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A wood shaper, usually just shaper in North America or spindle moulder in the UK, is a stationary woodworking machine in which a vertically oriented spindle drives cutter heads to mill profiles on wood stock. The spindle may be raised and lowered relative to the shaper's table, and rotates between 3,000 and 10,000 rpm, with stock running along a vertical fence.
Wood shaper cutter heads typically have three blades, and turn at 1/2 to 1/8th the speed of smaller, much less expensive two-bladed bits used on a hand-held wood router. Adapters are sold allowing a shaper to drive router bits, a compromise on several levels. As are router tables, cost-saving adaptations of hand-held routers mounted to comparatively light-duty dedicated work tables.
Being both larger and much more powerful than routers, shapers can cut much larger profiles than routers – such as for crown moulding and raised-panel doors – and readily drive custom-made bits fabricated with unique profiles. Shapers feature between 3/4, 1.5 and 5 hp belt-driven motors, which run much more quietly and smoothly than typically 20,000 to 25,000 rpm direct-drive routers. Speed adjustments are typically made by relocating the belts on a stepped pulley system, much like that on a drill press. Unlike routers, shapers are also able to run in reverse, which is necessary in performing some cuts.
The most common form of wood shaper has a vertical spindle; some have horizontal; others yet have spindles or tables that tilt. Some European models variously combine sliding tablesaws, jointers, planers, and mortisers.
Shapers can be adapted to perform specialized cuts employing accessories such as sliding tables, tenon tables, tilting arbor, tenoning hoods, and interchangeable spindles. The standard US spindle shaft is 1¼", with 3/4" or 1/2" on small shapers and 30mm on European models. Most spindles are tall enough to accommodate more than one cutter head, allowing rapid tooling changes by raising or lowering desired heads into position. Additional spindles can be fitted with pre-spaced cutter heads when more are needed for a job than fit on one.
The primary safety feature on a wood shaper is a guard mounted above the cutter protecting hands and garments from being drawn into its blades. Jigs, fixtures such as hold-downs, and accessories that include featherboards, also help prevent injury and generally result in better cuts. The starter, or fulcrum, pin is a metal rod which threads into the table a few inches away from the cutter allowing stock to be fed into it in a freehand cut.
In addition to aiding productivity and setting a consistent rate of milling, a power feeder keeps appendages and garments out of harm's way. They may be multi-speed, and employ rubber wheels to feed stock past the cutter head.
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- "Wood Shapers - Information and resources about wood shapers, particularly older models". Old Wood Working Machines (OWWM).