Router Table Versus Shaper
It depends on what you're building the most. If it's cabinets or other doors or continuous duty, like making flooring, then my vote goes for the shaper. Really, there's no reason why you can't build a router table out of common lumber and shop scrap. Building one yourself is a good project, and doesn't cost much. Use the money you saved to buy yourself a good shaper later on, once you have the need for one.
I, too, use both (and a couple of overhead pin routers for good measure), but I'd say the biggest difference is my shaper (spindle moulder) can chomp out full 3 x 1 in rebates (for example) in a single pass all day long - there isn't a router table around that can do that.
After years of building the "perfect router table," I finally discovered that a router collet on the shaper outperformed anything I could build. Vibration is eliminated with a cast iron machine, and adjustments come quick and easy.
Who makes them and how are they configured?
Both Powermatic and Delta have a shaper in the craftsman series, smaller machines with a half inch arbor. Both have the router collet. Makes a good machine for router bits, but I don't like running shaper cutters on the smaller arbor. As a router table, though, you set up, jig or fixture, just like you do for regular shaper work. What's funny... the cost is comparable to buying a larger router motor and building the table... maybe less.
I've had a router collet for my Delta shaper for many years. The fastest my shaper goes is 10,500 and that's too slow for all but the biggest bits. I always figured if I'm going to run large cutters, I'd just run them on the shaper spindle rather than use a less desirable collet, etc. Running smaller bits at 10,500 is too slow and the feed speed needs to be too slow to get a smooth cut, so I don't agree that it's a cure all replacement for a router table.
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