Is It Worth It to Buy a Moulder?

A small shop owner gets advice on whether investing in a moulder would pencil out for his operation. October 28, 2014

I'm a small woodworking company in the process of speeding up profiling operations and looking into lower cost moulders. I need to be able to profile 1 3/4 thick by 6 inch wide material. I am not familiar with moulders but have been using Several 5 hp shapers for many years. Are there any items to avoid or any must-have features? Iím currently looking at 4 head units but would be happy with a good 2 head machine.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor J:
I have an old Smithway 2x6 push-through moulder that I use for crowns. It does a nice job. You don't have to spend a ton of money. It really depends on your expected volume.

From contributor B:
What about a Foley Belsaw or Woodmaster planer/molder? Some guys love these combination-contraptions.

From contributor L:
Take a look at the Weinig P22n's on the used market. I see them going for less than $10K. They are great small shop machines. Most are 5 head but you might be able to come by a 6 head. I've got one I bought new a long time ago. It has been a great machine. Look for the ones with the higher hp options.

From the original questioner
Thanks for the input. I think I'll look around for a 5 or 6 head in my area. I would be running about 15,000 feet annually.

From contributor L:
It doesn't make sense to have a molder to run 15,000 feet annually. That's only eight hours of run time on a molder. It would make your cost per foot way too high compared to buying from a molding shop. There are lots of costs to consider beyond the machine.

From contributor G:
Don't look at how many hours the moulder will run a year but how many hours it will save you a year. If you buy a moulder it may open other doors for your business. I like your idea of a 5 or 6 head.

From contributor L:
A molder won't save you any time compared to buying from a qualified molding company. And buying out will save you money, shop space, etc. Will it open doors? Best do some serious checking first. A 5 head requires a 14" manifold, that's a 15hp dust collector. Our 5 head has 65hp total that needs to be fed electricity plus the dust fan and rotary valve, plus the compressor. Space required 17' in, 12.5' molder, 17' out, equals 45' plus/minus plus maneuvering room. Are there other improvements you could make in your shop for the same price that would have a better ROI? Don't get me wrong, molders are great machines and can make you money if like any other machine they are used enough and priced right. At your estimated use (60'/ day average) equals two minutes run time, no way is that cost effective use of your funds.

From Contributor E:
I have to say I was a one man shop when I bought my first Weinig moulder, and it was the best thing I did. As pointed out, it opened a lot of doors for me. I'm now a six man shop and the moulder helped me get there. But like Contributor L points out, you have to have the ancillary equipment to run it. Dust collection is often overlooked. It doesn't take a lot of run time to throw off quite a few cubic yards of shavings, and you better have a way to dispose of them. Bagging them won't work. It's still my favorite machine to run. Nothing better than feeding blanks into it and watching nicely milled pieces coming out the other end.

From the original questioner
Thanks. From current production standpoint a moulder would save 60 hours more or less as I currently feed through two planers and two shapers to produce what I need for my product. This doesn't account for handling 8' pieces multiple times. I will be purchasing either two more shapers or a moulder before yearís end. I currently switch cutter profiles weekly. When I compare the price of two more shapers with power feeders, I'm getting closer to the price of a used moulder. My dust collection setup is up to par and I have the capacity to run the extra 3 phase. Though I agree it sounds silly to spend so much for such a small amount of run time.

From contributor B:
To contributor L: Your analytical analysis is accurate to a "T" and deserves an "A". Too often too many folks fail to think things through. These are things you won't be told at the show.

From Contributor O:
I ran a shop with a Weinig 5 head in the late 80's that ran poplar moldings for inventory. We averaged about 9,000 l/f per day, every day. While the machine ran, it paid all its costs with profits and bonuses, bought about 200k worth of other equipment a year, and still put a nickel per foot in a hat for the owner - about $9,000 per month. This was when the Midwest converted from white pine to poplar, and lack of competition allowed the poplar price to be pegged at 5% below the ever-rising cost of white pine moldings, so it was never more profitable. Sales was the key, but it was literally a moneymaker. I have never seen such a return on investment before or since.