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"It starts with knowledge..." is more than a motto to us- it's how we do business. Our first goal is to share some of what we have learned about our trade with you.


Here you'll find many of the terms we reference when discussing shaper cuts, with illustrations.

Shear Angle

This refers to an inclined cutting edge that is not parallel to the axis of the tool rotation. This inclination, or shear, acts to progressively cut the wood fibers. Think of using a hand plane on end grain wood. The best cuts will come from skewing or angling the plane body slightly across the direction you are pushing. This reduces the effort needed, since the whole cutting edge is not meeting the end grain all at once. You can think of it like tearing a phone book in half by tearing one page at a time; it's a whole lot easier than trying to rip every page at once. A shearing cut results in a better surface finish, with less tear-out.

Bearing Surface

This refers to the support of a workpiece against a machine table or fence. For safety and to ensure a good quality surface finish, ensure that the infeed and outfeed of the workpiece are fully supported, and are held gently but firmly against this surface. This will reduce knife marks which are caused by vibration.


Tear-out can be referred to in two situations-

1. The splintering of the wood fibers on the back face of a workpiece as a cutterhead exits the cut. Can be reduced/eliminated by the use of a support piece or backer block held tightly against the back surface. It's also eliminated on CNC routers and tenoners by using reverse rotation tools to cut into the trailing surface.

2. The pulling out of surface fibers from the face of a workpiece. Can be caused in some species by wood being too dry. Can also occur in wavy grain or on curved parts as the knife edge climbs up into the exposed end grain, or when feeding too fast. Solutions are to slow down the feed rate, take several shallower cuts, or use a tool with a shear face cutting edge.


Sniping is a slightly deeper cut at either end of a workpiece that occurs when it is being milled against a fence or table. A snipe on a shaper cut indicates that the two fence surfaces on either side of the cutterhead are not at the level or aligned in the same plane. On a planer, snipe indicates that the table or upper pressure rollers are out of adjustment, and the end of the workpiece is moving up into the cutterhead slightly.

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