Finger-Jointing Moulding Stock

A discussion with pictures of using finger-jointing equipment to make long stock for running mouldings. November 19, 2008

How or what do I need to make a 16' knotty alder handrail blank to put in a moulder to create a 16' knotty alder handrail for some customers? Can I offset the joints when gluing? I don't have a finger jointing machine either.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor H:
Yes, you can do it that way - we do it all the time - 12' & 4' & 4' & 12'. Just cut the joint ends at 45* and make sure they are tight.

From contributor J:
At the minimum, an end grain finger joint cutter for the shaper is a good investment if you do much alder millwork. Finger jointed end grain done right is strong, can be machined, run through the moulder, sanded, etc. without breaking apart. A lot of suppliers now offer alder finger jointed for length but the grain match is usually not so good.

We use a Garniga adjustable finger joint head on a sliding table shaper. We just set up the new Gartop arch press for doing arch segments of curved windows and doors. It also works well for pressing straight runs of moulding together. Not a high production finger joint system, but good for the custom shop. Finger joints are not historically correct joinery, but using alder, it’s probably not a National Historic Record job. Contributor H's method or some kind of scarf joint would be more correct for that. The trim carpenters seem pretty happy to get the finger jointed material for their long runs.

In the shop tips from Cabinetmaker magazine they mentioned a shop cutting kerfs on finger jointed arch segments to pull them together with spring clamps. Probably a good solution if you only do it occasionally. Not an application for straight runs though.
We are doing some 20’ long alder beam wraps next week and will try to post pictures of our system.

From contributor D:
I was considering buying the Gartop. How does it work for you? Does the glue really hold right out of the jig? How much did it cost?

From contributor J:
We just started using it last week, but it seems to work as advertised. We joined about 25 alder boards for length today (16 to 20 ft). Pulls them tight and towards the end we handled and stacked after 30 seconds in the press. We even ran one through the moulder 30 minutes after gluing. Seemed to be no different than the ones left overnight. Tomorrow I will try joining some scraps of 78mm thick window material.

From contributor J:
We pressed quite a few straight runs of alder this week with the Gartop. With a few pictures I will try to explain how it works. We are still learning. The press has a few adjustments and the cutter is adjustable. The project manager of the millwork job we are doing is happy about getting these long pieces of alder with the joints moulded and sanded.

The first picture shows the positioning device with the boards ready to be clamped. This bar has a spreading adjustment to control the glue line. At first we had a small gap on one side of the board. With a little adjustment both sides are closing tight. We just did a 3” thick window head test today and it was slightly open one side. I think this was due to poor clamp position and will work on that tomorrow.

We have found we need to leave the 20’ pieces setting for a couple minutes before moving. The shorter and thicker pieces can be handled right away.

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This picture shows the boards pressed. By pushing both buttons the clamps engage and the right table moves. With clamp time controlled by a timer.

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Cutting 78mm thick window head with Garniga adjustable finger joint cutter. Profil 45 sliding table shaper.

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3 piece 78mm thick, 30 degree arch pressed.

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From contributor C:
I'm sold. Now, to find a way to cost this into the next job...

From contributor J:
I played with the adjustments to the cutter and positioning device on the press and got perfect joints on the 78mm thick material. See photo.

That the press does straight runs easily is a plus. With the amount of curve work we do the return on investment would be slow. To be able to add value to custom millwork by joining long lengths accurately and strong is a bonus for both the shop and trim carpenters.

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Moulded and sanded alder finger joint.

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