Wood shaper

Wood shaper

A wood shaper, usually just shaper in North America or spindle moulder in the UK, is a stationary woodworking machine in which a spindle spins at moderately high speeds. Specially shaped bits are mounted on the spindle. As the workpiece is fed into the machine, the bit cuts a profile into it. On some shapers, router bits can also be used using a special mounting adapter. The machine normally features a vertical fence, against which the workpiece is guided to control the horizontal depth of cut.

Wood shapers do essentially the same job as the router table, with the main difference being that a wood shaper is a stationary machine designed for larger volume work while a router is a hand tool for lighter duty work. Routers can also be mounted on a router table, and used as a stationary tool. However, routers run at considerably higher speeds than shapers, and the use of large bits can be dangerous. Also, shapers can be used to cut much larger profiles than routers and custom-made shaper bits can be readily ordered or fabricated.

Wood shapers come in two main variants: one with the spindle on the side, so the bit cuts into the workpiece from the side, and one where the spindle assembly is mounted in the bottom of the table, so the bit cuts into the bottom of the workpiece. Of these two, the latter is more common. On some shaper models the spindle can be tilted.

Shapers can be adapted to perform specialized cuts through the use of a wide variety of accessories such as sliding tables, tenon tables, tilting arbor, tenoning hoods, and interchangeable spindles. Spindle shafts come in a variety of sizes with the most common at 3/4" for small shapers, 1 1/4" for most shapers, and 30mm on European shapers. Most spindles are tall enough to accommodate more than one cutter head thereby making tooling changes much quicker. Interchangeable spindles make this process much quicker as additional spindles can be fitted with other cutter heads that are pre-spaced.

Shapers range from simple units with fixed spindles, to high-end units with tilting, interchangeable spindles with reversible capabilities. European combination machines feature shapers along with sliding tablesaws, jointers, planers, and mortisers.

Using a Wood Shaper

[Pro Woodworking Tips.com]

Shaping wood is a rather easy process, once you have the right equipment, and some knowledge of how they work. Almost all woodworkers have used a router table at some point. The shaper is pretty much just a larger version, with more power, and the ability to handle much larger cutters, such as those used for raised panels or crown moldings. The variety of cutters is also much greater than those for routers. (plus you can still use all your router bits with them).

Shapers range in size and are identified by the horse power of the moter, and the diameter of the spindle. From less than one H.P. for benchtop shapers, which I think if that's what you need, you might as well stick with a router table. They increase in size to 2 H.P., 3 H.P., 5 H.P. and larger for industrial purposes. The shafts, or spindles are threaded on the end and range in size from 1/2" to 1 1/4". Many machines come equipped with a couple different sizes of spindles, as well as having router collets to allow router bits to be used in it.

These machines are much quieter than a router, and much less vibration, due mainly to the fact they're belt driven, and turn much slower than a router. Generally, the shaper cuter is turning between 7,000 - 10,000 R.P.M.'s. The speed change is typically made by relocating the belts on the stepped pulley system, much like a drill press, whereas a router will turn at between 20,000 and 25,000 R.P.M.'s, and are direct drive. It's easy to understand the difference in noise levels, and the pitch of the noise. Instead of a high pitched whine of a router, it's a quiet hum of a quality motor.

Shapers are also able to run in reverse, which is necessary in performing some cuts. It is very important to always check the position of the directional switch, particularly if you work with others. Feeding a board into a shaper that is turning the wrong direction could result in the board leaving the machine like a missile. It could be FATAL if the board were to hit somebody.

The shaper is considered by many to be the most dangerous machine in the shop, but with proper precautions and careful set-up it need not to be feared, buy always respected. There are several safety precautions you can, and should use. First thing would be use the plastic guard supplied with the shaper. It has a bearing in the center of it which allows it to spin freely, and is installed above the cutter. This alone would stop many of the injuries attributed to the shaper.

Jigs and fixtures are also a big help in reducing injury, and generally result in better cuts. The time spent to make them is well worth the effort. A very small device, but important one is the starter pin, or fulcrum pin supplied with the machines. This is simply a metal rod, threaded on one end which screws into a hole located a few inches away from the cutter. Holding the work piece against the starter pin, and then feeding it into the cutter is the proper way to start a freehand cut.

Probably the best and also most expensive safety device would be a power feeder. While these were probably not designed as a safety feature, they certainly are. The benefits to using a power feeder, in addition to keeping your hands far from the cutters, is the fact it will hold both down and in towards the fence with a great deal of force. Used to control the speed at which the board is fed past the cutter. Both of these details are critical to nice smooth, burn free shaping. These power feeders are generally three or four wheeled, and are capable of at least two speeds. The speed change is made by changing metal drive gears within the power head. The wheels themselves are a semi soft rubber or similar material which prevents them from slipping.

Instead of trying to shape narrow pieces, it is best to shape wide pieces and then rip them. Use a miter gauge, on end grain with a backer board to prevent tear out as the board leaves the cutter. On panels, such as raised panels for doors, shape the end grain first and then the edges parallel to the grain. This way any tear out on the end grain will be shaped off when you shape the edges. Make several shallow cuts instead of trying to make large moldings in one pass.

With some caution, careful planing, and common sense, injuries from this machine can be avoided. As always, if it doesn't seem safe, DON'T DO IT.


* [http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com/Wood_Shaper.html Pro Woodworking Tips.com] Written By: Lee A. Jesberger

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