Can anyone offer advice on what brand, motor size (I do not have 3 phase), spindle size etc. shaper I should buy? I will be using it for cabinet doors, raised panels, creating moldings, custom edges etc. I already have a router table for small stuff. I am in Western North Carolina and have found very little if anything on Craig's list.
Your a man after my own heart. I love a nice powerful shaper but as mentioned the power feeder is a MUST. Just imagine a 5" diameter raised panel cutter spinning at about 8000 RPM and then feeding a big heavy plank of solid hardwood through the machine BY HAND! I think not. It's way too scary and the chance of failure goes up. The power feeder make the work much safer and more accurate.
The shapers I used to have in my production shop were 3HP 3ph with 1" spindles. I don't remember the HP of the power feeds, but at least 1/2hp. The brand was Powermatic and the spindles were not changeable. I just am not comfortable with anything but a solid, one piece spindle for safety reasons. I had the smaller shapers for the smaller cutter.
The 3HP was adaquate for most tasks but for making large cuts in hard wood I would have to make two passes, and sometimes three. Sometimes, I would set up the power feeder and some feather boards and feed the stock the same direction as the cutter head rotation for a perfectly smooth cut in difficult grain. This can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing.
I used to mill a lot of man-doors out of both hard wood and soft wood and used shapers a lot. They are great tools if set up and operated properly.
In my smaller one-man shop, I now just have a small shaper with a 1/4hp power feeder. I'd like to have a bigger shaper but haven't justified it yet as I am not really doing production work. As far as making my own cabinet doors, I've done them with the equipment I have but for a job of any size I have found it much more cost effective to buy the doors from one of the many custom door makers that are out there.