Curved Molding

About a year ago we bought a Woodmaster 725 off the classifieds.  I’d never heard of Woodmaster,  so I looked them up and one of the touted features on their website was the ability to make curved molding.  Pretty much had to have it after that because my head was filled with visions of  arches, ellipses, circles, etc. and making all the trim for my house, it was going to be awesome!!

Meet the Woodmaster

This thing is huge!  But the price was reasonable for a never-used 25″ planer that also has molding, sanding and gang-ripping capabilities.  We had just bought a house and I convinced my husband that if we bought this, I would be able to mill our own hardwood floors.  By the end of the summer I had started doing just that!!

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Woodmaster 725

If I had done research and decided to I needed a Woodmaster, I would have gotten the 718 model.  It can plane up to 18″ wide instead of 25, the planing head would be lighter, some accessories would be cheaper, it would still be plenty big for what I wanted.

Gary Streigler’s Curved Molding Videos

Gary Streigler does a lot of promotional stuff for wood master and has a series of YouTube videos on using your Woodmaster, a lot of them center around making curved molding.    It can be hard to tell which order they go in, so I’ll do that for you here:

  1.  Woodmaster Intro Video  – Getting started
  2. Strip Lamination – method used for curved molding
  3.  Setting up for Glue Up how to make the mold using brackets and plywood
  4. Gluing strips together –
  5. Making Guide to run molding through Woodmaster
  6. Setting up Woodmaster for curved trim

Gathering Form Supplies

  1. 6″ x 1/4″ angle iron cut into 1″ strips, or the equivalent
  2. 1/8″ Strap iron – 2 pieces, one to go in next to the mold, the other to go on the outside of the wood.  4″ tall in back, 2-3″ tall in front for molding
  3. 8″ c-clamps – a couple dozen or more to be safe
  4. Plywood, thicker the better
  5. screws

Gary uses a method called “strip lamination” to make his curved blanks, it looked straight forward enough, so I started gathering what I would need to give it a try.  The thing that made it look most possible was having a large number of clamps with a nut welded to the end.  This allows you to use a drill to tighten them down.

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Mold brackets and clamps 

Buying as many clamps as you need can add up fast, so I resorted to buying out Harbor Freight’s 8″ c-clamp section several times to make sure I had enough.

Getting the 1/4″ thick 6″ angle iron cut into strips was another adventure.  We have a very nice neighbor who happens to be a machinist, so I somehow cut my 4′ piece in half with out metal chop saw and took it over there.  He has a much bigger metal chop saw, but after cutting 1 strip off we decided it would be better to take it into the machine shop where they could use a metal cutting band saw.

He very nicely took it in for me and brought me back a box full of 1″ angle iron strips.  Then he said next time I should buy flat iron that he could bend :0)  I have enough brackets for everything I can think of right now, but I’ll keep that in mind.

Curved Blanks

The videos I linked earlier are very detailed in explaining how to get to this point, you’re welcome to watch them if you’re curious.  In short you will need:

  • Thinly cut strips, less than 1/4″ thick
  • Plane your strips on one side so the glue sticks better

The first blank I tried  was a planed down 2×4 I cut into strips.  I thought it might be good to practice on something cheap before attempting this with the soft maple I was using in the house.  It turned out pretty awful, my husband was helping and I had a hard time explaining what to do once we had started, we got in a hurry and our strips ended up wavy and the attempt made it to the dumpster.  He suggested I have Clint help with the next ones.  Clint is our master woodworking friend that I am always asking questions.  “How do you…?”  “What do I do if I want to…?”

About 6 months after the first failed attempt, Clint helped my glue up the pile of strips I had been bumping my hip against all winter.  This is defiantly a 2 person job and having the right assistant makes all the difference in the world ;0)

Here are a few highlights of what we learned along the way, I didn’t take pictures that day:

  • You need to move quickly so the glue doesn’t set, but don’t get in a rush, you have enough time.
  • Defiantly have plastic wrap around to contain the ends
  • It doesn’t need to be tightened down all at once, which is the mistake we made the first time.  Start in the center and ease your way around.  If you notice in the video he keeps going back to previous clamps as he goes around.  It eventually all gets tightened down a little at at time.
  • We wrapped 2×4 pieces in plastic and used them to hammer down as we went along.
  • I would buy a glue roller applicator if I planned on doing this a lot.
  • I have 2 pieces of 4″ wide flat iron we were using.  The 4″ was okay next to the brackets, but it was too tall next to the wood.  It would be better to have a 2 or 3″ piece next to the wood so the clamps aren’t trying to pull the strips out of square.

Prepping for Profile

I scraped off as much glue as I could right as the blanks came out of the form, it comes off easier before it’s had a chance to cure completely.  Then let them dry overnight.  You don’t want to run lots of glue through a planer with good blades, so I held off changing the blades in my 12″ dewalt planer until  I was done with these glue-ups.

I tried using a roller stand at the back end to support the wood, but it kept getting knocked over and I ended up just supporting it by hand as it came out.  There wasn’t any noticeable snipe on the blanks to speak of.

Set-up for Woodmaster

I bought Woodmaster’s curved molding jig thinking it would make things easier.  For some reason I was having a mental block about cutting a curve out of osb or other cheap plywood and thought the jig would make it easier.  No, but that is not a story for today.

All you need is a piece of plywood the length of your planer bed with your radius cut or of plywood/osb thinner than your curved blank and a straight piece of wood on the other side, both screwed to the plywood at the center.

I traced my curve then cut it with a jig saw.  It needs to be cut slightly smaller than the marked curve.  Then make sure everything slides through before anchoring it in the machine.  I like to add a little paste wax to jigs to take away some of the friction.

All that’s left to do now is anchor the jig in the planer, I put a bold through one end and a clamp at the other.  Then get your knives lined up and the depth set.  This part actually took quite a bit of fiddling to get everything in order.  One of the nice features of the Woodmaster is the ability to run the feed rollers without having the planer turned on, so you can make sure everything is going to line up and your blank won’t catch anywhere before you run it through.

The second picture is a blank coming out with the profile on it!

Finishing up

We had glued ours up a little wide and there was almost a 1/4 inch to take off in some places.  I started out by trying to learn how to use a spoke shave….it was a bit rocky and took most of an afternoon.  Good ab workout though ;0)

Once I had them closer I finished up the inside curves with an orbital sander.  You could also use a sanding drum on a drill press.  Outside curves with the disc sanding attachment for the Shopsmith.  Finally I ran everything through the Molding Sander I built for the Shopsmith and was ready to paint!  They went back though the molding sander after the first coat of paint and primer and are now ready to be put on the wall!!

These were a ton of work, lots of steps, but I think it’s going to be worth it!  I’ll have something a little different in the dining room and bedroom.

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