Router Table Versus Shaper

Which to buy? It depends on the intended use. The two are suited for different purposes, but there is some overlap. October 2, 2005

I am in the market for a router table or shaper. What are the advantages of one over the other?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
If I could only have one, I'd build a router table and buy a large motored router for it. A shaper is the superior tool for tasks like making stick and cope cabinet doors and raised panels. These joints can be done on a router table, but it just doesn't have enough power for production. A router table is a very useful tool and for making smaller shaped cuts and a multitude of specialty machining tasks, it is much easier to set up than a shaper. Also, the cutters are far less expensive. If I need, for instance, to put a quarter inch radiused round on some parts, I'm going to use a $20.00 router bit instead of a $75.00 shaper knife. Anyway, for my operation I need both machines.

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.