Shaper Question From A Beginning Woodworker

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Forum topic by GAVol posted 04-08-2010 07:53 PM 1860 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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11 posts in 2444 days

04-08-2010 07:53 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shaper router table jet jws-22cs

I’ve read a lot of posts on shapers vs router tables. Most seem to be written by more experienced woodworkers who have a good idea of what they want and why.

Background: – I’m a fairly new woodworker. – The next addition I’d like to make to my shop is either a router table or a shaper. – At this point, I’m not sure how I will use either one because I’m not sure where my interest in woodworking will take me the next few years. – A shaper is attractive to me because it seems easy to adjust the height of the bits, has a split fence, a cast iron top, can use either router bits or shaper bits, it is a stand alone unit, and people say they are quieter. But all I know is what I’ve read. – I bought a Delta DJ20 jointer a couple of years ago at a real good price. I’ve come to appreciate what having a really good machine is like and am finding more and more uses for it. – I’m trying to figure out if purchasing a shaper would provide me with a similar experience.

I have the opportunity to purchase a used Jet JWS-22CS 1 1/2 HP Shaper for $400.

1. Can a beginner start of by using a shaper?
2. Which is easier for a beginner to learn how to use – a shaper or a router table?
3. Which is the best long-term investment?
4. Are there any limitations to a shaper vs a router table?
5. What questions have I not asked that I should be asking?

Thanks for your help.

16 replies so far

View jerryz's profile


164 posts in 2695 days

#1 posted 04-08-2010 08:19 PM

A shaper is a tool that is more adecuate for industrial production runs. So if you will be doing hundreds or thousands of pieces all the same then the shaper is for you.
If instead you will be doing smaller quantities then the router is more than enough for you.

In order to compare apples to apples please…..
Remember that in this case you are looking at a table mounted router and the motor should be the biggest available.

As Rob stated the shaper cutters are far more expensive that the router counterparts they are also more massive. Not all profiles or shapes are suitable to be made into a shaper cutter so your available selection is more reduced than the router bits you can purchase….

View GAVol's profile


11 posts in 2444 days

#2 posted 04-08-2010 09:44 PM

Thanks for the feedback. My current plan is to use only router bits and use it like a router table since it comes with 1/4” and 1/2” collets. I would be doing small projects.

Regarding cost, a good router, router table, table insert, fence, etc., can cost $300 and up. So $400 for a shaper vs about the same for a router setup… which is a better long-term investment?

I just don’t want to get something that I will regret buying because it is difficult to use or limited in what it can do.

Also, here’s a link to the unit I’m looking at Jet JWS-22cs except I’m buying a used machine.

View Uncle_Salty's profile


183 posts in 2490 days

#3 posted 04-08-2010 10:09 PM


Shapers vs. Routers is really not a fair comparison. While many of the tasks are similar, the scopes of the capabilites of both machines are radically different.

As has been mentioned, the costs of shaper knives will initially limit the profile variations that will be available to you, unless the ”$400 Shaper” comes with a mixed and varied set of knives. If that is the case, hands down, the Shaper mentioned is a great buy. And heck… as you said… even without the knives, a good $400 Shaper would be a good purchase.

The router is much more versatile. Decent router bit sets can be purchased at good prices, and you can buy some pretty substantial router tables with lift systems for not a tremendous amount of money. And the portability of the router table and the router itself lends the router to a lot of applications that the shaper can’t touch.

Don’t get me wrong: I have a shaper, and I use it as needed. But for most projects, the router table will get used several times and the shaper awaits the next run of base board trim, door moldings, or door joints.

BTW… the Delta DJ20 is a nice rig!

View GAVol's profile


11 posts in 2444 days

#4 posted 04-09-2010 05:21 AM

I decided not to purchase the shaper. From the feedback , a router table seems to be better suited for what I will probably be doing. Thanks for the feedback and suggestions.

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3191 days

#5 posted 04-09-2010 08:38 AM

I think you should re-consider buying a shaper over a router table. I own the Jet shaper you were looking at and it is a great machine. I did a tool review if you had not seen it. I feel shapers are better than router tables because: They are much quieter, you can use both shaper cutters and router bits, there is less vibation, you have different speeds, they have a forward and a reverse so you can change direction for less blow out and they last longer. Check out Tools Plus price.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3191 days

#6 posted 04-09-2010 08:52 AM

Tools Plus is $50 cheaper than Rockler and more when Jet has tool sales. I bought mine for $800 when they were on sale. I am sure others think the router table is the best way to go but I like my shaper better. I will say that having both would be nice so you could pick which one would work best for certain operations. But I do not have the money or space to have both.

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View rhett's profile


734 posts in 3084 days

#7 posted 04-09-2010 02:11 PM

If you already have a nice router, and space, then buying a “shaper” and using it as a router table is an excellent idea and a no brainer if you ask me. I believe that the people pushing router tables did not que into the fact you will be using this as a router table. Yes shaper cutters are more expensive than router bits, but that is not a concern for you right since this would be a router table. The shaper will have a cast iron top, router table wont unless you buy one, more than $400. Shaper will have hand crank height adjustment, router will require a lift kit which that in itself can be more than $400. Shaper has a split fence with dust collection, router table will require the purchase of one. Shaper has independent motor with reverse, router has a simple induction motor. Heavier…... Even the most experienced woodworker had to use a shaper for the first time once in their life, so skill set should not determine which tools you should equip your shop with. A shaper is simply a router on steroids and will be a machine you can grow with. There is nothing a router table can do that a shaper cannot, but there are things a shaper can do that a router table cannot.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View MrHudon's profile


114 posts in 2627 days

#8 posted 04-09-2010 02:34 PM

1. Can a beginner start of by using a shaper? Yes, I had a shaper years before a router.
2. Which is easier for a beginner to learn how to use – a shaper or a router table? Shaper
3.Which is the best long-term investment? Shaper
4. Are there any limitations to a shaper vs a router table? Router can be removed from the table.
5. What questions have I not asked that I should be asking? A good router and table set-up will be in the $400 range.

-- Mark,

View ND2ELK's profile


13495 posts in 3191 days

#9 posted 04-09-2010 03:30 PM

rhett makes some very good points for owning a shaper over a router table I did not mention.

One more thing: Yes shaper cutters are more expensive than router bits but you buy the cutters you need for the job you are working on. As you do different jobs you build up your cutter collection. I could never see buying router bit sets either and do the same thing as the cutters.

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Wiley's profile


71 posts in 2448 days

#10 posted 04-09-2010 04:10 PM

Rockler is running a promotion right now where you can get a free Porter Cable router with the purchase of a router table package including table, fence, and lift for $349. I’ve used the table package before and it’s very good quality.

-- "When you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think straight" - Inherit the Wind

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2964 days

#11 posted 04-09-2010 04:58 PM

I just skimmed this forum since I am at work. We run a 3 hp shaper and a router table in our shop. The router table gets far less use but just yesterday we gave the router table a good workout on some small task we had that was better suited for the router table. A router table does not cost much at all actually. Our router table is set into a cabinet that I built and set right next to my TS and so I use the back side of the TS fence as the main fence for the router table. I paid 99.00 for the Frued 2 1/4 hp router a while back with above the table adjustments. I personally started my woodworking hobby using a router table a ton. If I were to do it again I would start with the router table because it is something you will always find a need for and down the road add the shaper if you feel you need that kind of power. We only use our shaper for building doors mainly. Just our 2 cents.

-- .

View End_Grain's profile


95 posts in 2554 days

#12 posted 04-09-2010 05:40 PM

Shaper knives are more expensive than router bits. This issue always seems to come up in this discussion and it is a fact. What I don’t understand is that I can run every 1/2” and 1/4” bit on my 3hp shaper so I never see why this is an issue when deciding on which. Plus if I ever get a wild hair someday, I can run knives for making doors. That to me is a bit more versatile than a router table. I started of using a 3 hp shaper that I purchased used for $300.00. I wish all my stationary equipment ran as quiet and vibration free as my shaper. I like the sliding table feature that I hardly ever use and the fact that it is reversible. Really, try getting a router table that can do all the things a decent shaper can do.

-- My greatest fear is that when I die, my wife will sell all my stuff for what I told her I bought it for.

View doyoulikegumwood's profile


384 posts in 3409 days

#13 posted 04-09-2010 05:51 PM

this comes up all the time why guys don’t get this still astonishes me go with the shaper it can run router bits

-- I buy tools so i can make more money,so ican buy more tools so I can work more, to make more money, so I can buy more tool, so I can work more

View SnowyRiver's profile


51452 posts in 2897 days

#14 posted 04-09-2010 06:05 PM

I would vote for the shaper too. It also runs a bit lower rpms and is much quieter than a router. One thing you might consider is look at Ebay or Craigs list for a good shaper. There are frequently excellent used ones on there for not much more than a complete router table setup.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2400 days

#15 posted 04-09-2010 06:46 PM

I would go with the shaper myself. I have used router tables for years, and wish I would have just gone with the shaper instead. You can use either shaper or router bits in the shaper. With the router bits you will find that you’ll want the 1/2” shank bits for most of your larger bits anyway. Not saying router tables won’t get you there, but in the long run you won’t regret the purchase of the shaper either. You’ll find once you use either shaper or router that you will use it more than you thought you would. There aren’t very many projects that I don’t use the router table on.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

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