Choosing shaper tooling

      Making the most of a new spindle shaper. Includes advice on grinding knives. November 7, 2000

I have just purchased a 3HP Tilting Spindle Shaper with a 1" and 3/4" spindle. I hope to run base, crown, stiles and panels. Can anybody advise on cutterheads and knives and the capabilities I should expect? I mostly work with maple, cherry, mahogany and occasionally poplar.

If you do not have a grinder to make the knives, I would look into the use of a small uni-profiler head. This head allows you to use many profiles in the same head body. If you have a grinder, the use of a small corrugated head is a good choice.

Dave Rankin, forum technical advisor

You do not need a profile grinder to accurately produce molding knives for your shaper. With a bit of practice you can accurately grind profile by hand.

Stetson Ross (makers of the old XL molder) published an excellent resource on grinding knives. I don't know if it is still available. The company has been bought and sold a couple of times and I don't know who is supporting it--it shouldn't be hard to find out.

Beyond that you need only an 8" bench grinder, assorted aluminum oxide wheels, dressing tools, and a single beam scale for balancing your tools.

There are two types of heads available. (1) corrugated molder heads and (2) clamp collars for bevel edge steel. Charles Schmidt in NJ( is an excellent source for both and the salesmen are knowledgeable. Be sure to read, understand and follow all safety instructions with both types. A knife breaking or otherwise coming out the cutterhead at high RPM is like playing Russian roulette with a 357 Magnum.

I find bevel edge steel to be more versatile, particularly for pattern work as the collars are available with an intregal ball bearing for following a pattern. If you opt for bevel edge steel and clamping collars be sure to buy lock edge--this eliminates the possibility of the knife slipping out of the head.

Start with small, simple profiles and work into larger more complex moldings as you gain experience.

Tip: always keep the edge of the knife perpendicular to the wheel while grinding, regardless of the profile. Otherwise you’ll make a mess of it. Excepting areas that require side relief.

By the description of your machine, it sounds a bit light duty. You generally want mass quantities of cast iron, a 1-1/4” spindle and several spindle speeds when swinging large knives. Again, start small--there is no substitute for experience--and safely work your way into the larger profiles. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!

A power feeder is also a good investment. Your finish quality will be better. It also provides an added measure of safety, keeps your hands away from the knives and provides a barrier between you and the cutter, should a knife break or slip out. Absent a feeder, you can use feather boards and supplied or shopmade guards.

I have a new manual for an old 2x4 moulder that included a 10 page(one side printed) section on grinding knives. The company I got this from might send out just the grinding section.

Tyler Machinery Co
610 S. Detroit St
Warsaw,Ind. 46580

Ph (219) 267-3530

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  • KnowledgeBase: Solid Wood Machining: General

  • KnowledgeBase: Solid Wood Machining: Tooling

  • KnowledgeBase: Solid Wood Machining: Tool Grinding

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