What is the best kind of router table/shaper?

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Forum topic by RJS posted 07-18-2011 01:20 AM 3871 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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89 posts in 2811 days

07-18-2011 01:20 AM

Topic tags/keywords: router table help question

So, I am looking for a router table/shaper. I have no idea what to buy! I am only a every now and then, when I have extra time woodworker. I want quality, so I am not frustrated with the cheap ones, but I do not want the professional woodworker quality. I do not think that I am talented enough to make my own. There is a Delta shaper for $100 at a local pawn shop that looks pretty good, or maybe a new Craftsman? I would like to spen less than $200. Any help would be appreciated.

-- RJ

11 replies so far

View rustynails's profile


744 posts in 2494 days

#1 posted 07-18-2011 02:06 AM

One thing to consider when looking at a router table and a shaper is that router bits cost a lot less than shaper heads and some shapers need 220 power. So if you are only wood working now and then I would look more into a router table set up. A whole lot cheaper in the long run.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2655 days

#2 posted 07-18-2011 03:27 AM

Ryobi has a combination router table/router for less than $100 that is probably the best value for the money. I used one for a long time before building my BIG router table and had no problems with it.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3124 days

#3 posted 07-18-2011 04:02 PM

He did say, “router table/shaper” so it’s hard to know what he means.

Those are slightly different tools, but I’ve never seen much of a reason to opt for the shaper unless you are in the need of making things like fluted or complex-profiled molding on a regular basis. In other words, for the typical woodworker hobbyist who builds furniture and boxes, you’ll likely want a router-based setup.

My father has a shaper and it usually goes untouched…and because he has a shaper, he’s actually missing out on the simple power of the router table…since bits are relatively cheap, there’s a LOT you can accomplish with them. So, his projects are limited in a since to what his shaper will do and the cutters he has on hand. My thinking is that the sheer selection of affordable bits means that you’ll fine more ways to utilize the tool in your projects.

Shaper cutting heads can be costly. If you do 1/4” round overs most of the time, the router is all you need…and it allows you to customize the table/enclosure it goes in…which is very important if you want to explore things like Incra positioners and the like. But since shapers have huge cutters that can route out a board with intricate profiles in one pass, then it would lend itself quite well in a production environment. However, there’s nothing that you could do with a shaper that I couldn’t do on the router table…it just takes more than one bit and more than one pass.

-- jay,

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3124 days

#4 posted 07-18-2011 04:19 PM

cr: I’m not certain that a router table that does what you need it to do is all that inexpensive, especially when you look at the time and cost that it takes to build some of the router table projects here at LJs. My thinking is that you build your own table for customizing…not so much for cost-savings…unless, of course, you just slap a router plate on a board.

RJS: What type of table saw do you have and how big is your shop?

-- jay,

View EEngineer's profile


1101 posts in 3579 days

#5 posted 07-18-2011 05:30 PM

I owned a cheap Craftsman router and their simple 4 legged router table for years. It did almost everything I could ask of it. Mostly, the router never left the table. Most things seemed to be simpler/safer on a router table. The few times the router left that table were for things that were just too big for that little router table. As a weekend warrior, the cheap Ryobi setup gfadym mentioned may be all you need.

I eventually took a step up with a full size router table (Norm Abram’s design) and a router lift, the difference was phenomenal! but the lift alone was more than $200, which is the most you wanted to spend. But I just got to the point where I wanted more table, more precision and more stability.

In spite of cr1’s comments about router tables, I will never own a shaper. Everyone’s comments about the versatility and cheaper cost of router bits is to the point. A decent router table does everything my shop needs for less cost. The shaper just doesn’t add enough more that I would ever consider it. But I am a weekend warrior, too. Now, if I was doing production work…

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View PurpLev's profile


8534 posts in 3614 days

#6 posted 07-18-2011 05:46 PM

there are good points to consider shaper/router-table. but the cutters shouldn’t be one of the factors as there are collets for router bits that fit them on shapers so you could use router cutters on shapers – but not vise versa making the shaper somewhat more versatile.

I like using the shaper more as it hums as opposed to screaming at you, but for smaller bits (joinery and small grooves) I’ll use the router table.

the nice thing about a router table, is that if you want something cheap and quick and that can be stored out of the way, you can use a router table top with an insert (or with no insert) and drop it on top of 2 foldable horse benches. all of that can be then put away and without taking floor space. you can always later build up a dedicated table for it.

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

View Bertha's profile


13521 posts in 2659 days

#7 posted 07-18-2011 06:11 PM

Purp, the sreaming versus humming speaks to me. I use an overpowered router in my router table and I run it at slow speeds. It’s got a slow start feature and revs up to a quiet hum. I would never have expected the sound to be so pleasing to me but having owned a shaper, I grew to hate that screaming from the router.

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

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3124 days

#8 posted 07-18-2011 08:23 PM

Now THAT I did not know, Purp! Gotta love LJs for all you can learn.

Even so, I’m not so sure how versatile a shaper is if it can’t accommodate my Incra fence! I also think that many shapers are too limiting on table top space…it really cool to be able to use my whole Unisaw table top if I need it for certain cuts just because I opted for a router table extension with my saw.

That’s what I meant about router tables…you can design or build them to suit your needs.

-- jay,

View RJS's profile


89 posts in 2811 days

#9 posted 07-19-2011 12:59 AM

Cosmicsniper – I have a “antique” Craftsman table saw that was given to me, my shop is one side of a two car garage, and there is a car in the other bay, not running, of course. I am not needing a commercial grade shaper, I only asked because I found a small bench top shaper made by Delta at a pawn shop, it has an adjustment for the blade height on the outside of the machine, and is about the size of a medium Craftsman router table. I have also seen a Ryobi router table and router on Craigs List for 50 bucks. I just want to learn more about the best value in a tool for me.
gfadvm – Based on your advise the used ryobi looks pretty good to me.
Space is always an issue, so I need one that I can put up somewhere out of the way, or even in the storage building if I need the garage to work on a car.
Thanks to all for the advise and education.

-- RJ

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2202 posts in 3124 days

#10 posted 07-19-2011 05:13 AM


“Antique” Craftman machines are the BEST Craftsman machines. The reason I asked is because a lot of people opt to put the router in an extension wing of the table saw, designed, of course, to fit a router and its plate. It both saves space AND give you the table saw real estate if you need it. The disadvantage to that Is you will have to convert to and from the different modes of operation, which might or might not be a chore. The other disadvantage is that you’d have to devise another storage system for your router accessories…people often design their standalone router tables to hold all such accessories.

Now, this could be an option for you…you use some MDF extending off your table saw and you route out a rabbeted hole to accommodate the router plate. In this way, you have a solid, flat, yet VERY economical table…letting you put more money into a good router…I recommend a 2 1/4 horse Bosch 1617 combo set off of Craigslist, which will fit nicely in your budget…but the DeWalt and Porter Cable versions, as well as Triton, Freud, Craftman, and even ryobi and Skil will all get you rolling.

The prerequisite to this is a sturdy table saw, at least a contractor saw or bigger. With a small benchtop model, you could easily innovate an enclosure/cabinet for that saw that drops into a bigger table, whereas quite naturally, you’d have your router table as well.

-- jay,

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3512 days

#11 posted 07-19-2011 05:46 AM

Delta should be a higher quality then what you will find with ryobi. Especially the older delta machines. The used delta bench top shaper would serve you well. Go to mlcs woodworking and compare prices between router bits and shaper cutters and you will find prices for shaper cutters very reasonable and not much more then router bits. I have extensive experience with a shaper and have own many router tables and shapers far outshine routers for quality of cut, precision, safety, pure power, induction motor, etc… i have had router bits break on me, I have had collets come loose allowing the bit to near become airborne. The shaper has a better design, making cutters coming loose near impossible.

Plus by the time investments are made building a router table worth anything a good used shaper could have been purchased on cl. And if one weee to buy a cheap router table it would leave a person wanting more or wishing for better.

If you truly want to save money in the long run, buy something worth having that is good quality. If you get a good 1 or 1 1/2 hp grizzly, jet, older model delta or older model cradtsman shaper with a 1/2” spindle you will never look back or regret. Those shapers will do it all as far as you would need. They can be had on cl for between 100.00 and 200.00. But to buy a cheap router table will place you right back into the market for an upgrade down the road, thereby costing you more in the long run.

-- .

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