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  1. #1
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    Largest shaper ever made?

    Posted by Bill D from the Chaski forum
    June 2002

    With a sure faith in the American belief that bigger is better I would like to ask how big was the biggest shaper and who made it? How big are they being made these days? Forrest this question is right up your alley, You do have an alley by the shop to bring in the big iron like the planer?
    Bill D.

    Response from Forrest Addy

    If you mean ram shaper, that is, a general purpose shaper where a recoprocationg ram provides the sutting force, the largest I've seen was a 36" Gould & Eberhardt. There's a practical limit to ram shapers because of the length of the sweep and the diameter of the bull gear. Every increment of stroke requires a taller operator.

    In he past there's been many a large combination machine that has a shaper function built in. My favorite was the Morton. This is a traveling column floor mill having about 22 ft of horisntal travel on a monsterous wide runway, 12 ft of head travle up a 20 ft high column and a 12" square ram that had about 8 ft of travel. Inside the ram was a #7 morse taper spindle that turned maybe 200 RPM tops.

    There was a 50 horse MG set stuck verticaly on the back of the column that supplied DC to abour a million motors the smallest of which was the size of a 33 gallon garbage can and developed 3 HP ar 200 RPM.

    On the back of the column was a double doored electrical enclosure the size of a walk in closet with a little pipe railed balcony in front of it. In it was enough big DC reversing motor startera motor driven rheostats (the real ones about 20" in diameter) and electrical devises to run all the elevators in the Empire state building. They were mounted on slate slabs about 2" thick. Big fabric covered wire ran everywhere in neat orthogonal arrangements.

    If you had a bellyfull of wrenching and shoveling chips you could always take a break and open up the electrical enclosure and entertain yourself by admiring the electrical goodies. The machine was sensitive to arcane influences so it wasn't unusal to see the operator poking the overloads with a broomstick before hollering for the electrician. Good way to pass the time it take to guzzle a cuppa coffee.

    On the headstock was a huge jumble of gear shifts and controls which were once labeled with little brass plates that were too thin to stand the rigors of clumsy operators so most were missing. It took a little study and experimentation so running the machine was in a way like working blindfolded.

    The control itself was a big rugged sheet metal box with a cast iron front having about 40 pushbuttons mounted on it. There was a rubber covered electrical cable as big as my wrist that led for 50 feet to the headstock. You were expected to haul this monsterously heavy control box to a convenient place to work the machine and there was a bracket to hang the control on the headstock. The box weighed about 60 lbs. I could hold it one armed like the statue of Liberty holds her tablet. But I could only hold it for about 2 minutes before my arm pooped out.

    There was a bracket to coil up the surplus cable. Unfortunately, the cable dragged through a slurry of way oil, cutting oil, tobbaco spit, cigarette butts, spilled soup, floor dry, chips coolant of a dozen kinds and pigeon feathers in season. It was horrible to handle and worse to clean. It was worth a suit of clothes to coil it up so naturally I left that job for my apprentices when they offended me.

    This machine had a big array of rotary tables and auxiliary tables, angle heads, and spindle tooling. It did a lot of stuff. It was like a fully equipped Bridgeport at about 10 times the scale.

    Everything about the machine was a study in violent exercise. For example there were no hand cranks. You had a big 1" drive reversible ratchet about 40" long you used to make final adjustments. If you left the ratchet engaged an touch a traverse button the ratches spun around and wiped out anything in its way. Lable plates for example.

    If I spend a month on the Morton, I had to buy bigger shirts to accommodate the extra muscle. I had to take in my belt because my belly shrunk away. If I got absent minded I would crush the screw-on cap from a gas cylinder thinking it was an aluminum can.

    Oh yes. The shaping function. Flip a couple of levers and switches and the floor mill truned into the most awkward possible shaper. But it did shape. The big 12" square ram reciprocated between stops, an incremental feed jogged the saddle feed motor or the head feed by an adjustable time to get 0.005" or 0.015" feed per stroke - that all the same setting. You average a certain feed per stroke but the actual feed may vary by a factor of three.

    The was one lever you absolutely had to flip. If you didn't the shaper ram would, - under a special circumstance I never figured out - over-run the cut stop and the ram kept going til it hit its limit switch - kept going until it busted off a hah dozen set-up bolts and rolled a 12 ton rudder casting across the aisle to smash up a 4 bay by 5 high pallet rack. The ram was driven by a 30 HP motor through a large reduction to a racke that must have been 7" wide. I was old Forrest Spencer's (no relation) apprentice when this happened. I was coming back on a coffee run when I heard the crash.

    Ooooooo - yeah! You whippersnappers don't know what you missed by never working in heavy industry.

    Posted By: Kelly Anderson

    The text for this illistration reads, "Archdales 'improved' Shaping Machine of 1885. A giant for its time, it weighded 24 tons and took up 20 x 18 feet of floor space. the bed was 18 feet long, traverse of the saddle was 9 feet, and the length of stroke was 3 feet. the ram was 13 feet 6 inches long, yet feeds as precise as 1/2400 of an inch per rovovution were possible. Overhead shafting supplied power.

    What a hoss! but still only 36" of stroke. But with 9' of cross travel, you could "cross plane" a huge piece using less floor space than a 9' wide planer. Maybe that was the idea.

    We have a very old and worn out flat belt 36" Cincinnatti shaper at work. Its picture is in the dictionary next to "klunker".







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    Ooooooo - yeah! You whippersnappers don't know what you missed by never working in heavy industry.
    I did it long enough to learn that it basically sucked. Oh, I can see where it would be satisfying to get in a long turning cut where the chips were popping off as big as your thumb, but all I ever got to do was spend two days setting up some ungainly workpiece in a planer mill with chains and jacks and homemade turnbuckles so I could spend a whole 5 minutes cutting a keyway in it. Then another day spent tearing the job down.

    Give me a maximum workpiece weight of 10 pounds and I'm happy. No, make that 5 pounds.

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    The old Mesta Machine, in Homestead Pa, had a pair of what they called Heavy Duty Draw Cut Shapers. No size is given, but they are BIG.
    Built by Mesta, of course, for working on steel mill parts.
    The picture I have appears as if they had a stroke of at least 6 feet. They stood about 20 feet tall, and the entire room was the table for them.
    I doubt any were ever sold.
    Mesta could cast parts thousands of tons in house, and machine them, so they made tools as needed for themselves.

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    I saw what you might call a gantry shaper.

    It was mounted over a floor plate, the workpiece sat still, held down by clamps.

    It was in a plant across the street from where I went to school from 1936 to 1949.

    Ah, yes, those were the days, and I'm still working!

    BG

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    I have to agree with Tony.
    I worked for a while on a planer mill. Two days hard work to set up, a 3 hour run time, then you called the crane crew to come and flip the job. While they were doing their thing I used a coal shovel to take the chips off the table, then a broom, then on hands and knees wiping down. Then do it all over again machining the bottom.

    If it doesn't fit in a Bridgeport vise I'm not interested.

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    I've been reading some old posts and just came across this one. I laughed my ass off reading Forrest Addy's description of the Morton Draw Cut horizontal boring mill. I'm really not that old (52) but we had one in the shop I worked in at Weirton Steel and I ran it quite a bit up until they closed the shop a few years ago. Forrest's description is right on the money. He didn't mention the ladder that ran up the column so the operator could climb up to the "porch" that was built alongside the headstock. You had to do this to change gears or shift to the shaping operation. Running the beast would keep you in shape. It really was an impressive machine though and I kind of miss it. One time I had a 12" carbide face mill in the spindle and was taking cuts on a bumper from our hot mill furnace area. The piece was over 20' long and about 4' high. I spent 8 hours making cuts back and forth across it. The noise this machine made when it was running at full speed was deafening. At the end of the shift a couple of the other guys came over to see what I'd accomplished. One of them said, "I can't believe this machine ran that hard for that long and there's anything left of the job." Ah, the good old days. They just auctioned off the contents of the shop a couple of weeks ago. I wonder where the old Draw Cut will go next. Hopefully, not the scrap yard.

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    Post #1 mentions an 1885 shaper made by Archdale of Birmingham, England. This is it. The artist might not have been much cop at perspective or figure drawing, so it's difficult to judge the size, but it was big, as the measurements stated in post #1 affirm. It weighed 24 tons, and the 13' 6" ram weighed 2 tons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ries View Post
    The old Mesta Machine, in Homestead Pa, had a pair of what they called Heavy Duty Draw Cut Shapers. No size is given, but they are BIG.
    Built by Mesta, of course, for working on steel mill parts.
    The picture I have appears as if they had a stroke of at least 6 feet. They stood about 20 feet tall, and the entire room was the table for them.
    I doubt any were ever sold.
    Mesta could cast parts thousands of tons in house, and machine them, so they made tools as needed for themselves.
    My father was the machinist on these. Have a great picture of him machining a couple rolling mill housings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wlauer View Post
    My father was the machinist on these. Have a great picture of him machining a couple rolling mill housings.
    Let's see it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by awander View Post
    Let's see it!
    Seconded! Please post, we love stuff like that...

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    Quote Originally Posted by wlauer View Post
    My father was the machinist on these. Have a great picture of him machining a couple rolling mill housings.
    Yes, it would be very interesting to see that rarity photo!

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    Very interesting that I happened upon this thread. It made me think of a vertical slotter/shaper that we had at the first machine shop I worked at, circa 1978. East Chicago Machine Tool. They did a lot of work for the surrounding steel mills in addition to custom machine tools. They had the below machine. As a kid, I was just in awe of some of the big machines they had. This machine would disconnect the power to the overhead crane when the ram was all the way up. And, I actually found a picture of it. This machine did one job/part. It was a drive shaft union for a mine hoist. 4" wide keyway in the internal bore. The keyway was cast in place and this machine finished it. There was a hole in the side of the part to let the chips break out.

    vertical-shaper.jpg

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    img_20210325_123232406.jpg

    My dad is the guy in the foreground. `This picture used to hang in the lobby of the office.


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