Undecided between router table and shaper - need help

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Forum topic by MoHuggins posted 11-01-2011 04:59 PM 2794 views 0 times favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MoHuggins's profile


7 posts in 2432 days

11-01-2011 04:59 PM

A little back ground on me before I get onto my real question. I am new to lumberjocks and I think this is a great site. All of you have so much knowledge and I am looking forward to being a member here for life.

I am building my woodworking shop and I am doing so through Grizzly tools so far. I have purchased a cabinet saw G0690, and yesterday I received in my 15” planer G0453PX. I bought two 3 1/2 HP Milwaukee routers and at first I planned on building my router tables, but after reading some blogs on another web-site some people have the opinion that a wooden router table top is not a precision table. It makes sense to me, so I started looking at router tables and I like the Grizzly router table G0528, but have read that the sliding fence is offset by as much as 1/16” from the cast iron table. Also after looking at the router table I started looking really hard at the 3 HP Shaper G1026. I like this shaper, but I do not know enough about shapers or router tables as far as that goes….The costs are very close to the same, by the time I buy the router and then the table $750.00 vs buying the shaper for $1095.00

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thx Steve

24 replies so far

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3203 days

#1 posted 11-01-2011 05:17 PM

I like this guy’s site, and what he has to say, on the subject:

-- -- Neil

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3103 days

#2 posted 11-01-2011 05:19 PM

It seems like if you have already purchased 2 routers, you are somewhat committed to the router table approach as opposed to the shaper.

IMO, those are heavy routers and not ideal for most handheld uses. However, they are great in router tables. There are handheld situations where you need a lot of power, those situations are rare. For handheld use I like a smaller, lighter and more manageable router (2.25 hp).

The only reason to go the shaper route is if you plan to be making a LOT of big moldings for crown moldings, baseboards, etc. Otherwise, I don’t see what a shaper gives you that you cannot get with a router.

Regarding router tables – There is a lot of cheap stuff available that should be avoided and there is some other stuff available that is way overpriced. IMO, you cannot go wrong with the Incra or Woodpecker tables. They seem to strike that happy medium of good quality and reasonable price.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2879 days

#3 posted 11-01-2011 05:38 PM

The big question, Steve, is what are you going to be making?
The next smaller question is, is the “permanent” footprint of the shaper going to be ok in your shop? A router table freestanding is somewhat more movable, and a router table stowed away then clamped on the bench for use is quite another thing.

A shaper can swing much larger cutters than a router and is generally designed for production use, often with a power feed.

A router table you can build, either by plans or seat of pants, and they are simple and fun to do.

Shaper or router table, what you end up with is a work surface with a collet under it and a movable fence on the surface.

I would counsel you to not obsess about flatness of table and all that. Consider the usage, the footprint and the level of investment.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View TheDane's profile


5448 posts in 3692 days

#4 posted 11-01-2011 05:57 PM

Steve—- As Lee so wisely counsels, you need to figure out what you are going to be building then buy tools that are appropriate for the work you will be doing.

I went with a router table (Bench Dog with a WoodPecker’s lift, a PC690 motor, and variable speed control), and in the 4+ years since, haven’t found anything I wanted to do that I could not accomplish with that setup.

I have had access to a shaper (in the cabinet shop at our local TC), and have done some practice work with it, but have never used it in a project.

Shapers are powerful tools, and I suppose there is a lot they can do you can’t do with a router. As a hobbyist, however, I think a shaper can be overkill.


-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2504 days

#5 posted 11-01-2011 06:28 PM

What you need for a good router table is a stable flat surface, this can be done with wood, you don’t need a fancy shaper. Here is my router table,

I then put a woodpecker lift on it and it has worked wonderfully for years. Unless you are doing repetitive cuts and many of them a shaper is overkill for a small shop. IMO.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View a1Jim's profile


117128 posts in 3606 days

#6 posted 11-01-2011 06:38 PM

Hi Steve
Welcome to Ljs
Router tables are nothing more that a flat surface to attache a router to. I know putting a shop together you want to make everything look really nice but in my book function overrides glamour. I think for a new wood worker your much better off with a router table unless you plan on make household doors all the time. A shaper is unnecessary and it’s cutters are much more expensive than router bits . My father in-law was a 50+ year woodworker and turned out most impressive work some of it going into movie stars homes and Disney land and many of his routing he had a router with an “L” shaped piece of wood connected to the router and his chop saw station(no table at all). It worked great. This Idea of that a wood table is not precision enough is down right silly . One of the best set ups for a router table I’ve seen is an old solid core door with and old besmeyer fence connected to it and a router installed on both ends. This set up is what Charles Neil uses an premier furniture maker. The main thing you need when making a router table is a stable base (2 layers of melamene will do it) an easily adjustable fence and easy height adjustment on your router. Remember when thinking about router table fences, router fences don’t need to adjusted an equal distance from the front of the router table (like table saws do)because your working off of a center point where the router bit is. If you build a router table yourself you can make it the size that will fit where you need it to go,you can put some great accessories on it and still have it be better than a store bought router table that cost less. Here’s a great accessorie for any router table.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View MoHuggins's profile


7 posts in 2432 days

#7 posted 11-01-2011 10:45 PM

I really appreciate all the great advice. It sounds like the routers with tables will be the way to go.

To answer Lee and TheDane – I am building my shop to build cabinets and furniture.

I am all about being practical and the tools I use I know must be practical for the job. I built my own house several years ago, and recently my wife and I started pricing custom cabinets and we are seeing prices of $20,000.00 to $25,000.00 and that was just for the kitchen. I want to build vanities for my three bath rooms, plus laundry room cabinets, and drawers and cabinets for all the closets in my house.
Once this is complete I would like to make furniture and cabinets for my kid’s homes when they start graduating college soon. My issue is I do not have any experience with precision work in cabinets and furniture.

What this boils down to is my wife has given me the green light to buy tools to perform all this work and I am just excited about getting to buy a bunch of new tools, but I want to buy the right tools. I agree with a1Jim that function way overrides glamour. I want to make some really cool stuff, so I know I need the right tools.

So while I have your attention I was about to pull the trigger on a 12” spiral cutterhead jointer from Grizzly….is this over-kill and can I get away with a smaller jointer to make cabinets and furniture ?


View a1Jim's profile


117128 posts in 3606 days

#8 posted 11-01-2011 10:57 PM

The 12” spiral jointer is a great piece of equipment ,I know I have one. if you are going to be in woodworking a long time it’s a great investment,but if your just going to build cabinets an furniture for your house then if might be and overkill. I have used mine as part of my furniture making business. a 6” or 8” jointer should do the job for personal use. If your budget can take the hit that’s fine but there may be other pieces of equipment or tools that will be used more frequently although I put a jointer on my top 5 tools necessary for a good shop.
If I can help feel free to PM me with questions.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3676 days

#9 posted 11-01-2011 11:01 PM

Get a shaper.

Routers can spin small cutters faster than a shaper, but in most other
respects a shaper is a better investment, imo, than fancy router
setups. In terms of hours you can run the tool before it needs
an overhaul, shapers are way more durable.

In today’s market lots of router are more or less disposable. The
cost of router cutters is less, but mouldings cut with routers, for
example, tend to need more sanding than the same profile cut
on a shaper.

yadda, yadda, get what you want. Get a bunch of anodized aluminum
jigs and all that. Most of that stuff won’t make you money as a pro
but it sure makes a nice looking shop that will impress other dudes who
come around.

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 3766 days

#10 posted 11-01-2011 11:18 PM

Steve, I have a 7 1/2 HP shaper with many different spindles. The cost of the cutters is going to be much more than the cost of a shaper. However, as has been already stated, a shaper will give superior cuts and allow one to set up for production. I do think one should think carefully about which way to go. I use a router table more than the shaper. But, the shaper allows me to shape large pieces with ease and also put on cutters that weigh over 10 lbs each. The mass of these cutters help in removing a lot of material without slowing down. The other thing to think about on a shaper is the speed. Mine is variable and allows me to tune it to the material and cutterhead. This makes it safer and gives a smoother finish.
I think a 5 HP router would be the minimum for correct operation. The lower HP shapers have a tendency to slow down a bit and vibrate more. Thus, giving a more chattery edge and a higher chance for a kickback.
I would also suggest you use any and all safety devices when operating a shaper. THis goes for the router also. The shaper has a nickname ” sticker” for a reason. I consider it the most dangerous machine in the shop. Have 10 lbs or more of steel with razor sharp knives spinning at high speeds is not child’s play. The cutters available are limitless. I like using a matched upper and lower set of cutters for tenons. Done in one pass. Quick and accurate. Get an insert cutterhead that will accept ground knives and order any shape you can think. I must have 500 lbs of different knives. All different in pairs.
I am not trying to discourage you in getting a shaper. They are great. I am trying to educate you on the practicalities of a shaper. A good one will cost money. But, it can be very worthwhile.

It really boils down to how much routing or shaping you really intend to do. A router table can also produce some very fine work. It just depends on your use and needs.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View a1Jim's profile


117128 posts in 3606 days

#11 posted 11-02-2011 12:22 AM

I agree that a shaper can be a great tool and make cuts that would be scary for router bits but they are dangerous even in the hands of pros. As sated before they could be rated as the most dangerous tool in the shop .As an adult begging wood shop teacher I would never send a new person to woodworking to run a sharper by them self even if I had given them instruction earlier . Since you are a beginner Steve I would suggest you start with a router table and invest in a shaper later if you feel the need for one. Some the things are true about getting cleaner cuts with a shaper but clean cuts can be done on a router table also if used properly. Each person gets use to using the tools they have or have been trained on and sometimes find it hard to try another route ,including myself. Getting back to safety many of the tools in a wood shop are very dangerous I always recommend to new woodworkers to take a class or two at there local collage if at all possible.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2504 days

#12 posted 11-02-2011 12:27 AM

Well, now that Jim said it, I might as well fess up. One of the reasons I did not get a shaper was because I am afraid of it. I respect all my power tools but feel comfortable with them, not so with a shaper. I am perfectly happy with a router and a router table.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Mark E.'s profile

Mark E.

387 posts in 3771 days

#13 posted 11-02-2011 12:29 AM

Been using a PC router in a table for 15+ years. There haven’t been a lot of times when I ‘really needed’ a shaper. Plus, my router table doubles as an outfeed table for the TS.

My advice is to go with a router table and see how many times you actually ‘need’ to have a shaper.

-- Mark

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2952 days

#14 posted 11-02-2011 02:01 AM

With a decent router table and a Incra LS fence system you can build just about anything around the house you can think of. I even use mine as a jointer. In fact I haven’t used my jointer in 2 years. Take the money you save and buy a drum sander.

-- Life is good.

View MoHuggins's profile


7 posts in 2432 days

#15 posted 11-02-2011 02:22 AM

Well this definitely gives me something to sleep on. I have never been to a site where people have this kind of passion…..this is awesome to say the least.

I appreciate all the advice and will take all of it into consideration.


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