I'd like to know what the consensus is on the quickest and best way to make templates for moulding knives. We're a high-end mill shop with a new Wadkin K-23. We typically run 500 to 1,500 linear feet.
I'm assuming that metal templates take a bit too long. We use plastic. We have a miniature CNC mill that we can use to machine them, but I'm not so sure this is the answer because it takes a while to draw the moulding shape in a program like AutoCad.
Once we've got the shape, we're minutes away from a template -- but I can generally knock out a plastic template by hand twice as fast as anyone seems to be able to draw it in AutoCad. I guess we could scan a drawing, but programs to scan drawings, which actually give you something AutoCad can use, seem to also take time.
I usually start by scanning a tracing or scanning a fax someone has sent. I can have a working drawing in 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how complex it is. I send my file via e-mail to a template shop and get my template the next day, $25 a pop; I can't make them for that.
I just started using this service when I found out I could get them done for this price. Prior to that, I had always made metal templates (for 16 years). If I'm pushed for time I make a metal template by pasting the drawing on the template steel, then cutting and filing. The key to making metal templates is using the proper steel. Wadkin's is the right hardness, but a bit pricey. With a little research, there are other sources, and cheaper. I've had my K-23 for about four months now. It replaced a GA. I also have an older NX grinder.
I do a lot of one-off work in addition to the regular stuff. Average runs are 1,500-5,000 feet.
The template shop normally charges more for drawings or actual wood samples, but because I've done some of the work he does it cheaper. If I get my file e-mailed to him by 4 p.m. it goes out that day. He sends it regular UPS, but because we are both in NC I usually get it by lunch the next day.
VisualCADD is a modern-day version of generic CADD. VisualCADD has most of its commands available via two-letter keyboard commands. It has a very intutive interface, any new user can be using it productively in a few hours, as opposed to years with AutoCad. VisualCADD has a fully functional demo of the program available at -the company's website, just serach on the product name.
The scanner utility included with TurboCad is by Trix Systems. I think they have a website. Their stand-alone program is a PITA to move to from one computer to another.
As I mentioned, I use a tracing of a piece of mould to start a lot of times. This saves me time over starting a profile from scratch with the CAD program. I don't worry about being exact because if it's oversize from the tracing I just dimension it and scale it to the proper size.
Once I have the Lexan template, I duplicate it to metal for long run profiles. I do this on the profile grinder using a technique taught in the Training Center, and this has been in one of the past issues of "The Profiler" newsletter from the Grindermans' Association.
It should be noted that a scanned image can change size some from the original. In most cases, this is not a problem. When I scan an image in, I cut a thin slice of the profile and set it on the scanner. If I have a drawing, I simply scan the image in, but the true transfer seems to be off about 3 percent (on average).
Dave Rankin, forum moderator
The size of the scanned mould is not off because of the scanner, but because you have traced on the outside of the mould profile, making it slightly larger than the original piece.
Comment from contributor A:
I usually use 1/16 inch spring steel to make templates with. Very cheap and easy to work with. A CAD program sounds interesting. Paper cutouts? Sounds like you're doing the same job twice. Why not just etch your engraving on the steel? Sometimes technology seems to work against us. For example, the CAD program - how much time are you wasting on the computer trying to make a drawing, then transferring it to an engraver? Sounds kind of time consuming when on average it takes about 30-1.5 hours to make one from scratch depending on difficulty. Besides, knife grinding is a craft.