By Lonnie Bird

Spindle *liaper* outweigh anil outperform rcmlrrs for many MiMidHorkinp ta^ks.

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Like many woodworkers, I used to shape everything with a router and the usual assortment of bits. I soon realized, however, that I couldn't create large or unusual profiles with a router. In a sense, the router limited the scope and creativity of my woodworking. I finally found the answer for these more complicated cuts when I became an apprentice in an architectural woodworking shop and was introduced to the versatile, high-pcrformancc sliajx-r.

The shapcr has a more powerful motor and larger spindles and bearings which allow it to make wider and deeper cuts than a router. It can also handle a wide variety of tasks, from curved moldings and raised panels to cope-and-stick joinery. The shapcr can quickly cut the tapered bevels on a pencil-post bed, shape the edges of tablctops and create an exact copy of a molding for your reproduction piece— all with power and efficiency the router can't match.

However, the shapcr is more complicated than a router because of the vast array of cutlers, jigs, fences and spindles you can use with it. It also has a reputation for being dangerous Its large, high speed cutters and powerful motor demand respect and careful attention to safety precautions.

In this article I will offer a basic explanation of the shapcr, along with instructions on how to use it for basic cuts and for more complex tasks like stop cuts, panel raising, and end-grain shaping. Fan 2 of this series (in the 1 : SPINDLE SHAPER

next issue) will discuss shaping curved parts, arched raised panels and complex moldings, as well as freehand shaping, cope-and-stick joinery, and grinding custom knives.

About Shapers

Like a table router, the shaper has a top to support the workpiccc and a fence to guide it past the cutter. (See drawing, right.) But the shaper is definitely designed for heavier-duty work. The spindle, driven by a motor via a pulley system, may be raised or lowered with a handwheel to vary the height of the cut.

Shapers are designated by the diameter of their spindles, which ranges from x/i in. to 1 x/i in. Generally, the larger the spindle, the larger the table and the more powerful the motor. For small-shop woodworking, a >»-in. to 1-in. shaper is sufficient. Avoid the H-in. models—they don't have the power or cutter capacity you need for many applications.

To accommodate cutlers of different diameters, a shaper should have at least two speeds. Small-diameter cut-tcrhcads require high speeds to achieve smooth cuts, but it can l>e dangerous to nin lai$e cutterheads at high rpms because their rim speeds are higher, and slight imbalances can lead to excessive vibration.

A reversing switch for changing the direction of spindle rotation is also desirable. It allows you to cut from underneath the work for greater safety, and it lets you reference the same face of both stiles and rails on the table when coping and sticking. (More on coping and sticking to come in Pan 2.) Also, when shaping curved parts, you can choose the spindle direction that produces the least tear-out.

Shapers generate large amounts of chips and sawdust, so a fence with a dust collection hookup is a must.


Some shapers come with just one permanent spindle, but for greater flexibility you should choose a shaper with interchangeable spindles. These machines aa* usually cquipjx'd with W in., H-in. and l-in.-dia. spindles, with optional extra-long and stub spindles.

Extra Long Homemade Router Table Top
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