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  • Shapers - relaxing or boring ?

    Over the last few years I've developed a small interest in getting a little 7" shaper. I don't do a lot of keyways or dovetails or stuff that requires a shaper, but the concept of a tool sitting in the corner just quietly and rhythmically nibbling away at metal has a certain appeal.

    So, is that true? Are shapers quiet, contemplative little beasts that lend an air of dignity and meditation to a shop... OR are they slow, fiddly, annoying things that went out of fashion for a damned good reason? Are they relaxing, or frustrating? Do they mutter quietly to themselves as they work, or are they grumbling beasts that clank and clatter?

    Am I being seduced by a romantic view of shapers that doesn't play out in reality?

    Just FYI... I am retired, and speed of production is not important (as long as the speed isn't glacial). I'm perfectly happy to set up a machine and have it chuckling to itself for a few hours while I am puttering in the other parts of the shop. Finish, flexibility, reproducability, reliability, and safety... those are key issues.

    Dan

  • #2
    So, is that true? Are shapers quiet, contemplative little beasts that lend an air of dignity and meditation to a shop..
    You must be thinking of my little Adept power shaper..


    Last edited by The Artful Bodger; 02-28-2017, 02:45 PM.

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    • #3
      At first I suspected we had a Philistine in our midst...

      From the sounds of your post and situation I think you'd appreciate a shaper. They are not the fastest things around but they are far from "glacial". And what they do they do well. But what they do well can still be done with other means.

      What they mostly give us as hobbyists is a DIFFERENT way to do some jobs and a new tool to get to know and work with. And that's hardly a bad thing for a hobbyist. And they also give us a peek at the machining process that was so common for so long but which became obsolete before most of us got into machining.

      I wouldn't cry, at least not much, if I were forced to make room for some other toy and had to part with my shaper. But even the little I have used it I'm miss it. I find that I quite enjoy the process of setting it up and observing the different way it processes the metal. And I don't mind that I can freehand grind the cutters easily from inexpensive HSS blanks.

      As for safety I have not hit my head with the ram yet. But it quickly became apparent that the best place for me to stand was on the right hand side where all the controls are located just to aid in lowering the chances of leaning in to get a better look and getting a square recess in my noggin from the lantern post screw.....
      Chilliwack BC, Canada

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      • #4
        Shapers relax, big planers can terrify, when the 6s are like scrolls of a gate and hot you jump bout a lot.
        Neither boring
        Mark

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        • #5
          AB, is there a thread around where you have more pictures of your Adept? That is so totally different in how the ram is operated that I must see more!

          My own Elliot produced Alba has been camera shy up to now. But I'll sneak in when it's not looking and get a few shots today.

          Just to add I can say for sure that getting to know the Alba and making the first cuts with it and using it to make a couple of simple things so far has proven to be quite a smile generator. And for a hobby shop can we ask for anything more?
          Chilliwack BC, Canada

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          • #6
            I really like my 7" Ammco. It's quiet (the Ammco had a phenolic bull gear). It autofeeds which my mill doesn't. I have limit switches on my to shut itself off when it is done. I can make almost mirror like finishes on it with a $5 tool. Mostly I set it to feed and go do something else.

            Now I don't have a proper milling machine (I have a X2 mini mill). As such I use my shaper for a fair bit of surfacing then take it over to the X2 for the hole / pocket work.

            If you every have to cut a few internal splines or keyways for whatever reason a shaper pays for itself on that single job. Unless you stumble upon a bunch of broach tooling for really cheap. If you never have to cut an internal keyway or spline, and have a nice knee mill I don't know how much a shaper would get used. If you have a knee mill, you can also maybe find a shaper attachment for it.

            I don't know what you area is like, but small shapers around where I live are getting hard to find and expensive.

            Shapers have left most commercial shops for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons is a shaper usually cuts in one direction. The other big problem with the shaper is most mill work involves pocketing and drilling. Why buy a great big machine for the shop that just adds another setup when for the same space you can put in 2 knee mills (or 2 vertical machining centres)?

            That said if I had a commercial job shop I'd keep a shaper in the corner for those jobs that it would save you a pile of money on tooling. Unless of course the customer always pays for the tooling ....
            www.thecogwheel.net

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            • #7
              I like mine. Quiet? yes, unless the speed is increased for excitement.

              I would suggest not paying much for one, they are not worth the 500-700 dollars you see sometimes. I paid 75 for mine and got it up and running better.. JR


              Logan 7"


              My old yahoo group. Bridgeport Mill Group

              https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/...port_mill/info

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              • #8
                I really enjoy watching my 7" AMMCO. I don't use it a lot, but it doesn't take up much space and is fun to use.

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                • #9
                  Many years ago I worked for a small tool making company that had just started up. I used to set up the shaper to do the bolster plates and impression blocks for the moulds and dies, then get on with milling/turning/grinding other parts whilst the shaper was working. They can certainly shift metal and as noted very cheap to run tooling wise.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dan_the_Chemist View Post
                    Over the last few years I've developed a small interest in getting a little 7" shaper. I don't do a lot of keyways or dovetails or stuff that requires a shaper, but the concept of a tool sitting in the corner just quietly and rhythmically nibbling away at metal has a certain appeal.

                    So, is that true? Are shapers quiet, contemplative little beasts that lend an air of dignity and meditation to a shop... OR are they slow, fiddly, annoying things that went out of fashion for a damned good reason? Are they relaxing, or frustrating? Do they mutter quietly to themselves as they work, or are they grumbling beasts that clank and clatter?

                    Am I being seduced by a romantic view of shapers that doesn't play out in reality?

                    Just FYI... I am retired, and speed of production is not important (as long as the speed isn't glacial). I'm perfectly happy to set up a machine and have it chuckling to itself for a few hours while I am puttering in the other parts of the shop. Finish, flexibility, reproducability, reliability, and safety... those are key issues.

                    Dan
                    Nicely written Dan, I wish I could write as well.

                    I recently (mid 2016) bought a 16" Gould Eberhardt shaper for the same reasons you are looking to get one. I bought mine at an auction, no tooling was included (not really a big deal) but vise which is a big deal was attached to the shaper. My home shop is rather small compared to many HSM members shops and my 16" shaper is a bit much for the space so don't over buy size wise. I have very little shaper experience but have liked all of it, very soothing, my kind of Heavy Metal Music. Photo bucket isn't working for me so I can't attach photos but a search in HSM or PM should bring them up.

                    Ron

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                    • #11
                      They ARE relaxing, and that is a big problem. Nice easygoing, quiet, often little and non-threatening machines, with slow movements and nothing very exciting about how they do what they do, .............But even so, they are machines that can cut your fingers off and never even slow down.

                      When you get one going, taking a cut if, say. 1/4" deep (in a small shaper), it will throw chips right across your shop. They can be messy.

                      When you secure work on the table, it needs to be REALLY secure, because nearly any shaper can bulldoze work right off the table, or snap a tool in half if things are done wrong. When you set the stroke and ram position, it is best to operate the machine through a full turn of the bull gear by hand, because if you mess up the setting, it can break the head right off the ram.

                      So just because they are relaxing does nit mean you can relax around them.
                      1601

                      Keep eye on ball.
                      Hashim Khan

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                      • #12
                        The reason shapers went out of fashion is that they are S L O W compared to more modern metal removal machines. However what they lack in speed they more than make up in versatility. You can do as much and more with a shaper than you can with a vertical mill. Most shapers are underutilized mainly because most current day machinists never learned the art of using their full capacity.

                        As I mentioned in my first sentence speed is the main reason they have fallen from favor. The old joke in the machining community is: "You can make anything but money on a shaper". In days gone by quality of work was more important than speed. Making almost any part was measured in hours or days. In the current market quality is a given and speed determines whether or not you make money. A part that once took minutes to make now needs to be done in seconds to make a profit.

                        As an example a friend of mine owns a job shop that does contract work for GM, Ford, and Chrysler. Any given contract is from 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 pieces. He recently had to upgrade the screw machines that make brake bleeders. His old machines could make a part in 2.3 seconds. He was in danger of losing the contract unless he could cut the time to 1.8 seconds per part. In his case the difference between retaining and losing the contract was a production time of .5 seconds per part.

                        I have a 7" AAMCO shaper in my shop similar to the one in ndnchf's picture. It's used on a regular basis to make internal and external keyways, profiling, and slab milling. The only thing I can't do on the vertical mill is make the internal keyways. It can be done on the mill, but the tooling would cost more than the shaper and never be used enough to justify the investment. Since I'm not on a production schedule it's more cost effective to spend a couple more minutes making a part than more money on tooling.
                        Last edited by projectnut; 02-28-2017, 04:26 PM.

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                        • #13
                          I have a 7" Southbend and a 12" Vernon and have run my dad's Porter Cable 8". All are quiet in operation with the exception of the clapper block clicking with every stroke. They are slow when compared to milling machines but leave a really nice finish. For home shop guys that really isn't usually a big deal. After all, manual lathes and mills are slow compared with CNC, but we all still like our lathes and mills in the home shop. Without a vise (chuck) setups can be a little challenging but they can do some things milling machines can't do and use cutters that are a lot cheaper than milling cutters, especially when machining dovetails and T slots. Although shapers are quiet and easygoing don't be lulled into carelessness. Even the small ones are powerful machines capable of crushing a finger or hand if put in the wrong place while running and they will throw some sharp, hot curly chips quite a distance if some sort of chip guard/catcher isn't fabricated.

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                          • #14
                            My name is Paul and I'm a Shaperholic.... I have five different machines.

                            Setting up does require careful thought more than say a vertical mill as the cutting forces can be very high, but with some imagination they will do a lot of jobs a vertical or horizontal mill can do and some things that they cant do easily like internal keyways or internal splines.

                            They definitely are more time consuming to operate, there is an old saying "you can make anything on a Shaper except money".

                            Paul

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                            • #15
                              The "walking away from the machine whilst it's working and getting on with something else" never works for me. The shaper works, i generally am by it's side, even if it's a whole afternoon.
                              I see JT is back with his 1/4" DOC on a 7" shaper line...

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