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The Right Tools For The Job
 
Almost any task can be made far easier by having the right tools and methods for getting it done.  This page includes information designed to give you the benefit our many years of experience working with these products.  The first half of the page includes tips regarding the set up or configuration of particular pieces of equipment such SAW BLADES or CHOPPER BLADES.  
We refer to the second part of this page as YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE, and try to identify practices you should avoid altogether or where special equipment is recommended.  We know that many Framers are very clever problem solvers, but just because something CAN BE DONE, doesn't always mean it SHOULD BE DONE.  
 
Choosing the Right Type of Blade for Your Saw

We had the opportunity a few years back to work with the people at Tenryu to do extensive testing of the various saw blade configurations to see if the blade set up made any difference in the quality of the cutting.  Here are the key results we found:

 

1.    Among all the many ways blades can be configured (number of teeth, blade thickness, etc.) we found two things that made the most difference. The most important was the arrangement and “grind” of the teeth.   The tooth arrangement/grind of the blade that definitely outperformed all others when it comes to cutting most fabric-covered liners was the “HATB” (High Alternating Top Bevel) set up.  The arrangement that worked the least well was the “Triple Chip” grind.  The HATB grind consistently cut both the wood and the fabric most cleanly while the Triple Chip blades tended to result in the most fraying along the cut line.  See drawings of these two types of teeth shown below.

 

 

2.    As it turns out many shops were unaware that their saw blades had been sharpened in the “triple chip” grind.  It seems to be common that many saw manufacturers as well as the companies doing sharpening will automatically assume that Framers want this type of blade.  Going with the “triple chip” grind may also be a defensive move by sharpeners because the “triple chip” set up will result in fewer problems with “chipped teeth”.  It should be noted that the more pointed shape of an HATB tooth is likely to be more fragile and would not be suitable for cutting metal or handling a high volume of extremely hard woods such as Oak.    It was amazing to see the difference in the performance of these two arrangements.  By sharing this information with customers we have made it possible for far more shops to handle this type of cutting themselves, saving them a great deal of money.  Switching our own blades to the HATB tooth configuration has also greatly reducing the number of “joining problem” complaints we received. 

 

3.  There are lots of other factors such as the number of teeth, the overall size of the blade, the power of the motor driving the blade, that can all have some bearing on the quality of the cutting but none of these have the influence that the grind configuration and hook angle do on the outcome.  We have been so impressed by the difference that we have set up a program in conjunction with the people at Tenryu to provide loaner sets of blades so that customers can experience the difference first hand.  While we understand that few shops are interested in having blades they use just for cutting liners, there are many who have switched to the HATB type blade for overall cutting since they do not cut metals or deal with species such as oak on a regular basis. 

 

The results mentioned above apply to all of the wood species that were commonly being used as liner stock at the time (various types of Pine, Basswood, Poplar, Aspen).  We did not originally include any liners made from composite materials such as MDF in our testing.  Several years ago when we discovered a new type of composite that we now identify as “Ultralight LDF” we once again went through the process of trying different types of blades and blade configurations to see if they had an effect on the quality of the cut. 

 

In this second round of testing we also acquired some of the regular MDF material being used within the Industry as a substrate for both Liners and some outside mouldings.  Regular MDF is a much harder, much heavier material than our Ultralight LDF but when it comes to the quality and cleanness of the cut we still found the HATB blade with a slightly negative (5 degree) hook provided the best results.  It is definitely worth noting that regardless of which blade we used, cutting the MDF type stock tended to dull the blades much faster than cutting the Ultralight LDF.  We were aware of the way that coatings such as the acrylic gesso applied to many imported mouldings tended to be hard on blades but were not aware that regular MDF was also very tough on blades.   As the blades became duller the MDF stock still cut fine but the fabric covering the liners was getting shredded terribly.   We really are not big fans of using regular MDF in Framing -it has too much in common with concrete to be of much use for this purpose in our opinion.

Ultralight LDF, on the other hand, is the most suitable substrate in terms of its cutting and joining quality, and in terms of its overall straightness and stability.  We can also promise that choosing liners produced on Ultralight LDF stock will save you money on blades and sharpening.  We have found that we are able to cut nearly twice as many frames between sharpenings and since blades can only be sharpened so many times before they are worn out, this is significant.  This may not be good news to the people at Tenryu but it will save us a couple of thousand dollars this year. 

 

 

Why You Should Consider Having Your Chopper Blades "Hollow Ground" 

 

If you own a Chopper and are not familiar with the term "hollow ground" blades then you are in for a treat.  The drawings below show the difference between blades that have been flat ground and those that have been hollow ground.  It may not seem like there is a great deal of difference, but the proof is in the pudding as they say.  Sharpening Companies that don't possess the special equipment or skills needed to perform this service will likely say it isn't important, but those who have worked with both types of blades will tell you it makes all the difference. 

 

 

 Above:  The difference in the shape of a hollow-ground blade face

 

 

Hollow grinding of the blade will give you a blade tip that is sharper and it will also help it to remain sharper longer because the slightly concave blade will allow the wood being removed to move away from the tip with less drag on the blade.  Your cuts will be cleaner and you will get more cuts in between sharpenings. 

 

There is one caveat that I should mention with regard to hollow ground blades however.  If by chance you are using your chopper blades to do ALL of your cutting, and this includes having to cut very hard species such as Oak, then hollow ground blades may not be appropriate for this material.  The sharper tip of hollow ground blades can be more fragile in such use.  While I can tell you that in 34 years of working with hollow ground blades I have never had a blade chip, we do not use our choppers to cut such mouldings.  If you are cutting species like Basswood, or Poplar or even most Pines, whether or not they are covered with fabric, then having your blades hollow ground will improve the quality of your cuts and save you money.  

 

 

 

You Can't (Reliably) Get There From Here

 

If you are an experienced Framer most of the things we mention below will likely seem fairly obvious.  Some customers have even found these comments humourous, but we include them with all sincerity for those may not have as much experience.  The way we look at it, its better to say something and possibly help someone avoid a problem.  There is no need to let us know that you have been able to accomplish something we have listed below, we aren't saying it is impossible.  These are just things that you wouldn't want to do on a regular basis if your goal is to stay in business and actually earn a living.

 

Things We Do Not Recommend

 

1.  Don't order bigger or wider Liner profiles in CHOP.  When working with really wide Liner Profiles (especially large scoops or flats wider than 2-1/2") either order them oversized and cut them just before you join them, or order them as seamless, continuous-covered liners or Panels.  Though our new Ultralight LDF Liners are much more stable than Liners made from Basswood or other wood species, you still need to recognize that wood expands and contracts with changes in its environment, and that the only way to avoid the consequences of this expansion or contraction on the joinability of the liner is to cut and then immediately go join the liner.  Allowing a cut liner to sit unjoined, either in a UPS truck on its way to your shop, or just there on your work table over the weekend when you didn't have time to finish the job on Friday, will inevitably result in liners that won't join as well.  You cannot fight Mother Nature and expect to win.  

 

2.  Joining Thin Profiles Without a V-Nailer.  You must have a v-nailer to successfully join profiles like our Mat Liners.  These thin, wide profiles can now be ordered as Panels (where they are milled out of a solid piece of Ultralight LDF and have no seams) but if you are purchasing them in length or as chops, side-nailing is simply not an adequate method for joining such thin or wide profiles.  Even a glue as powerful as our Miracle Muck works better in such cases with the help of a few v-nails.  

 

3.  End-Wrapping Liners Covered with Either Very Coarse or Very Thick Fabrics 

It may seem like a good idea when working with fabrics that are really heavy or coarse to want to avoid the fraying potential of these fabrics when they are cut by end-wrapping the bars of your liner, but end-wrapping should really be limited to fabrics which are very thin.  If you end-wrap the bars with fabrics that are heavy or coarse you will not only have a hard time getting the fabric to adhere to the mitered edge but it will make a very bulky joint.  Better to order the bars raw, then cut and join them in your shop and cover with solid piece of the fabric yourself (or have us do it for you).

 

4.  Don't Use Framing Software Until You Understand Its Assumptions and Default Markups  We are big fans of the value of many of these programs, just being able to keep your pricing up to date is worth their cost, but too many people buy these programs and put them into use without understanding that in many cases the "default" settings are nothing more than "placeholder numbers" rather than some sort of recommendation.  The calculations that generate your pricing should be understood BEFORE you put them into effect.  If your vendor cannot tell you how they are going about generating a "price" in their program (any assumptions regarding purchasing quantities, sizes, minimums, etc) or you have not taken the time to calculate a key number such as "overhead" to determine the appropriate markup that your particular shop needs to apply to the vendor's pricing, you are not ready to use the program.  In addition to speaking with customer service people at the software providers there is some great help available in The Grumble for most of the major programs.