Shaper vs router table

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Forum topic by mtappe posted 09-11-2012 07:31 PM 2288 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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15 posts in 2295 days

09-11-2012 07:31 PM

whats the difference between a good router table with a power lift and a Shaper? if im going to do this i want to explore all my options and make the best choice and spend whatever it may take to get a good Quality the First time. Ive been known to rethink or make a purchase without all the facts and end up with something im not so impressed with so i would like to get your guys info on the difference between routers/shapers? A Good router and table with power lift and fence will run approx. $800-$1000 or a shaper 1.5 horse from grissly is about $500 any comments?


12 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3672 days

#1 posted 09-11-2012 07:44 PM

Get a 3hp shaper. I don’t recommend 110 volt shapers –
you won’t be very impressed with the power of a 1.5
hp shaper.

Shaper speed tops out at about 10,000 rpm so with
small router bits chucked in a shaper you have to feed
the work slower to get a cut quality comparable to
what you get with a router.

A 3hp 220 volt shaper is a powerful machine that will
outlast several routers.

The advantage of router tables is mostly lost in my opinion
when they get heavy and expensively tricked out. On
job sites router tables are more convenient than shapers
because they weigh less and don’t require 220 volt service.

A lot depends on the work you do though. A lot of
furniture doesn’t involve heavy shaping cuts. You could
build quite a lot of Greene and Greene style furniture,
for example, with a router instead of a shaper and the
work would not go too slowly. If you wanted to make
a lot of big mouldings or stair railings and stuff like that
the shaper is better.

Shapers are used in industry because they make a smooth
cut that requires less sanding and fewer passes.

View CplSteel's profile


142 posts in 2188 days

#2 posted 09-11-2012 10:43 PM

Shapers use big bits that make big cuts. Routers make small cuts with small bits. Shapers and their bits are much more expensive then routers, so if you can’t afford a shaper you can put a router in a table and do most of what a shaper would do but not as easily (creeping up on a cut with more passes, adjustments between passes, adjustments are more time consuming to make) but you save hundreds of dollars. Over the past (10?) years, routers have been built for router tables, and router table attachments and even whole tables have become available for purchase. They end up costing as much if not more then low priced shapers. That said, I would stick with 3hp shapers if you went that way. Otherwise a router would be just fine. Lots of good work is done with routers.

Just as a note, the RPM of the shaper/router is a meaningless number all by itself. What matters is the outer rotational speed of the bit. You need a high RPM with small diamater bits, but with big bits at lower RPMs the outer edge is moving just as fast, if not faster than a 1/4” bit in a 30,000 RPM router. If you go the router route, get something with variable speed so you can use bigger bits.

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2699 days

#3 posted 09-12-2012 12:53 AM

These guys are spot on! The shaper compared to a router is about like comparing a cabinet saw to a bench top saw. Some people don’t need a cabinet saw so they get a smaller tool. Others can use the big horse power and big tools. Space is also something to consider. Bearings don’t hold up in routers when they are used heavily. Shapers have big bearings that will hold up for years of heavy service.

View MNgary's profile


301 posts in 2441 days

#4 posted 09-12-2012 01:07 AM

I faced the same dilemma about six years ago, Marty. Woodworking for me does not include production runs but, instead, includes case goods, display cabinets, a dinette set, and the like to help furnish the homes of my children and grandchildren along with the typical jewelry boxes, breadboards, holiday ornaments, turned vases, etcetera. I had 3 routers (laminate, quarter inch collet, and half inch collet) so I picked up a Jet shaper.

My experience:
1) cutters for the shaper are 3 to 4 times more expensive, but get dull just as fast as quality router bits. Yet shaper cutters cost more to have sharpened.
2) I can shape the complete edge of a 5/4 board in two passes rather than two or three passes on each side of the board.
3) there is a bigger selection of router bit profiles than for shaper cutters. But if you have the budget, you can have custom profiles for a cutter made giving you a unique/exclusive pattern.
4) I have yet to find a profile the shaper can produce (for my uses which includes Queen Anne pieces) that I could not have done with the routers – especially if a router table were available!
5) I often find my work requires using 3/8 and 1/2 inch boards and a router table would be safer and less intimidating.
6) having a shaper does not eliminate the need for hand-held routers.
7) I do have one cutter with a profile that is too large for a router, but could laminate two or three routed boards to accomplish the same look/design.
8) when watching wood-working videos I see there are some things easily done on a router table (small and/or shaped veins, sliding dovetails) that I wouldn’t do on the shaper because while I can use half inch collet router bits on the shaper the speed just ain’t high enough when the diameter of the bit is sized for a router.

Bottom line is that I would gladly trade my shaper for a comparably priced router table set. My shaper does everything it should very, very well; but I am willing to make the trade. But woodworking is a hobby for me so time on a project is not essential.

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3917 days

#5 posted 09-12-2012 01:34 AM

picture a 13” diameter router bit in the router ?….either in a table or hold the router where router bit weighs more then router ?

one has a max of 1/2 “ diameter shaft, the other up to and exceeding 1 1/4” shaft thus why they dont make 13” + diameter cutting heads of a router bit……

one can scar you

the other can kill you

both do either at the same speed : )

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3917 days

#6 posted 09-12-2012 01:38 AM

aside from the fact that one kills and the other only maims, they both, given enough time, can replicate what the other does.

One takes 1 pass, the other 50

its all about time and money management and how you choose to spend yours

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3571 days

#7 posted 09-12-2012 02:28 AM

I agree with most of the above. We do what might be considered semi production custom cabinetry. Occassionally we set up and build 80 doors, etc. We also have router tables also. I find router tables excel at minor edge shaping. But we could not do without our shaper. We use a 3 hp shaper.

One thing I like over the router is the ability to run my cutters upside down. The physics involved doing this keeps the work piece $lat on the table. With the cutter running upside down inside the shaper, the work piece needs more downward pressure applied to ensure the work piece gets cut clean and consistent.

-- .

View SSG's profile


39 posts in 2107 days

#8 posted 09-12-2012 02:49 AM

well said moron!

View EEngineer's profile


1103 posts in 3637 days

#9 posted 09-12-2012 03:23 AM

The shaper compared to a router is about like comparing a cabinet saw to a bench top saw. ... Bearings don’t hold up in routers when they are used heavily.

As usual, it isn’t quite that simple…

Part of that is the RPM. Frictional losses go up by the square of the velocity – with routers turning at up to 25,000 RPM and shapers turning at less than 10,000 RPM it isn’t much wonder that router bearings don’t last as long as shaper bearings.

And most routers skimp on the bearings. Part of the reason I run a DeWalt 616 in my router table is because of the huge bearing on the business end of the router. At the time, nothing else compared! (BTW, larger bearing diameter = less linear velocity at the bearing race → less frictional losses)

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

View mtappe's profile


15 posts in 2295 days

#10 posted 09-12-2012 01:54 PM

Thanks for all the input, i have alot to think about and maybe do some more research to see which will be right for my needs? Im for now a weekend warrior woodworker but like i said before i want to purchase for future needs and wants.Ive learned the expensive way and have had to redo a few things a time or two or upgrade when i should have purchased the right thing the first time. Wish me luck in making a correct choice .

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4999 posts in 2517 days

#11 posted 09-12-2012 02:25 PM

I do wish you luck with your choice. Do keep one thing in mind, many of the newer routers have built in above table adjustment, eliminating the need for a lift…you could even crank them with a drill if you really want that power lift function. Point being: the lift is becoming a thing of the past, saving quite a bit of money.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3182 days

#12 posted 09-12-2012 02:42 PM

Fred: I would say that a router with the lift precision and stability of my PRLv2 lift doesn’t exist. If it did, it’d be more bulky or expensive that the Triton or Milwaukee that has that function itself. Now whether you need that precision or stability in a lift is a different argument. I have the Milwaukee 5625…I still have a lift.

Mtappe: I would certainly balance the decision with your need to create larger profiles in single passes and the amount of such cuts you will regularly do with the things that a router table can give you…namely, that bits are much less expensive than shaper cutter heads and that a router table can be put into a table saw extension, in a workbench, in a portable table, or even in a fixture to be held down by a vise. If shop space isn’t an issue, you still need to evaluate your level of need.

My father has a shaper that has gone largely unused, chiefly because it’s just as easy to do a 1/4” round-over with a router, even handheld.

-- jay,

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