Freud Door and Panel Cutters
Monday 24 November 2008
Ron Fox is excited by a set of pro-quality panelled door-making cutters from Freud
Freud are introducing a new range of frame-and-panel door-making cutters. One of the first is the 97-20050 set, made in Italy but imported via the USA and consisting of three separate cutters: two for the frame and one for the panel. Of the two frame-making cutters, one scribes the ends of the door rails and the other profiles both rails and stiles to create the decorative groove into which the panel slides. In American parlance the scribes are known as 'cope cuts' and the profiles 'stick cuts', as described in the DVD.
All three cutters are bearing guided so can be used for rectangular or arched panels.
First impressions are of a quality product; not least in the splendid packaging - a shaped hardwood block drilled for the 1/2in shanks and a clear hard plastic hinged lid with an ingenious opening and closing method. Included are printed instructions and a small-diameter DVD, which requires a tray-type player rather than the slot found on laptop computers.
Testing, testingI began by preparing the material: cutting the frame components to size, and edge-joining two boards for the panel.
ScribingThe first door-making operation was to scribe the ends of the door rails. This requires the rails to be taken past the cutter at an exact right angle and at precisely the correct depth of cut, following the full and clear instructions.
To help the scribing cuts it is common practice to use a scribing sled - usually home-made but a commercial one is available from Trend. Instructions for making a sled come with the cutters so I made one.
ProfilingAfter scribing the rails, all four frame components are profiled to create the groove for the edge of the panel and put a decorative moulding on the inner edge. This operation is a straightforward table-routing job but care - and decent pressure guards - is needed for safety and efficiency.
Raising panelsThe panel raiser is massive, with a diameter of 89mm. This presented a problem in that it was too big to lower through the cutter apertures in my big table and DeWalt 625 router. This meant that it was too high for comfort when making the initial cut. I solved the problem in the usual way by using a sheet of 9mm MDF with a semi-circle cut in it to raise the tabletop level.
The panel raiser was also too big to pass through the cutter aperture in my table fence, so I made an auxiliary fence which was attached to the table fence with double-sided tape. I cut an aperture to give clearance for the cutter at its highest point.
The actual machining operation was straightforward. As this panel was rectangular it could be run against the fence with the bearing on the cutter lined up with the face of the fence. I then made several light passes with the cutter running at its recommended maximum speed of 16,000rpm.
With a cutter of this diameter you need a quality 1/2in router with a reliable plunge lock, good bearings and first-class collet. A fine-height adjuster is essential to achieve exact depth of cut. Machining continues, in light passes, until the edges of the panels slip comfortably into the grooves in the frame.
Panel raiser optionThis panel raiser was of the Freud 2 + 2 type, with two small blades that cut downwards and two large ones that shear upwards to give an extremely smooth cut. An alternative type back cutters can be bought. This effectively rebates the back of the panel so that it fits flush with the frame.
The verdictThese are top-quality industrial-grade door-making cutters. They require a powerful router in a substantial table to get the best out of them but they produce as good a result as any I have used. Being 3 1/2in in diameter, the panel raiser gives a wider than usual surround to the raised centre which makes the set eminently suitable for larger doors.
What with the first-class container, an excellent instruction sheet and an instructional CD, this set is highly recommended provided that you have the router and table to handle it.