Setting Shaper Cutter Height Accurately

Techniques to consistently set up shaper cutters at the correct height. January 27, 2007

I'm looking for an inexpensive height setting gage that is accurate enough for setting shaper cutters. I need something that I can use on several shapers, not just one. I am using the shapers for 5 piece doors, and then to run edge profiles on. I don't want to spend a bundle. Any ideas?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor R:
You already have a height gauge of sorts, you just need to calibrate it and find a zero point to reference. The screw on the height adjustment will work if you always work it on the up adjustment to compensate for backlash. I do this on all our machines and can get it within .005". Figure out what one turn of the crank gives and figure from there. It's really quite simple. Buying a dial caliper from for around $15 is all you need to do this. You could also mount the caliper direct for a reading. There's also inexpensive digital readouts available, like from Wixey and such. Reading catalogs is a good way to learn about other options.

From contributor D:
Grizzly has a dial height gage, #G6918, for $40. I've been using one for a few years. Works great, if you remember to write down your settings.

From contributor G:
We never mess with the height setting on our shapers. The use of shims is the best way to maintain 100% accuracy quickly. When you take off a cutter, remove it and keep its shims with it. Then install the next cutter with its shims, and so on. It's always the same, right on the money, and you don't have to mic things in 20 times a day.

From contributor L:
For a slightly different application, we use drop-in auxiliary tables that have a miter gage strip on the bottom and stop blocks on the ends. The tables are made the right thickness for the change. The edge of the table serves to locate the fence. The shim trick works well per contributor G in a small shop (they get lost in larger shops). For one shaper we have a plastic H that fits over the spindle, long and short legs for the different cutters. Easy to bring the spindle up until it just touches.

From contributor G:
Shims are not a trick, but rather a quick and precise way to align shaper cutters. If things get lost in your shop, maybe you need to fire someone. I don't see how anyone could get precise alignment without the use of shims. Screw threads are not that accurate.

From contributor O:
I use Accurate Technology's digital height which I fitted on my Minimax shaper and is very accurate. Took me a Saturday afternoon to fit. Might be more than you want to spend, depending on how many shapers you have.

From Dave Rankin, forum technical advisor:
There a couple of suggestions that have already appeared that I use. I like the Accurate Technology ProScales. It is fast and accurate. If you are using existing tools, create an axial constant. For new tools, have them made to an axial constant.

A few years ago, I wrote an article for "The Profiler" that explained how to use axial constant. It is fairly simple. From the reference point of the knife that lines up to the shaper table, establish a consistent dimension on all of your tools. Here we use .250" on all tools. If you use a variety of tools, you most likely can use .500". If the tool you are setting has a dimension of .170" from the edge of the knife to the table line, then you would add .330" of spacers and shims.

You can either leave the spacers and shims with the tools or have a tool sheet that advises the operators of the offset requirement.