Making Stair Rail on a Shaper

A shaper owner asks for advice on making handrail stock. February 8, 2008

I am a cabinetmaker, but once in awhile I get a request for wood handrails. In the past, I ordered them from the local moulding shop, but it takes three weeks plus the time to go order and pick up. We have shapers and a moulding machine and I am thinking I could build the price of cutters into the price. Where is the best place to get cutters? Should I do it on the shaper or moulding machine?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor H:
If it's only once in awhile, why don't you just order it from a stair supply company? Most can ship within 1-2 days on stock items. The box stores carry a fair supply of basic stuff also.

From the original questioner:
I have just discovered I have a shaper cutter that came with the Powermatic that I bought from a factory closing sale. It is 2" tall and about 2 1/4" deep in a mushroom shape. It is an intimidating looking cutter and I would appreciate any advice on setting it up. The shaper has a large 2 speed power feed but feel slow is probably too fast for removing that much material. I imagine multiple passes are necessary.

From contributor G:
I do mine with a corrugated back knife for the straight rails and then a custom 3 piece router set for the turns if required. I also have a VFD on my 3ph power feeder so I can turn the speed way down if required.

From contributor L:
Since the handrail may be a repeat item: Make an auxiliary table for the shaper with a strip that fits into the miter groove and blocks to locate it end to end. The edge of the aux table locates the shaper fence for the final pass. Add-on fence spacers provide the ability to make the cut in 2 or 3 passes and still keep the final cut location. Set your feed to the lowest speed and buzz away. You will want to make a gage block to locate the height of the shaper cutter/spindle so no fiddling around is required next time you need to run. Since we have a profile grinder we run the handrails on the molder. You always get a better cut on the molder than a shaper, but by keeping the final cut small on the shaper, it will do fine, just takes more time (passes).