Advertised from the late 1800s onwards as being by Pittler (though not marked as such) this 6-inch stroke shaper was sold by the UK's Pittler agent, George Adams of 144 High Holborn, London.
Hand-powered, the Pittler used a simple rack-and-pinion drive to move the ram, exactly like the very much later machine from Perfecto, a model sold until the early 1980s.
With a ram stroke of a little over 6.6 inches and a tool-slide feed of 2 inches, the shaper was able to machine a surface 6" x 8". Before the introduction of the planer and shaper, obtaining a flat surface involved much hard work with a chisel and file. Hence, clearly aimed at the amateur and small professional workshop, the "Pittler" would, therefore, in contemporary times, have saved much tedious (and less accurate) handwork. Advertised at £12 complete with power cross feed by the usual indexing ratchet mechanism, a small saving could presumably have been had by omitting this very useful feature. As the machine illustrated in the sales flyer from 1900 reproduced below has several detail differences to those in the photographs, the machine must have been sold for many years. These differences point to either a steady, detailed development of its construction - including the fitting of a micrometer dial on the toolbox down-feed screw - or Mr George Adams arranging its manufacture by another company.
In addition to his ambitiously-branded "Pittler", George Adams also sold the "Polygon", though he failed to mention its name in the descriptive text and instead called it his "No,2". Different to any other Polygon seen by the writer, the GA version was machined with a cylindrical base that fitted into a cast-iron socket bolted to the bench. The arrangement allowed the complete head unit to be swivelled - which may or may not have proved to be a useful function. It also appears that two forms of the table were available: one with rather large standard T-slots, the other with the T-slots resembling the shape of a pear. If the shaper in this modified form was made by the makers, Messrs Hunters Ltd. of 16-18 St. Bride Street, London - no surviving sales literature has been found for them - or modified by George Adams himself is not known. One version of the Polygon offered by GAwas more unusual still and combined the ram assembly with an ordinary bench vice; in 1903 it was listed at £10 : 10s : 0d and described as the "Shaper and fitter's vice combined"
Although today largely replaced by the small vertical milling machine, there is still a place in the enthusiast's workshop for a small shaper. As the writer never tires of pointing out, in the hands of a more knowledgeable and skilful enthusiast and, with sharp tools, it is quite astonishing what a variety of useful work these little machines can do. One might imagine that using a hand-operated shaper, even a little one like the Pittler, is hard work, but this is not the case - though there are three basic points to get right: the first is tool sharpness, the closer to razor-sharp the better, with frequent attention to the top edge by an oil stone to maintain it; the second is to resist the temptation to move the handle too quickly, while also taking time taken to establish the best rate for the job in hand. For example, fifty to sixty strokes a minute by hand on a 5 to 6-inch stroke machine might feel comfortable but, allowing for lost time at the end of each half stroke, this gives a tool speed of over 60 feet/minute - which is 30% greater than that recommended for high-speed steel on cast iron. Experimenting with slower strokes will, surprisingly, often produce better results. Finally, the third consideration, which is two rolled into one, cutting depth and feed rate: it is possible, if you have the patience, to obtain an almost mirror finish with a very fine cut and the slowest possible feed - but, it does take time.
Other small hand-operated shapers available during the 20th century included the Adept, Alexander, Arrow, Benson, Boynton, Bradley, E.W.Cowell, Drummond, Flexispeeed, George-Adams-Pittler, Graves, Liverpool Castings & Tool Supply, Omerod, Perfecto, Polygon, Portass, Rapid-Lime, Robblak, and Tom Senior.