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Anyone Producing Custom Millwork with a Williams & Hussey Molder?

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Forum topic by gerrym526 posted 02-23-2008 08:38 PM 10305 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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gerrym526

265 posts in 2554 days


02-23-2008 08:38 PM

I”ve been looking at the W&H Molder and considering starting a business creating custom millwork for builders, contractors, and finish carpenters.

Have been an amateur woodworker for over 10yrs, building cabinets and freestanding furniture in both hardwoods and plywood, so am no stranger to power tools or wood.

Have no finish carpentry experience, and don’t really plan to get those skills. Simply want to see if it’s profitable to supply folks with millwork they can’t get at the local lumber yard.

Anyone in this group currently running such a business?

Would very much appreciate your insight.

Thanks in advance.

-- Gerry


8 replies so far

View Catspaw's profile

Catspaw

236 posts in 2561 days


#1 posted 02-24-2008 02:50 PM

I was having a discussion about this subject just yesterday with the boss. Where to start, though…hhmm.

[insert thinking pause here]

Context: We have a Wadkin…..o.k. ... it’s a five head machine weighing in at several tons…lotsa $$$...comparing apples and oranges…..maybe.

No opinion on the W&H, although, I think we had one in the shop as late as last summer. Sold it. I Never used it.

To the other area of your question. re: the business of moulding.

We got this thing last fall and have used it abit. In our case, we use it for custom moulding per project. That is to say we make casework, frame and panel walls and ceilings, and moulding and such. A client gives us the design for maybe an entire room or maybe the whole house. That design usually includes custom profiles. So we’re not making “stock” moulding and then trying to sell it. I think this is generally what you’re talking about (specialty mouldings as opposed to competing with Home Depot in the “colonial” profile market.)

Here’s what I see, business-wise, in our shop and you can compare that to what you would like to do in your own context.

Our machine is designed to run 1000’s of feet of stock at a time, day in, day out, to pay for itself. It takes me as long or longer to set it up than it does to run the moulding sometimes. It’s very typical to spend an hour setting the knives, and running a few blanks (usually poplar) through to set elevations and widths before running the good stock through. Then, at even the slowest speed (3m per minute) it might only take 30 to 40 minutes to run four or five hundred feet of moulding. One set of knives (custom profile) can run $250. We have flooring (back side and tongue and groove), crown bevel (sides), and sprials for S4S on all sides already. So, we would typically have to buy one set for the surface profile maybe 70% of the time. Some profiles however require two and three sets. A machine our size doesn’t pay for itself when it’s just sitting there 95% of the time.

So you add the cost of one set of knives, the testing material, set-up time, etc., and it can add up to significant extra cost per foot to the moulding. Now, once you accumulate knives, some of that cost goes down, i.e. in the case of our five head we don’t buy a set of straight knives for the back or bevel for crown everytime we run moulding. And sometimes you can sell someone a profile you already have that is close enough to what they want.

There is also the cost of having to sand the profile. Invariably there will be timing marks. Sanding a tricky profile can add up in time.

You might be able to market running clients wood through even if it’s a standard profile. We’ve had clients that have cut their own trees and want to utilize that wood in their house whether it’s a standard profile or not. They just want to know it’s their own wood. You could also maybe market specialty exotic woods in stock profiles.

Now, we buy cants from the lumber mill. Then we plane and rip the stock ourselves to a blank size that will run through the moulder. You could buy pre sized but it adds to the cost as does your own cost for making the blanks yourself.

You can’t compete with the home stores. You’ll have to develop or find some specialty market to make it profitable.

So far we’ve started at the middle, getting the design and having to implement it. This has been troublesome at times. We’ve had knives rejected because they weren’t “exactly” what was on the drawing (as in a stock cove we already had wasn’t a full 1/4 round…..it was about 80 degs instead of a full 90 degs. and another profile was about 1/32 off and they rejected it. Out of $1700 in knives we had about 4 profiles that would have to be re-worked….and this was just for making approval samples.) I suggested to the boss that we find and work with interior designers and set-up to do “their style” and have them sell it to the client (built in sales force for free and knives would already be “approved”).

uh….my brain is empty now. maybe I’ll have some more stuff later. But, this should be some food for thought as to how you might want to proceed. Size it down to a W&H and go from there.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

273 posts in 2499 days


#2 posted 02-24-2008 08:36 PM

I have the 25” Wood Mater. I can run a few different profiles at the same time, which cut down on labor. I can be converted to due three sides in one pass. Add a sanding mop to it and it will sand the molding as it comes out of the machine. When I looked at the W&H system, it did not impress me as much. If you are going to start a bussiness from this, you will need a machine that can handle larger peices and/or a few at the same time. Time will be money and the quicker you can make them the more you make. Look for one with varible speeds for the cutter and feed rate. Look at the profiles that you can get for it. Do you have a large jointer and planer to handle long stock?

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

View barlow's profile

barlow

129 posts in 2486 days


#3 posted 03-22-2008 05:45 AM

If you are going to buy a moulder buy a Weinig. It can be profitable, but it takes skill, practice and money. Weinig is the cadillac, they are German made and run with a tolerance of .003”. You can also buy a grinder with them to make your own knives and sharpen your own knives which is a big plus. They also have a school in NC where one can train on there machines with professional instructors. I’ve been around moulders all my life, i started running one when i was about 8 for my dad, and all we ever had is Weinigs and when going to other mills and seeing the quality of there stock it was no comparisson to the finish of a Weinig.

-- barlow

View Catspaw's profile

Catspaw

236 posts in 2561 days


#4 posted 03-22-2008 01:53 PM

Been doing some moulding lately and got some more thoughts. The boss said designers tend not to have their own “style” but rather copy old profiles. He said most seem to be straight out of [insert name here] catalog. Can’t remember the name, but, it’s some famous company/catalog that has all the old colonial and euro profiles.

We’re currently working with a client that is being a real pita about the profiles. Cutting your own knives may not be such a bad idea. The company we get knives from is good but they make whatever we send them….meaning we should be very precise in what we ask for. And we have’nt really done that.

In the past year, I’ve taught myself to run our moulder. Wouldn’t have minded abit if I could have gone to at least a seminar or something. The tech we could’ve called in would’ve cost several thousand dollars for only a day or two.

Now, it’s not that I’m blowing my own horn…but, I’m real smart when it comes to how machines operate. But, this moulder has 5 heads with two adjustments each that all have to work together….well…it could take even me a reeeaal long time to figure out all the subtle nuances of it.

I kinda set myself a record the other day when we had an emergency. I had to run 50’ more of some crown. It took me about 30 mins., got it “there” in two samples of poplar, tweeked it for the third and got it. Then the other day we were running samples for some engineered flooring that took all of two of us about 4-5 hours ‘cause there were little bugaboos that we just couldn’t get out.

I just realized how much there is to it, how much there is to know and to learn. All I can say at this point is, prepare yourself…it can be done…but, it may require a real commitment on your part. I think it depends on whether you go more “standard” with smaller runs and a less expensive set-up, or go whole hog. (maybe I shoulda just taken that job as a greeter at walmart…life would be so much more simple.)

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View molded's profile

molded

1 post in 2461 days


#5 posted 03-25-2008 02:31 AM

I’ve been running my W&H for about 4 years now for my own restoration business. It’s been a great machine. About 6 months ago we decided to advertise the moulding service and it’s taking a while, but it’s starting to go now. Most of the profiles are run on this machine since we can now set it up and have mouldings in less that 10 minutes. Great for short runs and moving onto the next profile. Also have a 25” Woodmaster and I use that for larger and deeper profile and sizing of the blanks.
I have no regrets about the W&H. It does it’s job, paid for itself and if it sits idle for some reason there’s no worries over it. I’m still up in the air with the woodmaster as an all in one machine, but for the way I use it, I like it just fine.

View bugs's profile

bugs

4 posts in 2272 days


#6 posted 09-29-2008 10:28 PM

I love using my Williams & Hussey molder but I never liked the clamps that came with the unit. A few years ago I was running some molding for an architectural replication job and I got the idea for making a fence system that clamps on the ends of the machine table. I invented these clamps for my own Williams & Hussey molding machine. I will make them for others- see www.clampthis.com
They work GREAT!

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bugs

4 posts in 2272 days


#7 posted 10-02-2008 12:13 AM

I want to apologize…Yesterday I spent time on different woodworking forums trying to get information out about my new molder fences. I am new to “forums” and to trying to market a product. I am actually a Technology Education teacher (Industrial Arts) that came on a new idea and I got stuck between a rock and….because I did not want to necessarily get into the marketing business but I felt obligated to get this out to people who might be able to use these. Anyway, Yesterday I was home sick and I took the opportunity to begin trying to get the word out. I googled “Williams and Hussey forum” and I couldn’t believe all the discussion there was about this machine. I immediately saw an opportunity and took it by signing up for as many forums as I could and posting info about this product. After talking with my neighbor who is somewhat of an internet marketing guru and telling him what I did, he calmly and politely told me that this could be and probably would be considered by members of the forum as “spamming.” Like I mentioned, this is all new to me and I am not fully aware of the communication nuances of the internet community. After much discussion with him I realized that I may have understandably offended some of you. Though I did not get any negative feedback, I want to make it clear that it is not my style to be “sneaky.” I was a professional woodworker for 15 years and I greatly respect the craft. Thanks, everyone for the feedback you did give, and I wish you all many happy wood chips. I will find a more respectable way of doing this.

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Woodn88s

78 posts in 2287 days


#8 posted 10-12-2008 12:09 PM

Gerry,
10 yrs. ago I worked in a SHOP THAT HAD THE w&h AND IT WAS A WONDERFUL LITTLE MACHINE.
last year I took on a huge restoration project making double hung windows (more than 40 of them)for a historical restoration. 4 of the windows were arch tops The job took me 8 and a half mos.
I needed to reproduce some trim and casing that was more than 100 yrs. old. I bought the shop fox rip off of the W&H. I also bought the radius jig to run the arched trim.
I couldn’t be happier with this little machine. It runs smooth and suits my one man shop.
I bought crown knives and can now easily run all my crown on this machine as opposed to using one of my shapers. And it is also a lot easier to run this stuff on the moulder.
I’ve recently noticed that they are selling this machine real cheap on ebay stores.
1 more thing, the variable speed contol is a must.
Yes a weinig is a beautiful machine and is certainly the way to go if you are a big shop and run mouldings all day and as your main source of income.
But for the small custom shop, I love my little moulder.
good luck

-- I want to know Gods thoughts....rest are details "A. Einstein"

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