Cast Aluminium Becomes A Machine Tool

Shaper tools were, at one time, a necessary tool for any machine shop. With a shaper and a lathe, you can rebuild or manufacture almost anything. At the very least, you can make the tool to manufacture anything. For the last few months, [Makercise] has been working on building his own homemade shaper, and now it’s making chips. (YouTube, also embedded below.)

First off, what exactly is a metal shaper? It’s not commonly seen in machine shops these days, but at the turn of the last century, these were popular and practical machines to cut keyways into a piece of stock. Effectively, it’s kind of like a jigsaw, in that it cuts with a reciprocating action and is able to plane the entire surface of a metal plate. Today, if you want to surface a piece of stock, you would just throw it onto the Bridgeport, but there are still some use cases for a metal shaper.

The design of this shaper comes directly from the Gingery series of books, the famous series of books that are step-by-step instructions on how to build a machine shop starting from the technology of rubbing two sticks together. [Makercise] has built one of these machines before, the metal lathe, and the second in the Gingery series of books after a foundry, and the next book is instructions on how to build a mill.

Sure, [Makercise] is using modern tools and modern techniques to build this shaper. There’s a CNC machine involved, and nobody is going to Greenland to make aluminum anymore. Still, this is a flat piece of metal made from scratch, an a great example of how far you can take home machining in a post-apocalyptic scenario.

9 thoughts on “Cast Aluminium Becomes A Machine Tool

  1. The most abundant element in surface materials on the moon is oxygen (~45%). followed by silicon, iron, calcium, aluminum (~6%), and magnesium. Plenty of useful metals for a modern day Robinson Crusoe, without need for melting down society. Even as close as it is, the first explorers and settlers won’t be able to take everything them might need.

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  2. Neat. Seems like a surface grinder is about the only tool not covered (may have been I just didn’t find yet) and an EDM machine. I think CNC laser cutters and water jet cutters have been… or at least I’ve seen videos somewhere. Same goes for CNC plasma cutters.

  3. Taking the first cut across the work table casting, the toolbit overhang seemed an excessively long way out coupled with perhaps an over-light or narrow clapper box design, leading to the shuddering cuts.
    Fabulous project though, I love seeing Gingery builds. We had a shaper in my high school metal shop in the early 80’s which I got to use.

  4. Something a shaper could do, if sufficiently rigid, is carve a parabolic dish. How? By having a 2 axis tilting workpiece mount connected to the ram and cross slide with linkages that tilt things just right as the ram moves back and forth and the table moves sideways. Move the table up to make the dish progressively deeper. With the right tool profile and fine enough cross feed the finish cut could be real shiny.

    1. Cool thinking in a new way applied to an old machine.

      Yes this article is quite correct Shapers are pretty much a dead class of machinery for at least forty years or so.

      That being said I just saw one yesterday at W.A. Young & Sons machine shop in Rices Landing PA. Still usable, still accurate.

      Shapers can do some pretty neat things that rotating tool machines can’t do- so most modern parts are designed with features natively that people generally tend to avoid because of how modern parts are made. That being said if you are a machinist or blacksmith Shapers can be incredibly useful machines for prototyping.

      Gingery stuff is always done by someone dedicated and serious enough to really want to do it. I applaud this gentlemen’s efforts

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