Hammer5573

Shaper vs Router

Recommended Posts

My son is just getting started in woodworking and he keeps singing the praises of a shaper over a router. From what I've learned, I think that a good table mounter router is a better and more versatile platform. I would appreciate any input on this subject

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is all about expectations. Shapers can do more in a single pass and with a bigger cutter diameter. They have more torque as a result and are often best paired with power feeders. Many guys do lots with routers. You just need to expect router work flows. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If your doing cabinets for a living than shapers are the way to go. I have three for the stile, rail and panel cutters. The reason being is there is no tool set up time to do doors and you can run them all day long.  Also as Shaffer said you can also do doors in one pass so its fast.   That being said I started with two router tables and I feel thats fine for a hobby shop.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, this is not comparable tools, budget and capacity !
A shaper is better obviously : there's more torque and you can expect doing 2" tenons on a single pass. This is a big boy tool.
I don't believe the router is more versatile, except you can use it both under table and on the workpiece.
It's like comparing a skill saw and a table saw. You can mount a skill saw under a table, but you'll never get a proper table saw.
Maybe the shaper needs more skills, especially when you've got to align new iron shapes on a holder.
There's a large variety of iron shapes available and you can order custom iron shapes.
Obviously, iron shapes are much expensive than  router bits, but they can last a lifetime.

Should the hobbyist needs a shaper ? Well it depends of the expected productivity.
If you do an old house makeover, a shaper will help a lot for new doors, windows, panels, frames and moldings.
But you won't be able to bring an existing door to the shaper, so you will need a router too.
If your woodworking style does not uses a lot raised panels, end grain dadoes or moldings, a router would probably satisfy you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I share the same point of view about the hobbyist's workflow, and obviously router bits are cheaper. On another hand, it depends a lot of the kind of work the hobbyist will have to accomplish. I have a router table actually, but I would reconsider if I have to make some siding, flooring or a bunch of windows. About the "versatile" term, It answered the initial question of @Hammer5573 :

20 hours ago, Hammer5573 said:

My son is just getting started in woodworking and he keeps singing the praises of a shaper over a router. From what I've learned, I think that a good table mounter router is a better and more versatile platform. I would appreciate any input on this subject

To me, versatile means you can do a wide variety of different work with the tool. As the Shaper allows you to do anything from light to heavy duty, it should be the most versatile of the two. Sure the iron shapes are much expensive but there is a huge variety of them, and they last way longer. Maybe hobbyist are not aware enough about iron shapes (I dunno if it's the right word in English). I had to search about a large and flat beading cutter for a modern style table. I never found a matching router bit, even in 12mm shaft (1/2"), because of the average router's power I guess. It's the same about large jointing bits. Meanwhile I saw a lot of iron shapes that would fit perfectly to my needs. So I had to do the job with my router table with a variety of bits : multiple passes , complex setup and test cuts... That was not really versatile.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Jean [Fr] said:

Well, this is not comparable tools, budget and capacity !

Agree... It's like comparing a bandsaw to a bowsaw. Sure, they can both make similar cuts... but that's where the similarities end.

I plan on buying a shaper within the next year or so. That might be in a combo sliding tablesaw/shaper...

Hobbyist... router table is plenty for what most people do.

My tool choices have more to do with never wanting to compromise on speed or quality ever again. Making strides toward that goal, and I have no regrets. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you have the size and budget, I would get the shaper. I have a tricked out jessem router table with the king of table router motors and it doesn't blow me away. Profiles take multiple passes. I'm limited to small panel cutters. Finally, we are talking about a melamine table top on a stand. 

 

I plan to sell off my touter table as soon soon as I find a saw/shaper combo that is single phase. That is the next conversation is what level of shaper to get. The light duty 3hp 3/4" spindle or a 5hp+ 1.25" spindle. For me it's always been the latter or nothing. As has been mentioned, once you start buying shaper tooling, you want to be with it for life and not upgrade to a different diameter down the road. The better machines also have a tilting feature, which helps maximize the usefulness of your cutters. Rebate cutter now doubles as a chamfer cutter etc. i also think steel insert cutters are affordable once you have the insert head. 

 

I strayed a bit, but it depends on what you need the machine to do. For me, I don't do mortises on my router table, and the actions I do perform would be better served by a shaper. I really only use the router table for templating and profiles. The latter is limited to 3"ish diameter bits, which isn't very big. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are things you can do with a router table that are not really practical on a shaper--like stop dadoes.  Easy on a router table. I like the router table for such tasks as I have plywood specific router bits that cut perfect rabbets/dadoes.  So I use  my router table (lift mounted in TS extension) for dados, rabbets, and pattern routing. 

I use my Delta 3hp shaper for cabinet doors (raising panels, cope and stick joints) tongue and groove, glue joints, lock miters, etc.  

The Woodmaster molding machine comes out for crown, picture frames, etc.

Obviously, if possible you should have both a router table and a shaper, but given a choice, I'd get the router table.  The shaper requires a higher level of safety awareness due to the power of the tool, and larger cutters. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the OP needs to understand that a shaper is not just a router's 'big brother'. They are completlely different tools, that just happen to look similar in how they work.

If I built cabinets for a living, you can bet a shaper would be in my shop. But since I don't, a router table makes much more sense. In fact, even if I had a shaper, I'd still have a router table, if only for the access to relativley inexpensive profile bits.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the question also needs to be asked, how old is this son?  If he's grown and on his own, and if he has the need for a shaper, for all the right reasons mentioned above, then let him get his own.  If he's still living with you, or this would be a shared tool, and you're not planning on starting up a production shop, I see no advantage of a shaper over a router, because you seem to not be in the same boat as him. 

Another issue is with safety.  Shapers are notorious for taking fingertips off.  If he hasn't demonstrated competence yet with a router and router table, I see no good reason, safety wise, to immediately go for the big gun. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is there anything you can do with a router that you can't do with a shaper? A number of things.

Is there anything you can do with a shaper that you can't do with a router? Ditto

The difference is one of geometry.  Things like dados and dovetails with the router. And don't forget hand-held applications.

 

I don't have a shaper and have no need to acquire one. It's not part of the work I do.

I have 3 routers. They are part of the work I do.

And that's really what it's about, isn't it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is another one of those recurring discussions (radial arm saws are another favorite) that goes around in circles.  People who love their shapers would never be without them.  People who have never used one can't really speak to the subject.  It is an apples to oranges comparison IMHO; they both just happen to spin a cutter and you pass material across them.

I prefer to rip material on the bandsaw.  That doesn't make a bandsaw "better" than a tablesaw or even better at ripping.  They are two different tools that perform a similar task in this instance.  Whether one or the other would be the only tool I wanted available to do that job is another discussion.

If you are going to do a lot of different things involving a rotating cutter type machine, you can own a lot of different router bit profiles for what a few shaper cutters cost.  If you are interested in speed, a shaper will take a much bigger bite per pass than a router ever will.  If I was making cope and stick doors all day a shaper would be a must.

You can spend a lot of money following either path.  If I were going down the shaper path I would make sure it was reversible, had a tilting arbor and a nice long set of tables.  Other people may find other features more important.  On the router table path I like a reserve of power, a lift and again, a good sized table area for material support.  The fences on both will affect the work you do; there are basic and high end features for each.

As usual, decide what you want to do and then select the best tool for that task or set of tasks.  If you are not sure what you want to do,  take baby steps until you get a better feel for where you are going.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.