First-Time Shaper Set-Up

A woodworker gets tips on setting up his first shaper. October 26, 2007

I just purchased a Delta X5 shaper for my shop and have never owned a shaper in the past. At the time of purchase, I also purchased an Amana rail and stile cutter set for a project I am working on, and it is a nightmare to set up. I can't get the profiles to fit tightly and I'm not quite sure how to gauge the correct starting depth for my fence.

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor R:
Use a steel ruler or straight edge to align the outfeed fence to the minimum radius of the cutter. This would be the bottom of the groove on the stile profile, for instance. The infeed fence can be in the same plane as the outfeed or slightly behind it if it is desired to remove some stock in the process. If the profile is made up of three stacked cutters, which is common, it is usually necessary to use shims on one set to create a snug joint.

From contributor J:
Contributor R pretty much said it all. I also usually do a final rip of my parts after I shape the edge. That way I can run them through with the fence a little farther back so the cutter removes the whole profile. This way you know the profile is exact! Also, if I get any tearout, I have a little play to try and run a part a second time.

From contributor S:
You should run material face down as well so your profiles are the same if material thickness is different. And anytime you can use a six piece cutter set over a router bit, do so. You will spend less time sanding and produce a very nice product.

From contributor U:
Did you get a feeder as well? If you will be doing doors regularly, get one! It is difficult to get consistent results by hand feeding against the shaper fence. The boards need to be straight and flat, and the speed needs to be consistent.

Better solution is to set up a fence consisting of a thin board clamped to the table top spaced away from the cutters so that the profile/groove cut also sets the final width of the rail/stile, using a power feeder of course. There are many ways to index this so that setup is fast and consistent. It can be as simple as a stop strip under the fence that registers against the shaper table front edge. That way you can use the shaper fence to position the rail ends for profiling so that you are removing whatever amount makes sense to you - either just kissing the ends of the tenon, or taking off 1/64" (cutting rails 1/32" long), etc.

From the original questioner:
Thank you all for your help! I took your advice and dedicated it to some good old fashioned trial and error techniques and I think I got the basics down. Now getting completely comfortable with the machine is another story, but I'm working on it.

From contributor T:
When setting it up, think of it as a jointer. The back fence has to be the same as the amount being taken off by the cutterhead. The infeed fence and the outfeed fence have to be parallel, but not necessarily on the same plane. The distance that the infeed fence is set in determines the depth of material removed. I have 8 foot infeed and outfeed tables, great for long material. Also a metal straight edge that I line up with the infeed fence, on the infeed table. Use it all the time to straighten lumber.

From contributor C:
Did you get the two-piece set or the reversible? Running face down is a big plus. It's the ole trial and error thing. There should be shims to adjust it also on the fit of the tongue and groove. Once you get this one, make check blocks for next time.