Stock Moulding Start-Up Tips

A millwork installer moving into moulding manufacturing gets advice on running his new business. June 23, 2006

We are located in southern NC. We will take shipment of a brand new Unimat 500 in two days. Having run 3 WH into the ground, it's time to step up. My goal is twofold: one, to supply 3 basic molding details (3 1/2 crown, colonial base, and a back band casing) at a cost that undercuts local finger jointed trim but ours will be run of poplar; two, to continue our high end molding duplication. My numbers show that with purchasing 4/4 FAS poplar, my lowest margin will be around 20 cents a foot profit. This is buying quantities of 15,000 bdft or better. Any hurdles ahead?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor T:
You mentioned a base moulding? Many times a base is made from resawn 5/4 or 6/4 when the finished product is to be less than 5/8". Many lumber mills accommodate split truckloads at no extra charge.

From contributor B:
I just sold my moulding business of 18 years. Do you rip or buy pre-ripped? What is your labor to rip? What do you do with the waste? How do you handle the sawdust?

We only ripped small runs, specialty woods (cherry, etc.) and wide boards. At 120.00/mbf to rip, it did not pay to rip narrow stock. We would buy lumber plus millwork and also by the lf price. We would get the off falls of 7/8" or bigger when buying lumber and millwork to use for shoe, etc. Pre-ripped stock cut down on labor and let us focus on the moulder. Thatís where you make your money. A return conveyor on the rip saw and moulder saves one man at each machine.

You are going to generate a lot of sawdust. We had a closed loop to a 45í trailer. If you are close enough to the user, they pay for sawdust. High ceilings and racks make picking your next load for the moulder quick and easy. A scissor lift in front of the rip saw and moulder saves time and backs in the long run.

Keep your hold downs and fence tight enough to give your customers good quality and consistent sizing. Keep samples of your runs with dimensions to the thousandth of an inch. Try to maintain + - .005 tolerance from your sample. Your customers will appreciate the consistent dimensions when fitting copes and miters.

From the original questioner:
Yes, I have given this some thought, although risking ordering common and recycling the off cuts would seem more economical. I will investigate it further. Our ripping is very basic and I have not worked the numbers out with our suppliers. Regarding chips, we have an adjoining landscape supplier and we are negotiating his taking them for mulch.

We are making a huge leap from where we were, so pardon my basic questions. One pending job is a full teak master suite. Wainscot, all the casing and various components that normally trim a room, all runs of teak. I just completed 7 passage doors and one arched entrance door, all 8 foot with chevron louvers. We got killed on the teak at 12 - 17 bf. I got irritated and priced all the other stuff at a flat 25.00 lf. The bill will be outrageous, around 40 grand. Drafting the quote tonight... It pisses me off to have to buy a 4/4 by 10 ft bd and find after blueprinting the material (because trim is length sensitive), I have to purchase a 8/4 x 16 x who knows what to get a piece of 31/4 bed mold. Teak is no doubt an animal unto itself. Tired of the weird short run stuff - takes too much talking.

From contributor R:
Most of my customers use carbide to mill teak, if that helps you bid it correctly.

From contributor A:
I don't know much about it, but you may want to think hard about supplying chips to a landscaping company. Woods like cherry sap the soil of nitrogen and kill everything around it. The landscaper's clients may not appreciate their flower bed turning to mulch.

From the original questioner:
You're very correct. He has the ability to tint certain large chip species. More dangerous would be certain wood species used as bedding for horses, cherry being one. Walnut is not good, either.