This is a supplemental article to accompany my Youtube video “Folding spindle moulder fence”
This is one of those jobs ive been putting off constantly, in fact I had this idea the day I bought my used Spindle moulder (ive only had it around 8 years!), every time I use the moulder I think “I really should sort this fence out”. The moulder is an Elektra Beckum TF- 904, before it came to me it had an easy life cutting softwood but the fence had been abused, it was covered in pine resin and the ends were mangled where I think it had been used as leverage for tightening the spindle nut!
I had thought a lot about the kind of fence I would find most useful, I had seen the Aigner fence which is way out of my budget, and much cheaper versions like the one available from Axminster with its sliding fingers which project out into the cutter aperture to support the work piece. I like these designs because they allow quick adjustment to give maximum support depending on cutter position.
This suits me because I rarely do any kind of mass production work and tend to spend much longer setting up the machine than actually machining wood! If a work piece needs even a moderate amount of support then I would usually need to make up a sacrificial fence and screw it to the main fence. This is time consuming and can get quite wasteful of materials, even though a sacrificial fence can sometimes be used a few times if cutter position is sufficiently different.
When finalising my design it is fairly obvious that I took cues from the Aigner fence which is beautiful in its simplicity. I like that it can be adjusted quickly without any tools, simply fold the fingers into position and go. My version comes with caveats though; The main one being it is made from wood, which ultimately wont be as durable, but if a folding finger comes into contact with a rotating cutter it will sacrifice the finger and save the cutter, I made a set of spare fingers for this reason!
I made my fingers 5mm thick, this wasn’t thought through at all though and really was just a guess at what would be strong enough, yet thin enough to allow the closest possible work piece support regardless of where the cutter sits. The fence pieces are 25mm thick in total with the maple fingers being 20mm, again; trying to keep it is strong as possible but maintain as much depth adjustment as possible. The thicker the fence the less depth of cut becomes, in fact with this fence and fingers in use the maximum depth of cut for a 100mm rebate block is only around 17mm, that said though it is a similar situation with a sacrificial fence.
The back plate which holds all the pieces together is made from an aluminium grade called Ecocast tooling plate, it is a machinable grade which is ground flat, giving it a nice polished and flat surface on both sides. The plates are 5mm thick which seems to be just strong enough to resist bending when clamped on the machine. The flanged nut is actually a weld on nut from ebay, intended to be welded to steel to create a threaded attachment, but having a thin elongated flange made it perfect for my purposes.
I chose Maple for the fingers because it is dense and has a nice fine and tight grain structure so should be quite smooth to run material against, and it is quite a strong material. most importantly it is quite stable, especially if the piece chosen is quarter (flat) sawn with a nice straight grain without any defects, knots etc which would create tension in the wood, resulting in bowed pieces when cut.
The pivot pin could be made from any kind of metal really, I used brass because it looks nice. I bought a 6mm and a 1/4″ piece to test and it turned out that milling the holes with a 6mm cutter actually created a perfect tight 1/4″ hole! So I used the 1/4″ brass rod. Hitting it with a hammer to insert it through all the fingers seemed like it might be destructive, so I devised the method of drilling it in with the cordless drill, which works quite well.
Although I have only used the fence on the test cuts so far, and the only actual usable thing iv’e machined is the small access panel for a hole in my bathroom ceiling, it is clearly going to be a very useful addition to my spindle moulder. It is very quick to set up, and gave full support to even the small access panel, where I would have risked plunging the mdf deep into the cutter had I not had this fence, or had decided it wasn’t worth the effort of making a sacrificial fence.
The cut outs on the fingers for spindle clearance could do with elongating a little more, since when the fence is in position for larger diameter cutters, the cut out becomes offset, I will need to experiment, taking out a little at a time and see if they survive, or explore other materials, or stronger woods if I feel they are too weak.
Some kind of rebate support on the trailing fence would definitely come in useful but I have only briefly thought about the design for that, it would need to be modular and adjustable to make it usefull in different situations, but I guess for now I can just make up a 5mm thick piece to slot in between the fingers to give support where it is needed.
Below is a 3d Sketchup model of the complete fence, just as I made it in the video. all the parts are drawn up as components so can be selected and moved, hidden, measure etc as needed. I expect some redesigning will be needed depending on the type of spindle moulder fence it will be attached to, but the plans should give a good starting point.