Glossary Shaper

See also Router

A machine for cutting moldings and irregular forms.

A woodworking machine designed to cut moldings, grooves, flutes, beads and the like, a shaper is versatile, it can cut on both straight and curved workpieces, and in either direction. Yesterday, the shaper is a power tool that is indispensable to the modern cabinetmaker; now, especially in smaller woodshops, it is being replaced by the router set into a router table.

It used to be one of the most dangerous woodworking machines, but modern engineering has fortunately eliminated most of the dangers, especially on the smaller bench machine.

Note: The image on the left shows a Bioce-Crane 1930s model shaper.

The Shaper's Primary Functions

A Shaper cuts workpieces to a particular pattern or Profile by employing a rapidly rotating multi-bladed Cutter, mounted to a vertical Spindle. The spindle is designed so it can be raised/lowered in fractional increments to shape the work at a precise point; in addition, Spacers can be used to position the cutter at different heights on the spindle. Shapers can alos cut Rabbetts and Dadoes.

The modern high-speed woodworking shaper opens

"a whole new world to the amateur craftsman. With it he can duplicate the delicately shaped edges, moldings, reeds and flutes that are found on period furniture. He can also cut all sorts of grooves and rabbets, make professional-looking sash and doors and turn out shaped table tops and other curved and irregular parts on a profitable production basis".

I adapted the paragraphs above from: Herman Hjorth, "The Woodworking Shaper", Home Craftsman 1950; reprinted in Milton Gunerman, as chapter 6, "The Woodworking Shaper", How to Operate Yor Power Tools New York: The Home Craftsman Publishing Co,. 1950, pages 51-60.

In his 2001 history of American planer, shaper, and slotter builders, the historian of woodworking machines, Kenneth L. Cope, notes that

The principal points of difference between the planer and shaper are found in the relation that the tool and work bear to each other, and in the method of obtaining the feed. In the shaper the work is stationary during the cut and the tool passes over it; the work feeds sideways during the return stroke of the tool.

Source: Kenneth L. Cope, American Planer, Shaper, and Slotter Builders Mendham, NJ: Astragal Press, 2002, page 1.

Selected Citations from the Oxford English Dictionary

[Meaning 4. a]. A machine or tool for shaping material, specifically a shaping-machine ....


By the use of figured guides, cams, or shaper-plates, by which the motion is constrained.

Charles Holtzapffel, Turning and mechanical manipulationII. 466 (Published in 1994, Astragal Press, Mendham, NJ.) (also here in Open Library, Turning and Mechanical Manipulation)


Practical Mechanic's Journal. VI. 230/2 The capable of working out differentially-curved ... figures.


In the image below the cutters are held by side and end pressure in cutterheads at the top of vertical spindles.


Various sized cutter-heads may be used. The spindle-bearings are connected, and are vertically adjustable by handwheels at the front of the machine. Safety guards are provided over the cutters to prevent danger to the operator. (with illustration)

Knight's American Mechanical Dictionary 1876 page 2133 paragraph #8.

1892 English Mechanic and World of Science: With which are Incorporated "The ... - Page 507 Industrial arts - 1892 The common double-spindle shaper is a peculiar machine to keep in order, ... On an ordinary shaper, to fill the requirements, the top of the spindle must be -- this is a long letter, compaining about the general rule that- on shapers with more than one spindle, inevitably, the second spindle is not true...


Walker-Turner's 1899 Direct Drive

Walker Turner adds a direct-drive shaper to its line -- news in Industrial Education Magazine 1899, page 56.

1905: The "Portable Router", A Foreunner as a Substitute for Shapers for Small Workshops and Amateur Woodworkers:


The hand router of the Kelley Electric Machine Co. of Buffalo -- if you can operate a 60-pound tool by yourself -- has been around for over a century.

(The image of the Kelley router comes from the Patrick Spielman book, The Art of the Router: Award Winning Designs, 1999 -- permission to post granted by phone, 9-17-2007.)

The shaper has its rivals in the workshop.

Its chief rival -- especially in the amateur's workshop -- is the router.

Compared to the router, shapers operate much the same, except that a router uses rotating multi-bladed Bits -- rather than Cutters -- and the Bits are held with Collets, rather than being rotated with Spindles. And like Shapers, using Profiled Bits -- below, right -- routers shape particular patterns in workpieces, and -- like Shapers -- also cut Rabbetts and Dadoes.


Routers, however, because they are much smaller, hand-held devices, have greater versatiltiy than shapers.

Rotation speeds of over 20,000 rpms for routers -- compared to the shaper's high speed, 10,000 rpm -- creates the conditions that make routers more versatile than shapers. Moreover, very frequently routers are fitted-out in "tables", designed to imitate shapers, come complete with fences and other fixtures common to shpaer operations.

Drill Press as Router


Another woodworking machine that cuts profiled shapes is the drill press -- truly a multi-talented tool -- and some people use the horizontal mortiser as a shaper.

Delta's famous Deltagram perhaps is the first source directed toward amateur woodworkers to point out the use of the Drill Press as router -- and reprinted in Delta's manual, Getting the Most Out of Your Drill Press , but I think that this function -- the drill press as router -- is probably most pointedly stressed to amateur woodworkers by R J DeCristoforo in The Drill Press Book

Finally, with specially shaped cutters, planers can be set-up to cut profiled edges, just like a shaper, and molding sets can be mounted on arbors of table saws, so that it also functions like a shaper.

Regardless of whether its competitors over-shadow the shaper, its still performs its functions efficiently and with dispatch, especially its abilty to cut moldings and other shapes on larger workpieces -- a larger scale -- than the router.

What this means is that the shaper has lots of competition in the woodshop; because, however, it does its main function so well, the shaper is the machine of choice for most shaping projects.

The First Router Looked Like and Inverted Shaper

As early as 1905 the first commercially produced router -- three phase -- was marketed by the Kelley Electric Machine Co. of Buffalo, New York. That firm -- incorporated with an capitalization of $25,000.00 in October of 1908 -- had three directors: Guilford W. Franicis, W. Morse Wilson, and George L. Kelley.

(Source: New York Times, October 24, 1908, page 12.)

George L. Kelley, a resident of Buffalo applied for a patent for a router in 1906; the patent was granted in 1908. The patent -- the first page is pasted below -- was assigned to Stevenson Machine Co. (By "assigned" is derived through "mesne", a technical term in law, meaning "middle" or "intermediate".) "Given the purported 1906 genesis of the Kelley Electric Machine Co., router", Keith Rucker speculates, "it is likely that Stevenson Machine Co. was a predecessor of Kelley Electric Machine Co."

Weighing sixty pounds, it is over 12" in diameter and 16" high. Keith Rucker -- -- notes that advertisments in the Wood-Worker between 1911 and 1929 show their "Kelley Router" - a handheld router that looks to be at least twice the size of any hand-held router available today. The bit rotates at 6500 RPM, roughly the slower speed of my two-speed shaper. Likely, at least in the beginning, the Kelley Router was powered by a "Direct Drive" motor.

Rucker notes that an advertisement in a 1920 issue of Wood-Worker claims that Kelley has sold their router for fourteen years, a date which confirms their appearance at about 1906.

(Below is reproduced one of the Kelley Router advertisements.)


Sources: Keith Rucker; Patrick Spielman, The Art of the Router: Award Winning Designs. New York: Sterling/Chapelle, 1998, page 8; R J DeCristoforo, The Jigs and Fixtures Bible: Tips, Tricks and Techniques for Better Woodworking Cincinnati: Popular Woodworking Books, 2001, page 17. First published in Popular Woodworking, April 2000.)

Kelley's patent claims that it is a "portable routing machine for working wood". Portable -- i.e., sixty pounds! ("portable" -- in those days defined differently than today -- meant that it can be "moved about" and "used on work benches, or elswhere, where the work can be done to the best advantage". Also specified is that the machine can be operated "rapidly" and "accurately" by "unskilled labor". This machine, the patent's text continues, "is capable of a great variety of uses", including "cutting regular and irregular grooves or channels of different dimensions and shapes in the surfaces of boards". This machines is, espec- ially, "suited to cutting grooves for stair stringers to receive the risers and treads". (The two images side-by-side above show, more-or-less, before and after views of stair stringers.) The innovation that Kelley's router achieved was to revolutionize the method of cutting the grooves. Mobile, the machine can be "moved about in any direction" and can be fitted with a "plurality of driven cutters"

The pattern plate is adjustable to enable the cuts to be made in the desired location and relation on the work, and the pattern plate is also preferably provided with mens for clampling or securinig it on the work.

Source: Patent no. 877,894

Pretty heady stuff for 1908!

With patent # 931,552,

William H Ahlers, a Kelley associate, "invented a new and useful improvement in guide devices for routing machines".

This invention relates to guide devices for routing and analogous machines -- more particularily, directly on the router, patent no 877,894. These machines, again, are "portable" and their operation can be guided by a mechanism that supports their cutters directly over the wood being cut. The patent also notes that the primary function of the router remains dadoing grooves on stair stringers -- see images of stair stringer, risers and treads above -- to receive stair risers and treads. This patent creates improvements in routers which allows the creation of grooves for stair risers and treads of different thicknesses. In 1912, Kelley obtained patent # 1,042,120, which he claimed created more improvements.

(The obtuse wording of patent discourse makes it difficult to determine how the original router is improved, but the patent is granted.)

Table for Kelley Patents from

kelley router stair stringeres
kelley stair stringers 2
kelley router patent 1908

Although the Kelley router is very crude and heavy, it becomes the revolutionary development for the wood-working trades -- especially the furniture and architectural millwork industries. The router eliminates tedious hand carving and makes correct geometrical cuts.

As cited from Patrick Spielman, a letter in an early Kelley Electric Machine Catalog from a user of the Kelley Router states,

... for fluting columns and pilasters (Kelley's) machine cannot be beat.

Kelley's own advertising motto boldly reads,

Clean finished cuts in straight or cross grain.

The 1920s "revolution" in the Shaper

Portents that show us that, indeed a "revolution in shapers" did occur.

In the 1900s, as we've seen above, we had the Kelley router. In the 1920s, Ray L Carter worked on a "portable shaper". (click here to go to the text on the router page.) For a shaper for the period -- of possible use by woodworkers outside industrial settings? -- Charles G Wheeler, in a 1926 woodworker's manual dedicated to the Boy Scouts, Woodworking: A Handbook for Beginners in Home and School, Treating of Tools and Operations shows a Baxter Whitney and Sons "two vertical spindles" model.


Sketch on the left is a "double spindle shaper", as reproduced in Wheeler's 1926 manual -- below is descriptive text of shapers from Wheeler's manual.

The extract from Baxter D. Whitey and Son catalog -- especially the note about "vibration" -- reveals "truths" about shapers in the "folklore" of woodworking. Shapers, deservedly for the era, have a reputation for being "dangerous to operators". For Wheeler, his position about power machinery in 1926 constrasts sharply with his position about power machinery in 1899. In 1899, he wrote a well-received manual Woodworking for Beginners. Subtitled "A Manual for Amateurs", this manual was alos published by the mainline publisher, G P Putnam's Sons. The 1899 manual does not mention power machinery, even though industruial arts classrooms were typically fitted out with a full compliment power tools, all driven with line-shafts and pulleys, and typically considered dangerous to operate.

What happened? Well, in the quarter century between 1899 and 1926, here are a few things: electrification of cities, fractional horse-power motors, some small scale power tools, such as Delta's initial scroll saw, and the J D Wallace jointer.

The Shaper or irregular moulder cuts the edge of the wood into any desired shape for which cutters can be fitted.

A first-class shaper will mould the wood in any direction of the grain and leave the surface so smooth that no further finishing is required. The shaper has always been regarded as a dangerous machine - one with which the novice should not experiment. It has two vertical spindles (or sometimes only one) with collars which hold cutting knives of whatever shape may be required. These knives revolve rapidly with the spindle like the cutters of the Planer or Jointer, and cut the wood as the operator passes it by them. The form into which the wood is cut is of course the reverse of the shape of the cutting-knives. The two spindles revolve in opposite directions, so that the operator can cut according to the direction of the grain. If there is but one spindle, the direction can be reversed. Safety guards can be used.

The essential features of a successful shaper are primarily the design and construction of the frame and table, the extent to which all vibration is eliminated, the type and arrangement of spindle and boxes. The machine must be so made that the spindle can be run at the highest practical spas with perfect steadiness, as the lightest vibration or chatter will produce imperfect work."-Baxter D. Whitney and Son, Inc.

Source: Charles G Wheeler, Woodworking : A Handbook for Beginners in Home and School. NY: G P Putnam's Sons, 1926, page 334

(Click here for more on Wheeler's contributions.)

Two 1930s woodworker's manuals, one by Arthur Wakeling, the other by Herbert Tautz, do not show a shaper. (Wakeling is assisted in this venture by several prominent Industrial Arts figures such as Herman Hjorth.) On Wakeling's manual and its impact, read more here

In 1932, however, several significant events occur: the Stanley-Carter domed top router is on the market, and sigificantly, I think, called a "portable shaper" and the J D Wallace. And if the Delta shaper was on the drawing board, Tautz and Fruits didn't mention it.

Scaled-Down Shapers Take off Early in 1930s

Did Routers Start Out as Stationary Machines?

"The modern router", claims Anthony Bailey, Routing For Beginners, 1999, page 4, "descended for the fixed-head machines". With this claim, I think that Bailey is, in the idiom of today, "onto something", although in his book he doesn't elaborate on the point. Nonetheless, his statement stimulates our thinking on the matter, especially when you consider the Workace "shaper" introduced in 1929 by the J D Wallace Company.

For example, check out my post on the "royal-treatment" given the Boice-Crane floor shaper in Popular Homecraft in November, 1930. For me, side-by-side, the two images have remarkable similarities. Yes, one is floor-standing, the other bench-top, comparison that is --perhaps -- a "stretch", but -- taken together -- the round cast-iron tables on both models, the fact that Popular Homecraft sees the B-C shaper as appropriate for home workshops, make the analogy seem reasonable. (Puzzling, though, is why, in the 1935 Boice-Crane catalog, the floor shaper is absent, suggesting that it had a short-life span.)

This "Smoking-gun" evidence about the truth of Bailey's claim about a linkage between the modern router and the shaper is available, but -- without more evidence -- I hold back about drawing any firm conclusions.

Below, for example, is a digitized reprinting of the page from the 1932 J D Wallace Woodworking Tools catalog.

But, strangely, this shaper is not in the 1933 J D Wallace catalog.

Thousands of Workace Electric Shapers are in service -- in large plants and small shops-schools and hobby shops, maintenance departments, pattern and cabinet shops and furniture repair departments, etc.

In the large plants the Workace Electric Shaper supplements the larger equipment -- handles all the lighter work and short runs at an enormous saving in set up time, power and in-vestment. It is portable, can be taken to a job -- saves steps.

wallace shaper

Operates off light circuit, can be economically run at any time independently of the other plant equipment -- that is a decided advantage in equipment of the Wallace and Workace type.

The capacity of the Workace Electric Shaper, the speed and precision with which it operates, the small investment and low operating and maintenance cost, places the small shop, pattern shop or cabinet shop, furniture repair departments. schools and hobby shops in a position to do all kinds of shaping efficiently and economically, to handle long runs or short runs, specials and repairs; any type of moulding, grooving, beading, shaping and tenoning.


The Workace Electric Shaper comes complete as illustrated above including two steel shaper collars 2" dia., 3/8" thick bevel grooved for knives; four spacing collars 1/3" thick; locking pin. 10 ft. lamp cord and separable plug.

Motor to operate on 110 or 220 volts DC and AC, 25 to 60 cycle, single phase, or 220 volts, AC. 120 cycle, three phase (7200 RPM) 1 HP., or 220 volts, AC.. 180 cycle three phase, 1 HP. (10,800 RPM).

Set ups for any shape are quickly made on the Workace Electric Shaper. To facilitate short runs we have worked out a set of cutters in Nos. 2757, 2758 and 2759 which, in various combinations, make it possible to cut practically any shape. Knives and solid cutters, of course, are avail-able for long runs or shapes often made up.

The Workace Electric Shaper operates from the electric lighting circuit, also available for 120 or 180 cycle, three phase. It is direct motor driven-direct, positive, powerful and economical drive; no belts to dissipate power. High speed, 10,000 R.P.M. (no load speed). Works with or against the grain; portable, easily taken to the job, saves steps. Precision ball bearing, air cooled.

We will gladly submit the Workace Shaper to you so that you may try not what we claim to be the biggest value in woodworking equipment -- a high speed, powerful, accurate tool at a very modest price -- the Workace Electric Shaper.


Three or four wing cutters for cuts used frequently, saves set-up time, quotation on request. Knives are available in shapes shown on opposite page. For quick set up on short runs of various shapes we suggest cutters Nos. 2757, 2758 and 2759 illustrated on opposite page. Guard No. 2714 and Fence No. 2713. These items are optional and available at a small extra cost.

Source: J D Wallace Woodworking Tools Catalog 1932

Below, the shaded box reprints the brief piece by the editor of Industrial Arts Magazine, suggesting that the Wallace high-speed shaper was introduced in 1929.


The J. D. Wallace Company, 134 So. California Ave., Chicago, Ill., has announced a new Workace electric shaper, something entirely new in the popular priced and portable line of shapers.

The Workace shaper is equipped with ball bearings. It is motor driven, and adequate means for lubrication are provided. In this machine, the belt has been eliminated, thus slipping, slowing down of operations, and loss of power is avoided. The shaper is mounted on a table with a screw arrangement, which permits it to be raised or lowered. It can be locked securely in any position by a handwheel. The spindle is a steel shaft 5/8 in. in diameter, which extends 3 5/8 in. above the table top, and provides a capacity of 2 1/2 in. between two steel shaper collars, or 3 1/4 in. when using solid cutters. The machine is provided with a General Electric Universal motor, which can be used on an ordinary lighting circuit, 110 or 220 volts, d.c., or 25 to 60 cycle a.c. It weighs only 42 pounds and stands firmly on its own base without fastening.

Source: Industrial Arts Magazine 18 September 1929, page 31A

With the text and image of the J D Wallace Workace shaper (above), including its direct-drive universal motor and 47 pounds, we have the ideal setting for another breakthrough in the development of the hand-held high-speed router. However, until I find more conclusive evidence, I remain skeptical. I think that perhaps the speed of the spindle rotation -- 13,000 rpm -- was too fast for the cutters that existed in the late 1920s.

(Normally, spindles on shapers operated by amateur woodworkers rotate at two speeds -- governed by the two-stage pulleys on the spindle's end, below the shaper's table surface, that are belted to the motor. Operating the machine at higher speeds -- especially with larger diameter cutters, raises the danger of the machine causing problems, including injury to the operator.)

The Stanley Electric Bench Top Shaper 1930s

Adapted from the entry on this machine by Dave Potts on

stanley electric shaper 1930?

The top of this machine measures 12 inches square and has a round throat/hole with a shoulder to permit the use of smaller throat plates. The router motor included is one of Stanley's smallest types-- the hand shaper model, and is held in place with a pivoting bracket that permits tilting the router bit. The two leg brackets that are bolted to the 3/8" plate-steel top are identical, and are marked with casting number C 1780. The unit weighs close to 50 pounds.

While no fence is shown with the machine, Dave Potts, who owns the machine, notes that there appears to be remnants of a guard that mounted from below the table.

Two patent numbers are stamped into a plate mounted on the machine, both assigned to Ray L. Carter c. 1925.

Patent # 1532683 was for a portable shaper and mortising machine, and number 1566824 was for a portable wood shaper

As a disclaimer, Potts notes that neither of the patents in the links above describe the machine pictured.

For the sake of perspective, the picture above is "with this router table placed on top of a floor-standing Stanley Router/Shaper table S5A that I recently restored and use on a regular basis".

Walker-Turner's 1930s Bench Top Shapers



THIS machine is a unique creative machine in itself. The high­speed vertical shaper is indispensable in planing mills, furniture factories, carpenter shops, etc.

For the home craftsman it serves many different purposes-enabling him to cut almost innumerable kinds of mouldings, put fancy edges on table tops, cabinet panels, etc. The cutters which are supplied can be used singly or in combination as two can be mounted together. Further varied cuts are obtained by simply tilting, raising or lowering the head stock to expose the cutters at various angles and heights.

An advantage of this type shaper is that by removing the guard and guides the interior edges of work such as small picture frames and panels may be done very easily. This operation is not possible with other types which employ large cutter heads with removable blades. Provision is also made for dadoing or grooving, and for raising panels with this machine. Head stock is inverted and these accessories attached to end of spindle 1/W" in diameter.


Without doubt, the shaper shown here is the safest to operate. The small cutters and effective guards practically eliminate the hazards ordinarily associated with high speed shapers. ...

Source: Woodworker's Handbook: A Practical Manual for Guidance in Planning, Installing and Operating Power Workshops Plainfield, NJ: Walker-Turner, 1932 127 pages.

(Note: The Preface of this woodworker's manual claims that this is the third edition of W-T's Driver Manual. Included is a folded set of plans for workshop layouts in pocket glued to inside back cover. The link leads to a book not available "full text", and while the date is 1932, pagination is recorded as 121 pages, not 127 of my, s0-called third edtion copy.)

Delta's 1180 "Light-Duty Benchtop Shaper


Delta Manufacturing was marketing a shaper -- the benchtop "light-duty" -- for the home craftsman in the 1930s. That shaper was Model 1180.

Sam Brown's Getting the most out of your shaper: complete handbook covering all branches of shaper operation in the home workshop, with over two hundred photographic illustrations and line drawings. Milwaukee, Wis., Delta Manufacturing Division, Rockwell Manufacturing Co.,1936 (12th ed. 48 pages. Delta-craft publication Book no. 4535.)

Shapers Reviewed in 1930s Woodworking Periodicals

The arrival on the market of shapers designed for the home workshop market was recognized by the periodicals that covered woodworking. Popular Homecraft, as one example, published at least four articles, authored by an "F. Culhane", in the magazine's series, Care and Use of Power Mahhinery.

(Mysteriously, F. Culhane's credentials are not laid out, nor are his connections to the magazine as a PH contributor disclosed. Further, my searches -- (1) Worldcat book database, (2) Retrospective Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, and (3) -- for something more about Culhane all failed.)

However, the gist of the articles are all down-to-earth and fundamental: safety, utility, and the like, definitely no hyperbole. (All articles single column text, with photos and diagrams.)

December, 1936; "The Shaper: The Fence as a Guide" pages 478-482 -- an earlier article is mentioned -- probably November 1936 -- but unfortunately I don't have the issue

June-July, 1937; "Shaping Irregular Curves", pages 152-158

November, 1937; "The Application of Straight Edged Shaper Cutters", pages 380-385

March, 1937;"Use of Hold-Down and Hold-Over Springs on the Shaper" pages 722-726

December, 1937; "Mortise-Tenon and Matched Joints with Straight Edge Cutters", pages 478-481

January-February, 1938; "Application of Straight Edge Cutters on Matched Joints" pages 558-561. Demonstrates how, among other things, amateur woodworkers with shapers in their shops can make their own tongue-and-groove flooring.

September-October, 1938; "Portable Shapers", pages 234-237. This article focuses on the Carter-Stanley "router-shaper", introduced in 1931. (In the 1930s, obviously, the router -- as it is called today -- was not yet the name used to identify this power tool. For more discussion, click here and scroll down.)

Twenty years later, 1956, Getting the Most of of your shaper was expanded to 108 pages.

In 1947, A New Manufacturer Launches a Line of Floor-Standing Shapers

McCartney -Manufacturing Company, Makers of Precision Tools, to Move From Joplin.


Baxter Springs, Kan., Sept. 20.— A new industry for Baxter Springs has been obtained, largely through the efforts ol the Industrial committee of the Chamber of Commerce.

The new firm is the McCartney Manufacturing Company, now located in Joplin. Joe McCartney is owner of the firm, which manufacturer precision machine tools.


It is hoped the firm can begin operations here within 30 days. The plant will be at Twelfth street and Park avenue, and an extension will be built on the north end of the building, which will extend east to the alley. The company plans to build within a year.

The company manufactures spindle shapers and lathes for wood turning. Two spindle shapers, known as models 100 and 107, are being produced.

The shaper is a machine tool used in woodworking and also in the plastic industry for forming special designs and molding. It also is being used in the aluminum and magnesium industries. The firm employs seven persons at present but under an expansion program several times that number will be employed.

Source: Joplin (Missouri) Globe Sunday, Sept 21, 1947, p 6 B

Post WW-II Shapers Target GI Joes

Set off in white, below, are quotes from an article by Herman Hjorth in the Home Craftsman 17 November-December 1948, pages 20-22, 42-45. Hjorth's article features the Atlas Shaper.

(We know this because one photo in the Home Craftsman article shows a shaper with the Atlas logo. That same shaper is featured in an undated instruction-in-use manual by Mechanix illustrated on the Old Woodworking Machines website. Hjorth himself was a very prominent figure in Industrial Arts circles in the first half the 20th century; later, in the narrative chapters, I will try to include more on Hjorth and other figures in Industrial Arts of that era.).

In the article, Hjorth gives what today we would consider a fairly standard accounting of what amateur woodworkers can do with a small shaper. In 1948, however, I can imagine how electrifying this would be for dedicated amateur woodworkers.

(Shapers of this size came on to the market in the 1930s. I have one of this vintage, although its manufacturer is not identified. The spindles range from 1/4" to 3/4", and, with two speeds, it is powered by a 2 hp Baldor reversible motor.) I'll have more to say later about the shaper in both pre-WW II and post-WW II eras.) A woodworking shaper is a machine on which moldings, grooves, flutes, beads and the like are cut on both straight and curved work. It is therefore a power tool that is indispensable to the modern cabinetmaker.

It used to be one of the most dangerous woodworking machines, but modern engineering has fortunately eliminated most of the dangers, especially on the smaller bench machine

The modern high-speed woodworking shaper opens a whole new world to the amateur craftsman. With it he can duplicate the delicately shaped edges,

moldings, reeds and flutes that are found on period furniture.
He can also cut all sorts of grooves and rabbets, make professional-looking sash and doors and turn out shaped table tops and other curved and irregular parts on a profitable production basis.

Should the amateur craftsman buy a woodworking shaper?

Will he get enough use out of it to be worth while? While both the circular saw and drill press can be used for shaping, sooner or later a home-workshop enthusiast feels the need of a machine designed especially for this work. A shaper is more convenient, does better and faster work, and handles a wider variety of jobs.

How large a shaper does the home woodshop need?

Obviously, it should be large and complete enough to do the work better than an adapted machine. A popular bench machine has a table 18" by 151/2". Floor models have tables about 20" by 27". Such shapers use from two to four sizes of cutters, ranging from 5/16' to 3/4" in bore.

What accessories are there?

There is a two-section At right, spring hold-downs. In circle below, a depth collar guides edge of work fence, special cutting heads, stub spindles for cope cuts where one molded edge intersects another, and P£ sets for making lock joints, box corners, and the like. How is the machine guarded for safety? The fence gives much protection. Spring hold-downs help keep fingers from the knives, and push sticks are handy. For free-hand work, a tapered pin inserted in a hole in the table steadies the start of the cut. A ring or cup-shaped guard can be placed over the cut- ter.

How are cutters mounted?


Two or more threaded arbors are supplied. These are tapered or fitted with cone nuts to bolt rigidly into the machine spindle. Sometimes the spindle itself has an arbor at each end, and needs only to be cranked out of the quill and inserted with the proper end up.

This gives freedom from vibration at the high speeds used--7,000 r.p.m. or more. The cutter is clamped on the arbor with a nut and keyed washer. How are adjustments made?

Depth collars below or above the cutter roughly adjust for height. Finer adjustment is obtained with a worm-wheel turning on a threaded upright rod, or some such device, or by a handle fitted with a cone that slides in a helical slot having tapered sides, so that backlash is eliminated. Clamps lock the spindle in position. What drives are used?

A V-belt drive with high-speed motor is common, but gears, protected from shock by a clutch, are also used. Belt tension is usually adjusted by shifting the motor a little.

Sources: (not nearly complete -- just be patient, please.)

Kenneth L. Cope, American Planer, Shaper, and Slotter Builders Mendham, NJ: Astragal Press, 2002. (Note: Kenneth L. Cope's American Planer, Shaper, and Slotter Builders (Mendham, NJ: Astragal Press, 2002) is not intended to be a history. Instead the book seeks to identify over 300 American manufacturers of power planers, shapers and slotters of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Cope includes over 1000 illustrations -- from original catalogs and contemporary periodicals - that show these machines developed. Cope's collection begins in the early 1800's -- as crude, hand-built copies of English machines - and then, over the course of a century, develop into monster machines, "unmatched else­where in the world". Along with these planers, shapers and slotters are images identify and illustrate such accessories as chucks, dividing heads, milling attachments and keyseating attachments. Cope's compendium also includes a glossary of terms that describe types of planers, shapers and slotters. Separate illustrations help identify the individual parts of the machines. Many of the builders listed are well known, and some are still operating. Most of others are obscure, known only from advertisement placed in contemporary magazines. Information and illustrations come from such city directories, records of sales to the U.S. government, contemporary publications including American Artisan, American Machinist, American Manufacturer, Iron Age, Machinery, Mechanics, and Scientific American and countless catalogs issued by planer, shaper and slotter builders and dealers.



Date Name City Description
877,894 USPTO
Jan. 28, 1908 George L. Kelley Buffalo, NY Routing-machine
931,552 USPTO
Aug. 17, 1909 William H. Ahlers Buffalo, NY Guide device for routing-machine
1,042,120 USPTO
Oct. 22, 1912 George L. Kelley Buffalo, NY Guide device for woodworking or routing machines