Spindle Moulder

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.

cutter1This 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.

cutter4 There are HEAPS of interchangeable cutters for it.

cutter5Appears to be around 140 different profiles available, plus blank cutters so you can get your own made!

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.

cutter3And again – remember these can be used in a reverse direction if that is a better direction of approach for the work.

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.


The Dado Blade of the Router Bit World

The router table has always been particularly good for cutting a groove, particularly in smaller items (such as making boxes).  The orientation of the blade to the timber for one, the diameter of the blade (vs a tablesaw), the speed of the cutter, the accuracy in setup.

The one frustration I have found is having to accept the width of the groove is limited to the width of the cutter of the router bit, or having to take multiple passes.  Unlike a tablesaw, the concept of a dado blade is foreign to the router table.

Well until now that is.

Toolstoday.com have available a really interesting router bit indeed from Amana Tool.  It is an EZ Dial Slot Cutter, and unlike a tablesaw dado blade stack, this router bit does not have shims, or even need to be taken apart and reassembled.

EZ Dial Router Bit

EZ Dial Router Bit

Looking at the anatomy of the router bit, from the top-down.  The top threaded section is the range of adjustment of the router bit, and there are two types available – a 1/8″ – 1/4″, and a 1/4″ – 1/2″.  Next is the locking nut – once the width of the slot is set.  The knurled knob is the adjustment for the router bit, and is then locked in position with the locking nut.

The blade is next – it is a four-flute router bit, but because of the adjustment, each side of the trench is cut with two of the flutes.  As the knurled adjustment knob is turned, two of the flutes move with the knob, and the other two remain fixed.

A bearing then sits under the flutes – useful when following curves, and other times a router fence is not in use.  Just below that is a section with two flats – this is useful if the locking nut is too tight – a spanner can be fit on this section so it can be undone without having to risk damage to the router chuck or shaft lock.

Finally, the shaft is a finely finished, accurate 1/2″ shaft.  (An inaccurate shaft is either difficult to fit the router collet if too large, or at risk of slipping if too small).

Variable slots

Variable slots

I was working with the 1/8-1/4″ router bit, but the concept is the same.  In the above image, the two opposite flutes move, the other two are fixed.  That dial-in adjustment is remarkably liberating.  Being able to set the width of the resulting slot to accurately match the material that will fit in it (whether that be another piece of timber, a sheet of glass etc), and also easy to add an accurate amount of clearance if required.

The quality of the router bit is obvious, as is the finish that is achieved.

55500-cNot only can the width of the slot be set, but it can be adjusted with the router bit fixed in the router. (So long as you intend to remove more material – too hard to put material back!) Rather than trying to work out the range to move the router up and down again, a test cut or two, a dial-in of width, and your accuracy and flexibility of the table is increased dramatically.

Once you experience the convenience of a shim-less, dial in width of slot for a router bit, you’ll be wishing a tablesaw dado blade was as easy, as infinitely adjustable, and as accurate.

Available from Toolstoday.com


The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Many years from now, many will look back at this time with a real sense of regret, as they struggle to fine tune the height of their table-mounted router, be that an aging Triton, or some other brand.

A simple phenolic or aluminium plate supporting the router where it could have been a still -gleaming gold and red anodised plate with a chain-driven 4 guide rod height adjustable Woodpecker Router lift.

The units are not a cheap router mounting plate, and after doing a search on Google, you see many have attempted to replicate their function with varying degrees of success, but it would be rare for any MDF-based jig to replicate the shear accuracy of the Unilift.  The part that really peaks my interest is the chain that runs around the circumference, ensuring the router is raised and lowered from to diagonally opposite points resulting in a very smooth action without a chance for binding or slippage.

Orders can still be placed for the very last production run of these lifts (the US do not tend to use plunge routers, so previously decided to stop production, but have been encouraged to make one final run for anyone wanting one compatible with plunge routers).  Once this run is completed (and it will only proceed if there are sufficient orders received), there will be no more, and the long dark tea-time of the soul for wanabee owners will commence. (It is a Douglas Adams reference, who also created “Last Chance to See”, a TV series on endangered animals).

They are $655 inc GST each, so it is a serious investment for the one main shop machine that is generally ignored by shop machine companies by and large.

I certainly have one, and use it, (and the through-table height winding) every time I use the router table.  Yes, I have Triton routers, but as they age (mine are over 10 years old now) I am finding a tendency for slippage in the height, wear in the internal height adjustment gearing.  It isn’t a lot, but enough to affect the accuracy on some jobs, and I much prefer this robust solution.

I have taken my table a fair few steps further, creating a cast iron top for the table (made from tablesaw wings), but you don’t have to go to that extreme to enjoy the control the Router Lift provides.

Orders for the Woodpecker Router Lift can still be made from Professional Woodworkers Supplies through the link here, (please note, the $655 now $100 price is only the deposit!), and absolutely must be done by the end of the month (31 July).

For what it is worth, I have never seen one for sale second hand, despite the 100s that have been sold in the years they have been available.  Guess that says something eh!

Last Chance to See

Deep on safari to the Serengeti workshops, channeling my inner Douglas Adams, looking for what is soon to be an extinct species, if it isn’t already.  The flash of gold, a splash of red, a loop of chain, soon to be destined only to be seen in captivity, in the sheds of those who took the opportunity to acquire one before the last were ever made.

I speak of course of the Woodpecker Unilift.

Woodpecker Unilift

These are no longer in production as I mentioned about 3 weeks or so ago.  However, there may be one final chance to purchase one of these new: IF there are enough who register their interest to purchase one with Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  So, your “Last Chance to See”, (or rather buy) starts with you deciding to register an expression of interest:

Send your “Expression of Interest” – Please include your full name, contact telephone number. The subject line to read Unilift.


Expressions of interest close May 18th 2012


The Unilift mounts a plunge router – popular (and the most common) in the Australian market.  Not so much so in the US, which is a major contributor to the Unilift ending as a product line.

It has 4 support rods, and features a chain that runs around the circumference so each side lifts evenly.  It is a precision tool, giving very accurate height adjustment and a brake to lock the position in – no chance of a slippage in height.

If it is not for you, no problem: but if you ever desired to have one of these to complement your router table (especially if you use the LS Positioner), this really is your “Last Chance to See”.

A Light Fitting

I was asked to produce a couple of wood ‘rings’ so a couple of large diameter brass light fitting could remain horizontal even though the location was a sloping beam.  I had a brass fitting, and a piece of cardboard onto which was drawn the roof angle.

Thinking about the best way to do this had a few options, including lathe, bandsaw and drum sander.  But what I decided on was to cut a couple of circles on the router table, glue them together then machine the required angle.

Router Table Circle Jig

This is my router table circle jig – a very simple design for cutting accurate circles.  I use the freehand router table guide (with dust extraction), MagSwitched down onto the cast iron table.

With a piece of pine attached to the nail pivot point, a light groove is routed into the board. The board is then removed, and the excess cut away on the bandsaw.  The board is then returned to the router table to complete the cut.

This is done for all four boards (I’ll get to that in a sec, but yes – all four).

Next, the inside disk is cut away.

Cutting a circular opening

I’m sure there other ways – but this seemed as good as any at the time (and not a jigsaw in sight).

Two of the disks are then glued together (with the grain direction set 90 degrees to the previous to maximise overall strength).  I did this for all four rings, then glued together to create two thick rings.

Glueup was done with all four glued and clamped at once.

Clamping up

I then created a jig to stabilise the ring, at the exact angle required for the fitting.

Angle Jig

It may look quite sophisticated, but all it is, is offcuts from the original ring cuts.  This way I could drop ring after ring into place and they could all be sanded to the same angle.

In this case, I only needed two!

I originally fed this whole unit into the drum sander a few times, but it was taking forever (too fine a grit sandpaper, or something wasn’t just working right), so I moved the jig across to the Torque Workcentre.

Same concept, but this time bringing the tool to the workpiece, not the other way around.

Torque Sanding

This didn’t take long.  Once sanding occurred over the entire ring, the job was finished.  After a quick trip back to the router table with a round-over bit to break the edges, the job was complete.

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