MDF and Tooling

MDF dulls tooling quickly, so craftsmen tend to keep a set of cutterheads dedicated to MDF. March 28, 2015

I have outsourced my doors for years but recently put in the equipment to do it in house. I've done two kitchens in maple, but this week we are doing a painted set and the doors are five piece with a MDF panel. After running about 40 MDF raised panels through the shaper I had a few maple ones to do and was really surprised at how the MDF dulled the raised panel cutter! It is now burning the maple.

I'm fairly new to MDF and didn't realize it dulled cutters like that. So my question is this, should I get another cutter and just swap while the other is being sharpened? Or just keep one for woods and one for MDF? I'm definitely going to keep using the MDF because it just saves a ton of labor and money. I'd be money ahead even if I had to sharpen after every set. Also, I've seen some shaper heads that have replacement tips? I'm thinking in the long run it might be less expensive to invest in a head and just replace the tips when needed? I don't know much about that so any help would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From Contributor E:
By all means keep one panel raiser just for MDF. The moment even carbide touches it it wears it enough that it won't cut hardwood like it used to. It will cut MDF for a long time, but you just have to keep one dedicated for that, unless you're ready to move up to diamond tooling.

From contributor J:
I use insert tooling. Mark a set just for MDF - it's really hard on them. Just one panel will dull them up if you try doing solid wood after. My old door guy would not do MDF panels but in 1/4 ply type doors.

From contributor A:
The only saving grace is MDF doesn't require sharp knives. Most everyone has your experience and owns two sets of cutters.

From Contributor H:
Two cutter set is definitely the way to go. The board companies have figured out that glue is less expensive than wood so they are putting more glue in the board.

From contributor L:
Use insert cutters. Inserts are available in at least four different grades. Tell your supplier what you are going to cut and get inserts to match. Brazed carbide never works well with manmade board. If you aren't changing between materials several times a day you could just use one inserted head and swap knives. We use European Tooling System.