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Getting the very best
from your shaper cutters.

Cutter Selection:
  • High Speed Steel versus Carbide Tipped: The conventional wisdom used to hold that High Speed Steel was sharper than carbide. The quality of the micrograin carbide used on Jesada cutters however, combined with the extremely smooth finish, has eliminated most of the difference in sharpness. Carbide is also harder than steel so it lasts longer in abrasive materials like particleboard.
  • Interchangeable Systems versus conventional cutters: If your shaper work will only require a very limited number of profiles cutting a lot of material, traditional "brazed" cutters are fine. Interchangeable cutters are a very cost-effective way to give yourself many more options.
Speed (is faster really better?):

The answer to that question is "sometimes". Feeding your stock too slowly and/or selecting too great a spindle speed can create some nasty burns in your stock and dull your cutters prematurely. At a proper feed rate, each knife cuts a wood chip that's large enough to carry away most of the heat. If you feed too slowly, all that heat builds up in the cutter and the workpiece, burning the wood and the knife.

If you notice burning in your work, try feeding a little faster. (but never force your work. A kickback is far more costly than a burn mark!)

Your spindle RPM is the other critical component of the speed mix. The faster the cutter turns, the faster you need to feed the lumber in order to maintain that all-important chip size.

A further complication to the speed issue is the diameter of your cutter. Larger cutters usually require slower speeds to operate safely. (see your shaper manual.)

Shaper Set-up & Maintenance:

What does shaper set-up have to do with cutter performance? Plenty! Your fence controls depth-of-cut, and cutting too deeply in a single pass is dangerous and produces a poor finish. It's also a good idea to wax your fence and table. This reduces friction, giving you a more consistent feed rate and a better cut.

The general condition of your shaper is very important to cutter performance. Make it a point to periodically check moving parts such as belts and pulleys for wear, and watch out for burrs or excessive runout on the spindle.

Cleaning & Sharpening:

Any cutter performs better when it's free of pitch buildup. Pitch on your cutters may contain acid that will attack the cutting edges.

As your cutters begin to lose their edge you'll probably notice more burning on your work and perhaps even discoloration on the knife. All cutters can be honed on the flat side of the knife to increase their working lives. In the case of Jesada's Millennium Cutters you can replace the knife or send it out for resharpening. If the knife requires regrinding, you're better off consulting a professional sharpening service. Carbide tipped cutters are best left to the professionals as well.