Basic descriptions of various types of shaper found in wood shops. November 13, 2008

Reprinted with permission from MLS Machinery, Inc.

Shapers fall under the standard machine category which include table saws, jointers, planers, routers, etc. which are found in most small shops, custom cabinet manufacturers, small kitchen manufacturers, etc.

The shaper, as the name implies, shapes material normally on the edge. It is a relatively small machine; can have a foot pedal to start and stop the motor and can sometimes have multiple speeds depending on the machine. The part to be worked on is pushed against a fence on the table, the machine has a cutter which protrudes the fence which is in the shape of whatever is going to be shaped, turning in a circular motion on a fixed spindle, depending on the quality of the work, the speed can be adjusted, the faster the speed the better the quality. Once the part is completed the shape of the cutter will be on the edge of the part. Not a very sophisticated or complicated machine.

Sometimes operators will use power feeders which they can attach to the machine to feed long parts or repetitious parts against the fence, this will allow the machine to feed automatically one piece at a time.

Double spindle shapers are the same as above, but have two spindles instead of one; therefore, two different cutters can be installed on the same machine to avoid changing set ups. In some cases the spindles can be turning in opposite directions; this is used to stop any breakout as the part comes to the end of the first cutter, the reverse rotation of the second cutter will stop the part from breaking out at the end. This is called "climb cutting", i.e. the material going in the opposite direction to the cutter. In some cases when operators use double spindle shapers they do not use the fence at all, they run the part against a bearing that controls the depth of the work piece. Most shapers have a fence as described above that is adjustable, which determines how deep the operator wants to go into the material; this depth is determined from the sides as opposed to a router where the depth is determined from the top.

Other shapers that exist are the rotary type shaper where parts to be shaped are placed in a jig on a rotary table. These machines can handle numerous parts at the same time, or a single larger part, the size of which will be determined by the diameter of the table itself. Most of these machines will have two shaping heads on the back side of the machine. As the part or parts pass through the heads the shape will be copied from the jig and because there are two heads, two operations can be done at the same time. The operator will stand in front of the machine loading and unloading the completed parts. Some of these machines might have a sander attached to sand the edge at the same time as well. These machines normally come in 26", 52", 60", 72" and 80" diameters. On an 80" machine, a full table 80" long can be shaped at one time. This machine is very popular in the manufacture of dinette tables. The table will be shaped on this machine and at the same time a "T-Slot" will be inserted into the edge to allow T-edge moulding to be inserted at the next operation.

Linear copying shapers work in length as opposed to the above that work in rotary (round or half round shapes). These machines have one long, narrow table that can be 10' or longer. The parts are placed on a jig on the table and are held down in place by a number of air hold downs. These machines can have from one shaping head on one side to four shaping heads on each side of the table, determined by the complexity of the work. This head or heads travel the full length of the table against the jig shaping either one side or both at the same time. One head on each side of an eight head machine for example could be a sanding head to do final edge sanding once the part has been shaped.

Copyright MLS MACHINERY INC. 2007 All rights reserved.