Metal Shapers

by Kay Fisher

Alba 4S Under Power

Our shaper story this month comes from John Olsen in Auckland, New Zealand. I think the title says it all!

I feel the earth move under my feet

Well, its really a bit premature to do this, because the machine is really not properly clean yet, but I got to the stage this afternoon where I put the vice back on, stuck a tool in the post, and tried out the new Alba 4S. Very successful! It runs quite quietly, with no embarrassing knocks, and peels off lovely big cuts. It is only running off single phase, but Im stepping up the voltage using an isolating transformer to give it the voltage it needs. The motor doesnt self-start so to run it, I have to turn it on, put a foot against the large pulley and give it a quick push in the right direction. Then, it runs up to speed. The machine has a clutch so you dont have to start it under load.

Im monitoring the current with a clip-on ammeter and it takes 4 Amps, only taking the odd flicker up to 5 A or so. Since the motor is rated for 6.9 A, that seems fine. After running for half an hour or so, it was getting to the point of being just too warm to leave your hand on. This is good, because the 460V I get with the transformer is slightly more than the 415-440V specified. Longer term I would like to drop it down a little. I had the ideal transformer before I moved but sadly it went for scrap. As my choice of title implies, you can feel the concrete floor moving slightly as it runs. I wonder how thick the concrete is? Curiously, the big Jones and Shipman tool holders I use with the Alba 1A are too wide to fit into this toolpost, so at the moment I only have a couple of strange tools that I can use, made from rather big chunks of tool steel. It came with a holder that will take a 5/16 square bit, and can set it at 0°, 45°, and 90° around the circle. It looks potentially useful but is still a bit too rusty to try. Its probably only really useful for lighter work.


Time has passed since the above was written. I have made a pattern for a casting for the support foot. There is supposed to be a flanged casting under the table with a setscrew to allow adjusting the foot. This has been lost somewhere along the way. It just came with a piece of steel tube with a closed end and a collar to take the thrust. This is not supported very well, since it tends to drag sideways. I made the pattern with the idea that I will get two castings made. One will bolt under the table as described and the other will go on the end of the support to spread the load over a larger area, rather like my AMMCO does. The patterns just need painting and finishing before sending to the foundry. I have also made a pattern for a copy of the AMMCO vice, and a pair for a copy of the AMMCO dividing attachment.

I have also had a little bit of luck with suitable tool holders. A local tool dealer has just moved and decided to sell off some of their old inventory. Among this I found two brand new Jones and Shipman shaper/planer tool holders. One is the type mentioned above, but larger. This is a more suitable size for the 4S, so I have cleaned up the other and put it with my 1A. (Yep, there are three shapers here...) The other tool holder is like the ones used with lathes but without any top rake built in. That was a good sale. I also scored a Posilock chuck for about $1.00 and a Clarkson autolock for $10.00. Plus, I got various 4 MT and 2MT shanks, brazed carbide tools and so on.

I have also decided that the three-phase motor and pump left by a previous owner of this house is now mine. It was supposed to be collected by a friend of the previous owner, but he has not showed up and it has been six months. Anyway, it is a three horsepower three-phase motor, so it should make an excellent rotary phase converter. That will mean that I will no longer have to kick the pulley to start the machine.

The Alba 4S itself is very nice to use. It is actually easier to run than the smaller Alba 1A. This is partly because the stroke adjustment is more accessible, and can be adjusted with the machine in any position. Also it has a very low speed gear and an easy to operate clutch. This permits using power to creep the machine to any position, either while setting stroke and ram position or for checking clearances. This is better than pulling the belt around by hand.

If anyone wants a machine of similar size, I think the local dealer still has a Russiana machine. It has twenty inches of stroke, and twice the weight of the Alba 4S. It is a very solid looking machine. Of course the shipping expenses would be a killer if you dont happen to be in New Zealand.

Thanks John for that great shaper story. Keep sending email with questions and interesting shaper stories.

My email address is