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Building as Hand Operated Shaper

My attempt to build a hand shaper, based on the desogn by F T Leightwood

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Ricky Walker06/03/2019 14:45:49
22 forum posts
6 photos

Hello all,

I've been reading a lot about shapers recently, and it re-kindled my on and off desire to own one for myself. I don't have room for a normal size powered version, so a hand operated one is the option I am going for. I remembered reading an article in the Best of Model Engineer Volume 3, a reprint from June 9, 1949, entitled "A hand bench shaper" by F T Leightwood.

I had dismissed this article when I first read it, as being unsuitable due to the materials needed (6" x 5" x 1/2" steel angle), techniques (welding), and equipment needed to build (The author used a full sized shaper owned by a friend for some of the machining).

However, recently I have been rethinking, and I wondered if it would be possible - or reasonable - to build it using aluminium and/or steel plate, screwing or bolting parts together instead of welding, etc.

So I decided to build a mock-up using plywood and MDF, screwed and glued together, with M8 threaded rod for the slide controls. It is coming along nicely, and has proved the concept that it would be possible to make one of these shapers by built-up methods. I've not finished the mock-up yet, but have made the main components, and will be finishing it off over the next week or so, before starting to build one for real. Making the mock-up version has shown me a few things, one being helping visualise how to make and assemble the shaper, another being just how small this shaper is, considering it has around a 6" ram travel!

As soon as I figure out how to add pictures, I'll upload some pictures of what I have achieved so far


Ricky Walker

edit: Sorry, thread title should be "build a.". not "build as "

Edited By Ricky Walker on 06/03/2019 14:47:43

John Hinkley06/03/2019 14:51:22
853 forum posts
287 photos

Google "Gingery shaper" - it'll save you hours of woodwork, if you insist on making your own. Or just buy a Perfecto or Adept one.  Picture of my Perfecto (motorised) below - it wasn't very expensive:

Right side view



Edited By John Hinkley on 06/03/2019 14:56:23

dcosta06/03/2019 15:20:27
483 forum posts
206 photos

Hello Ricky,

I started building a shaper based on Gingery's book, with modifications, but I have not figured it out yet.
You can eventually collect some information from the photos that you will find **HERE** and / or from the little film that I made and that you will find **HERE** in the following URL:

Also see (from Rick Sparber who shared with me some knowledge and experience during the construction of my shaper).

Dias Costa

Ricky Walker06/03/2019 15:39:53
22 forum posts
6 photos

Hi John,

I have the set of Gingery books, and have got as far as building a furnace, not used it in anger yet, I am hoping to do so this summer Building the Gingery shaper is one of the options I looked at, and I may still do that - I'll probably want a powered shaper at some point

I've managed to get the pictures uploaded into an album, so here they are, hopefully:


First picturre showing the thing assembled.


From a different angle, showing the ram more clearly.


The parts separated, clockwise from top left: Ram (not complete), worktable - still needs holes drilling on side, worktable slide, and main base.

The ram still needs the head and clapper box making, and I haven't started on the slide screws yet. Also, I still have to make the operating arm and linkages. Then I have to start again doing it all in metal

Making this version in wood has really helped me in working out any design changes I want to make on the metal version, and it looks cool too! First step I'll be ordering some 1/2" thick alloy for the main base plates. I have decided to make this from a mixture of aluminium and steel - steel where the dovetail ways are involved, alloy for most of the rest of it.

The machine tools I will be using are a Warco mini lathe, and a Clarke CMD10 micro mill/drill. I'll post pictures as my build progresses. And who knows, we may end up with a working shaper at the end of it all !


Ricky Walker06/03/2019 15:54:12
22 forum posts
6 photos

Hi Dias,

I have already been looking at your posts regarding the Gingery Shaper (As I said, I've been reading a lot about shapers just lately, LOL), excellent work!


Ricky Walker

John Olsen06/03/2019 20:09:03
1029 forum posts
86 photos
1 articles

Good to see that there are some shapers being made, too many have gone to scrap. The Gingery book are a good resource even if you don't need to do the whole thing from scratch. There are plenty of good ideas in them about how to end up with an accurate machine even if you lack a larger machine to do the job on. I like the idea of building a mock up in wood first, I did this sort of thing a lot when building my steam launch. The entire interior layout and cabin design was first built with scrap material like cardboard and cover sheets from MDF at the hardware suppliers. It is a good cheap way of letting you visualise the whole job.


Wout Moerman 106/03/2019 22:13:11
11 forum posts

Do you know this plan?


Doesn't need a lot of machining.

Ricky Walker07/03/2019 13:02:44
22 forum posts
6 photos
Posted by Wout Moerman 1 on 06/03/2019 22:13:11:

Do you know this plan?


Doesn't need a lot of machining.

Yes, I was considering building this one, until I remembered the FT Leightwood design i had read, and dug out the relevant article.

I am pretty much decided now on building a modified F T Leightwood design, as i seems so compact, and the machining procedures have less problems than any of the other designs. I just have to decide whether to build it using metric or imperial materials - I will be using metric fasteners.

I am already thinking about how I would convert this design to a powered model, and my first idea is that a countershaft, mounted slightly above and behind the machine could hold a bull wheel and linkage to the ram.This countershaft would then allow me to add an auto feed mechanism for the worktable and a flywheel with a crank handle, which could in turn be driven by a motor using a belt drive. But first things first, I have to get a working shaper built

Ricky Walker

Ricky Walker07/03/2019 13:14:48
22 forum posts
6 photos

I have bought and downloaded the Acto 6 hand shaper plans from the Australian website Very impressive set of drawings, however, looks like it needs a fully equipped workshop to build this design. Firstly there is a lot of welding involved, and secondly, the components need a fully equipped machine shop to make, such as dovetail slide ways at 40cm long. Worth looking through to see what ideas are useable on my shaper, but not a design I can build as it is.

Ricky Walker

Ricky Walker09/03/2019 21:11:11
22 forum posts
6 photos

Today I made the cross feed screw for the worktable on my shaper mock up. Tomorrow I'll be travelling from Hull to Dartford to collect the hand operated shaper I won on eBay I;ll still be building this design though, as it is smaller than the one I have bought.

Here is a pic of the one I have bought:


Should be interesting, and will help me to build the one I have started

V8Eng09/03/2019 22:00:09
1409 forum posts
27 photos
Posted by Ricky Walker on 09/03/2019 21:11:11:

Today I made the cross feed screw for the worktable on my shaper mock up. Tomorrow I'll be travelling from Hull to Dartford to collect the hand operated shaper I won on eBay I;ll still be building this design though, as it is smaller than the one I have bought.

Here is a pic of the one I have bought:


Should be interesting, and will help me to build the one I have started



I wondered who had won that, pretty good price too I reckon.

Edited By V8Eng on 09/03/2019 22:00:56

Paul Lousick09/03/2019 22:10:17
1378 forum posts
532 photos

Have you seen this design for a shaper ?

6 inch shaper 1.jpg

6 inch shaper 2.jpg

6 inch shaper 3.jpg

6 inch shaper 4.jpg

Ricky Walker11/03/2019 01:28:45
22 forum posts
6 photos

Hi Paul Lousick,

I'd not seen that one before, now it is part of my collection of plans



Ricky Walker11/03/2019 01:35:18
22 forum posts
6 photos

Really pleased with the one I bought, no maker's name on it, and it doesn't match any of the ones I looked at on the shapers archive site i found (lathes, or something like that) so I'll be trying to find out what make it is over the next few weeks

I just couldn't believe how much traffic there was around the M25, especially as it is Sunday! Got the shaper home now, I just need some more space to magically appear, so I have somewhere to keep it


Edited By Ricky Walker on 11/03/2019 01:36:06

Steve King 502/04/2019 19:48:34
70 forum posts
79 photos
Posted by Wout Moerman 1 on 06/03/2019 22:13:11:

Do you know this plan?


Doesn't need a lot of machining.

Thanks for that link.

Steve King 502/04/2019 20:07:54
70 forum posts
79 photos

Reading this post I noticed your travelling from Hull. I live in Hull, if you need things making I have a lathe and soon if all goes to plan a Alba 1a shaper by the end of the month. Send me a PM if you need out.



Howard Lewis05/04/2019 19:27:43
3154 forum posts
2 photos

Have hankered after a Shaper for some time, This week, I acquired an Adept No.2

The next problem is going to be finding space on the totally cluttered bench to mount it. Work for it is bound to follow soon. The first task will have to be to check it over and then the pitch of the Leadscrews, to allow graduating the Handwheel dials.

With the cross feed on the opposite side from the handle, devising a ratchet feed is not going to be easy.

Thinking cap on!


IanT05/04/2019 20:01:37
1513 forum posts
142 photos

There have a been a number of ideas published in this area Howard.

You could look at something like David Williams' version ( ME March 5th 1953 ) or perhaps you could think along more 'modern' lines and use a stepper motor to do the needful - which (as Joseph Noci has shown recently) can provide some interesting options.



PS If you PM me - I will dig out the Williams article for you.

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