Metal Shapers

by Kay Fisher

Pete Verbree's Alba 1A - Part 1

This story about the acquisition and reconditioning of an Alba 1A shaper comes to us via the World Wide Web with Pete Verbree's kind permission to publish.

Shapeaholic meets Alba

By Pete Verbree (aka Shapeaholic)

I love old machines! I admire the skill and imagination of the people who designed and built them. I appreciate the feel of good workmanship in my hands.

Like many other amateur machinists the only way I am going to be able to enjoy these machines is to buy older obsolete equipment that no longer fills a niche in today's world of computer controlled production. I have had a number of mature machines since this addiction took hold of my life, some nicer than others, but all an experience!

I started with a South Bend 9"x20" model that I bought from a dealer in Montreal. I progressed to a 13" South Bend, bought from that same dealer a couple of years later. Then came another 9" South Bend that was in need of much TLC, then my first shaper, a 7" Atlas bought from an auction. Much cleaning, adjusting, and learning along the way. Another 9" South Bend lathe came into my life by way of trade for the 13" South Bend.

I sold the lot! Got into commercial woodworking for a while, but the addiction remained. I rebuilt a heavy Poitras 12" surface planer to try to ease the need but, but ... I had to have a, a...LATHE!

I bought an import 11"x36". That helped, but not quite! I bought a mill/drill. Still not the same! The only solace I could find was at the controls of a friends South Bend 10K. That imported iron just can't compare to the craftsmanship of older industrial iron.

Then it happened! Our family decided to move to another city. All of my equipment was sold to help finance this move, and I was forced to go cold turkey for three long years!

Roll the clock ahead to spring 2000.

Two moves later and prosperity reigns again. (Kind of) I raised enough money to buy a nice 9"x36" South Bend model "A" lathe, and an Atlas shaper. The shaper was a rust brown lump but rub scrub, paint and adjust made for much enjoyment. Life is good! But that old feeling was coming over me again. The South Bend and the Atlas were helping but I needed "another machine"!

Through a friend I found a small mill/drill. Very utilitarian, but all I had to do was plug it in. I needed more!

Clock ahead to October 2001.

I was attending a training course in Hamilton Ontario for a few days, and for relaxation in my hotel room I perused the local buy-and -sell paper. One never knows when a bargain might be found. There it was! Lurking in the word ads! "For sale 10 inch Alba stroke shaper $100.00".

Now this got my attention! Could this be the proverbial "used sparingly by loving original owner" machine that we all dream of? I called! Yes - he still had it, yes - it was fairly complete, no - no vise or motor.

Two hours drive away. Darn too far I'd never make class in the morning if I go! Oh well, I'll call again when I get home, and see if he still has it! Well I did call again, and he did still have it.

So after a brief discussion (read much begging and hand wringing) with my financial advisor (read loving wife) who extracted several promises of good behavior ("This better be the last time"), I was off to claim my prize, only 6 hours drive in each direction, I'll be home by supper!

This is where my story really begins.

I met "Alba" in a dimly lit barn in Wingham Ontario in early November. At first look she seemed a bit rough but substantially together. Rose-colored glasses firmly installed.

I turned the power input shaft, things moved, a little stiffly but hey for $100 what do you want?

I looked around a bit more. Hum, a piece broken out of the cross slide. Not too bad, I can fix that!

Man she's dirty! That's OK, I enjoy cleaning and adjusting, and I get to know my equipment that way. Where is the motor? "Didn't come with one", was the answer, "last guy who owned it was a Mennonite, he ran it on a line shaft".

Well I didn't drive 6 hours to go home with an empty truck so I paid the gent and he helped load with his forklift.

Six hours there in an empty truck equals seven hours home with an 800lb machine in the back - so I didn't make supper.

I arrived home to a joyous but skeptical welcome. "How are you going to get that huge thing out of the truck by yourself?" "I'll rent an engine hoist in the morning - no problem" (more skepticism).

Well I did rent a big hoist the next morning, and set "Alba" down gently on the workshop floor, aided only by the engine hoist, smoke, mirrors, and much trepidation! I brought back the rented hoist on my way to buy a couple gallons of Varsol and a new brush, as was dictated by a closer look in my well lit shop.

Armed with a new pair of rubber gloves, two gallons of Varsol, and new brush, with only fear and common sense to hold me back, I headed out to get better acquainted with "Alba."

Alba Shaper "Before"    Photo by Pete Verbree

Now before I had made that second phone call on this machine, I had surfed the Internet to find out what I could about this machine. From several sources I figured out that she was:

I also emailed Kay Fisher to ask what he knew. He didn't have much to offer, but encouraged me and introduced me to a gentleman named Frank Dorion who owned a 10" Alba!

Frank sent me an email with some info on his machine and offered to send me a copy of the manual. Yee Haw! What a bonus! You'll see why later!

Next month, reconditioning begins.


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