School me please: Differences between a Router Table vs. Shaper

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Forum topic by DocGrins posted 08-20-2015 03:41 PM 898 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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16 posts in 466 days

08-20-2015 03:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question router

I’ve seen shapers setup and used in cabinet shops before, and I own and use a simple router table setup. So if shapers are so much more expensive, what are the differences and why would a small woodworking shop need one vs a good router table setup with a good strong router strong enough to be capable of large panel cuts or forming molding?

-- DocGrins, Pendleton Indiana

13 replies so far

View shipwright's profile


7080 posts in 2215 days

#1 posted 08-20-2015 03:43 PM

Just size and power really.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View CharlesA's profile


2973 posts in 1215 days

#2 posted 08-20-2015 03:45 PM

Q. A woodworker wants to know if there is any real advantage to getting a shaper. He wonders if there are any operations on a shaper that he can’t duplicate with a good router, router table and an Incra Jig?

A. (Michael Dresdner) “You can move the same amount of dirt with a 1/2-ton pickup truck as you can with a 2-ton pickup … it will just take more trips. A shaper typically has a much larger motor and spindle. It does the same thing but can take larger cuts — both in depth and height — in one pass. It also requires cutters that are, by and large, much more expensive than router bits. The prevailing issue will be the same as it always is when you decide how heavy-duty a tool you need: is the speed and durability worth the money?”


-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View waho6o9's profile


7115 posts in 1994 days

#3 posted 08-20-2015 03:52 PM

In custom shops one can grind different profiles for moldings using a shaper,

not so much with router tables.

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

3839 posts in 1911 days

#4 posted 08-20-2015 04:13 PM

When I’ve heard experienced folks talk about the difference, it’s most often described as night and day. Shapers have reversible motors, you can put the cutters on upside down and cut a different profile in many cases. As someone mentioned custom shaper cutters are quite common (I know you can get custom router bits). The shaper cutters are normally quite a bit larger and more easily resharpened. There’s probably a dozen other advantages I’ve forgotten, none of them have convinced me to switch or add a shaper to the shop. A lot of times you’ll hear someone exclaim they can buy a nice shaper for the price of the more expensive router tables, and that’s true as far as it goes. But look at the cost of the tooling and add in enough to cover the router bits you have it quickly gets more expensive.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View pintodeluxe's profile


4824 posts in 2231 days

#5 posted 08-20-2015 04:35 PM

I use a router table, and yes some operations like locking miters can take several passes. If I had a shaper I think it would take a similar number of passes, not due to power, but due to the nature of the white oak I use. It will tend to chipout if you take deep cuts, so it makes sense to take several light passes.
I use a 13 amp Freud in the router table and I suspect it is all I will ever need. I even bought a backup Freud router in case the first ever gives up.
Good luck with it.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View johnstoneb's profile


2104 posts in 1590 days

#6 posted 08-20-2015 04:39 PM

+1! shipwright and CharlesA

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View MrRon's profile


3891 posts in 2661 days

#7 posted 08-20-2015 05:24 PM

What has been said about shapers being more robust with larger motors is true, but in some ways, a router table works out better. They usually have larger tables than shapers that can be an asset when handling large pieces. You also have the versatility of being able to use the router hand held, something you can’t do with a shaper. I have both in my shop, but the router table gets the most use. Another plus for the router is the variable speed. Shapers run at a fixed speed to accomodate large diameter cutters. Small router size bits can be held in a shaper, but there is not enough speed to get a good clean cut.

View 01ntrain's profile


134 posts in 488 days

#8 posted 08-20-2015 09:41 PM

Just make sure you use some type of a hold-down sled or a power-feeder.

I had a friend who lost 2.5 of his fingers…..years ago in a shaper accident. He went on to become quite a successful door-maker, but I know it was hard on him the first few years. He swore by sleds and a power feeder, after that. To me, the shaper is the most dangerous tool in a shop.

View Richard's profile


1871 posts in 2108 days

#9 posted 08-20-2015 10:22 PM

Just size and power really.

- shipwright

With Size and Power also comes More Money, and a lot of Shapers use 220 volt and even 3 phase so if you don’t have that you have to factor in the cost to add it if needed . I would think a Production shop would want both , the shaper for the faster work and the ability to resharpen the cutters to extend the life of the expensive Cutters but for most home shops I would think it was just an extra fancy toy to show off.

View shipwright's profile


7080 posts in 2215 days

#10 posted 08-20-2015 11:44 PM

I have a shaper and in all fairness I don’t use it much. When I do however the “night and day” comment above comes in. It just produces a better finished product, faster but I will say that in my opinion shapers are the most dangerous tool in most shops (that have one) and they deserve LOTS of respect and LOTS of planning of operations.

Not often necessary, expensive, dangerous, but the product they put out is just plain better. Just my opinion.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View TheFridge's profile


5672 posts in 904 days

#11 posted 08-20-2015 11:50 PM

Better for production too

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View Logan Windram's profile

Logan Windram

289 posts in 1879 days

#12 posted 08-21-2015 12:11 AM

The difference:

1. Larger bit that can take of material in 1 pass
2. Larger bits that can shape thicker faces, great of you do a lot of shaping after steam bending
3. Power feed- if you have a legit use, you can pop a power feed on a shaper and do large runs
4. I find you don’t have to worry about grain orientation with some of the helical shaper flush cutters… I say that with the idea of a big study jig being used and little material being taken off
5. Shapers can go clockwise and counterclockwise.. Make sure you know before you turn it on!
6. I build jigs for all shaper work to hold the pieces- the machine is just to powerful, and I want my hands up and away from trouble. Also those jigs need to be we’ll build with substantial thought into hold downs or compression fitting of pieces.
7. Citing 6, using a shaper tends to take more time to prepare for its use, but if you are shaping 100 chair legs, it makes sense- one chair, maybe not
8. Shapers are expensive and often require more hefty electrical access.
9. The shaper, to me, is the scariest machine I’ve ever used….. That big bit and spindle can take over pretty quick if you don’t know what your doing.
10. The shaper is also my favorite tool, it broads your capacity and cuts like butter compared to a howling router….

To you question, the shaper is to me, a luxury to have or production need machine. For a hobbyist who does not have to money or need, stick with a bulldog router and buy the best bits you can

View Woodmaster1's profile


732 posts in 2005 days

#13 posted 08-21-2015 12:43 AM

I think what you are using now is working just fine. The projects you have posted are really nice. Save your money and stick with the router table. If you plan to open a cabinet shop get the shaper.

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