Frame cutter buying guide
Lucas, Antique wood-worker, Gloucester27 guides
- Cutting depth
- Cutting diameter
What's a frame cutter?
Tracing or template?
This is the simpler method, where you just mark up and trace your hinge cutout in the desired location. You then select cutting depth and cut your notch, taking care not to exceed the tracing or you'll make a pig's ear of it!
This method is a little more involved but far more efficient and precise. The cutter comes with an adjustable aluminium frame, which can be used to restrict its action so that it can only cut into the area where you want to make a notch for your hinge. Nothing could be more practical once you've got the hang of it!
The guide frame can be used on horizontal as well as vertical pieces - including existing door frames, for instance - and clamps on with eccentric presses. Finally, it can also come with guide rules: you mark the first point and the guide automatically indicates where to put the next one! Either way, the template can be positioned in both directions, for leftward- and rightward-opening doors.
Frame cutters: clamp, cutter and copying ring
Milling or cutting head
This is the component that actually cuts into the wood. The most effective type are HM - 'hard metal' carbide cutters. Maximum diameter can be up to 32mm on the most sophisticated models, and the more trusted manufacturers make them in increments of 1mm. Be careful to avoid coupling a very large cutting diameter with an extreme cutting height, so as to avoid overloading the machine and getting nowhere!
Of course it's possible to use other types of milling head to embed hinges, but again, pay attention to the machine's intended use - don't expect a router to do the same job as effectively...
This highly practical accessory is fixed under the baseplate of the machine. It lets you follow a template, guiding the machine along with it.
What are the important properties of a frame cutter?
When you've selected your settings, a good machine will allow you to make a long series of cuts, one after the other, without disruption or misalignment.
Power, between 500 and 750W, is only important for sustained, high-volume work. The number of revolutions per minute (rpm) goes up to 30,000; this has an effect on the finish quality produced, but the difference is fairly minimal wth this type of machine.
As regards weight, you're looking at anywhere between 1.8kg for the lightest and 4.3kg for a heavy model complete with a template. The priority is for your machine to be easy to handle and control - and don't forget you might end up needing to do high-up or difficult-to-access work.
Final advice before choosing?
Choosing a frame cutter is made easier by the fact that you can count the models on offer on the fingers of one hand.
Learn more about woodworking tools...
How to choose your router?
How to choose your edge-planer?
How to choose your drill bits?
How to choose your grooving machine?
How to choose your clamps?
How to choose your screws?
How to choose your drill?
How to choose your workshop vacuum cleaner?
How to choose your mortiser? How to choose your protective eyewear?
How to choose your hearing protection?
Lucas, Antique wood-worker, Gloucester 27 guides écrits
Everything about woodworking fascinates me, and building my own home in this material is one of my goals.
I’m also a follower of construction tools: I love to learn about innovations, the way they’re used, the tips and tricks, or the performances of each new tool on the market, whether it’s for woodworking or not. I would be happy to advise you and help you with your choices.