Shaper or Router

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Forum topic by Mike posted 07-04-2011 01:35 AM 2603 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 2678 days

07-04-2011 01:35 AM

I have begun setting up shop again at my new house, have been comparing tools and prices.
Do most hobbyist wood workers have a dedicated router table rather than a sharper. If so why? I can buy a 1.5 hp sharper from Grizzly for $639.00. I will easily spend that for a good 3.5 hp router, and router lift, after that I still have to build or buy a table top, fence and cabinet. I have used a 1.5 hp router from Grizzly and they have a lot of power, easily swing a 3 in cutter. Probably as strong as any 3.5 hp router. I would like to hear what others think, you know pros and cons.

-- Mike

15 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)


10476 posts in 3669 days

#1 posted 07-04-2011 02:12 AM

Why do hobbiests try to do it all with a router?

one word: marketing.

Marketing the router and router accessories as allowed start-up
manufacturers to create demand for products that professional
shops wouldn’t bother with – hence the huge range of nicely
engineered aluminum router table systems. The reality of the
way most cuts are made in woodworking that can make you
money is very different from the way setups are portrayed
by sellers of router accessories. A lot of guys are just interested
in tools and do very little truly fine woodworking but have a lot
of time invested in fiddling with tools. 80% of the jigs and
gimmicks sold to the hobby market are redundant or unnecessary,

In the router’s favor router tooling is cheaper.

If you’re interested in shapers, get one. They are much more
satisfying to use than a router table in my opinion.

For some cuts you’ll want a router table anyway, because it’s more
convenient and the cutters are available for smaller profiles and
inexpensive – different roundovers for example.

You don’t need to overthink or overbuild a router table however.

After years of doing this stuff I’ve never owned a 3 HP router and
don’t really want to.

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1880 posts in 3582 days

#2 posted 07-04-2011 02:16 AM

It all depends on what you want to build.

-- Joe

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philip marcou

264 posts in 2618 days

#3 posted 07-04-2011 07:07 AM

I think Loren has it nuts on….
Without giving it too much thought right now I will just add that the serious furniture maker or woodworker will want to have both a router or two and a shaper (aka SPINDLE MOULDER). The two may operate on the same principles but there things one can do that the other cannot, and one can be much more convenient to use than the other in certain cases.
And I don’t think even a powerful router is a suitable base to swing a fat 3 inch carbide tipped cutter on.
I also feel that the shaper is a safe machine provided the user has had practical instruction and not just read some books or and flipped a switch.
Let’s see what develops here now…..

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1643 posts in 2654 days

#4 posted 07-04-2011 03:07 PM

For what its worth, I have an old craftsman shaper with a “whopping” .5hp motor. I’ve fixed it up and used it a handful of times recently. I can definitley say that it beats the pants off most router table rigs, although a REALLY expensive table and fence, with a 3+hp router might have it beat. I paid well under $100 for mine and it came with some HSS cutters. I’ve bought a few carbide cutters from grizzly as well. The cutters can get pricey, but you don’t need many. Using spacers and rub collars, and/or stacking cutters, you can make a variety of profiles with only a small collection of cutters.
As said, my shaper is limited by the small motor, but is still plenty capable for my small-scale needs. I’d imagine a 1.5hp machine could accomplish pretty much anything you needed it to do…....really fast.
And if nothing else, a shaper is just a fun machine to use.

View Mike's profile


9 posts in 2678 days

#5 posted 07-04-2011 03:14 PM

Thanks for the replies.
One of the things I am finding interesting is that a good router table is just a functional using a 2 ¼, 2 ½ hp router rather than a 3 ½ hp router because most router operations only require small bits. Of course this would lower the cost of building a router table. Do you think it is safe to assume that most wood working hobbyists don’t have the larger router? I guess there are ways around using a larger bit, say for making cabinet doors, say on the table saw etc.

-- Mike

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2715 days

#6 posted 07-04-2011 03:22 PM

Agree with all above. I’ve owned both and the only argument for the router table is the expense of custom shaper blades, assuming you need them. I’ve seen 100 shaper blades on CL for $100 before. I also think you’re “nuts on”, as Philip would say, about router table power. I’ve bought into the power marketing, having a 3+hp under the table but I don’t find that it can do anything that the lowly PC690 it replaced couldn’t do. Shapers have a big footprint, but so do most freestanding router tables. I went with an extension wing router table, rather than a shaper, due to space constraints. I sure miss my shaper, though.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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philip marcou

264 posts in 2618 days

#7 posted 07-04-2011 10:41 PM

Something to bear in mind when comparing the two machines: router horse power is not the same as the hp on shaper motors, which have a different type of motor. The one cannot continuously maintain the stated power output whilst the other can.
We need a boffin here : I guess that a 1/2hp induction motor equates to something like a 1.5hp router type motor?

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philip marcou

264 posts in 2618 days

#8 posted 07-05-2011 08:38 AM

Mike asks “Do you think it is safe to assume that most wood working hobbyists don’t have the larger router”.
I don’t think it safe to assume that at all, given the (mistaken) notion that more is better ie a big fat 3+ hp router is better than a smaller one. In my experience a small to medium sized router is more versatile and convenient to use. The usual run of furniture making tasks seem to require small diameter cutters rather than helicopters, and you don’t have to use a table to perform these tasks.
Right now I am making frame and panels for a kitchen- all routing is free hand and done with a medium power machine . I use my shaper to make the tongues on the panels in preference to the router for this.

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204 posts in 2576 days

#9 posted 07-05-2011 09:34 AM

if it was me i would going for the spindle…i find that routers have their place and are a very useful machine…but somewhat tedious. spindles used properly and often with some imagination, can achieve great results and very quickly.we have 3 at work as well as 1 twin spindle and that is a magic machine!

-- just get stuck in and have a go!!!

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philip marcou

264 posts in 2618 days

#10 posted 07-05-2011 10:27 AM

Ah yes Mike, there was one other thing: most diy woodworms have routers and not shapers because they have been told that shapers can kill them… (;) (;)

View BarneyTomB's profile


28 posts in 2539 days

#11 posted 07-05-2011 11:32 AM

It all depends on what you want to do. I love my shaper but there are times when it is a lot quicker to use my router. Most home users use a router because of space or rather lack of space. It is a lot easier to put a medium sized router table away in the shelf than moving the shaper out of the corner. The only tool I have that has a permanent spot in my workshop is my workbench. Everything and I do mean everything else is either on casters or bench top shelves that clamp to my workbench when in use. If I’m doing several doors or rails I bring my shaper out of the corner but if I’m just doing one or maybe two then my router table with its clampable base is a lot quicker and handier.

-- Profanity; The last refuge of the limited intellect.

View HorizontalMike's profile


7758 posts in 2935 days

#12 posted 07-05-2011 01:24 PM

FYI, if going the router/router-table route then I might suggest looking into Triton routers because they have their own thru-the-table lifting mechanism and that can save you some serious $$$ since you will NOT need the extra ”lift” mechanism.

FWIW, I now have both the 2 1/4hp and the 3 1/4hp versions and that theoretically would allow me to use both in the table though I just leave the larger router permanently table-mounted. This also means I now have an extra crank handle as a back-up.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 3268 days

#13 posted 07-05-2011 07:40 PM

I find it interesting that people started using router tables because they couldn’t afford a shaper. Space didn’t really have much to do with it. Now router tables have lifts, 3 1/4 hp routers, cast iron tops and dedicated cabinets. You can buy a shaper, new or used, for less than most of these tricked out router tables.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View PurpLev's profile


8536 posts in 3670 days

#14 posted 07-05-2011 07:58 PM

I think it depends on what you will use it for. If it’s for edge shaping and large cutters, go with a shaper as it can run longer, quieter, and cooler and can handle the larger cutters with ease. If it’s for joinery purposes like dovetails, fingerjoints and other things that require small cutters (that will need to run at higher speeds) use a router table.

space wise, both will take the same floor space, and cost wise they will both end up costing about he same as well – purpose wise should be the deciding factor.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Bertha's profile


13529 posts in 2715 days

#15 posted 07-05-2011 08:04 PM

I would never put a 3” panel raiser in my 3+HP variable speed cast iron router table. Maybe I could, but it’s too scary a prospect for me. That’s shaper territory, in my opinion.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

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