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Shaper advantages what are they ?

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  • Shaper advantages what are they ?

    I don't know much about shapers but have tried to read a little about them .Seems they went out of fashion for a while but are making a comback for the small shop having never seen one of used one I wonder if they are a good I dea or are they old fashioned and to be left alone.I undestand the principle is like that of a planing action on metal is this true and what advantage would it have in the world of milling machines etc. Please excuse my ignorance but have seen a couple of nice ones for sale on ebay recently. A couple of Boxfords/Southbend in the States quite cheap, and wondered if the would be useful as I intend to expand more into metalworking, and want to know how often and for what main purpose they are useful.kindest regards to my very good friends out there Alistair
    Please excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

  • #2
    Shapers were invented to create plane flat surfaces: ways, slides, dovetails, etc. Anything flat. They use regular HSS tool bits to do their cutting. They are slow, a lot slower than a production milling machine. They give the operator a lot of time to think while he watches it make its cut. They have not been manufactured, to my knowledge, for over 25 years. South Bend stopped production of their 7 Inch Bench model in the '70's. Plus, they are an easy machine to learn to operate,in my opinion.

    I'm very fond of mine.


    • #3
      *Great for "odd" key slots/the size that you do not have a broach or end mill for.
      *The only way (economically) to cut internal blind hole key slots
      *Great for "shaping up" plastic blocks
      *The vice and table make a good solid place to hold things when your main vice is tied up.
      There are a least a 100 + uses,the above are just a few I use mine for each week
      please visit my webpage:


      • #4
        What everyone said.

        I think it's a shame that they are considered too slow, inefficient, and antiquated. For certain prototype jobs, they are invaluable. If I saw a 7" Atlas at an auction, I would buy one in a heart beat.



        • #5
          Slower than a production milling machine. Depends on what you've got for a mill. Try taking .250 with a .010 chip load in the average mill in tool steel or Ampco 18. Sounds like the Engineer that told me they were obsolete( shapers not the engineer )'cause they only cut on the foward stroke
          Forty plus years and I still have ten toes, ten fingers and both eyes. I must be doing something right.


          • #6
            Possibly the only machine that can cut spur gears using a home made $1.00 tool to cut the whole range of one sixed pitch instead of 8 expensive form tool cutters.
            In the hands of a decent user where time isn't the main factor they are still undervalued today. As in industry time is everything and that accounts for their demise.
            Home shop useage is a different matter alltogether.

            John S.

            Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.


            • #7
              I got an Atlas last November and have enjoyed very much learning to use it. A couple of interesting projects on it were cutting internal splines on a gear for my lathe and making a thread dial gear for the lathe.

              I put together some simple web pages with photos showing what I did:



              Don Kinzer
              Portland, OR
              Don Kinzer
              Portland, OR


              • #8
                Slow, yes. Very low tooling costs, yes.

                A shaper is oneof those "violin" tools whose range of abilities is limited only by the cleverness and adaptability of the user.

                Mills are easier to run but for some odd reason a shaper is also the very best beginner's machine.

                My official introduction to the trade was on the shaper when I started my apprenticeship.
                I mentored a hundred apprentices or more over the years. Whenever I meet one it seems "Remember when you taught me how to cut a tangent radius on the shaper?" or some topic always connected to the shaper crops up in the conversation.

                Yeah, I got a soft spot but it's also a great teaching aid and a production tool in the hands of someone who knows the ropes.


                • #9
                  I like machine tools and I enjoy owning the few tools I do. I would love to own a shaper but they are tremendously heavy machines. Not only do you have to find a desirable machine, but you have to be lucky enough to have available in your area for it to work economically. I love the "saved search" function on Ebay that will email me when one is put on sale in my region. I wonder what it would cost to ship a 2000lb tool to the UK. Because I can't afford new (or even most used) I am willing to chance those "pig-in-a-poke" deals. I can usually make repairs that others won't bother to do. Production shops are not in the repair business and when people can't find replacement parts they don't even try to make their own, even if it is basically a bolt or a bracket or whatever. My Dad had a saying. "If it was made by a man, I can fix it." My little brother (at 5yr) didn't fully understand this and once begged me to stop my minibike to pick up a dead squirrel for our Dad to fix for him. That kind of thing was just at the limit of his abilities. Very few people can fix dead squirrels and that is why they are so cheap.


                  • #10
                    I found the shaper the easiest machine to use with a minimum of instruction. Even boneheads in my class could use it safely and do reasonable work. Setting the clapper box is usually done wrong.


                    • #11
                      Shapers are great tools for planing I stuck a limit switch on the slide of mine so I could walk off and do somethig else while it worked unattended great time saver and no little swirl markes all over the work either.Also comes in handy to cut rack gears and you can make then any length you want.
                      I just need one more tool,just one!


                      • #12

                        I bought an Elliott 4M (18" stroke) in almost unused condition for around $140 here in Holland, complete with an original 9" machine vise. I can pick between using it and my turret mill for removing metal; where I can, I usually pick the shaper.

                        I pick up tools for it at car boot sales, about $1 each, and regrinding them is a case of a lick on the bench grinder. With practise, you can leave an almost mirror finish on work.

                        It's almost hypnotic to watch, and it certainly isn't slow at removing metal. If you have the space and weight's not a consideration (the 4M weighs 1,200Kg), go for it; I love mine. You get a whole lot of machine for your money.

                        Just watch out where it flings the smoking blue chips though...

                        Happy machining,

                        All of the gear, no idea...


                        • #13
                          Nice job on the spline lesson. I've got a buddy that has a small shaper collecting dust in his shop. Going to have to call him an convince him its an old slow worthless machine that isn't worth his time, then get him to help me move it. Thanks to all for the info on shapers, got to get me one.


                          • #14
                            I've never seen one in use either. One question I've pondered: for simple planing of a flat surface, how wide a cut will say a typical 7" shaper take? I realize DOC is a factor... let's say about .035 deep. Or is that too deep? Also, I'm thinking of something like CRS here.
                            Also I frequently see 'mirror finish' mentioned, are there simply no visible stroke marks for the individual strokes?
                            Lynn (Huntsville, AL)


                            • #15
                              When I bought my first lathe,a 9inch South Bend, vintage 1928 there was a 8inch ShapeRite shaper in the basement. The person selling the lathe asked if I would like to have the shaper. I asked, how much. The reply was take it I can't sell it. Nearly broke my back taking it home. It's been well used in my shop. One of the jobs that I did was to plane down some plates of 316 stainless steel. At the University where I was working at the time they tried to surface grind these plates. They would heat up and warp and that was with cooling. No problem with the shaper. Go for it.