Review By Wayne Davy  LRH Website - http://www.lrhent.com


LRH Magic Molder

 Review

By Wayne Davy

When I reviewed Kenneth Burton’s book “Cutting Edge Table Saw Tips & Tricks”, I was quite intrigued by one of the Table Saw attachments that he discussed. This tool, according to Kenneth, turned you Table Saw into a form of Spindle Molder. This sounded very interesting so we contacted LRH Enterprises, makers of a dedicated molding device for the tablesaw, who were kind enough to provide a unit for review. So, with out further ado, let's see how this tool “shaped” up.

Unpacking
We received the Magic Molder in a cardboard storage case sporting a foam insert with purpose cut areas for the tool components. While not as nice as the plastic cases you get these days, the box is still quite strong and the tools are held securely inside.

Packed with the main tool were printed instructions, cutter head chart and also a Video demonstration of the tool (NTSC format only for our non-US readers). This video shows the user basic usage of the tool as well as briefly going into the more complex cuts that are possible with the product. Lastly, LRH also provided us with another two sets of Cutter Plugs. These were presented in small cardboard storage boxes sporting fitted foam inserts, similar to the magic molder packaging itself.

First Impressions
The tool is comprised of an aluminium cutter head that is 7” in diameter, 7/8” wide and is designed for a 5/8” saw arbor. The center of the block has recessed areas to enable the use of the tool on table saws with shorter arbors, and a large thick steel spacer washer is also provided to ensure the correct positioning of the head on your Table Saw or Radial Arm Saw. The head has recesses for two Cutter Blocks, called "Plugs", which fit into keyed slots. These are then locked down via hex bolts (more on this later) with a supplied Allen/Hex key to suit.

The Cutter Plugs are all comprised of a steel body with substantial Tungsten Carbide tips that measure an even 1” across and are about 3/32” (2.5mm) in thickness, providing a solid cutting surface and also allowing a large scope for re-sharpening. The standard kit comprises two different sets of cutters (see photos) with over 70 other “off the shelf” designs also available. 

Installation
Fitting the Magic Molder in
the table saw is basically similar to installing a Dado Set.  We removed our standard blade and then proceeded to install the Cutter Head using the provided steel washer first, and then the Head. Once the Head was installed and the arbor nut tightened down, we proceeded to fit a set of cutters.

Installing the Cutter Plugs is a fairly simple process and is shown to you in the Video.  Even if you had not watched the video or read the instructions (but we all do, don’t we?), one look at the Head recesses and the Cutter Plugs should tell you straight away how they go together. If it didn’t, I suggest you send it back as maybe you shouldn’t be using it! Anyway, as I mentioned before, the Head has two recesses that are approximately 1 ” in diameter and are slightly more than a semicircle in shape. These recesses have a steel locating pin on one side and a threaded hole on the other which holds a hex bolt.  The Cutter Plugs have corresponding slots and holes to suit these with the locating pin slot being "L" shaped which allows the Plug to slide in and rotate into the locked position. After that the hex bolt is tightened down, totally securing the Plug. It is really a quite simple and very secure system.

We proceeded to install the first set of cutters provided as standard. This was when the only problem we had with the tool occurred. One of the Plugs we chose to install just would not slide into the head. The first one fit perfectly, but no end of trying, cajoling, pushing, etc. (insert language Mom would not like here) would make the other cutter slide into the recess in the Cutter Head. After a little observation, and a cooling down period, it appeared that the body on this cutter may have received a little too much paint/coating. So after a quick trip to our Disc Sander for a very light treatment of the offending area, the cutter slipped in perfectly. Now, I want to note that this was the only Plug that we had a problem with out of the 8 provided (four sets). And, after a bit of reflection, we thought that this did show the Head and Plugs are machined to very tight tolerances which is really a good thing.

Ok, we now had our Magic Molder head installed and a nice set of Cutters waiting for some wood to eat, but there were still a few things that needed to be done. As with Dado Blades, a correct Table Saw Blade Insert should be purchased or made and this should, preferably, be of the zero clearance type. Consequently, we had to make up a new Insert to suit the Magic Molder, which didn't take too long. Next, we had to make a sacrificial fence to fit on our Table Saw Fence. Again, this is very similar to requirements of Dado Blades when, for instance, you are using them to make rabbets. LRH offer a purpose made Fence for the Magic Molder but we did not have access to it for review. So, as I also needed to made a new one up for my Dado Set, I chose to spend a little bit longer making a better one that bolted on to my aluminium saw fence. Even so, it was not long before it was installed and we were, nearly, ready to make sawdust. We  had one more thing to take care of – hold-downs. I already had made some timber feather boards for use with the Dado set so this requirement was covered.

In Use
Alright, time to make some cuts. For the first test cuts, I selected a piece of 2” square pine and setup up for the cut. Starting up the saw and feeding in the wood gave me quite a pleasant surprise. The Magic Molder exhibited a certain element of quietness while cutting the wood, especially in comparison with my router table. Now, part of this is because the table saw has an induction motor but, as most of us know, when you cut wood with a saw blade, it creates quite a bit of noise. Now, the Magic Molder was taking of way more wood in a single pass than a blade would but it was not at all noisy! In fact, I had prepared myself by using a set of Ear Muffs which I ended up removing as it did not seem necessary at all. This is not to say there is no noise, just no where near as much as you would expect. In the documentation on the tool, LRH mention the low noise factor and explain this by saying that the plugs are designed with a low air entrapment design and cut limiting. While I had read this before using the tool, I was still pleasantly surprised.

Ok, after marvelling at the low noise level, it was time to marvel at the results we hoped we would achieve. Turning over our test piece revealed a lovely clean molding cut right down the edge. Now, considering this was done in one pass in Radiata Pine, I was quite surprised by the cleanness of the cut. Not a bit of chip-out in the grain could be seen and I felt that not one bit of sanding would be needed. I then proceeded to try out the other three sets of cutter Plugs and received the same results. This is a quality product indeed.

Getting Tricky
Ok, we did some simple molding which you could achieve on a Router Table albeit in multiple passes. So, what else does the Magic Molder offer? The answer lies in your saw’s ability to tilt the blade. Because of this, you gain a whole new set of possibilities with the cutters. Take the simple 45 degree cutter and then tilt your Saw – instant variable chamfers are now possible! Or, grab any of the other cutters and try a different arbor angle, opening up a nearly endless set of different shapes that can be achieved with a small set of cutters. Now, I know that Spindle Molders offer this flexibility but, at a cost. The Magic Molder gives it to you using an existing tool in your shop. Also, you are not really limited in where you want to make your cut in the timber as you are with Routers/Spindle Molders. Say you want a bead profile cut in the center of a six foot board. To do this generally will have you reaching for your hand held Router and a special bit but its not a problem with the Magic Molder as it gives you the instant ability to do "in-cuts" which can again be varied using the arbor tilt. Most impressive I must say. 


Safety
Another aspect of the tool is it’s quoted safety features by LRH. The following are from the provided documentation:

  • Safe & Quiet: L.R.H. spoiler plug design reduces air entrapment (quieter) & limits bite to 1.5 mm (safe & smooth).

  • Anti-Kickback: Head & Plug design reduces the possibility of kickback.

  • Vibration Free: All MAGIC MOLDERS are electronically balanced to eliminate chatter and produce a smooth cut.

I have already talked about (probably too much) the low noise aspect but what about the others? Well, I did not detect any vibration during use nor did I receive any kickback, however, I also did not put myself in a position that should have allowed kickback to happen so I cannot say if it is the design or my safe work practices. What I can say is that, after a few initial jitters in having so much metal spinning around, I quickly felt quite comfortable and safe using the Magic Molder.

Conclusions
You may notice I have titled this section “conclusions” as I have had a little difficulty working out how I felt about the tool. This is not to say the tool is necessarily "bad", as it is excellent, it's just that I have been in mixed minds about its place in our different workshops. So, I’m going to break it down into what I feel are the different workshop scenarios and let you, the reader, pick the one most applicable to you.

 

Hobbyist Woodworker

If you are like me, and are a mostly a weekend wood warrior, the Magic Molder may or may not be the ticket. As I already have a very well setup and equipped router table with a good collection of router bits, the Magic Molder does not have as much appeal although the low noise aspect is very attractive, plus it has that advantage of milling in the center of wide boards. If, however, you aren’t in this situation and/or you have limited space, the Tool is probably ideal. This is of course provided you have a table or radial arm saw at your disposal.

Professional Woodworker – Small Shop

This is where I really feel the tool fits in perfectly (a thought echoed by Kenneth Burton).  For the professional who is, generally, making a run of particular molding but is pushed for space/time/etc., this tool is one you should really look at - considering the ability to
(
in most cases) shape the timber in one pass, quickly change cutters and vary the cuts using your saw arbor tilt, and all using an existing tool in your shop. This has got to be a very attractive tool to add to your arsenal.

Professional Woodworker – Large Shop

For the large, pro shop which probably has a dedicated spindle molder, the Magic Molder is, again, probably not all that attractive. Then again, other features of the tool may just be what you are looking for. These are, particularly; safety, noise reduction and also quick cutter change features. As well as ending up with a large working surface that a lot of spindle molders generally lack (well the smaller ones). I should also mention that LRH can provide custom cutters to your design helping you get that custom look to your products. So, again, check it out.

Price:

  • US $298 Starter Kit – includes two Plug sets

  • US $198 for Intro Kit – includes one Plug set

  • US $95 per additional Plug set

Parting Words
I had better make a comment about the price
. LRH make the following comment in their marketing literature:

"Affordable : A price everyone who recognizes quality can afford."

Well, do I think it’s worth the money? Well, it is certainly well engineered and made (apart from our one small problem) and it feels like a tool that will last a very, very long time. The Cutters/Plugs are fitted with a substantial Carbide insert which allow a lot of re-sharpening to occur before requiring replacement. Now a spindle molder or a fully equipped router and table is going to set you back quite a bit so when viewed in this context, the Magic Molder is reasonable value for money. What it comes down to is that, if the tool does the job for you, I don’t think the price is too much at all.


 

Magic Molder Photos
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The Magic Molder Packaging


The Molding Head plus several
"Plug" cutt
ing attachments


Ahh... the paperwork!


Here you can see a variety of cutting profiles easily interchangeable on the Magic Molder.


Magic Molder set in the saw with plugs being inserted.


Our shop made sacrifical fence for Magic Molder use.


A zero clearance insert was created for minimizing chip-out.


The Results...Yes, this can be
done on a table saw with the
Magic Molder!

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