Setting Up a Shaper for Door Parts

Advice on fences, cutters, and more for door production with a shaper. December 19, 2009

I have been making cabinet doors for smaller jobs with a router table and bit set for quite some time. When I need a large quantity, I outsource them. The bits for the stiles, rails and panel cutter all have rub collars on them and setup has never been an issue. I have had a Delta 3hp shaper with a power feeder for some time and I finally decided to try making doors on it, for smaller runs.

How do you set up the fence for the correct depth of cut? I tried numerous times running sample pieces that would start out fine but as the piece exited the feeder there would be a bit of snipe. I gradually worked the fence forward to where the snipe disappeared and I had a nice smooth cut. With the router setup and fence, the bearing assisted me with the depth alignment but I am not sure I am setting it up correctly on the shaper.

Are there any foolproof ways of setting up the shaper or is what I did the best way to go about it with the samples?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
Try profiling the fence to the cutter. That should take care of the snipe.

From contributor B:
You can get your profiles completely snipe free and it's quicker, easier, and more accurate than what you are doing now. You need to use an outboard fence which can be as simple as a piece of 1/2" plywood with one straight edge. This gets clamped to the shaper top at the distance from the cutters that you want the finished piece to be. Set the power feed to feed into the fence away form the cutters. Next, get rid of the rub collars. You want to remove the profile, plus just a little extra, say a 32nd to a 16th of an inch.

Sometimes the simple way is the best way. The shaper with feeder, an outboard fence, and shaper cutters, (not router bits in a collet) should give you a much better quality of cut than you could ever achieve on your router table. By the way, I learned this method here at WOODWEB, and you can probably get additional info if you search the archives.

From contributor C:
There are a number of ways to skin this cat. You can set the two fences in the same plane and align to the deepest part of the cut. The alignment has to be right on and your stock has to be straight or you may not fully clean up the edge or profile at its widest point. If the cut is a bit too deep you will get snipe at the tail end.. Using this method, a zero clearance fence can be easily made by attaching a thin hardwood fence and cutting through it to the necessary depth. This will provide support right up to the cutting edges and is a good way to handle thin and short pieces.

A similar method is to shim or adjust the outfeed fence relative to the infeed side. Like a jointer, the outfeed side must again be properly aligned with the deepest part of the cutting circle (knife). This method will insure a full cut as you will be cutting away a predetermined amount of material from the width, which should be accounted for when you prep your stock.

Another method is to “trap” the work piece between the cutter and fence. This has a couple of advantages. The piece guides on the edge opposite the one being cut, so snipe is all but eliminated. This is the only method that will dimension the width of the piece, and like the second method above, the piece can be prepared a bit wider so a full cut or profile is insured. This method is somewhat atypical and requires a bit more elaborate setup if it is to be done safely and provide dust collection. A dedicated jig is my recommendation. This method also provides a very useful way to clean up the edges and dimension the width for preparing stock.

I use the first two methods more often than not, as most of my work is custom and small quantities. It is easy and what I am used to. Depending on methods of work and personal preference, any one will work as well as the other.

From contributor D:
I always run all stick cuts first. I do these in long runs as if I'm making molding. Then cut to length and do your cope cuts with a profiled backer to avoid tearout on the profiled edge. Flip around and run the cope cut with a flat backer on the square edge. This allows you to get your sticking setup "close enough" so that you can just cut the snipe off the end. This eliminates a lot of trial and error in running samples and adjusting. This is also beneficial if I mess up a length on a stile, as the shaper is still set up to cut the cope. I just lop off a new piece from the extra I ran and cut the copes. Now I have extra stock that is already stick cut on hand at all times like molding. The cutter heights are now standard for me, and I can quickly set up to run more that will be the same as the last stuff. No more squatting down eyeballing the setup.