Shopping for a Shaper

Cabinetmakers give advice on how to select a good shaper for a decent price. September 21, 2005

I have about a $1,000 dollars to spend on a shaper. I am a one man shop that builds more furniture than cabinets. I am wondering if anyone has any suggestions on brands of both machines and cutters to use?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
$1,000 is a little shy to buy yourself a good quality new shaper. You'll probably need to cough up another $600.00. That will get you a medium quality Delta 3 HP shaper. This is what I use for my cabinet doors. I have three shapers for my three cutters, cope, stick and panel. The shaper isn't going to do you any good without some cutters either. They can range from $150 to $750. A 1 1/2 HP shaper might be what your $1,000 can buy, but I wouldn't know where to send you as I feel 3 HP is a minimum.

From contributor F:
If you like used machines, $1,000 should be enough. I personally wouldn't be afraid of a used shaper, but I know machinery. I like Delta or Powermatic for a 3 HP machine. Freeborn is a dependable company for tooling and will be around awhile.

From contributor R:
I would suggest doing yourself a favor and saving up and buying a 1.25" shaper. It will pay off quicker than you can imagine. Besides, if you buy a 3/4" machine all your cutters will become dust collectors if you update to a larger machine. Cutters can be a larger investment than the shaper.

From contributor J:
I agree that I would wait and acquire a 1" or 1 1/4" spindle shaper. Also when you purchase cutters, always buy with 1 1/4" bore, so you can bush down to 3/4" if you pick up a good used machine down the line, dedicated for lighter cuts like copes and edges. Just keep your eyes peeled, here and on Ebay. I've bought all my shapers that way. I got a 1" Beach here for $200, a 1" Weaver for $800, a 3/4" Delta for $800, and a 1" Northfield with feeder for $1200, so it's out there. Again, the cutters will run more than the shaper.

From contributor C:
With $1,000 you can find a used Delta as many have said, or you can get a 3 HP Shopfox with a two year warranty. Also, as for cutters I would go with Byrd insert cutters. I have 1 1/4'' and 3/4'' shapers, and I know many people that seem to do fine with 3/4'' cutters. Cope and stick, panel raiser, and edge profiler are going to run around a $1,000.

From contributor P:
The shaper is one of the most useful machines you can own. With some practice and imagination, it will make you lots of money. I would suggest that you get a 3 HP machine minimum. I would only get a 1 1/4 spindle at least 5.0 inches under the nut with forward and reversing. Make sure all the fence adjustments can be done without wrenches.

Used is fine. Delta and Powermatic machines are fine. My first shaper was a 3 HP import junker, but it made me lots of money and I learned quickly. I now own a MiniMax with a tilt and slide and an old Oliver monster. There is nothing I can't do with those machines. I would also suggest looking into a Powerfeeder. Also, buy good tooling - freeborn, Amana, LRH, and Stehle have done me very well. In the future you can move to corrugated knife heads and indexable tooling.

From contributor M:
I think you can get a new 3 horse Invicta with interchangeable spindles in single or three phases for about $1,100. I have three of the larger 7.5 horse RS-15s made for Delta/Rockwell for about 20 years now without a single hiccup. It has tool less settings except spindle nuts, and an outstanding fence. Even the motor is cast iron.

From contributor L:
I wouldn't buy anything but 1 1/4" spindle. There are lots of used shapers out there that would be better than new ones. A power feed makes work come out higher quality and is much safer. The heavier the shaper the less a little out of balance on the cutters will affect the cut. I made good money with hand ground knives in lockedge collars - just be very careful.

From contributor A:
To contributor L: Remind me again why a 1 1/4" shaper is so much better than a good 3/4" or 1" shaper. Other than the 1" in spindle height, I'm not sure it's worth it.

From contributor P:
The 1 1/4 has 50% more steel and I don't know how much more strength which means that much less vibration.

From the original questioner:
I am wondering what everyone thinks about the 3 HP Grizzly.

From contributor C:
To the original questioner: If you take this route I would suggest that you look into Shopfox. It’s the same shaper with an extra year on the warranty at the same price.

From contributor T:
There are some posts about Grizzly equipment on the Solid Wood and Machinery forum on this site. I don't own any Grizzly stuff, but as I understand it there equipment is hit or miss. One shaper will work great and the next one will have its problems. This isn't a gamble I was willing to take. I bought a Powermatic 3/4" spindle for $600 used and a new S.C.M.I. with the 1 1/4" spindle.

I find the Powermatic to be a very adequate machine and I will probably purchase more in the future. The S.C.M.I. has the digital readout which is a must for me, and the fence is also a lot more adjustable. Don't be afraid of good brand used equipment. I.R.S auction site and Ex-Factory have a lot of this stuff and sometimes the power-feed is included. Also check the classifieds here on this site. Remember you are not buying equipment you are investing in it.

From contributor D:
I have two Powermatic shapers and a Z Series 5 HP Grizzly with 1 1/4" spindal. I have had four times more trouble from my Powermatics than from the Grizzly. I would not buy anything without a 1 1/4" spindal.