Whether you are upgrading from a router table or dusting off that big ‘ol behemoth in the corner, getting started with a shaper can seem like a daunting task. This guide will help you narrow down exactly what type of shaper cutter may be suitable for your needs.
Corrugated Knife Head
This is a head that accepts corrugated back HSS knives that can be custom ground into just about any profile. These are great for short runs where you need to match a particular profile. Since these are steel they can be honed at home but if you take a nick out of them or they get too dull you will need to have the profile reground. For this reason, always request the grinding template when ordering custom ground corrugated knives. This head is a great choice when matching up to existing moulding or where the amount you need to run does not justify the investment in carbide. To purchase your corrugated knife head click here.
Braised Carbide Cutters
Like your router bits, there are shaper cutters that have the carbide braised to a steel body. There are quite a few "common" profiles available as well as the ability for us to custom make to your specific drawing or wood profile. The thick braised on carbide is resharpenable at a pro sharpening shop for many years of cutting in wood or man-made materials like MDF or particle board. To purchase your Braised Carbide Cutters click here.
These heads are designed to give you a great amount of flexibility without having to keep purchasing a new main "body". Again, these are most ideal for short run or hobby use. In the Dimar brand, we call these "MPC" cutters. There are also "blank" knives available that can be custom ground to your specifications. Each profile knife has a matching "Limiter" that you need to run in the head as well, so make sure you get both the profile and the matching limiter for each style you need. The limiters do not need to be replaced when you are replacing the knives (once they are dull) unless you happen to break one. These are our most recommended cutters for those that are new to shaper use and want to explore the variety of projects possible with this machine. To purchase your Multi-Profile Cutterheads click here.
Inserted Carbide Cutters
Replaceable carbide knives, designed for production runs. As these knives do not have to withstand the heat of being braised to a body, the carbide grade used lasts longer and is ground to a much sharper edge. Again available in a moderate selection of "stock" profiles but most often are custom made to the client's specifications. Very popular for door and window making as the replaceable nature of these knives keeps the cutting profile consistent for reliable a glue joint fit. To purchase your Inserted Carbide Cutters click here.
PCD Diamond Cutters
Polycrystalline diamond tooling is more similar to the braised carbide but with diamond instead. These are for extreme long life production runs. Almost always these are custom fabricated profiles.
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Shaper Cutters and Your Machine
The other main considerations in your selection of shaper cutters are the limitations of your specific machine. The 2 limiting factors are the arbour size (typically 1/2”, 3/4”, 1” or 1-1/4”) and the horsepower. The larger the diameter of the cutter, the more horsepower you will need to make the cut. The spindle (matching the arbour hole of the cutter) size you have will limit what you can choose for a cutter (although there are some step-down bushings available if the cutter you need is only available in a larger arbour size than your machine). The horsepower of your machine defines how large of a cut you can take;
½ hp to ¾ hp Shapers – Hobby machines typically with 1/2” or 3/4” spindle. Good for up to about a 2” pass in hardwood. If you need to cut more or the machine is struggling, just set your fence so that you take a partial cut and then reset for a 2nd or 3rd pass to get your final cut.
1 hp to 3 hp Shapers – Basic shop grade machines for general use. Normally these have 3/4”, 1” and 1-1/4” spindles and will handle most profile and glue joint profiles with ease.
5 hp to 7.5 hp Shapers – Industrial production shapers designed for large heavy cuts and prolonged use.
9 hp+ Shapers – For heavy duty production run applications.
So, with that information, take a browse through our Shaper Cutter selection or, if you need a quote on a custom made tool, send us an email with a detailed drawing (include size/radius measurements) and a description of your application and we will help you through the steps of getting that priced for you. Email us at email@example.com