S4S Moulder: Is It Worth It?

A shop owner is considering buying a 4-head moulder to dedicate to producing S4S stock. Opinions vary on the value of that investment ó the difference may lie in the quantity he needs to produce. October 22, 2005

I recently spoke with a guy who has a custom millwork business and had just bought a second molder. He told me that he was dedicating the second molder to milling S4S (surfaced 4 sides). Is it a good idea to have a molder dedicated to milling S4S? It seems that you could set up a four head machine to joint, thickness plane, and clean one edge. I have spent days milling face frame and cabinet door stock. Could this be a great labor saver?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor A:
Itís a great idea, but make sure you look at all of the costs included in the operation, such as dust collection, electrical hook up, training on the moulder and tooling. If you can afford this, it will save you time and money. The moulder can remove some of the bow in the lumber if fed correctly through the machine. Standard 1/4" oversize in width and thickness are the most common. If you get quotes from several manufacturers, you will get a fair price.

From contributor B:
I would consider going to a 5 or 6 head machine and having a molder instead of just an S4S machine. We've got a 5 head Weinig that has been very good, with great support from Weinig. I wish I had bought a 6 head (2nd top) - it would be much better for times when we run heavier moldings. A molder requires a lot of dust collection to keep from having re-circulation. Molders allow you to do more for your customer and open doors to other work. You will also need a profile grinder for anything other than S4S.

From contributor C:
If not a 5 or 6 head moulder, I highly recommend a 4 head machine dedicated to S4S. It will improve productivity, and will change your life. I bought a used SCMI Sintex just over a year ago. We quickly realized we needed a straight line ripsaw as well. Fortunately the latter are found in auctions weekly and are relatively inexpensive. After a year I decided to upgrade to a 5 head machine so I could expand my foothold in the custom moulding business. I sold the Sintex for a little less than what I had purchased it for. It is a great machine and can serve a five person shop well. If you do look at 5 and 6 head machines, look at dust collection and power requirements also. The upgrade can be costly.

From contributor D:
As a millwork shop owner, I would suggest that you think long and hard before purchasing a molder for cabinet parts. The costs go far beyond the cost of the molder as others have stated, and depending on your production, this may not be cost effective.

We supply many cabinet shops with face frame stock cheaper than they can produce it. Because we purchase hardwoods in volume, our material costs are usually much lower than cabinet shops. With gang rip capabilities and a steady work flow we can produce these products for much less per foot. I would suggest that you check for someone local who can work with you to supply your needs.