Shaper versus Router Table

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Forum topic by Logan Windram posted 07-03-2016 09:55 PM 1593 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Logan Windram

347 posts in 3914 days

07-03-2016 09:55 PM

allright, I get my shop back here in 30 days, and the time has come… to poop or get off the pot on whether to equip my shop with a new router, fit and table/ cabinet -or- purchase a shaper with the spindle that allows you to run 1/2 router bits in the machine.

i have agonized over this, to me, its so close its hard to lean either way….. here it is:

1. speed- the shaper doesn’t run as fast as a router, but what exactly do you need the 22k RPMs for anyway? The better router of muscle have variable speeds to run slow for larger cuts, the shaper is designed for it… wash

2. lift- either way I am buying a precise lift- wash

3. I will not be taking my router motor out to use as a handheld, i already have a nice handheld with a plunge- wash

4. dust collection- wash

5. reversibility- nice to have- edge shaper

6. powerfeed- not sure if I would ever use it- edge, kinda shaper

7. noise- edge shaper

8. longevity- 220v shaper, perhaps edge?

9. flexibility in router bits. shaper knives- here is where i get stuck. you can run 1/2 inch router bits in a shaper, is it operational the same as a router table? I really liked patterning with the a helical shaper with carbide teeth head when I used it, a nice option on the shaper…. but is 10k rpm on the shaper enough to run most router bits effectively?

10. price- 3 hp shaper, 1100 bucks. ballsy router, quality lift, lets say 800 bucks…. is it worth just doing the shaper? 1100 for the shaper doesn’t get me into a tilt head shaper, which i would really like, but its not a feature enough to spend another thousand plus until justified.

11. Safety- all tool are dangerous, but I do understand the shaper is a different animal that a router table, and things you might get any with on a router table can have humbling results on the larger headed, more powerful shaper. i am comfortable using a shaper as a shaper, and have a good feel for shaping and building heftier jigs to present wood to larger fast turning cutter. i thought this was a good difference to note.

anybody using router bits in their shaper? good, bad, indifferent? i have been in a situation with router table, no shaper. I Have been in a situation with both (it was NICE)... but never only had a shaper.

Thoughts would be appreciated.

8 replies so far

View CEHart's profile


5 posts in 2915 days

#1 posted 07-03-2016 10:12 PM

What are you going to do on the shaper or router the most? Does one have an advantage over the other in that task? Is this a “I got to have it choice” or is it a necessity decision?

I have a mounted 3 1/4 router and do most of the heavy work at lower speeds because of the bigger bits. I find myself not changing speeds that often. Unless I am doing doors for panels then I slow things down. I can’t justify a shaper. There isn’t much it will give me over the table mounted router. But that’s my shop

View Kirk650's profile


746 posts in 2201 days

#2 posted 07-03-2016 11:32 PM

I have both (free shaper from my brother, who didn’t use it) and I use the router table a lot and the shaper just sits.

View Andre's profile


5250 posts in 3258 days

#3 posted 07-04-2016 01:05 AM

I have the 1 1/2 hp Grizzly shaper and pretty much only use router bits and so far never been disappointed, do have a shaper head and have only used it once for some door moldings(plenty of power to cut through Birch). Only negative for this shaper is the fence, normally I just clamp on a scrap board and create a custom zero clearance guide for what ever bit is being used. For a small non production shop all the machine I need.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View bruc101's profile


1556 posts in 4994 days

#4 posted 07-04-2016 01:38 AM

I wouldn’t even consider a large shaper unless it was for commercial production work. With a little imagination, and 1/3 the cost and frustrations of a large shaper, you would be surprised what you can accomplish on a router table with router bits, not to mention just how dangerous a large shaper is compared to a router table.

-- Bruce Free Plans & Calculators

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 3356 days

#5 posted 07-04-2016 02:32 AM

Go for the router first, then move toward a shaper if needed. “The frustrations of a large shaper” havnt heard that one yet.
Anyway, a shaper small enough to use router bits is a toy. I have a large shaper to run large cutters that really picks up where the router table leaves off. That is, the smallest cutter for a 1 1/4” spindle shaper is the size of about the largest that can be ran on a router table. I think both compliment each other.

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 2373 days

#6 posted 07-04-2016 03:40 AM

Logan Windram,

I confronted the decision with which you are now wrestling about a year ago. I decided to go the spindle shaper route and bought the Laguna Compact 3 hp shaper. It came with a spindle lock for changing cutters, a nice fence, a router collet, ¾” and 1-1/4” spindles. It was a little over $2200. My idea was to replace the router table with the shaper and simply use router bits.

Initially I did some edge profiling with my ½” router bits at 10,000 rpm (shaper max speed) and saw no difference in cut quality between the router and the shaper. But your may have a more discerning eye. I then purchased Infinity ¾” bore Shape Up raised panel door cutter set and made some raised panel doors. The results were superior to that on the router table and in one pass. The faces were flush after a few test cuts and the joints fit quite well. After that, I purchase some shaper cutters with profiles that I use most often, roller bearing guides, and shims.

I kept the router table but it serves as an extension to my table saw outfeed table. I do not think I have used it for routing since getting the shaper. I see no reason why the shaper could not do the job of a router table using router bits, but I prefer shaper cutters.

Addressing your points…

1. speed- I typically ran my router at slower speeds, so I noticed no difference between shaper and the router table quality of cut.

2. lift- I disagree regarding the lift mechanism. The ability to fine tune the height of the cutter or the bit is quite easy with the shaper. I never had an above the table router lift, but did have a hinged router table top that lifted up so that depth adjustment could be made with little effort.

3. No comment.

4. dust collection; I found that with both the shaper and router table dual dust ports above the table and below the table greatly improved dust collection. If you get a shaper, you will probably have to add the lower port yourself. Otherwise, the cabinet will require periodic cleaning. I used a bi-metal 4” hole saw to cut into the metal shaper cabinet to add the below the table dust port.

5. reversibility; I have yet to reverse the direction of travel on the shaper. Perhaps one day I find a need to do so.

6. powerfeed; The Laguna shaper came with holes taped for a power feeder and perhaps one day I will buy one but that purchase is not planned since I am a hobbyist and do not do production work.

7. noise; The shaper is definitely quieter that the screaming router. But I wear haring protection and with the dust collector running, it is loud whichever way your go.

8. longevity; It is hard to tell whether one will last longer than the other. But if the router quits, it is maybe $300 – $400. I am not sure what the cost would be to replace or repair a shaper motor; probably more than the cost of a router.

9. flexibility in router bits; You probably already have a collection of router bits. Router bits are less expensive than shaper cutters, making a router table more attractive economically. Outfitting the shop with shaper cutters can get expensive, though you probably have only a few go-to router bits that I would think would be the ones replaced with shaper cutters. If you want to do pattern shaping, the roller bearing guides are also needed and must be bought separately from the cutters, adding to the expense. Shapers can handle helical cutter heads, but these can be expensive whereas straight cutter or rabbeting cutters could do the job, but with a little more tear out. In any event, I do not see myself having a need for a helical cutter head. I use a hand held router and a flush trim bit to get curves and other shapes.

Unique to the shaper is the ability to run a cutter head which accepts insert profiling cutters. The cutter head is expensive but the insert tooling is relatively inexpensive.

As I said above, I found no quality of cut difference between the shaper and the router, for example when creating a roundover edge profile.

10. price; For me, I felt that buying a tool designed to perform edge profiles rather than replicating that capability with a router was the way to go. But is it worth it? Only you can make that determination. For me, I really appreciate what I find to be the superior performance and ease of operation of the shaper; now that the sting of writing those checks is a distant memory.

11. Safety; Both the router in a table and the shaper are deserving of a great deal of respect. I think the shaper can be a more hazardous tool than the router table if cutters are stack and an unused cutter is spinning above the work piece. Since set up time is not an issue for me, I only stack the raised panel door cutters. Otherwise I only load one cutter. Feather boards holding the work piece against the fence and down to the table guard the cutters; otherwise, I keep the factory guard in place. I also use push sticks or pads. Probably what most others do when using the router table.

View MrRon's profile


6314 posts in 4696 days

#7 posted 07-05-2016 06:16 PM

One must realize routers were designed to be hand held. Early ones used 1/4” shank bits that limited the size of the cutter. Because router bits were small, high speeds were needed in order to get a clean cut. When 1/2” shank routers came to the market, bits became bigger, approaching those used on traditional shapers. The routers became variable speed, so they could swing larger bits. Swinging a 2” diameter bit in a handheld router was a task, so router tables came into being.

A shaper is a different story. They were designed to swing large diameter cutters and that required lower rpm’s. They were also more robust for commercial use. A router in a table would never stand up to commercial use. Swinging a large bit in a router requires a slower speed. That can be attained with a variable speed router, but as the speed drops, the horsepower rating (torque) also drops. The shaper will have more power regardless of the bit/cutter used.

So it gets down to what type of work you will be doing. Shapers are nice, but unless you intend to do heavy production work, a table mounted router is your best bet.

View unbob's profile


810 posts in 3356 days

#8 posted 07-05-2016 08:08 PM

Using zero clearance fence inserts, and close fitting table rings goes along ways toward safer operations, and good dust control.
I am on my 5th shaper, starting with the usual smaller lower hp models with crappy fences. The machine I am now using has a good fence with fine repeatable adjustments. This makes for rapid change over. I purchased the big shaper mostly to run the Grizzly lock miter cutter, but otherwise have a straight cutter installed taking over much of the work I was doing on the table saw using a dado blades. The shaper does a much better job as far as ease of use, and nice cut finish. I use the shaper with a fixture for precision rip sawing of inlay strips, using super thin kerf 5 1/2” blades that I bore out to 1 1/4”.
Depending on what you want to do, The German company Aigner makes many tools and fixtures for hand feeding work with reasonable safety and excellent results. I find the “must have a power feeder” not true for what I am doing. Information on using shapers is pretty scarce, the best I found was searching “spindle moulder” for techniques used in Europe.

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