but relatively cheap and plentiful on auction sites) most people with just a rebate block, groover and a 40 or 55mm moulding Block have a full setup. These can be bought relatively cheaply off auction sites. Rebate blocks use carbide disposable cutters along with carbide spurs to ensure a clean corner; a feature not found in a router bit. When the day comes to hang up the wood working apron, the blocks will sell for good money along with the spindle moulder after many years of service.

I’ve found that spindle cutters are not expensive and allow, for the same money, a larger variety to be bought than router bits. As an example I’ve used a few Woodford 40mm cutters and limiters which you can buy off eBay for £13.99 (for a set of knives & limiters) including postage. I’ve not found them to be any different in quality / longevity to say CMT spindle cutters. You can buy a set of replacement knives for c£8. They last a good length of time and you can resharpen them by lapping the backs on a diamond stone a time or two. That said, if you mainly use MDF / man made board then carbide cutters come into their own.

Most spindle moulders have interchangeable spindles. You can get collet spindles that allow you to use large diameter router cutters (usually the maximum RPM of a spindle is say 10K making it unsuitable for smaller diameter router bits).

You can usually also get a flat topped spindle / recessed cutter blocks that allow the wood to pass completely over the cutter. This enables very big and deep tenons to be cut accurately, repeatable and easily. (You need to buy or fabricate a tenoning hood)

A spindle will normally have an induction motor, so is relatively quiet. Large blocks / blocks with limiter knives are fairly noisy. However, I personally don’t think they are as noisy as most routers, and you get the job done in fewer passes hence faster.

So what’s the down side? Well, you can very easily make them very unsafe compared to a router which is far more ‘fool proof’ due to only being able to use standard router bits. However, if you only use off the shelf cutters with limiters check that everything’s tight and use guards / push sticks / power feed, they are IMO safer than a router table setups.

They are heavy, floor standing and usually a minimum of a 16A supply, but are one if the most versatile machines in a shop.
 

Mike Jordan

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Although I've never used a square block I saw them in use when I was an apprentice, just the draft from one was enough to keep me well away! I still have one of the round Whitehill safety blocks and some of the cutters I made or purchased long ago, they are no longer used and I am an enthusiastic convert to limiter tooling. Like many of my age I was initially reluctant to retool because of the versatility of the old system and the time I had spent making cutters. I soon found that the modern blocks with locating pins had a lot more going for them than I thought, the fact that the pins locate the cutters exactly every time means that you can buy or make cutters that both cut and can also be run together with a rebate block to make complete moulds in one pass with no setup time. Scribing cutters likewise are spot on every time. I still occasionally make cutters and limiters or more frequently modify standard profiles and limiters to fit my needs.
Different cutters of a similar weight can be used on opposite sides of a block to give shapes which are beyond normal hand grinding methods.
 

deema

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That’s a brilliant suggestion Mike, I’d never thought of putting different cutters in each side of the block (with the appropriate limiters)
 

TFrench

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Any suggestions for a grooving cutter? I've recently got a moulder to replace my grandad's old kity and I sold all the tooling with it (20mm spindle) The only thing I used to use it for was making 6mm grooves in MDF for making shaker style doors. Not sure whether to go for a fixed or adjustable groover.
 

Trevanion

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TFrench":1ottaufz said:
Any suggestions for a grooving cutter? I've recently got a moulder to replace my grandad's old kity and I sold all the tooling with it (20mm spindle) The only thing I used to use it for was making 6mm grooves in MDF for making shaker style doors. Not sure whether to go for a fixed or adjustable groover.

I have an OMAS 8-15 adjustable groover which is great but for anything less than 8mm I use fixed grooving saws as they're cheaper than buying a 4-7.5 adjustable groover. You can also get a 3-piece adjustable groover from CMT that's 4-15mm which would also be a good choice. Although I don't use one I think a wobblesaw is also a pretty good choice.

Nice thing about the adjustable groovers is you can reverse the plates to create a combination that could make tongues for tongues and grooves and could also be used for tenoning.
 

Mike Jordan

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I use an OMAS 150mm dia wobble saw which gives 3 to 15 mm grooves. It's an accurate device but costs more than a single width groover.
 

Yojevol

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There's one advantage you didn't mention, Deema. If the spindle will run in reverse rotation, as mine does, you can take the cut in the opposite direction if the grain is being unfriendly. This only applies, however, if the cutter is symmetrical and can be inverted on the shaft.
You can sometimes deal with awkward grain with a router by turning the workpiece thru 90º compared with the cutter and running it thru from the opposite end. Again the cutter form has to be a simple form such as a chamfer.
Brian
 

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