Custom Cope and Stick Cutters

What's the most economical way for a small shop to get custom cutters for special profiles? July 14, 2010

I'm very new to having custom knives/cutters made. I'm wondering what other guys are using for custom cope and stick profiles. I know there's got to be a couple of you still making your own doors... right?

I'm having my second set of knives ground. The first set was for a custom entry door profile, and with a little trial and error everything worked fine. This new set will be for cabinet doors and will be M2 steel for a corrugated head. It was the least expensive and quickest way to go.

Do you have knives ground for custom cabinet door profiles? Or do you spend the extra money and have a set of carbide tipped cutters made? The cutters seem to have the advantages of quicker setup, longer life, and maybe more accuracy. But then there's the cost, and when you might only use it on 1 kitchen, is the extra life going to come in handy?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor R:
The cost of custom cutters should not be up to you to absorb. The customer should be charged, then buy good carbide cutters and you will have them available for the next customer you will charge for custom cutters.

From contributor J:
We use a slightly different approach. We charge the customer the cost for the knives with the understanding that we keep them. If there is another job for a different customer down the road, they don't pay the knife fee. The decision to go steel or carbide inserts depends on how often you will use them. The high speed steel cope and stick will change a little bit after every sharpening. Kind of like a tongue and groove. After sharpening, the tongue gets bigger and the groove gets smaller. Things are picking up out there. You might use them again. The inserts will guarantee the same fit every time. I would bet the ground knives would be just fine for now.

From the original questioner:

Contributor R, you're absolutely right. But when you're trying to get a kitchen that someone else is also trying to get, and people aren't exactly beating down the doors these days...

I don't think I'd realistically get more than one sharpening on a cope and stick set. Even then it's iffy.

I was actually thinking of carbide tipped cutters (like Freeborn or LRH) as opposed to inserts. Then I could have them re-sharpened if need be, as it would be a 6 piece set. Of course it comes back to how much you are going to use them, and right now I have 1 kitchen.

I know the knives will be fine for this kitchen. I was just wondering what others do.

From contributor M:
My first question would be, are they really custom, or just particular to this job? There are many manufacturers of cabinet cutter sets, so you should be able to find something off the shelf.

The other thing you might want to look at is the cutter sets sold by Garniga and Stark Tooling. They sell a head that you can interchange inserts in with 5 different profiles. They don't give them away, but if you're in it for the long haul, it might be worth looking into.

If you do want just the one profile, give Tri State Tooling a call. They have heads made that can take different insets and they make them in Tantung. They really cut much better than carbide in my opinion.

From contributor N:
Lots of shops still use custom knives for cabinet door profiles, especially in my area (New England).You should give Jim at Connecticut Saw & Tool a call. Their cope and stick corrugated knives always make a perfect fit, even after they resharpen them (they always make a test cut before they send them out). If you decide to go with a Freeborn set, they have the best pricing I've seen as well.

From the original questioner:
Yes, they're custom. Nothing exotic, just something to set me apart from the other guys. I have several off-the-shelf profiles already, but my problem with them is that they're the same profiles everyone else uses. Whether you look at Freeborn or LRH or whoever, you generally see the same 6 or so stock profiles. So basically we're all using the same profiles! I really want to push the "custom" part of custom cabinetry and start offering my own profiles. Sounds like the knives are the way to go for now.

I'm also in New England and my buddy gets all his knives from CT Saw. I'm trying a local outfit for this set called Atlantic Carbide, and so far they've been great with advice. I should have the knives mid-week and we'll see how they are for quality.

From contributor O:
Any decent tooling supplier can set you up with a universal insert cutterset. Ideally, you buy one head for cope cuts, and one for rail stock (they should have different hook angles). You invest in the heads once and just replace the carbide knives and steel backers to switch from one profile to the next. They can even be set so your radial and axial settings are the same for all profiles so you have virtually no setup. Some suppliers will have several stock profiles to choose from. For custom profiles, you can charge those to the customer.

From the original questioner:
Correct me if I'm mistaken, but my understanding is I'd need 6 heads in order to do just my cabinet door profiles?

1 set of cope and stick for a normal profile.
1 set of cope and stick for glass doors.
1 set of cope and stick, just the profile (no groove, like for glass appliance panels).

If this is the case then the expense wouldn't be justified for the small quantity I do. If on the other hand I can use 2 heads to do all the different setups then maybe it would be worth looking into.

From contributor O:
Knowing all of that information ahead of time, we would sell you a set of heads without the center rim on the rail. You would need two heads and 6 sets of knives. Not everyone does glass doors and appliance panels, and not everyone does them the same way. Many standard sets are limited to 1/2" profile depth, but if we know what all you plan to do ahead of time, we can make them for up to 3/4" profile depth. The inserts are just more expensive.