I am building hickory kitchen cabinets for a customer. These doors and panels have a solid 3/8" hickory insert with 1-5/8" center bead milled into them. Customer wants to the door panels to match their wainscoat paneling. I've considered using a subcontractor for the doors. The subcontractors price was $72 per piece; each piece measures 24" x 30". I thought the price was high and so I considered making the panels myself. To make the panels I need a molding head for tablesaw. However, I'm having difficulty finding a bead cutter for a tablesaw.
Before shaping I will have to glue the hickory stock edge-to-edge and sand the panels smooth. A local architectural millwork shop can help me by gluing up solids in a high frequency machine, but he does not have tooling to run bead. If you have any ideas or comments I sure could use them.
When constructing architectural woodwork to match existing woodwork in a clients home, I have found that it's often necessary to purchase custom tooling for the shaper, tablesaw or other machine. If so, I add the cost of the tooling to the price of the job when I submit a bid. This allows the customer to decide whether they want to cover the additional costs of custom tooling or settle for a profile that may be close but not a perfect match. Usually the desire for a perfect match diminishes when the customer realizes the price for expensive custom tooling.
Regarding the $72 per panel price quoted to you, I suggest that you first factor all of your costs. You may not be substantially ahead by the time you factor your labor, materials, and the costly overhead associated with running a woodworking shop. In fact, subcontracting this part of the job may increase your profit margin. Many cabinet shops outsource the doors and drawers to shops that specialize in this time-consuming part of the job.
If you decide to make the door panels yourself, I suggest that you do not glue together the strips. Originally the bead on paneling was used to hide the tongue-and-groove joint between the mating wood strips. The tongue-and-groove joint is necessary to allow for seasonal expansion and contraction of the solid wood. If you wish to use a solid panel I recommend that you use a hickory veneered plywood for stability.
Amana has shaper cutters for creating beaded paneling. Cutter set no.SC430 is provides an attractive traditional profile. Using this set, there is no need to glue the panels edge-to-edge. Instead, the set creates a tongue-and-groove joint along the edges of the strips. This design will also allow for the seasonal expansion and contraction that will occur in natural hickory.