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Thread: Tell me about Shapers

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    Default Tell me about Shapers

    When I look into the history of machining, I see that the Lathe is one of the oldest machines, as is the Shaper, and Horizontal mill.
    The Vertical mill didn't seem to come onto the scene until much later in comparison.
    But, in recent times it seems that the Vertical mill has become far more popular than the Horizontal mill.
    And later came the 'bed mill', and that morphed into the common benchtop mill sold by the quazzilllions from china.
    The Shaper seems to be a relic of times gone by.
    That is, until you see youtube videos from someone like Abom79. He has the experience, the money and wherewithal to have almost any machine, and he consistently goes back to his shaper.
    Or, you see a little Atlas benchtop shaper on Ebay, and the bid$ go out the roof.
    Or, you see someone give a tour of their shop, and the shaper is a prized item.
    But, where is the general popularity?
    Where is the mass production cheap shapers?
    Why do some of the old school guys love them?
    Is it like your first girlfriend? and then you grow up?
    Whats up with the Shapers?

  2. #2
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    A shaper is "a lathe for flat things". That is what it does best, flat things: surfaces, dovetails, as well as gears (with a form tool), etc. You can do larger profiles, but it is more difficult. There is an old joke that you can make anything with a shaper, except money.

    I used an Atlas shaper as my "mill" until I found a horizontal mill and vertical head. You can do a lot with a shaper. I even made bevel gears.

    You can usually do even more with a vertical or horizontal mill. And do it easier and faster. Shapers CAN do a lot. And they use a lot cheaper tooling than a mill. But they are slow, and may need adaptations to do certain things.

    If you have a decent vertical mill, you do not meed a shaper, unless it has a lit more travel than the mill.

    I'd trade a trailer load of shapers for a planer....... one with a stroke around 6 feet or a bit more.
    Last edited by J Tiers; 05-30-2019 at 11:10 PM.
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  3. #3
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    Default

    I agree with Jerry... a planer would be a real kick to have and operate. I had an AMMCO shaper for several years, didn't use it much even though it made really clean and smooth cuts. I'd like to have a 10" or 12" shaper. Planers are far and few between here in Oregon.

    Dan
    There was a blind carpenter who picked up his hammer and saw.

  4. #4
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    Oct 2015
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    It has been said by experienced machinists that "you can make anything you imagine with a shaper - except a profit."

    Shapers went out of fashion in machine shops because they're generally slow compared to mills.

    For example, you can cut the teeth on a gear on a shaper, if you use a dividing head (or rotary table) to rotate the gear, etc. You can either cut a tooth, then rotate, or take a partial cut, rotate, repeat, then set the shaper to take a deeper cut, rotate the gear again. By grinding your own HSS tools with the forms you need, you could conceivably cut any type of gear you want - and all you needed to do is grind the HSS tool to make the profile cut of the space between teeth. The HSS tool blank is probably no more than $25 to $30, and there will be some time and effort involved in grinding the HSS tool, mounting it on the shaper's toolholding, etc.

    Now compare this to how you would cut a gear the "modern" way on a manual or CNC mill: you'd order a gear hob, which can be a terrifically expensive cutting tool that does one and only one thing: cut the teeth of that particular pitch gear.

    Here's a nice pic of a hob cutter:

    https://heliosgearproducts.com/products/hob-cutters/

    A friend who was a machinist for a mining equipment repair shop here in Wyoming told me that if he was making or repairing a single gear of any particular type or tooth profile as a one-off, he probably would do it on the shaper in the shop. But if he had to do two more more of those gears in the shop within a year's time, then he'd order a hob cutter and use a mill in the shop. One of the hobs he showed me for cutting specialized gears on a frequent basis in their shop cost upwards of $1K - but he said it was worth every penny of that, because in the course of a year, using that hob saved them at least $2000 in employee time on the gear jobs.

    Some other things a shaper can do that mills have a hard time doing:

    - cutting to an inside corner, esp. a sharp inside corner
    - cutting an inside corner to a 'blind' depth
    - cutting narrow, deep, interior slots (there's a version of a shaper called a "slotter" that mounts its tools differently for doing things like cutting key slots inside of gears/pulleys
    - cutting non-standard dovetails (mills can cut dovetails, but again, you need the cutter with the angle)


    In general shapers went away because they're slow. Overall the biggest advantage of the shaper is using inexpensive cutting tools you can grind yourself as opposed to the rotary tooling a mill uses. IMO, there are few reasons for a machine shop today to 'need' a shaper. If you have spare cash burning a hole in your pocket, sure, go for a shaper.

  5. #5
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    Good luck trying to use gear hobs like you showed in the link, to cut gears on a milling machine

  6. #6
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    I think a shaper is a bit like a fly rod in the fishing world.
    Sure you can cast easier with a spinning rod, but that is not the point.
    Shapers are very soothingvto run, a lot of the time..

  7. #7
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    A shaper is one of those tools that seem very suited to the home shop. The big issue is they mostly of them so large they don't fit in a hobbyist shop, so a mill is a better choice. That said I know a friend who is restoring an old shaper because he is very cash strapped and a shaper is cheaper to buy and cheaper to run, if slower and more limited.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by 754 View Post
    Good luck trying to use gear hobs like you showed in the link, to cut gears on a milling machine
    On a Bridgeport-style machine, yes, that's more cutter than the machine could deal with. Bridgeport mills are floppy machines as mills go. I've run single-groove gear cutters on a horizontal attachment for my Bridgeport-style mill.

    A horizontal mill (K&T, Cincy, etc) could run a hob like that. Folks who have never seen a horizontal mill haven't seen a "real" production manual mill. The old horizontal mills could take cuts that make a Bridgeport look like a tinker toy hobby machine.

    I've seen some neat use of hobbers on CNC lathes with active tooling. The lathe is used much like a dividing head, while the active tooling runs the hobbing cutter.

  9. #9
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    I think you misunderstand the Hobbing process.
    Some gear hobbing machines are smaller than a Bridgeport.
    Generally the hob spindle inclines at an angle to the work holding spindle.
    The work holding spindle or table rotates and the rotating hob cuts its way across the gear bank or stack.
    Quite often a high stack of blanks or a very wide gear. ..
    A hobbing machine is not a milling machine... not a simple deal.
    For a narrow gear, might be easier to cut on a mill with a dividing head, than to set up a hob....far less setup.

    I never ran a hobbing machine , but did own one at one time

  10. #10
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    I have a Klopp 24" shaper that I bought from the original owner with only 100 hours on it. Perfect condition. It is my favorite machine to use because it is easy to set up and mesmerizing to watch! I have a good vertical mill and a beefy horizontal mill but the shaper is my favorite to use although I don't use it much because I am normally in too much of a hurry. But sometimes you just have to stop and smell the roses!
    How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!

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