Climb-Cutting for Stiles and Rails

Cabinetmakers suggest equipment and techniques for creating sharp-edged grooves with minimal tearout. May 22, 2006

I'm thinking about buying a shaper (we call them spindle moulders over here in the UK) so that I can use a power feeder and back feed (climb cut) for a better finish. Currently, I cut 1/4" grooves in my door stiles and rails with a grooving cutter fitted to a router table. As this machine is hand fed, I can't back feed and I do get a certain amount of breakout around the groove edges when machining ash. Will my intended purchase of shaper and power feeder solve this problem?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
It most certainly will. I would suggest a 4 roll feeder though as then you will have two rollers on each side of cutter. You will find a lot more uses for the shaper as time goes. It is a must-have machine in a production environment.

From contributor B:
A 1/4" dado head in the table saw would make that groove cleanly. On a smaller contractor’s saw I would replace the throat plate with one made of ply and laminate that you could cut through to match your blade exactly. A shaper equipped with saw blades also works without the need to climb cut. If you’re ready, buy the shaper. It's the next step up from the router table. A feeder is a must. With a tilting arbor, you can do about anything.

From contributor C:
I don't think you will need to climb cut once you use the power feeder. It will reduce tear-out dramatically.

From contributor D:
You don't back cut on a shaper. It will tear up your cutters, or at least knock the paint off of them. You can set up sacrificial fences to reduce tear-out. Nice, sharp cutters (maybe look at inserts) and the correct feed rate will help produce a cleaner finish.

From contributor A:
Climb cutting on a shaper is the preferred way (with a power feeder) for rail profiles, as chipping is completely eliminated using this method. When done properly, at the right feed speed, it will not harm your cutters. My shop puts out hundreds of doors a week and we also use this method for the doors edge profile with no problems. We have been doing it for years this way. Just be sure there is enough downward pressure on the feeder wheels to hold the part secure.

From contributor E:
Back cutting is the only way to go - check out which way the heads cut on a sticker –climb cut.

From contributor D:
Every time that one of the guys has turned the feeder on in the wrong direction it has made a horrible mess. Can you be more specific? Let's say that as you are looking at the fence and spindle, your cutter is going clockwise. You feed from left to right. This is the correct way to feed. Or it could be reversed if you reverse the cutters. Now, what are you guys doing - facing the fence, clockwise rotation, and feeding right to left? The guys must have had the cutter running the wrong direction, and feeding into it, running backwards. Let me know if that is right - clockwise, right to left (assuming that the cutters are facing the right direction).

From contributor A:
"Now what are you guys doing. Facing the fence, clockwise rotation, and feeding right to left?" That’s how you do it - providing your cutter is cutting the right way (clockwise) - depending on the cutter and if you want to cut face up or face down.

From contributor D:
We tried it today. Actually, we cut face down, so our cutters are spinning counterclockwise, and we fed from left to right. I am using a 3hp shaper, Freeborn cutters, and a 1hp feeder (4 wheels). I slowed the feeder down to the lowest speed (13 fpm) and the material is working itself away from the fence. I do have the cutter spinning at 10,000 rpm, and have been playing with the angle of the feeder to the fence. My stock is hard maple. And yes, my cutters are sharp. Any suggestions?

From contributor C:
Clamp a piece of 1/4" ply to the table to hold the wood against the fence.

From contributor F:
I had the very problem you described and solved it by climb-cutting a very shallow groove (1/16" or so) first, then cutting full depth in the normal direction. This pretty well eliminates tear-out at the groove edges. I always use a continuous fence built for the cutter and hand-feed everything.

From contributor G:
Instead of cutting against the shaper fence, clamp an auxiliary fence to the table the right distance away from the cutters and back off the infeed side of the shaper fence. Then you can run overwidth stock and trim to width while plowing the groove. With the fence clamped to the table, the stock can't back away from the cutters. Angle the feeder towards this new secondary fence. I run into the (1/2" deep) groove clogging with shavings if I climb cut the sticking, so I run it with normal rotation. The feeder really minimizes splintering.