Shaper vs router table

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Forum topic by tommytenspeed posted 01-26-2012 05:23 AM 6482 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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32 posts in 2870 days

01-26-2012 05:23 AM

Topic tags/keywords: shaper raised panels

I recently purchased a 3HP router (Milwaukee) to make raised panels for new interior doors that I am making. These doors are 1 3/8” thick, as are the panels, and made of Red Oak. The panel cutting bit is 3 1/2” in diameter so it is quite the beast.

This is the first time I have made panels this thick so I thought the new router would buzz right through them but I am finding that I can only take a very small bite on each pass (about 1/16”) and even then with a lot of burning. With 4 edges on each of two sides and six panels per door this amounts to 48 passes for each 1/16 of an inch of thickness per door (and I have 5 more doors to make) making this job much more difficult than first imagined. Each panel requires about 5 or 6 passes to complete. When I try to take a deeper cut the router stops altogether as though it is overheated but it is only slightly warm to the touch. I am feeding the wood quite slowly (about 1/2” per second on the cross grain and probably twice that fast on the long grain with the router set a the lowest speed-level 1). I am getting unacceptably rough edges with a lot of tear out where the panel meets the fence.

Do I have a defective router, am I trying to hog off too much material in each pass or should a 3HP router easily handle this work in one or two passes?

I am considering returning the router and replacing it with a shaper but have no experience with them. Will a shaper profile the entire panel (one side) in a single pass or will I have to incrementally process it like the router. I am considering a shaper with an auto-feeder but this represents quite an investment.

12 replies so far

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2676 days

#1 posted 01-26-2012 05:37 AM

A large shaper can probably do it but you should take 2 passes to do it right. Just a skim pass and then a full cut. I am talking about a 5 to 7 hp shaper. Big bits take real horsepower.

View oluf's profile


260 posts in 3040 days

#2 posted 01-26-2012 05:48 AM

I use a 1 1/2 HP shaper and do all my panels in one pass with no problems. I even do it in one pass when I use the back cutter to give me the correct tennon size on the panel edge. This is all on oak, walnut, and some ash.

-- Nils, So. Central MI. Wood is honest.Take the effort to understand what it has to tell you before you try to change it.

View cabmaker's profile


1731 posts in 2810 days

#3 posted 01-26-2012 06:05 AM

With that full stack sticking set you ll want a min. 5 hp do really be effective without smoking the profile. But as mentioned, can be done with 1 1/2 hp setup properly and all but you wouldnt want to do it day in day out. Three hp, yeah can work, depends on set up and feed rate, etc. I may not have understood correctly. Are you running one side at a time, are you using a full set or half. Either way, that router setup would be like taking a knife to a gun fight. Yeah, I would return that router and get a shaper.Enjoy the journey

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1731 posts in 2810 days

#4 posted 01-26-2012 06:08 AM

Oh ,and where your seeing that rough edge at the fence you mentioned, I ll bet that is only occurring on one edge, right ?

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32 posts in 2870 days

#5 posted 01-26-2012 03:04 PM

Thank you all, you have been most helpful.

View ScottN's profile


261 posts in 2680 days

#6 posted 01-26-2012 03:32 PM

I have that same 3hp router and used it yesterday on some raised panels. That router has more than enough power. I cant tell you what # I had it set at. I’m guessing around 4 or 5. I do it in 3 passes. The last pass is always a clean up, taking off about an 1/8”.

Always use a backer board when routing the end grain. Also if your getting burn marks, your routing to slow.

-- New Auburn,WI

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3762 days

#7 posted 01-26-2012 04:29 PM

Heavy duty work like you are involved in would best be done with a shaper. Shapers are powered with AC induction motors and have much more torque than any universal motor powered router.

Universal motors get their HP from high speeds, typically 20,000 rpm or higher, and are low torque devices. The high speed creates burning problems, especially on sensitive woods like maple and cherry.

The shaper runs at 9000 – 10,000 rpm and the flat speed torque curve of the AC motor gives one enough torque to use large diameter bits. Shaper bits also have three cutting edges, as opposed to two on router bits, enabling adequate cuts per inch while operating at a slower rpm to avoid burning.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View helluvawreck's profile


31105 posts in 2867 days

#8 posted 01-26-2012 04:40 PM

IMHO, shapers are very versatile machines. Back when we made cabinets, etc. we had 7 shapers and used them several times each week. However, if you only have room for one or the other in a small shop I believe a good router table is more valuable and the cutters are far less expensive. However if you are blessed with enough room by all means add a shaper. If you can afford it another thing good to have with a shaper is a feeder.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View dannelson's profile


193 posts in 2372 days

#9 posted 01-26-2012 05:16 PM

I FULLY agree with the last two posts. a couple of things that might have been overlooked, shapers offer interchangeable spindles that you can put a 1/2 or 1/4 collet to spin router bits. POWERFEED all the time , not only a cleaner cut but the safety is unmatched. I haven’t seen a router turned upside down in a table last very long due to the way the splindle and the bearings are set up to work under a heavy load . I run three shapers for doors the heaviest motor 5hp for the panels 3 hp and 1.5 hp for styles and rails. panels at 1-3/8 should be done in 2 panels front and back this might save your router and help emencely with movement.

-- nelson woodcrafters

View helluvawreck's profile


31105 posts in 2867 days

#10 posted 01-26-2012 05:39 PM

Dan, I agree that the small diameter shaper spindles are quite handy but I have seen these break or bent on occasion and I have noticed that some manufacturers quit selling them – probably for this reason. The other positive thing about the router is the higher RPM where many router bits could perform better than with the lower RPM of a shaper. At any rate, If I had a bigger shop I would have both. Each does some things better than the other yet they are both wonderful machines. I know that we both essentially agree but I just thought that I would add these points as well.

Even though the small diameter spindles can easily be overloaded I would like to have a shaper that offered this option.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View sthomas's profile


21 posts in 2319 days

#11 posted 01-26-2012 07:01 PM

have you tried removing most of the bevel on a table saw first?i usally cut the angle on my saw first and then i only takes a few passes on the router…just a thought

View tommytenspeed's profile


32 posts in 2870 days

#12 posted 01-27-2012 04:03 PM

Thank you all for your input. Knowing that shapers utilize induction motors makes perfect sense now; so much more torque. Looks like, for this particular application at least, a shaper is the way to go.


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