Archive for April, 2011

They don’t make ‘em like they used to…

By , 24 April, 2011, 4 Comments

One of the things I love about woodworking is the tools.  That probably comes as no surprise, especially to my wife, who has endured my tool lust for many years.  But I don’t just mean any tools.  I mean GOOD tools.  Tools that work exactly the way they are supposed to, time and time again.  And it’s not just new tools.  I have my favorites, sure, and I don’t know how I would survive without my cordless impact driver or my Multimaster, but there is something about an old tool that is just, well, solid.  I suppose that’s because only the well made tools survive long enough to be passed along and used for years.  The cheap ones, like anything, don’t last that long.

A good friend of mine, Paul McCune, was asking about my shop recently, and wondered if I had a shaper.  A shaper is a stationary power tool that is often used to cut profiles for mouldings, railings and raised panels.  Most kitchen cabinet doors and drawer fronts spend alot of time running through a shaper when they are being constructed.  I told Paul that, “No, I have a big router table and cute little Williams and Hussey Moulder, but no shaper”.

“Would you like one?” he asked.  Like asking a kid if he wanted candy.  Seems he had one sitting in his shop that was just collecting dust.  It belonged to his Dad, who had used it for many years.  So he gave it to me.

Long story short, several months and a good bit of research later, I have a new addition to the shop: a 1951 Delta 43-205 Heavy Duty Shaper.  Just sounds cool, don’t it?  I spent a good bit of time cleaning and checking everything over on the machine before putting it to use.  It only has a 1 hp motor, but what a motor it is!  This thing starts with a lunge and levels off to a growl that you feel more than hear.  I swear I can even feel the concrete floor vibrate from ten feet away.  The motor is reversible, although why you would want to do that is beyond me.  It weighs over 300 lbs and is nearly every part on it is some shade of Delta gray with the exception of the fire-engine red switch plate.

The original shaper was designed with a spindle shaft onto which you installed large cutters relevant to the task at hand.  Somewhere along the line, Paul’s Dad (I think the guy was a genius) decided he wanted to mount his router bits in this machine, so he made (!) a spindle with a 1/2″ router chuck on the end.  I was rather leery of using that particular attachment at first, but when I got around to putting a micrometer on it, turns out it’s true to within 3-thousandths of an inch.  So, I use my router bits in it.

Most modern tools are disposable, with plastic parts and cheap metal covered with a few stickers and fancy paint.  Not this one.  Nearly every part is cast iron, even down to the independently adjustable fence and solid hand wheel.

I can’t thank Paul and Judy enough for this gift.  This is a tool with a history and tons of good karma and I promise I will put it to good use for many years to come!