Molder vs Shaper vs Router Table

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Forum topic by Don Broussard posted 01-18-2013 11:57 PM 5785 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Don Broussard

3527 posts in 2216 days

01-18-2013 11:57 PM

I am not looking to buy either a molder or a shaper, but I’d like some information just purely for my own education.

I already have a router table. I see molders and shapers for sale on CL all the time. What capabilities do the molder and/or shaper have that a router table with a PC7518 does not?

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

8 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)


10260 posts in 3612 days

#1 posted 01-19-2013 12:12 AM

Bigger shapers can spin substantially larger cutters than
brush-type routers can. The large diameters allow deeper
cuts as in raising panels and the power of a shaper
allows it to make cuts in one pass that might take
3 or more with a router.

I cannot explain the physics of it, but larger shaper
cutters also can leave a smoother surface and this
reduces sanding labor.

Additionally, shapers are much longer lasting than
brush type router motors and be left to run
continuously even if work is not being fed into
the cutter, which is a bad thing to do with a router.

You can also do some very creative things with a
shaper by combining 2 or more cutters on the
spindle with rub collars, spacer rings to make
virtually endless array of profile cuts which would be
much more difficult to make with a router table.

View luce32's profile


4 posts in 2434 days

#2 posted 01-19-2013 12:14 AM

As far as I can tell shapers have a larger motor and can turn a larger knife than a router. Even of they both have 3 HP. I have both and use both. Shaper cutters tend to be more costly too.

-- Luce, Wimberley, TX

View runswithscissors's profile


2724 posts in 1990 days

#3 posted 01-19-2013 02:29 AM

One feature of a shaper not found on any router is the ability to reverse cutter rotation. That can come in handy when dealing with grain tear out issues. This was suggested to a poster a while back who was having difficulty using a router bit to finish the edge of a circular disk (sorry for the redundancy). Every time he turned the corner, he was cutting into (rather than with) the grain. With a shaper, he could have routed the 2 corners where he’d be cutting with the grain, then flipped the cutter and reversed the motor. I think there was some reason (which I don’t remember) why he couldn’t just flip the workpiece over.

And of course you can get adapters that allow you to use your router bits as well. In fact, I have a lot more router bits than shaper cutters. But a shaper runs slower than a router, and some folks say you can’t get as smooth a cut with the smaller diameter of router bits. If haven’t noticed this, but maybe my standards are too low.

If you are contemplating a shaper, I’d suggest staying away from the little 3/4 to 1 h.p. ones you see all the time on CL. They don’t have much power, and only give you less than an inch of vertical adjustment. They are also limited to 1/2” spindles. They are meant for for using router bits, though you can use small shaper cutters in them.

As for molders, the type you mount on your TS have pretty well be supplanted by routers. I had to face mold some 1X6 casement one time with one, and it took about 4 or 5 passes with different cutters to get the profile I wanted. Jet, Grizzly, and Shop Fox (looks like a clone of the Williams & Hussey) make machines that can take full size molding knives. Grizzly’s and Jet’s are actually included as a feature of their 13” planers. I have never used one of these machines.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Wdwerker's profile


333 posts in 2198 days

#4 posted 01-19-2013 02:41 AM

A molder is like a planer but with fancy shaped knives. Some are open on one side and you can run curved moldings, Williams and Hussey is one original maker of these.
I have an RBI planer/ molder. You can change the head and run moldings. It uses a slow feed rate and one knife. That makes custom knives cheaper.

-- Fine Custom Woodwork since 1978

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3527 posts in 2216 days

#5 posted 01-19-2013 02:46 AM

Thanks for the information. This is like going to school online with free tuition! Good stuff.

I actually have the shaper attachment for my Shopsmith Mark V, but I’ve only tried it once. I really need to learn what its capabilities are and exploit them. I think I have five different cutters.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2153 days

#6 posted 01-19-2013 04:02 AM

(High quality) shaper cutters are much more expensive than router bits but they offer the advantage that they can be spun in the opposite direction simply by turning the bit upside-down. Most shapers spin at best 1/2 the speed of a typical router (about 12,000 rpm max for a shaper) and are mean for bigger profiles like architectural mouldings.

You have likely heard of climb-cutting to try and minimize tear-out with a router bit. This helps but being able to reverse the cutter and thus its direction of rotation is better yet.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View kizerpea's profile


774 posts in 2332 days

#7 posted 01-19-2013 01:52 PM

Thats right…we know it all…don,t beleive it …just ask….LOL….JUST KIDDING these guy are good…


View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2831 days

#8 posted 01-19-2013 02:07 PM

Before we got our 1st molder we had 7 Powermatic shapers. Some were 3hp and some were 5 hp. We also had one SCMI 7.5 hp shaper. We used them for all sorts of things. They are just a lot more powerful than routers are and I can’t remember one going down so they last a long time. You can make a lot heaver cut obviously and the shaper cutters seemed to last longer and go further between having to have them sharpened. However, because of the larger size of shaper cutters they can be very dangerous. If you get a shaper it’s nice to have a power feeder to use when you need it.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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