Shaper vs Router Table

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petebucy4638

Pete
Corporate Member
I have noticed that router tables have really edged out shapers in the last few years in most home shops and it isn't because router tables are any less expensive. This has been a big reversal from the days when we mostly saw router tables as a space-saving, less expensive route to making moldings and other shapes. Back then you bought a shaper for serious work and the router table was relegated to rounding off stock or cutting a little ogee.

My shop has both - a shaper that I like for heavier and bigger projects and a router that is mounted to the extension on my table saw that I use for lighter jobs. Both serve their purpose well. The router can handle some big bits, but I tend to buy shaper cutters when they get too large and the shaper can use any of my router bits in addition to the conventional cutters.

I figured that there must be some distinct advantages to a router table over a shaper that induces woodworkers to spend much more on them than it would cost them for a good shaper. Maybe because I'm using both of them for different tasks I have missed something?

Pete
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
I think its due to exposure (or overexposure) from the hobby woodworking magazines. Rarely does one see "The Ultimate Shaper" in one of those magazines. One can't build a shaper with normal woodworking tools.

Also, shapers accidents have a tendency to be a little more severe, so there's the legal liability in case the magazine wants to use an inexperienced author.

Tooling up for a shaper to make it useful is a bit more expensive so new woodworkers may be put off by that. A round over router bit can be had on the cheap for $5.00 some times. New woodworkers buy things from advertisers where experienced woodworkers already have a mature shop. Its in a magazine's best interest to attract new woodworkers. It makes their advertising space easier to sell.

Thinking a router table will substitute for a shaper is similar to thinking an upside down circular saw in a piece of plywood will substitute for a table saw....it'll work, but it isn't the same.
 

Marlin

New User
Marlin
For me a shaper offers more options, larger table, and usually the cutters can be sharpened.

I have a 3hp Grizzly but no router table. I do have the bit so I can run router bits in it.
I also have 3 routers for hand work.

Biggest reason I got my shaper was a good router table was going to cost about as much as my used shaper once all the addon were factored in. I got my shaper with router bit attachement for $450.
 

Glennbear

Moderator
Glenn
I acquired a used "old 'arn" Craftsman shaper with a good selection of cutters and have never regretted the purchase. This particular shaper is a 1/2" spindle but does not accept router bits. There are certain jobs that the shaper does better due to the greater horsepower and others are best done on my router table. This company sells 1/2" HSS cutters at a reasonable price: http://corobcutters.com/index.php I should note that I also have a molding head attachment for my TS which the same firm sells cutters for. The molding head gives me a third method of cutting dados, tenons, profiles etc. I recently completed 18 drawers for shop storage and both the router table and the molding head were used for joinery cuts. :wsmile:
 

Bill Clemmons

Bill
Corporate Member
I think its due to exposure (or overexposure) from the hobby woodworking magazines. Rarely does one see "The Ultimate Shaper" in one of those magazines.

Also, shapers accidents have a tendency to be a little more severe, so there's the legal liability in case the magazine wants to use an inexperienced author.

New woodworkers buy things from advertisers where experienced woodworkers already have a mature shop. Its in a magazine's best interest to attract new woodworkers. It makes their advertising space easier to sell.

As always Bob, your experience and perspective on how the magazines think is appreciated. Thank you. :icon_thum

Like several others, I have both a router table and a shaper. Actually, my "router table" is a shaper I bought almost 20 years ago but I use it exclusively for router bits. I picked up the second shaper at an auction about 10 years ago. I rarely use the shaper, but if the router table ever dies, I will have to replace it pretty quickly. I find it quicker and easier to set up than the shaper.

Bill
 

Skymaster

Jack
Senior User
tho u can use routerbits in a shaper they run better in a routertable b cause it is a high speed which a shaper is not. my shaper runs at 8k and 10k where a router runs in the 20k's. routers are universal motors and are light duty tools compared to a shaper.Each has its advantages.:gar-Bi:gar-Bi
 

petebucy4638

Pete
Corporate Member
For me a shaper offers more options, larger table, and usually the cutters can be sharpened.

I have a 3hp Grizzly but no router table. I do have the bit so I can run router bits in it.
I also have 3 routers for hand work.

Biggest reason I got my shaper was a good router table was going to cost about as much as my used shaper once all the addon were factored in. I got my shaper with router bit attachement for $450.

I have a friend who dropped a little of $1k on a router table and heavy-duty router. His goal is to use it for making cabinet doors and even exterior residential door. When I asked why he didn't get a shaper instead, he replied that all of his woodworking buddies had router tables, not shapers.

Pete
 

ehpoole

Administrator
Ethan
This is an issue I've been grappling with for several years as well.

I don't own a shaper, nor do I presently own a 3-1/4HP router. However, at some point in the future I am going to want something better (and more powerful) than my present 2-1/4HP router plus benchtop table -- which is the anticipated need that has had me scratching my head for the past year or so.

If I go the route of building my own router table then I am going to be shelling out roughly $300+ for a new variable-speed 3-1/4 router, then figure another $400-500 for a good quality router lift. Add in the parts and accessories to make a really good fence system, plus the time and materials to build a really nice free-standing router table cabinet.

By the time I add it all up, not considering my time (which is pretty cheap -- this IS a hobby!), I figure I am rapidly closing in on $1000 for a 3-1/4HP router table -- albeit a very nice one -- which puts my in the price range of a decent [new] entry-level shaper OR a very nice used shaper.

If I go with a shaper that accepts 1/2" router bits, then it can do many/most of the same jobs as the larger router table (though the lower RPMs may require a bit more sanding) and I would still have the small benchtop router table with my 2-1/4HP router for those small jobs not well suited to a shaper. The shaper option also expands my options by allowing me to invest in true shaper bits/kits for those profiles I find I use most often, while still retaining the option to use all my assorted 1/2" router bits.

I also find myself wondering if a well setup shaper is not a slightly safer tool to use than a comparable router table. I also don't have to worry so much about possibly overloading/heating a shaper -- induction motors are much less prone to damage -- whereas routers are more easily overheated when run at low RPMs with large bits due to the lower airflow during such periods.

So, lately I have been finding myself leaning very much towards the SHAPER end of the spectrum when the time comes to make that decision/investment.

Just my tormented $0.02 on the subject!
 

Guy in Paradise

New User
Guy Belleman
Shaper

Once I used one for a task, I wondered why I hadn't used one before. Shapers are great. The big cutters can be intimidating, so use of finger guides and spring boards becoming even more important. I find that using the shaper requires a little more planning, but better results.

Of course, a router with more than 2.5 HP ain't something to be casual with either. I am not an engineer, but the shaper just seems to give me better results and as I get better at using the shaper, I tend to use it more.

Lonnie Bird's "The Shaper Handbook" is a must. Lots of great clues on how operate safely.
 

petebucy4638

Pete
Corporate Member
This is an issue I've been grappling with for several years as well.

I don't own a shaper, nor do I presently own a 3-1/4HP router. However, at some point in the future I am going to want something better (and more powerful) than my present 2-1/4HP router plus benchtop table -- which is the anticipated need that has had me scratching my head for the past year or so.

If I go the route of building my own router table then I am going to be shelling out roughly $300+ for a new variable-speed 3-1/4 router, then figure another $400-500 for a good quality router lift. Add in the parts and accessories to make a really good fence system, plus the time and materials to build a really nice free-standing router table cabinet.

By the time I add it all up, not considering my time (which is pretty cheap -- this IS a hobby!), I figure I am rapidly closing in on $1000 for a 3-1/4HP router table -- albeit a very nice one -- which puts my in the price range of a decent [new] entry-level shaper OR a very nice used shaper.

If I go with a shaper that accepts 1/2" router bits, then it can do many/most of the same jobs as the larger router table (though the lower RPMs may require a bit more sanding) and I would still have the small benchtop router table with my 2-1/4HP router for those small jobs not well suited to a shaper. The shaper option also expands my options by allowing me to invest in true shaper bits/kits for those profiles I find I use most often, while still retaining the option to use all my assorted 1/2" router bits.

I also find myself wondering if a well setup shaper is not a slightly safer tool to use than a comparable router table. I also don't have to worry so much about possibly overloading/heating a shaper -- induction motors are much less prone to damage -- whereas routers are more easily overheated when run at low RPMs with large bits due to the lower airflow during such periods.

So, lately I have been finding myself leaning very much towards the SHAPER end of the spectrum when the time comes to make that decision/investment.

Just my tormented $0.02 on the subject!

Shapers can handle some pretty big cutters. They have heavy-duty bearings and very robust motors that can stand a lot of abuse. If and when a shaper motor fails, you have it rebuilt or just buy another motor or less than it would cost to replace your 3.25 hp router. The additional weight of a shaper helps reduce vibration too. My shaper takes up less space than my friends router table.

That said, I think that router tables definitely have a place in the workshop. But I tend to lean toward the smaller tables with smaller routers. My favorite is the router table that is built-in to my Grizzly cabinet saw. It is located in the right cast-iron extension table. I can use the table saw fence with it if needed, but usually I just use a bit with a pilot bearing.

It seems that, for whatever reason, that router tables have crossed over into the gray area between routers and shapers that would probably be better served by a shaper, especially the bigger jobs.

But this is woodworking and we all know that there is more than one way to cut or shape a board. One of my friends sold his table saw a few years back and makes all of his cuts on a 17" bandsaw, a circular saw with a long guide, and a Dewalt compound miter saw. He cuts dados and the like with his router. He does beautiful work without the tool that most of us consider to be the centerpiece of our shops - the table saw.

Pete
 

JimD

Jim
Senior User
A shaper is one of the tools I would like to have but really do not have space for. Another advantage I did not see mentioned is that the larger cutters of a shaper can do more work before they need to be sharpened. Raised panel doors are a bit of a stretch on a router table. I did a whole kitchen for my last house on mine and have done a bunch of cabinets for this house but I still think I am at the top of what I can do on a router table when I do it. I think this would be easier to do well on a shaper. But as a hobbiest, I do this infrequently enough that buying a new bit after a few dozen doors is not such a big deal. And the router table will do a good job if you take small enough bites when shaping the panels. Cope and stick in a single cut is OK for my router table but panel shaping is not.

Another advantage of router tables is the huge variety of bits available.

Jim
 

reprosser

New User
Rick
I only have a small hand held router. I have plenty of room in my shop.

I plan to buy a shaper instead of large router and router table. For the most part, I can do the router table projects on the shaper, but not the other way around.

I like maximum flexibility when the cost is comparable.
 

westisthebest

New User
Chad
I have both shaper and router table. I got a brand new porter cable 3 1/4 hp with the entire jessum set up. This ran over a grand. Then on craigslist, I picked up a shaper, think 3 hp, with a feeder for 1000. The guy gave me his cutters also. I have used the router for almost everything I do, but I got tired of running raised panels in the router and having to take 6 passes. So I finally got the nerve to set up the shaper table with a raised panel bit and ran material through it. At that point I realized how much time I had wasted with the router. I still use the router more than the shaper, for everyday small moldings. But the shaper, I use for raised panels or profiles that at bigger than a inch or so. Just realized I forgot I didn't say why I didn't use the shaper. The second time I was using it I snapped a knife in half and broke the cutter head. Not sure what happened but it scared me enough to not use it for several months. I found part of the knife in my router a few months later when it broke down and took it to get repaired. Apparently the knife shot up the dust collector tube and somehow fell into the router. Anyways, the shaper is definitely scary, but well worth it when you get used to using it.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
A feeder holds the stock hard down on the table and hard up against the fence. That can be done by hand also, but for long stock (over 4'), a feeder is nice. Feather boards, spring boards and other hold downs can be used in place of the feeder easily enough. Shapers have been around for a whole lot longer than power feeders. Shapers were around in the days of leather belts and line shafts.

Feeders just make certain shaper operations a lot less risky and potentially more consistent.

Feeders are great for one man operations up to a point. Feeders don't get tired and sometimes are hard to keep up with.
 

westisthebest

New User
Chad
I probably wouldn't use the shaper without the feeder. I wouldn't feel comfortable. I think if I mess up on the router it is going to tear up my finger. I figure if I mess up on the shaper, I may lose a hand. A little excessive, but you get what I am trying to say. The feeder, as said, keeps the stock against the fence and tight to the table. I get a lot more consistent cuts on it, rather than doing it by hand.
 

bob vaughan

Bob Vaughan
Senior User
..and putting a feeder on a router table is a little abusive to most of the hand routers available today. It can be done and I've done it for some special little jobs that such a setup was needed. The router needs to be one that's fully enclosed in an aluminum body. The ones with the plastic top bearing enclosures deflect too much and risk armature/field coil contact. The old King EZ feed feeders that clamp on the fence work particularly well with a router table. When you've got to round over edges of 20 cutting boards, this option gets real attractive real fast.
 

merrill77

Master Scrap Maker
Chris
I figured that there must be some distinct advantages to a router table over a shaper that induces woodworkers to spend much more on them than it would cost them for a good shaper.

I could not get a decent shaper for what I spent on my router/table. $300 for my Triton (with lift built-in) and $20 in materials for my first router table.

Anyway, I think the answer to this is pretty simple. The shaper is a large up-front investment, whereas the router is much smaller to get started. So for a beginners getting started, you probably buy a router for hand-held use. Then you mount it upside-down in a basic table you can build for <$20 and you've got a cheap shaper (re-using the bits you already have). Then as your skills progress, perhaps you spend $50 and build yourself a nicer table. All along the way, buying more router bits.

Now a few years later, you get tired of taking the router out of the table when you need to use it handheld. Are you going to buy a shaper? You've already got a big investment in router bits, which will go to waste if you buy a shaper. So, you buy a separate router to keep in the table.

At least, that is the most common progression, as I see it.
C
 

FredP

Fred
Corporate Member
I could not get a decent shaper for what I spent on my router/table. $300 for my Triton (with lift built-in) and $20 in materials for my first router table.

Anyway, I think the answer to this is pretty simple. The shaper is a large up-front investment, whereas the router is much smaller to get started. So for a beginners getting started, you probably buy a router for hand-held use. Then you mount it upside-down in a basic table you can build for <$20 and you've got a cheap shaper (re-using the bits you already have). Then as your skills progress, perhaps you spend $50 and build yourself a nicer table. All along the way, buying more router bits.

Now a few years later, you get tired of taking the router out of the table when you need to use it handheld. Are you going to buy a shaper? You've already got a big investment in router bits, which will go to waste if you buy a shaper. So, you buy a separate router to keep in the table.

At least, that is the most common progression, as I see it.
C

I use router bits in my shaper all the time. It came with 3 or 4 spindles [someday I'll get some cutters for it] and 1/4" and 1/2" collets. The shaper runs slower so I have to slow my feed rate down but it is a lot less noisy and the dust hood works well. [better than my R/T's ever did....]:gar-Bi
 
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