Metal Shapers

by Kay Fisher

We have a shaper story of acquisition by Rob McDougall our treasurer and now fellow shaper enthusiast. Take it away, Rob.

Diamonds in the Rough – Part 1

By Rob McDougall

Having been enthralled with Rudy Kouhoupt's description of how he uses his shaper and the example of a virtually chromed flat surface that he produced with it at the "Rudy Workshop" I knew I just had to get one some day. Steve put my plea for assistance in the newsletter and with 140 or so crazy metal nuts running around the country side, there was a good chance that someone would know of one of those extinct unwanted shapers lying around.

I remember back in the 80s there were ads for shapers in the Want Ads all the time - people couldn't give them away. In fact, my friend Cal Guiry was asked to "take this to the dump for me" by an acquaintance and low and behold, ended up with a nice Atlas shaper. That was the 80s. Now in the 90s with the advent of eBay, it seems even shapers have found renewed value. They sell real quick and range in price from $90 to $900.00.

Well, at the very next NEMES meeting, Crazy Metal Nut Henry Szostek comes up to me and says: "Hey Rob, I think I know of a dusty old South Bend 7 inch Shaper decaying away in a friends barn. Do you want me to check if it is still there?" Can you imagine anything more musical to one's ears? This is like hearing about that 30-year-old Mustang or Corvette that the proverbial little old lady only used once a week to go to the shop to buy her groceries.

Apparently some years earlier Henry's friend Mr. Clapp passed away and his daughter asked Henry if he would be interested in buying the shaper. Henry, already being fully Crazed With Metal of gargantuan proportions, had no use for a little motorized file. He called me to say the shaper was still rusting away in the old barn but most of it appeared to be there - was I still interested. You bet! Now the following moral dilemma faced Henry and me. Mrs. Clapp (the daughter) referred to the machine in the barn as "the lathe" and asked Henry how much it would be worth. Henry asked me what I would pay for it. Oh no! The owner does not know what it is nor what it is worth. I could offer her $5.00 or $500.00 and she would be none the wiser. And, I have not even seen the referred to rust bucket. I put my complete faith and trust in Henry and said: "I'll sell my mother's son into slavery for eternity to pry the prized piece off her - damn the torpedoes - let's get it". Henry suggested we may not have to go that far in our opening volley of negotiating tactics and let's try offering her $300 and see if she takes the bait.

I waited anxiously for 2 days by the telephone until Henry called back to say, can you believe it, that: "Mrs. Clapp accepted the offer and when would I like to pick it up?" "How about tonight or tomorrow morning, or even tomorrow lunch time if the other times don't work for you Henry." I replied. Again, Henry's God-like voice of reason calmed me down and we agreed the following Saturday morning at 10:00 am would work fine.

At 5 minutes to 10:00 I arrive at Henry's doorstep and off we go to Mrs. Clapp's barn a few streets away. The barn is an old horse and carriage type from the 1800s with slider front door and all sorts of air gaps in the sides. Old Mr. Clapp was not a machinist - he appeared to be more of a part time boat builder. Neither Henry nor I could figure out why he would have had a metal shaper. Anyway, there it was! Sitting on the wood bench alone - most of the rest of the barn was full of various pieces of junk, withering away under the elements.

To most people the shaper was also one of those pieces of junk, but I saw a "diamond in the rough" sitting there. I must admit, it was more withered and tired looking than I had expected. It was real dusty. The primary v-belt was gone. The motor was jammed solid. Surface rust was on every piece of exposed metal. I did not dare try to turn any of the ball handles. It was hard to tell the condition of the paint, as the whole machine was basically one color of brown. No sign of oil anywhere either which I took to be a bad sign. No tool holders or wrenches laying about the barn that we could find either. It was basically a Little Brown Thing piled up in the corner with all the other brown things. However, the moon and the stars were perfectly aligned and in the heat of the moment I quickly transacted business with Mrs. Clapp as she tried to muscle her two dogs from humping my leg. Why do I always seem to attract those kinds of dogs?

South Bend Shaper - "Before"        photo by Rob McDougall

We loaded up the heavy piece of junk into my trusty truck, loosely secured it from rattling around in the tray, and off to the pub to celebrate my new found treasured plunder. (Well, it was after midday by now.) I park in my backyard and back up to the basement door. First trick is to get the shaper into the workshop. It weighs at least over 100 lbs. I decide to disassemble it on the tailgate. Looking at it again in the clear light of day I wonder if I have bought a lemon. Just to see how crazy this Crazy Metal Nut is I get a rag and some WD40 and start rubbing on one of the ball handles. Low and behold, like a genie emerging from the bottle, I start to see my reflection emerging from the mirror shine.

A rag and some WD40        photo by Rob McDougall

I rub another place on the table. Again a shiny surface appears. What's going on here? A couple of more sprays and rubs and guess what, old Mr. Clapp must have sprayed the whole machine with some sort of rust inhibitor coating. Under all the dust and brown stuff is indeed a diamond waiting to be polished. Oh joy of joy!

South Bend Shaper – “After”        photo by Rob McDougall

Next issue I'll describe the stripping and rebuilding of the shaper...


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