As a case study consider the following recent purchases. I traded a small lathe that I was trying to sell for $300 for my 9-inch no name brand shaper. At the annual Orange Engine show I purchased a very nice Rhodes 7-inch shaper for $150. When I told this to some club members at the next meeting I found out that on that very same weekend one fellow also purchased a 7-inch Rhodes for $75 at an auction that was primarily wood working tools. I obtained a 7-inch Logan for $250. I got a 6-inch shaper casting kit (saved it from the scrap heap) for $50.00. Rob McDougall found a 7-inch South Bend for $300 that had rust but no wear. Steve Lovely got his 16-inch Potter and Johnson recently for $40. Then he went on to spend double that amount just for the wood necessary to mount the beast in his pickup bed. A 24-inch shaper was recently advertised here for free. On the high end I've seen a 7-inch South Bend advertised for $1,450, and I think it sold for that. On the low end I've talked to several guys who have had their shapers given to them.
Usually the bigger they are the cheaper they are. Most amateurs are looking for the 7-inch shapers. From a used machinery dealer you should expect to pay somewhere in the $500 to $1,000 dollar range. Is it worth the extra expense to purchase through a dealer? Only you can decide that. The dealer is not getting rich on small shaper sales and he is taking the risk and making sure you get a good machine. They will stand by their sales and make sure you are a satisfied customer. Having a dealer you know and trust can be helpful when later you want him to watch for some special accessory. On the other hand the Rust Hunt is something that many of us enjoy. Pulling out a sad looking shaper from under age-old debris and spending the next week with WD40 and Scotch Brites is very rewarding.
Consider building one. The Gingery shaper is a nice one and its plans are available in book from Lindsay Publications. It is a bargain and several guys have made shapers to this design.
Consider joining a club and let your desire for a shaper be known there. It didn't take Rob McDougall long to find a shaper after he asked. Along those lines remember that most shapers spend their days collecting dust. In a large club like NEMES you will see guys selling off the shaper that they had to have two years before. Some times because they got a bigger one. More often because they found they were not using it.
Keep sending email with questions and interesting shaper stories.
My email address is KayPatFisher@gmail.com.