DIY Wood Molding on a Table Saw

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I had never heard of a molding cutter for a table saw until I inherited my dad's old Craftsman 113 table saw and read that it was an optional attachment in the manual I found online. You can pick these up on ebay for $50 or less. There are two versions, one has a single blade and the others have three. From what I hear the single blade ones work fine, but I can imagine that you'd have to push the wood through a little slower. The single blade models can be found used with 18 different profile blades and are usually under $30 online. Many of the different profile blades are still available used online and a company called Corob makes new cutting heads and profile blades.

These blades can also be used on radial arm saws.

Step 1: Safety

I'm probably sure that these things fell out of favor because of negligent people getting hurt by them. As you can imagine they have a huge potential for kickback, especially if you are trying to take off too much material in one pass. The keys to safety with these things are getting to know how much you can take off each pass with each different blade and getting a feel for the speed you can push it through. Also very important is hold down support to keep the wood in full contact with the blade and unable to get kicked back at you.

I've heard a lot of people online say that people thought these things were scary, but to me it's no more scary that a regular table saw blade. In fact, the high pitched whine of a carbide blade is more unsettling than these molding blades. They make a lower pitched hum when running. You could probably use them without hearing protection. I wouldn't, but in actuality it probably wouldn't be a problem at all.

Step 2: The Set Up

The cutting head comes with a spacer and an adapter bushing so it'll fit a 5/8" arbor. If your arbor is 3/4" you won't use the bushing, of course. The groove on the cutting profile blade will be facing away from you as you look at the table saw from the position you use it. This particular blade--and all I've see online--will be clearly marked to tell you the rotation of the cutter head and orientation of the profile blades. Put it on the arbor as pictured: washer, spacer, cutter, washer, nut.

Always disable your saw when changing blades. I always unplug mine and leave the plugs in my field of view for peace of mind.

Step 3: Make Your Own Fence and Insert

I don't think this is really optional if you want to use this safely. Some profile blades you could probably get away without it, but I wouldn't. You could seriously damage your fence and have flying shards of profile blades going everywhere if you ran your metal fence into while running.

My old saw's design makes it a little tricky to make a wooden zero clearance insert so I made one that sits on top of the table and is part of the fence. You could easily make one for each of the different profiles if you wish, but I just made this one with the 1" straight edged joiner profile blade so that any of the blades would work with it. I made the wooden fence 1" wide. 1" wide fence add-ons make it easier to do the math when you still want to use the fence's measuring tape.

The only thing to be careful of is where you put your screws in this thing. None around the blade's path, naturally.

My saws dado insert would have worked fine, but I wanted a little extra support after the wood came out of the blade.

Step 4: Making Your Insert

Lower the blade to below the table and turn it on. Slowly raise it up through the material. Repeat this, moving your fence each time, until you get it as wide as you need.

Step 5: Profile Blades

All of the blades are 1" wide. That makes finding the middle pretty easy. This 3 flute profile will go down the middle of my wood.

Step 6: Support

I love featherboards. Here I've used one that mounts in the 3/4" slot on my saw. This one will keep the wood firmly against the fence. For downward support I put the wood on the table and then screwed in a piece of scrap on top of it. I put a piece of paper folded on itself a few times between the workpiece wood and the scrap support piece to make a slight gap before screwing so that the wood could slide through smoothly. I plan on adding another adjustable featherboard for the downward support eventually.

Step 7: Cutting

Adjust the depth of the blade to take off just the right amount of wood. You don't want to take too much as this will slow down the speed you can put the wood through. Use a test strip to get your depth set right or to figure out if you need to make the cut over several passes at gradually increasing depth.

If you've got multiple pieces of molding to make you'll want to run all of it through the setup before making any changes. For example, if you have to make multiple passes at different depths, then run all of the wood through at each adjustment so that it remains uniform. If you run one piece, then adjust and run another you may not make the depth or position correctly and have molding that doesn't match up.

Hear I set the depth to just make the flutes on one pass and barely take away any wood at the highest height of the flute so I didn't have to make multiple passes. I then changed the blade to a cove profile and for each outer edge. I took off so little material that this happened in one pass as well.

Step 8: That's It

This particular molding is to cover up a cut line in my wooden soffit on my house from where I removed material to add more venting. I doubt anyone will ever notice it, but it made a good excuse to show off the molding cutter on Instructables. Their are many many uses for this thing, just be safe and mindful.

Needless to say it makes a lot of saw dust. So use a dust collection system like this one! And while you're at it move that saw all around the shop like this.

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    21 Discussions

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    gwlinn123

    14 days ago

    I also inherited a set of these over 30 years ago. I may have tried to use once or twice, but, frankly, they scared the heck out of me. Since then, I got a router table. Even there, I've have molding fly out now and then.
    Recently, while using my old Sears table saw without the guard and riving knife, a piece of wood flew back and hit me really hard in the stomach. Luckily, no skin penetration. Clearly, for some operations, you can't have the guard on. It was too difficult to remove and re-install on the Sears so I ran without it for many years. This incident so scared me that I bought a new saw with a quick remove/install guard/riving knife as well as a full-face mask that should resist most impacts. I'm considering "body-armor" as well:)
    So, to anyone thinking about using this molding set, please be careful. You maybe should also look at MicroJig's Gripper tool which helps keep your hands away as well as applying downward force and forcing the piece against the fence.

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    nick1941

    20 days ago on Step 7

    I've used this very cutter on my radial arm saw (which I don't have anymore). With the radial arm saw you need to be very careful that your work piece doesn't lift or raise in any way. It ruins the piece. That's why I prefer using a table saw. If the piece raises, no harm.

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    Eh Lie Us!

    20 days ago

    Thank you for posting this. I practically live in my garage and was gifted one of these sets - brand new but i was always a tiny bit intimiated by the 1" blade. You made it manageable, so . . . thanks!

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    Kink Jarfold

    4 weeks ago on Step 8

    Impressive. I think I'm as old as those cutters. Question: How did you get the wording on your images?

    3 replies
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    PeeDonkeyPitKink Jarfold

    Reply 21 days ago

    GIMP is my "go to" for this kind of stuff. GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. Free, open source, cross-platform, VERY powerful, and there are TONS of online instructions and tutorials - including right here on Instructables.com!

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    dlewisaKink Jarfold

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Photoshop. There's an online free version I also use called Pixlr

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    pgs070947

    21 days ago

    Yes safety first.
    I saw somewhere that a spindle molder was the most feared workshop machine.
    Even a router can do some serious damage if it decides to dig into the grain.

    3 replies
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    dlewisapgs070947

    Reply 21 days ago

    I think my dad had a DIY spindle molder. Didn't use it much because it scared him. They just need good support to keep the wood in place and stop kickback.

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    pgs070947dlewisa

    Reply 21 days ago

    I think the early machines had a reputation for sending out cutters like schrapnel. The more modern heads with decent fixings have largely eliminated that, but I don't like any form of hand feeding and that includes electric drills. A collegue of mine had a hole cutter in a hand held 240-V AC drill when the hole saw snatched and dug in. The drill carried on turning while the mains cable wrapped itself around his arm. The only thing that stopped it was when the cable snapped. That was over 30-years ago and still haunts me.

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    idahojoepgs070947

    Reply 21 days ago

    This tool is the most dangerous tool in the shop from industry safety satistics

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    Phil B

    4 weeks ago

    I coveted a cutter head and a few basic cutters back in the early 1970s. I got a radial arm saw in 1972 and used these to make Roman Ogee molding for tops on our first bedroom furniture pieces. Antiquing was popular then, so I could use soft woods because the antiquing meant they got a coat of paint and the grain pattern did not matter. Before the radial arm saw I had a solid blade mount arbor for a wood lathe I had bought a dozen years before while in junior high. I made a plywood table to fit on the lathe so I could use the cutters to make molding. These cutters naturally were not carbide tipped, but ground. The peripheral speed was pretty good, but they still did not cut quite as well as a router. A router seemed like a luxury item not affordable. I had to be very careful to feed work slowly at an even speed or there could be a scallop from uneven cutting. Chatter was also something to be avoided, if at all possible. Chatter was more of a problem on a radial arm saw than I think it would be on a table saw. That is because the cutter is likely above on the radial arm saw and the work can jump up into the cutters if not held down very well. Any warp or twist in the wood meant an uneven cut was likely. Although you could buy a guard, great care was needed to be certain fingers did not get into the path of the virtually invisible spinning blades. And, guards sometimes got in the way more than they protected. Whenever you bought a sawblade at Sears you got a small booklet with a complete list and drawings to show the profile of all cutters offered by Craftsman. Several examples of cut profiles were made with a combination of cuts from two or more cutters set very orecisely. The booklet was partly educational and partly a sales brochure to make you want to buy more cutters. It always seemed to me that those complex cuts could require some hand sanding to smooth faint lines where the cutters did not align exactly as intended.

    2 replies
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    idahojoePhil B

    Reply 21 days ago

    I'm showing my age but I purchased a Sears router (before it was a Craftsman product) and 3 inch belt sander in the late 50's.
    I still have and use them today.

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    dlewisaPhil B

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    I have that old booklet. It made me curious to try tracking down one of the dado blades that work on circular saws. That could be very handy.

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    JimM98

    21 days ago

    Good instructable! I still have my set & several inserts sized for it, but I rarely use it. I found a good router table is a better way to go most of the time even though I'm still a tablesaw fan for most operations. Several inserts because some pieces need a lot of support & I made them out of commercial blanks that are a tough plastic, kind of like a cutting board, rather than wood. Even a little flex with an open, brittle grain helped by a knot & some pieces will shatter. It's a scary experience. I kept an eye out for a cheap set of router bits & got a set of 35 for under $50. I bought a Bosch router & mounted it permanently to a table of the same brand (I have another that alternates between the plunge & regular base.) They are variable speed, but much higher than the tablesaw, so less likely to shatter pieces.

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    houston112

    21 days ago on Step 8

    I have bought one of these moulding cutter when I purchased my Radial Arm saw in the early 70's still using it.

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    mlwmerk

    21 days ago

    I have one of these Molding sets that I got along with an old Sears Radial Arm Saw given to me. I was always terrified to use the molding attachment. I wore out the RAS.

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    trinketman20

    21 days ago on Step 7

    I bought on back in the day with my radial arm saw. You are correct,using it can lead to some very exciting moments. Thanks for reviving some memories.

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    MarcellS2

    21 days ago

    Nice work! I have one of these as well that I bought from Sears at the time.

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    boomchucker49318

    4 weeks ago on Step 8

    I own a Craftsman 113 tablesaw that I bought new in 1978. Just yesterday I finished upgrading it with a Delta T3 fence, something I should have done years ago to replace the piece of crap OEM one. When I bought the saw I also bought the moulding head described in the article. It is a snap to use and is very easy to set up. I made all my own window and door trim for my living room out of cherry a few years ago using the moulding head, I'm currently remodeling my entire upstairs and using the moulding head to make oak door and window trim tlhere. Great tool!