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Thread: Router Table vs. Shaper. Is a 1.5HP shaper enough?

  1. #1

    Router Table vs. Shaper. Is a 1.5HP shaper enough?

    Hey all,
    I'm a hobbyist rigging up a basement shop and I'm evaluating the router table vs. low end shaper debate. Since nearly all of the router tables on the market seem to be cheap MDF tables that'll warp over time it seems crazy to pay $300-500 for a router table. Seems like it's best to but a good fence/lift/plate and build. But Grizzly offers a 1.5 HP shaper for only $515 which seems temping. Is a 1.5 HP shaper to small for all but the smallest projects? Is it beefy enough for anything a hobbyist would throw at it? It'll never be used for production work. Shop Fox also has a 2 HP shaper for $800 and the Griz 3 HP is $1000.

    Also, given the low spin rates of shapers will it cover most or all of my routing needs or will I need the router table eventually, anyway? Thoughts?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Houston, TX
    Take a look at this thread, especially the last comment on the thread about my experiment with small router bits on a shaper.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Just outside of Spring Green, Wisconsin
    Michael, don't get "trapped" into the router table vs. shaper debate. Even though they "share" some basic same operational functions, they're animals of a different color. They each excell in their own specific functions. For instance, while you can build a very nice and substantial router table with a big router motor, it will swing large bits but, not do so well for long periods of time. Most shapers come with collets to fit 1/2" router bits but, the speed of the shaper isn't fast enough to effectively run the smaller bits.

    Personally, especially for the home hobbyist, I'd say to go build yourself a nice router table, ala Norm's design or similar. It will most probably do 90% of anything you ask it to do. If, OTOH, you intend on making rows and rows of kitchen/bathroom cabinets w/raised panels, a shaper may indeed be in order. If so, I would personally not go with anything less than 2hp (unless someone really, really was giving a 1.5 away!). Among other things, typically, the higher HP units also have larger tables on them. And, if one is going to go to near-production quantities on a shaper, a power feeder would be high on the list of considerations.

    I work part time at a woodworking store and I agree with you on the "craziness" with buying a pre-made unit. For the same monies (or less) you can build something much more substantial, to your specs and to perform better with the way you personally work. Yeah, for some folks, especially those "in the business" of cabinet-making or such, the pre-made units are worth it because, they set the things up and they're back to making money with the units. For most hobbyists, the process of building it yourself is part of the "pride in ownership", among other things.

    Bottom line: IMHO, build your own and/if when you need to construct that houseful of cabinets, you may consider a shaper at that time.
    John K. Miliunas

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  4. #4
    I started with a Jet 1.5 HP shaper and while it wasn't short on power it was so misdesigned I will never buy another Jet machine. I moved up to a Shop Fox 2HP and while it was far better than the Jet, I sold it because the table was too small for the profile shaping I wanted to do. I now have a 3HP S.F and it's adequate but I keep wondering if a 5HP would allow deeper cuts on patterns but I don't imagine I'll find out.

    HP isn't the only condideratin, spindle travel, table size, and fence quality are almost as important. Also. when you have the shaper you will likely discover you only have part of what you need and will want a feeder. The larger machines will handle one much better.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Marcinelli
    Hey all,
    I'm a hobbyist rigging up a basement shop and I'm evaluating the router table vs. low end shaper debate. Since nearly all of the router tables on the market seem to be cheap MDF tables that'll warp over time it seems crazy to pay $300-500 for a router table.
    I went through a similiar decision process, twice.

    My first router table was the horizontal/vertical one from Wood magazine. It's nice to be able to use the router with the router being parallel to the floor sometimes. The downside is that the table (2' x 2') was too small.

    I plan on making a second one. I splurged and got a router lift and a jointech fence. I'm going to make the top 4' long and between 32" and 36" wide, and put the whole thing on casters. It's top will be a double layer of 3/4 plywood with formica, and a big PC router. I'm not worried about the plywood warping. IMO, using MDF for a router table top is not a good idea for the sagging reason you mentioned earlier.

    I spent about 200 on the router (sale). If cost was a concern, I wouldn't have bought the jointech fence or the lift. I'm making a wild guess that it will take 3 sheets of plywood, at $40/sheet.. The formica will probably be another 40.. If I didn't have the lift, I'd buy a router plate to mount it.. probably another $50-60 or so (which makes the arguement to buy a lift more appealing, since it's not that much more incremental cost)..

    As a hobbyist, I've done at most maybe 20 raised panel doors in a year. The other years have been less. I think a router table is fine for that.
    I also have a lot of router bits (about 60), so that was a substantial investment. Even though a shaper can apparently run router bits adequately, I figure I might as well run them in a router which is better.
    That's something else to consider. The shaper bits are more expensive than router bits.

    So, I'm not trying to talk you out of buying a shaper, but I think a homemade router table will be more than adequate. You can make a much better one yourself. I agree, it's hard to justify paying for a commerical table.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Mazon, Il
    >>> Is a 1.5 HP shaper to small for all but the smallest projects?

    The answer to your question is: no.


    Iíve owned that shaper for several years now. Stile & Rail, raised panel, T & G, all sorts of slots and rabbitsÖ in short it will do anything a 7815 can do plus a lot moreÖ and I also have the Grizzly ľ hp feeder.

    The machine is small but very sweet, IMO.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Upland CA

    Got both


    It's been a long time since I tested my shaper against my router table with the same router bits, and I don't remember all the details, but here goes.

    Background...Hobby not pro. Tool junkie. I have three router tables, two 1 1/2 HP Delta shapers, and a big shaper/TS combo. The one I use most is the small shaper with the router collet in it. The other has a 3/4" shaper spindle, and the Felder has the 1 1/4" spindle.

    As I said, the small Delta shaper with the router spindle is the 'go to' machine for most small cuts. I once tested it against my router table with the PC 690 and and assortment of small bits...1/4" roundover, small ogee, etc. I tested them at 7000 and 10,000 RPM, and whatever RPM the 690 goes (20K?).

    I could not tell the difference between cuts in pine, part board, and red oak, except when I used a really dull 1/4" roundover bit in very soft pine, and it fuzzed a bit in the shaper....a sharp one was fine.

    A friend sold me my first Delta shaper with the mobile base for $600. A while later I found another in the paper for $425 including about $500 worth of hardly used Frued bits...cabinet door set, etc. I bought it for the bits, thinking I would sell the shaper and recoup my money, but I like it so well I am keeping both.

    By the way, I just bought a never used PC7518, an unused Woodpecker router lift, and another bunch of bits for about $350. Trying to figure out how to hang it on the back of the shaper to save floor space. I know, I know.... Why did I buy it? Did I mention I was a tool junkie?

    Anyway, I can only report my experience testing small bits. Either way works fine. However...when you get into larger bits for raised panels and such, the shaper is much smoother because of the weight, doesn't bog down, and is QUIET. Besides, that 1 1/2 HP is run it all day HP, not peak it till it burns out HP like many universal motors are rated.

    Hope this helps,

    Rick Potter

  8. #8
    I just sold my (shop-built) router table and all but one router, and bought the Jet 1.5HP shaper. Now I have only used it several times so far, but it is quieter, heavier, and flatter than any router table I could construct. It also has 1/2", and 3/4" spindle, as well as 1/4" and 1/2" router collets, so my router bits are still useful. I confess I have not tried to test the quality of cut at the shaper's slower speed.
    All in all, I am happy I made the right decision. William's comments about Jet might make you wonder, but he hasn't elaborated on what exactly was unsatisfactory for him.

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