A wood shaper is one of the most common pieces of equipment in a high-end or commercial woodworking shop. It is versatile and has many attractive features for the professional woodworker. While it is very safe when used properly under strict supervision, the nature of the cutting equipment makes it one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment in the shop when used incorrectly.
Wood shapers are spindles mounted on larger versions of router tables, and they are identified by the engine's horsepower as well as the spindle's diameter, according to prowoodworkingtips.com.
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety & Hazard Administration), wood shapers are "machines that are most commonly used to shape the edges of stock. Cutting occurs by hand feeding stock against a vertical rotating cutter mounted on a spindle." The stock can be fed from any direction, and there are guides for the stock to do straight or curved shapes.
A wood shaper can be used for any number of shapes and patterns. By cutting a pattern in a composite material (like Masonite) and then using double-sided tape to attach that material to the wood that is going to be cut, an easy-to-follow tracing is made. Cut a little outside the line made with the tracing, then sand it down to the desired point. Some common shapes include mouldings for cabinetry, decorative headboards for beds and decorative window frames.
Wood shapers can be fitted with a variety of add-ons that allow it to perform extra functions, making it a very versatile tool. It can carry out large-volume work that a normal router is too small for, and different spindles can be used that come in high-end models with tilting or interchangeable parts. Overall, the shaper has so many additions and add-ons available to it that it is an essential tool for any wood shop.
Wood shapers are one of the most dangerous machines in a wood shop, and certain precautions need to be taken when using them. Always use the guards to direct the wood in order to keep fingers and hands away from the blades. Also, because shapers have a directional switch on their cutters, make sure to check which direction it's spinning or wood fed into it could fly off and injure you.
A wood shaper is a high-volume piece of equipment; in most cases a router table will suffice for hobbyists. As good wood shapers are expensive, you should consider purchasing one only for commercial or professional shops, unless you are a very serious amateur.