The answer is no. Don't even think about it. Although shapers are relatively inexpensive and frequently even given away you will not be a happy camper if your first serious metal working machine is a shaper. It is true that with patience and love you can create almost anything with a shaper. But you'll never replace a mill.
A shaper makes a wonderful addition to your workshop after you have the real necessities. It can be fun and educational. Additionally most shaper owners pick them up for next to nothing and do some serious cleanup and sometimes rebuilding. This can prove to be an interesting adventure.
Another frequently asked question is "What things are shapers good at making?"
Shapers are good at making flat things, and keyways. Additionally shapers are the only machines that can make inside keyways, and inside gears. You can cobble some way to make inside keyways and gears without a shaper such as using a tail stock ram to cut inside stuff on a lathe but it isn't natural! ! Also in a small shop shapers are a very inexpensive way of making normal (external) gears. This is because you can grind a tool bit to the shape of the gear tooth and save the expensive purchase of an involute gear cutter.
I received some good questions in my email, which I promise to get to in a future column.
Keep sending email with questions and interesting shaper stories.
My email address is KayPatFisher@gmail.com.