Going from handcrafted to CNC

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Discussion of P2Ps, dedicated boring, edgebanders and other equipment, software and processes. August 29, 2001

I need advice. PTP or dedicated boring? Confirmat or dowels? I do high-end residential with one foreman, two journeymen, two trainees and one part-timer. We have two 10" Powermatics, a Griggio slider, Ritter line borer, Her-saf panel router. I am in the final stages of integrating Cabnetware. All of our work is Euro construction. We rabbet and dado, glue and screw, iron on pre-glued tape, then hand-file and clean. The 21st century beckons!

Our customers appreciate the quality of our handwork (we grew out of the Portland Saturday Market, a "handcrafted only" outdoor craft mall). Each advance in technology takes us further from the craftsman ideal, but we still have to make a living. I suspect that we can make these changes and find creative ways to maintain the quality of our work.

To eliminate the hand facing, I need a good bander. I am leaning towards the Holz-Her 1432SE. With my cabinet parts banded I must choose a new assembly method. I looked at the Masterwood 2.45L to drill for confirmat assembly now and dowels in the future. I don't intend to get orders of huge magnitude, so I don't need massive production capability. I am most concerned about quality. I need tight, flat joints at the corners, and tight seams at the fixed shelves, etc.

Has anyone calculated the volume (boxes or dollars) required to make the upgrade feasible? How do I spend enough to be set for a long time, but not too much that I have to attend my own auction?

Forum Responses
From contributor B:
I don't think that quality is an issue when comparing a hand-applied tape edge to an edgebander-applied edge. If anything, the bander edge will be better. The thing to consider is efficiency and how much time you will gain by banding with a machine. You can do a lot more profitable things with the time you save by automatic banding. I owned a 1432 a couple of years back and decided to sell it only because we only turned it on a few hours a month. I have recently had more call for banding and plan to buy another machine, only this time I will get one with much more capacity. Anything you can buy that removes skill or setup is worth its weight in gold.

The PTP is a machine that may actually dramatically increase your quality. The flexibility and accuracy of these machines is impressive. Five years ago I never would have imagined that today I would be measuring inlay parts with an electronic caliper and changing the size by about the thickness of a piece of copy paper! All the construction methods you mention above can be achieved on a good PTP. If you purchase one with a tool changer and a well-tooled boring head, you can figure out how to make just about anything with a little imagination.

From contributor M:
Are you going to still cut your parts with your sliding table saw? If your answer is yes, then all you need are 2 pieces of equipment to add to your shop. First, you need a good edgebander. The Holz-Her is a very good choice. Second is a PTP, small or large? A Speedy 207 is a good entry-level machine, with no need for additional software. Or if your budget can afford it, the Winner 2.45L is also a good choice. Both machines will do confirmats or dowels.

With the addition of any new CNC machines to your shop, the accuracy of cut becomes so important. You will no longer be looking at 1/16", it will be .00. These machines will boost the quality of your cabinets 10-fold. Remember this--once your templates are programmed into your machines, should you damage a part, simply call up that program and run the part. You won't have to move to 3 or 4 different stations anymore to process that panel.

If you don't want to cut your parts, then are you going to NBM? If you are looking down that road, you will also have to buy more software from Cabnetware. Check out their Enabler. I would look at the Winner 2.45S. I have found it to be solid and the training was excellent. The marriage between Cabnetware and Masterwood was a very easy setup.

I have wrestled with the same decision-making process for the past few years. I can tell you this--if you are building Euro cabinets without an edgebander, you are doing it the hard way. I lease-purchased a Holz-her 1432SE a year and a half ago. We had some problems with it (the single end trim station crashed twice and I do mean crashed). Fortunately, Holz-her stands by their product and my dealer made me a smoking deal to trade up to the 1436SE. It's been a very reliable machine. An edgebander will apply and trim wood tape 10 times faster than you can iron on and trim by hand and do a much better job of it. The labor savings will more than cover the monthly payments and your quality will improve.

I too have been using a Hersaf panel router for dado construction. We've been using a combination of 1/4" tongue and groove and stop dados. This method works well for us because we use so many different thicknesses of material (plywood, melamine, laminate covered panels). We stop dado with a 1/4" bit for shelves and tops and bottoms of the cabinets. The same bit cuts the back groove so we are able to do all our dadoing on the panel router without having to change bits, regardless of material thickness. We put the tongue on the end of the shelves with a dedicated spindle shaper, which is also used to clip the end of the tongue where the dado stops. We get tight joints on our cases. You don't need to invest in a PTP right away to make good use of an edgebander. Stop dados are easy and safe on your panel router.

I have just purchased a CNC machining center, the new Holz-her EcoMaster. The technician arrived today to install it so I still have my fingers crossed that it will do for my production what the edgebander has. One of the selling points for me on this machine is that you don't need a post-processor to execute DXF files form Cabinetware and Autocad. I've been monitoring this forum for some time and have read enough horror stories about software problems.

From contributor B:
Another hidden benefit of P2P is control. Before we got our P2P, our shop cabinetmakers were able to make decisions about construction techniques, etc. Now, everything is pre-engineered and ends up being built exactly as I want it. We don't run into the issues around drawing interpretation anymore. Everyone is involved in creating the "system" that is the most efficient for our production. Once we find different techniques in our construction system it is very easy to implement them with a P2P. All of the sudden a relatively inexperienced man can handle a complex job once you have elements of your system in place.

I highly advise that you stay well away from point to point. As a small shop, you will be far better off with a true router that can nest parts from a sheet. Why handle the panel to cut to size, then handle it again to do the routing and boring? I've run point to points in cabinet shops, and I now sell routers. Nesting is becoming the standard more and more in small shops because you can do just about all your cabinetwork with 4 machines--a good CNC, a horizontal boring machine, a vertical panel saw and an edgebander.

The Holz-Her edgebanders are a great choice. I used to sell them and very much like the glue nozzle technology they use as opposed to glue rollers. You have much less clean up that way.

I have sold CMS and Anderson routers and used to program and operate a Biesse PTP, so I've got some experience in this area. I began selling MultiCam because at their price point, they offer ease of use and features that far more expensive equipment either does not have or charges more for.

From contributor T:
Be very careful with the Masterwood P2P. I have had one for over 3 years and use it for primarily dado construction for our face frame construction and confirmat for our Euro. I have yet to drill a clean through bore, especially when using a veneer core product. I know that I am not alone. Masterwood admits it is a problem with Drill RPM and has informed me that if I give them a few thousand dollars they will be glad to fix the problem.

As for the bander, we have had a 1436SE for approximately 5 years. Both top and bottom trim motors went bad at the same time with spun bearings, one month out of warranty (Holz-her paid for 50% replacement and told me I should be very happy). Besides that, we have been very happy with it. I never want to see another glue pot for as long as I live.

As for the P2P, you will find there is no limit to the flexibility of what it will allow you to do. If only I did not have to make those damned payments. I have a similar sized shop and although I have benefited from the machine, it is the only machine I have ever purchased in 20 years that does not make its own payment in cost savings. Provided it lasts 2 or 3 more years, it will turn out to have been a profitable decision. If it does not last, however, I will buy another (perhaps not Masterwood, but I won't go back to the days before CNC).

From contributor M:
I would suspect that every machine has had problems from time to time, and I suspect that contributor T is telling the truth about his machine. But his machine is 3 years old and vast improvements have been made in 3 years, not only for Masterwood but for all of the CNCs and P2Ps. We have come to know that all of our equipment will fail at some point. So when buying my equipment, my real concern is 1. Who is selling me the equipment (is he an honorable person)? and 2. Does he have the service department and staff to support him? I have dealt with Masterwood for over 3 years now, and they have yet to let me or my operation down. That's right about glue pots--they suck!

I have to disagree with the opinions about glue pots. I have a Brandt KD 68 with a glue pot. Several of my friends own Holz-her banders. We all agree both systems work well and we all agree the color change capability of the nozzle system is very nice. In my opinion, the Holz-her machine construction is light. The Brandt machine construction is heavy duty. All edgebanders need to be set very precisely, even more precisely than a jointer. Will the machine hold those tolerances? Will the machine stand up to employee abuse or neglect? Who will be responsible for the setups and maintenance? Do you plan to do 3mm PVC or solid lumber? I would like to point out that the patent is expired on Holz-her's application system and no other manufacturer rushed in to copy it. It's no better, just different.

From contributor T:
1. Don't get me wrong, I am not Masterwood bashing, only telling of my experiences with my machine. As for the 3 years to fix the problem, I was told that they are currently experimenting with different spindle speeds to fix the problem, which to me says they may still be using the high RPM.

2. The only other problem was not really Masterwood's problem, in that the vacuum pump would not turn over on cold mornings. They did remedy the problem by installing the equivalent of a block heater, which has solved the problem. Since then, I believe they have switched like almost everybody to the Becker dry vane pump.

4. Holz-her may be a lighter constructed machine, but based on what my employees have tried to do to the 1436, I am very impressed with how it has withstood the use (abuse).

To contributor T: what kind of RPMs is your boring head turning? Can't you adjust the RPMs with the software? What about the feed rate, can it be adjusted?

Brian Personett, forum techncial advisor

Throughboring is another can of worms compared to stop boring. You can't just punch 'em where ya want 'em!

On the edgebander part of this discussion, try running consecutive 8-foot strips through a machine without a glue pot. See how many you get before the panel is starved of glue.

From contributor T:
When our Holz-her was brand new, on one or two occasions we had the glue starving problem after maybe ten or so full length strips. A 5-degree adjustment at the melt point was all it took to take care of that problem. Since that one adjustment, we have never had another problem and have never had a glue overcooking problem. We have our idle time shutdown to about 5 minutes, which makes sure of it.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
There is no problem with starving glue due to temperature drops with the Holz-Her glue system. I've seen long panel after long panel sent through that nozzle configuration without any problem. There is enough time between panels for the temp to recover since most of the panels are 5/8 or 3/4". Any thicker than that and you should slow track speed down or space two feet more between. Besides, who can get their employees to feed 1"x8' panels back to back anyway?