By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more
Forum sponsored by:
Forum sponsored by Allendale Jan 24th

Milling machine & Shaper query

All Topics | Latest Posts

Search for:  in Thread Title in  
Steven Woodward27/01/2020 16:05:59
10 forum posts

Hi all,

I have always fancied owning a shaper machine; I like the simplicity of the machine and have a few projects that I could see would suit it better than my Mill. But I already have a small mill, I was wondering do some of you out there actually have both machines and more importantly do you actually use them?

Would the shaper be a waste of already lacking space...

Kind Regards


mgnbuk27/01/2020 16:20:36
792 forum posts
61 photos

I have a Boxford 8" shaper and a small milling machine (Emco FB2 clone). I got the shaper first, because it was available first at a price that suited my budget.

I tend to use the shaper to hog off metal before moving over to the mill, as it can shift metal more quickly with inexpensive & easily hand ground tools than the 2MT spindle milling machine. But there is also the "fun" factor - it is rather satisfying to use. It is doubtless capable of much more than I have done with it to date.

Would I have bought it if I had found the milling machine first ? Probably, just for the "fun" factor alone. But, while I am getting pushed for space, I don't yet feel it is taking up a corner that I would rather use for something else.

Nigel B.

Brian Wood27/01/2020 17:20:34
2240 forum posts
37 photos


I had made my Dore Westbury mill when I bought the shaper, an Elliott 10. . It has done some useful work as mgmbuk has described and I am fortunate enough to have the space available.

Mine has the satisfying sound of a washing machine when it is running and just making a flat surface is almost mesmeric. It might be a luxury if your space is tight, but for doing the grunt work on a casting for example it is hard to beat.

Regards Brian

Howard Lewis27/01/2020 18:11:25
3536 forum posts
2 photos

With a hand powered Shaper, like the Adept No.2, you won't hog off large bits of metal.

It is a small machine, and very low powered. But it can do things that a Mill cannot, such as cutting internal keyways, or even internal splines or gears.

It will generate flat surfaces because the end result is the combination of the tool moving in two different planes as it cuts. A mill that is even slightly out of true will generate one or more shallow hollow grooves.

Sharpening the tool is far easier than trying to sharpen an End Mill. It is just like a Lathe tool, so can be a form tool, capable of easy modification, if so needed.

A vertical Mill is the machine for producing a slot, or keyway, with a radius at the end..

Horses for courses again


Ady127/01/2020 19:30:05
3808 forum posts
519 photos

I have finally, in the last day or so, got my milling attachment for my lathe up and running

(will put pics up if I can ever find my wee camera)

Initial testing is looking really good compared to a milling slide and accuracy looks exceptional for a bespoke Ady item

Using it has also reminded me why I detest milling and would much rather use the shaper for doing a job if I have a choice, my biggest gripe being your reliance upon complicated and expensive cutting bits to carry out even the most basic simple jobs

A shaper can hog a job virtually for free, it sounds great as it shaves metal away, and they have good accuracy

but of course every now and then you will be forced to take the milling route, plus a decent mill makes a good drill too


not done it yet27/01/2020 19:34:39
4870 forum posts
18 photos

Agree entirely with Howard. I like my handraulic shaper for the things it can do - like internal keyways. But it is never going to compete with a powered machine.

For most things I do, a larger shaper would be good but I don’t think it will happen. I might progress to a small powered machine as another ‘toy’.

I use my lathe, both mills and the Drummond shaper. Not universally because the particular machine is the best/easiest to get the job done.

If milling attachments were so good for everyone, mills would not have become so popular. People use what they have and modellers will make models according to the size of machines they have - although smaller models can be made on a larger machine, but not so easy the other way round. Only you would know the answer to your question.

I might like to add a surface grinder, but it would not get much use. But that would not necessarily stop me if a suitable one came up for sale.🙂

IanT27/01/2020 19:37:24
1580 forum posts
145 photos
Posted by Steven Woodward on 27/01/2020 16:05:59:

I have always fancied owning a shaper machine; I like the simplicity of the machine and have a few projects that I could see would suit it better than my Mill. But I already have a small mill, I was wondering do some of you out there actually have both machines and more importantly do you actually use them?

Would the shaper be a waste of already lacking space.

Seems a simple enough question Steven

Well, I have two shapers and two mills (all four of which I use) so I seem qualified to answer your question.

Logically, the answer is that you do not need a Shaper - especially if you are tight on space. With a mill and a lathe you can already do (almost) everything that you can do with a shaper.

However, the reason I use my shapers (quite apart from the great finish and simple tooling) is that I enjoy doing so. They are somewhat addictive and I often find myself 'shaping' when I probably (logically) shouldn't be.

So the answer is that whilst you don't need a Shaper - it sounds like you simply want one (which is an entirely different matter!).

Please also note that (in my view) a hand shaper is a different beast to a powered one - and in my case I use them for very different kinds of work. As Howard says, you will not be able to (quckly/easily) remove large amounts of metal with a hand shaper, although you can certainly do good/accurate/delicate work on smaller parts with one. You really need a powered shaper to make any sensible comparisons with a milling machine. I generally use my hand shaper in preference to hand tools - as I'm simply not good enough with 'saw & file' for some things....



Andrew Evans27/01/2020 19:40:56
324 forum posts
8 photos

I would say get the shaper if you fancy it. I had a Boxford shaper and a milling machine in the past and did use it. It is a nice machine to use, quite quiet and sort of peaceful - there is something mesmerising about watching it work. However when I moved house and now have a smaller workshop I chose to keep the milling machine and sell the shaper.

peak427/01/2020 19:49:00
1153 forum posts
135 photos

Last year I bought an 8" Boxford shaper to accompany by Dore Westbury and Centec 2B mills.
It does get used now, and it will get used more as and when I get more workshop time.

Tooling is cheap and easily re-sharpened.

I know of an Elliott 10M which might be coming up for sale, though I don't thing it's been used for a year or two.
I guess that would depend on your budget and locality.

If you're any where near Buxton, you're welcome to drop in and have a look round my Boxford, though it's certainly not for sale.


p.s. Hello and welcome by the way.

Edited By peak4 on 27/01/2020 19:51:38

Peter Simpson 127/01/2020 20:13:52
169 forum posts
8 photos

I to have a Boxford 8" shaping machine and Tom Senior milling machine, I usually use the shaping machine to reduce bar stock to the correct usable size. It gives a fabulous finish and is very enjoyable to use, It will remove 0.5mm cuts on BMS with ease, although I saw somebody on here a while ago stating his could cut 2.0mm cuts on BMS,,,,,,not hope in hell.

When I was an apprentice at ICI Billingham many years ago I watched a large Shaping machine in the mill wrights shop throw huge red hot cuttings all over the workshop. Happy days.

Plasma27/01/2020 20:42:29
438 forum posts
53 photos

I have vertical and horizontal mills and an Elliott 10M shaper.

Each gets used regularly depending on the job in hand.

I bought the shaper as we were not allowed near the ones at school due to their inherent danger. I always said I'd get one and learn to use it.

The finish beats milling and is the ideal precursor to surface grinding.

Buy one and enjoy a cuppa as it cuts with that previously described washing machine sound.


IanT27/01/2020 20:46:49
1580 forum posts
145 photos

My Acorntools (Atlas) 7" can rough up to about 20thou (0.5mm) using a fine feed without sounding too uncomfortable Peter - so very similar to your 8" Boxford I think.

A 24" stroke Hydraulic would be very nice to peel metal back with (it wouldn't even break a sweat with 2mm) but I think it would probably create a black-hole in the floor of my Shed and then promptly disappear into it....


Steven Woodward28/01/2020 09:55:32
10 forum posts

Some interesting feedback here, I think the general consensus is that if you can afford it and you have a use and room for it then go for it. The idea of just sharpening a bit of HSS and using this for cutting metal sounds ideal to me..

Now I need to measure my garage workshop.... I am thinking I could fit it in the end by the garage door but I was trying to avoid blocking this entrance up (although I hardly use it).

We shall see.


Ady128/01/2020 11:05:36
3808 forum posts
519 photos

Use the fancy HSS if you have it, like M35 cobalt HSS

Fancy HSS is great for slow speed stuff and holds its edge much better with slow speed cutting

both for lathe turning and shaping jobs


John Alexander Stewart28/01/2020 12:39:43
772 forum posts
52 photos


Like IanT's wants vs. needs; I've had two shapers in my workshop. Now I have none.

The last to go was a Drummond hand shaper. Another shaper came past my nose, and I turned it down.

My reason is that, in my limited workshop time, milling machines make so much more sense, especially when one considers the space taken.

I sat down and wondered: "What do I want to do - use random bits of machinery for it's own sake, or use machinery to make things?"

I also built a Worden T&C grinder from Hemingway, which works well for sharpening everything from milling cutters to drill bits to lathe tools.

Like everything, it's all what you are happiest doing!

Saxalby28/01/2020 13:18:26
163 forum posts
15 photos

I have a Boxford shaper and a Tom Senior Mill. Use the shaper a lot for key slots in gears and pulleys etc. Also love the very fine finish that you can get on steel, almost a ground finish.

Would never part with the shaper.

Buffer28/01/2020 13:27:54
164 forum posts
46 photos

Mine shoots swarf across the garage that leaves a very satisfying trail of smoke lingering in the air like shooting stars. Apart from this its a bit of a pain to set up as I find it much quicker and easier to use a spinning edge finder on the mill. And a decent fly cutter on my mill using a lathe tool seems to make a flat surface just as well but in a fraction of the time.

Baz28/01/2020 16:34:45
449 forum posts

Spent a few very enjoyable hours yesterday playing with my Perfecto 7 inch shaper, bought it new back in the seventies and apart from a repaint into a Myford grey colour it is absolutely original. The job this time was a pair of steam chests for a 2.5 gauge loco, they only had about fifty thou on each face to come off so a roughing cut all round of about thirty thou and then two finishing cuts, no time wasted because while shaper was doing its thing I was sharpening a few milling cutters. For larger jobs I also have an Elliott 10m, gives a beautiful finish for port faces etc, it’s got a three phase motor but runs beautifully on a transwave converter.

Steven Woodward28/01/2020 22:42:07
10 forum posts

It sounds like people like their shaper machines....

Out of interest what is the sort of footprint required for an 8" shaper like a Boxford and how heavy are they?



thaiguzzi29/01/2020 03:29:05
698 forum posts
131 photos

+1 on "most" of the comments above.

A mill even with a fly cutter can never replicate the finish a shaper can achieve with the right ground tool, especially a shear tool taking a final couple of thou off.

Internal keyways and gear cutting are also a boon with the shaper.

It may often be slower vs a mill on certain procedures, but it is a helluva lot more fun.

I get immense enjoyment from operating the lathe and the shaper, but a mill is always a "do i have to?", "i suppose i must", type job, i find a lot of common, simple milling operations almost boring. The lathe and shaper - never.

I note there are a lot of Tom Senior mill and Boxford shaper owners above, great minds think alike, perhaps we should start a society/club?

All Topics | Latest Posts

Please login to post a reply.

Magazine Locator

Want the latest issue of Model Engineer or Model Engineers' Workshop? Use our magazine locator links to find your nearest stockist!

Find Model Engineer & Model Engineers' Workshop

Latest Forum Posts
Support Our Partners
Eccentric July 5 2018
Eccentric Engineering
Subscription Offer

Latest "For Sale" Ads
Latest "Wanted" Ads
Get In Touch!

Do you want to contact the Model Engineer and Model Engineers' Workshop team?

You can contact us by phone, mail or email about the magazines including becoming a contributor, submitting reader's letters or making queries about articles. You can also get in touch about this website, advertising or other general issues.

Click THIS LINK for full contact details.

For subscription issues please see THIS LINK.

Digital Back Issues

Social Media online

'Like' us on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter
 Twitter Logo

Pin us on Pinterest