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equipment upgrades?


I'm a one man shop that does both residential and commercial. My largest client has more than doubled their order for this year and I'm looking to speed things up. These are just edgebanded melamine casework and shelving. Currently I cross cut on vertical panel saw, rip on cabinet saw, clean edged on router table, edgeband on bander, then assemble with pocket hole joinery.

Does anyone see where a different process or a added machine would benefit? I was thinking a sliding table saw with scoring to skip the clean up step. As it is now it takes about 7 hrs to cut 68 sheets into 700 pieces and have them ready to band.

1/20/15       #2: equipment upgrades? ...
Paul S

68 sheets of what ?

sounds like your going around in circles

Why not purchase a quality vertical panel saw with a scoring blade ?

1/20/15       #3: equipment upgrades? ...

A bander with premill would also save you, The vertical panel saw with scoring would also help a lot

1/21/15       #4: equipment upgrades? ...
james mcgrew Member

No shelf pin holes ?? is cnc and a bander a consideration ?

1/21/15       #5: equipment upgrades? ...

Right now I use the metal standards and clips for shelves. I got the senco stapler which sped it up from screwing on. I'm on the lookout for a 23 hole line bore now. I got the kreg foreman and I'm going to up grade to the more industrial version that has two drills. As far as cnc goes it's crossed my mind but don't know if the investment is worth it just for simple cuts. I got about $20k for tool upgrade.

1/21/15       #6: equipment upgrades? ...
james mcgrew Member

With a 4 x 8 Atc or X3 model at 28-38 new you would come off machine ready to edgeband. with the economy a lot of shops who used medium and lighter machines to grow into larger CNC's are selling and getting bigger machines. I would not rule it out. if you have 20 k in pocket you have some buying power shop diligently.

1/21/15       #8: equipment upgrades? ...

I'm not familiar at all with cnc. Is there any brand to look for or stay away from? It makes sense to go that route having all machines in one but I don't know about the learning curve.

1/21/15       #9: equipment upgrades? ...

I'm looking at your original post.

Have you considered out sourcing the sheet cutting to some other shop with large capacity and you just assemble ?

This is just a thought so that you can focus in on the custom high dollar items that generate added profit ?

just a thought

1/21/15       #10: equipment upgrades? ...
Rich Kuban  Member


CNC requires investment in electric, dust collection, and vacuum pump in addition to CNC. New set of issues with associated learning curve. My perspective is CNC is best after CAD software.

I was a one man shop making closet parts. I loved the vertical and was glad I did not go sliding table. I would be after minimizing waste with the equipment I have.
I would figure out how to eliminate the cleanup step and the motion between the two saws, cross cutting and ripping. I used a vertical panel saw without scoring to cut exclusively melamine. Downside was having to use two to three blade changes to cut 66 sheets. Fortunately they are quick changes. Scoring would cut that.

The value of the vertical is to stack cut and cross cut as much as possible, turning rips into cross cuts, where the vertical excels.

Finally, I would set up my process for more flow, processing a certain number of sheets from cutting through assembly, as my space would allow.

I assume you are familiar with Paul Akers and Lean. If not, I suggest you start watching his videos. or purchase his 2 Second Lean book.

Good luck!

1/21/15       #11: equipment upgrades? ...
james mcgrew Member

I did what cabinetmaker suggested, I took bigger jobs, did two large Amazon complexes by using Cabparts and made a good buck. take your time there are lots of ways to do this.

when the time for a CNC gets there it will be apparent so I would start looking into it. buying one is a process of Due diligence and nothing to take likely. the learning curve has been greatly reduce from what it was a few years ago. there are several discussion forums you can look to as a small cabinetmaker, two of the strongest are and you do not have to purchase a machine to join these discussions but there are lots of guys like us on both of them.

1/21/15       #12: equipment upgrades? ...
Jim Herron

Are you having to do any secondary operations such as line boring, assembly borings, grooving or dadoing?
I would first focus on processing the panels-are these rectangular pieces, any angles(certainly doable on vertical with jigs)?
If so I would look at a quality vertical-Striebig, HH, Hendrick...benefit is edgebander ready parts, stack cutting, safety and easier handling.
Have you considered a PTP? Not near the upfront costs on the machine, software, learning curve, ect.
Most somewhat current PTP's have routing as well as line and construction boring and grooving capability plus the software is onboard and programmed on the fly at the machine.
I bought a 98 Weeke BP60 with I think 4hrs on the clock from a high school for 3400.00 The kids were using it for a picnic table. My tech offered 12k before we hooked power to it-rare time capsule find but persistence pays off.
A lot depends on your final product and any repetition involved.
I do residential cabinetry so I'm dealing with cookie cutter end panel stuff for the most part -recall the program, vac it on the pods, press the zone start, remove and repeat.
I process panel stock on a 26 yr old Striebig, go to the PTP, edgeband and assemble with confirmats.

1/21/15       #13: equipment upgrades? ...
Harold morantzn


Vertical with scoring or slider with scoring. I think vertical alone should do the job. Double line boring machine set up for 32mm system holes and dedicated hinge borer to drill insert cams into shelves /top/bottom. No pocket holes needed. Most closet companies do it this way.harold

1/22/15       #14: equipment upgrades? ...
Evan Member

68 sheets of melamine in a day...I herniated a disc just thinking about it. Hope you have a vacuum panel lift?

Seems like anything you can do to cut out the cleanup on the router table would be a huge benefit.

1/22/15       #15: equipment upgrades? ...

100pc./hour! Want a job? That is faster than our CNC. Improvements: a saw (Striebig) to eliminate the edge cleanup, a linebore machine (Conquest) to eliminate the 255 standards. Neither of these will make you faster than 100 pc. / hour though.

1/22/15       #16: equipment upgrades? ...

No lift. Just move stack near saw and go at it. I've been building these same cabinets for about 5 years do For the tools I got I have found the the perfect system. But it's a lot of hard work so I'm trying to simplify it. What is a ptp? And till last year I would do about 1800 feet of peel and stick. The edgebander has been a wonderful addition so I'm hoping to find something that makes that type of impact on the shop.

1/22/15       #17: equipment upgrades? ...
james mcgrew Member


A ptp, takes a precut panel and can correct size, drill construction holes, drill shelf holes and any other needed machining. I had one and sold it.

A nested CNC table will take a panel cut all parts to size, do any face panel machining holes etc. and will not as a standard cnc to horizontal boring. it will however do much more than panels. I like to make all kinds of parts fluted columns, custom panels, carvings, My cnc has made me some real Chump ($$$$) that was in addition to my panels.

1/22/15       #18: equipment upgrades? ...
Jim Herron

Whats the end product? That will drive the joint selection, and machinery needed to produce it.
First order of business is to produce a bander ready edge off the saw. That's where I would stake 1/3 to 1/2 of my budget capital.
Next lose the 255's. They cost money to buy and a lot of labor to install to gain a product that looks like something off a 1968 episode of Dragnet.
A double line borer is the way to go if not going cnc or ptp. The market is flooded with them after everybody jumped on the nested router bandwagon.

1/22/15       #19: equipment upgrades? ...
Rich Kuban

I would not expect the same degree of improvement as you gained from the bander. That was a huge change.

I would look at how I could eliminate the edge clean up and the pilasters. A cnc can accomplish both at the same time with a large investment on many levels.

Or you can change to scoring saw to address the chipping and a line borer to eliminate the pilaster and its material cost. With a line borer you can use it for part alignment too, by inserting location dowels to speed alignment. Either of these would be much simpler to implement, and can be done in stages.

If a high percentage of your work is from the one customer, I would be reluctant to overextend my investment. On the other hand, if you want to expand your business and be able to widen your product scope, the cnc will aid with that.

Outsourcing the component sizing and line boring is an option if you want to free up time and pursue other work to justify the cnc investment.

I would not expect to be able to maintain your own physical output indefinitely. You are humping!

1/22/15       #20: equipment upgrades? ...

A ptp sounds like something to look into. After burning up the top trimmer on my k201 yesterday i was talking to previous owner and he gave me a number to a guy who sells cnc that he refurbishes, so I think I'll see what he has available. And I agree that the 255s look outdated but for the tools I have their fast but after 5 years I'm sure I've paid for a few line boring machines.

So if I'm following correct a ptp would clean up my chipped edges from current cutting, then replace the kreg foreman and use of 255.

The end product is melamine carcass base cabinets with .018 banding, and basically melamine bookcases. The pocket holes are all hidden from view for most part but if there's a faster and easier joint I'm open to it.

1/22/15       #21: equipment upgrades? ...
james mcgrew Member

We said good bye to pocket joinery a long time ago. we use a finished panel for ends unless laminated. GO see machines different shops and methods. I saw one fellow get way layed into a machine he did not need by a personality conflict, he bought old and used and payed too much. now he is crying in his milk and praying for an exit. take your time, GO see machines and shops. lots of ways to do that !!! there is no substitute for Due diligence.

1/22/15       #22: equipment upgrades? ...
Kilgore Trout Member

That level of output for 5 years?!

I suggest you write in large letters "Work Smarter, not Harder" and put it above your saw.

Put that energy into production management - the science of manufacturing - and you will see real growth and income, and not have all that hard physical labor that will age you before your time. Your work ethic is admirable, but not sustainable. My guess is that you are selling well under the market value, and that is why you are so busy, yet ill equipped.

Get yourself to a couple of shows - Las Vegas is coming up in August - and make a plan for growth. See your options and pick a path.

When purchasing machines, it is common to plan for a payback within 5 years. You have already 'paid' for all the machines, you just don't have them.

1/22/15       #23: equipment upgrades? ...

As far as price I'm right in there with everyone else. ive had other shops do sites for me when too busy or didn't feel like driving across the country and we were pretty close. I plan on going to Vegas this year and at least gain knowledge. I'm in southern Minnesota but travel a lot so if anyone is open to a shop tour and a shop talk lunch I'd appreciate it.

My father is an advanced machinist with about 25 years experience programming so that would help with the learning curve with cnc I think.

This customer is eventually going to disappear so I have a good 2 years left that I want to set my shop up perfectly and debt free so I can go back to the wonderful world of residential and hopefully have continued success. Woodweb has been a great help from the start.

1/22/15       #24: equipment upgrades? ...
Paul S

I can tell you one thing is that if your from Minn. your a tough bird. I have relatives out that way. I myself could not cut that many sheets per day on my Striebig.
Need a job? ..... I bit the bullet a few years ago and dove in head first into a flat bed CNC purchase....Took over a year for me to get comfortable using it and every day I learn something new. Its also exciting ...Arch's and curves, seems like the only limitation is what's between your ears. I would start your research....BTW I paid off the CNC machine in less then two years. Not bad for a one man shop !!

1/22/15       #25: equipment upgrades? ...

I get offered a job a lot when people hear what I get done. I was taught to make a work day count or its not worth being there. I'm meeting with my tax lady today who also has an employment service on trying out some help. Because the workload is catching up to me. Wife don't care how much is being brought in if I'm never home.

I've always have wanted a cnc but the investment and learning curve has held me back.

Thanks guys for all the shared wisdom. I'll try not to waste it.

1/26/15       #26: equipment upgrades? ...

What about a beam saw? All my parts are rectangles. And most of the time I'll have 5-10 sheets of all the same cuts before switching to another layout.

As far as joint construction other than pocket holes. If all my exposed ends are melamine would I be wanting to switch to a dowel system?

Cnc looks great and I could use it for many things but I don't think it would be faster, just easier than my current way. I had Hired help this weekend and I really need to get a line boring machine. The 255s are costing me about $.75 each in labor alone.

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