In the last entry, we left off with the purchase of the Gannomat Format 42 drilling machine and the Davis & Wells table saw in June. At that point we were sitting pretty in terms of shop machinery. We had the basic machinery needed to build custom cabinetry and furniture in an efficient and profitable manner. But, we still had three areas of production that I wanted to slowly work on upgrading; clamping, door production, and edgebanding.
About half of the projects we build are furniture pieces, which means we mill and glue a lot of solid lumber. Up to this point we were gluing up solid lumber on work tables using Bessey parallel bar clamps, which is a perfectly acceptable method, except when we started running out of usable work space and clamps thanks to these numerous glue ups. This was happening often enough that we needed to find a long-term solution.
The next area that needed to be upgraded was our door production system. We build all of our own doors, and over the past few years I had been slowly refining our collection shapers and cutterheads and our production methods. The main issue before me was the need to purchase more shapers in order to set up a dedicated shaker doors station; one for cope cuts and one for stick cuts, allowing us to never have to switch out or adjust cutterheads.
Edgebanding, which up to this point we had been outsourcing to a local shop, would be the most expensive process to bring in-house, and the one that I would spend the most time deciding exactly how to proceed.
Now that our shop’s needs have been identified, let’s look at how we slowly began to rectify them.
Delta Shaper – 9/12
One of the benefits of having a close working relationship with a used machinery dealer is that every once in a while he sends you a real gem of a machine at an incredible price. I am always letting Coby, at Advanced Machinery, know what machines I want him to keep an eye out for, and a good used shaper was one of those machines. I was specifically in the market for two 3-5 HP shapers so that we could set up dedicated shaker cope and stick station. About 80% of the doors we build are shaker, and, at our current level of production, it was getting incredibly frustrating to have to be constantly switching between different cope and stick profiles.
Coby called one day to see if I would be interested in a used Delta 7.5HP shaper he had available? It was larger than I needed, but I said that if the price was right, absolutely. He responded with a price of $1250, which included the powerfeeder and delivery. My jaw dropped! A 7.5HP Delta shaper for $0.25 on the dollar! What was wrong with it? Nothing he said, just that it was a repo machine and the new owner only wanted to sell it for what he was owed. I jumped at the chance and, within a week, we added a new shaper to our collection.
This new 7.5HP Delta became our dedicated raised panel shaper. Our previous raised panel shaper, a 5HP Powermatic, became a varying profile stick cutting shaper. A 3HP Grizzly, previously used for all stick cuts, became a dedicated shaker stick cut shaper, and a 1.5 HP Grizzly shaper, previously used for all cope cuts, became the dedicated shaker cope cutting shaper. We still needed a shaper capable of cutting varying cope profiles, and I was able to poach another 1.5HP Grizzly shaper from our sister company, Shutter Crafts, that would fit the bill just fine.
Insert Cutterheads – 10/12
One of the downsides to visiting a show like IWF or AWFS is that, once you see all the amazing machinery and technology available, you begin to see how far short some of your current machinery lands. Prior to the show, I had briefly been read about insert shaper heads, but always dismissed them for reasons unknown. At IWF 2012 I was able to talk to company reps from Freeborn and Royce AYR and was convinced that I needed to head down a different path. With the purchase of the 7.5 HP Delta, I decided it was time to purchase a raised panel cutterhead with insert tooling.
I had a short list of companies to check out and needed only two criteria to be satisfied; the cutterhead needed to be a good value and it needed to cut a 2″ deep raised panel. We do two things to make our doors stand out from less expensive, mass-produced cabinet doors; we build all or doors with 2.5″-3″ wide rails and stiles, and we cut a bigger raised panel profile, both factors I believe create a better looking door. We decided on the raised panel cutterhead from Freeborn. The $500 price tag was a little difficult to swallow, but the flexibility and longevity of insert tooling made it a bit easier.
After purchasing the raised panel cutterhead from Freeborn, I revisited my research a month or so later and decided to purchase a patterned cope and stick insert cutterhead from Byrd. The main thing I was looking for was a cutterhead that could cut a profile into a 1″ or thicker rail and stile. The Freeborn, unfortunately, could only profile 7/8″ stock, while the Byrd could cut up to 30mm thick material. I was also looking for two separate cutterheads for the cope and stick cuts, not a stacked set. I have found out over the years that, for us, a stacked cutterhead is a recipe for lost time and decreased quality. So, after another $600 invested into our tooling, we had pretty much completely overhauled our door making operation.
JLT Clamp Rack – 11/12
Since purchasing the JLT door clamp, my eyes have been opened to how great having a specialized clamping station can be. Armed with that knowledge, when the time was right, namely when we had the cash, I began the search for a good used 8′ clamp rack. What we found came straight from the manufacturer itself. JLT had for sale a new rack with 18 used clamps for $2450 plus the freight cost of $300 to get it to our door. Upon receiving the rack, we cleaned the mess off the used clamps with a paint scraper and sandpaper, wiped on some Bates Glue Release, and went to work.
The main benefit to using a clamp rack over parallel bar clamps is the fact that you can clamp up with greater pressure, you have a better distribution of said pressure with the wider clamping jaws on the rack, and all the glue-ups are together in one place, not scattered throughout the shop on every available work surface.
That pretty much wraps up the two year shopping spree started back in November of 2010.
How have you guys acquired your machinery? Large numbers in short amounts of time? A few here and there? All cash, all credit, or a mixture of both?