Been a long time since I even thought about spindle moulders. Last time was when I was lamenting the fact that router tables are the poor cousin of the primary workshop machines. That situation has not changed significantly in the intervening years, although some companies have come out with some pretty nice aftermarket versions.
There are some router tables around – cast iron tops, no motor, some fence that looks like it hasn’t changed in design since the ’30s. Whoever designed them I’d seriously question if they were a woodworker, let alone if they used the table they came up with.
The spindle moulder is the machine the router table should have been, and there is quite the range. The reason I wrote them off before is if it came down to a router table or a spindle moulder, the router table won simple because of the range of bits that I have. Yes, you can fit router bits in a spindle moulder, but they have a top speed of around 10000-12000RPM.
A router table can reach 20000-25000RPM whereas a spindle moulder typically only gets to 10000RPM. That is fine for the much larger spindle moulder cutters, but is slow for the small diameter router bits. Perhaps not as restrictive as I once considered.
However, I now have a couple of different spindle moulder cutters from Toolstoday.com and they are quite spectacular. I’m looking at them and thinking that it would be really useful to to be able to use them in the workshop and therefore the whole spindle moulder concept has reemerged.
There are a few definite advantages to a spindle moulder (although you’d have to ensure the model chosen had these- no point getting a machine and missing out on the very advantages possible).
Other than the overall size, moulding cutters etc, a spindle moulder is not restricted to the one direction of rotation. If the item you are working on would be better approaching the cutter from the other direction, this is achievable.
Secondly, you are not restricted to working with your cutter (or router bit) perpendicular to the table. A spindle moulder can be set at an angle, thus significantly increasing the range of profiles that are possible by presenting the cutter or router bit at an angle to the work (or rather, at an angle that is not 90 degrees!)
I am sure there is more to the whole concept, but I don’t have that real insider’s knowledge of the machine (yet). However, there is another machine that I will in all likelihood be getting a lot more familiar with before even the potential of having a spindle moulder surfaces…..more on that if things come together…..(intrigue….)
In the meantime, these are the cutters I have that I will be reviewing shortly, and both are really piquing my interest.
This one is a planing head, and is about the size of a fist, or a slightly shorter version of a jointer head. The difference between it and a jointer head is that bearing at the base. You can use this head to surface a material that isn’t flat – it will follow a template, and that makes it like the offspring of a jointer and template copying bit. Why be restricted to making something smooth and flat, when it can be smooth and curved?
There is a lot of similarity between a spindle moulder and router table – some tasks could be done on either. But I wonder how the quality in finish changes between a very small diameter router bit doing a finished surface, and the much larger moulder cutter doing the same with a significantly shallower angle of attack?
A template copying bit looks like a baby, or a toy alongside this surfacing cutter.
This is not the best photo of the Profile Pro, but it gives you an idea.
While looking this up on the Toolstoday.com website, I came across some other cutters for the spindle moulder, such as this variable width groover.
Some cutters (such as for the Profile Pro) are high speed steel, others are replaceable carbide. Either way, there is no excuse not to have a sharp tool. They are easy to remove and resharpen, or can be rotated (or disposed and replaced very cheaply).
So the spindle moulder has raised itself up into my awareness again, as a very serious workshop tool.