Router table vs shaper - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 08:40 AM Thread Starter
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Router table vs shaper

One of my next tool purchases is going to be a router table or shaper. But what are the advantages of one vs the other? I've been scouring CL for a few weeks now, and seeing some older shapers with 3/4 to 1 hp (usually belt driven) shapers, that usually seem to need a small bit of work such as clean up and wood for the fence, but have heavy cast iron tables. These things are usually fairly cheap, being between $100 and $250.

Then, on the other hand, there are router tables. Prices seem to be about the same, but some have plastic fences, even if they have a cast iron table. I'm not really looking at the cheapie bench top Craftsman things. Then, occasionally, I see something like a JessEm for a whole lot of coin ($500 - $1000 with router and fences). What would make a router table worth that much money?

What are the thoughts on a router table vs shaper? Is a shaper with a 1 hp motor able to compete with a 3+ hp router in a table? Can both do raise panels? I really don't know what to look for, although I do like the idea of a lift that is operated from a hole in the top, or better yet, a wheel on the front of a shaper.
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post #2 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 09:07 AM
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Both can run raised panels. Either a 1hp shaper or a 3hp router you would have to go slow and not make too many of them at once to prevent the machines from overheating. If you were going to make a lot of them you would need a shaper with a minimum 3hp motor. Even a 3hp shaper will bog down running oak raised panels.
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post #3 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 09:55 AM
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IMO, if you are planning on running a LOT of raised panels or moldings, the shaper is the way to go. Typically shapers run at 8-12,000 rpm which is perfect for larger bits but to slow to get good cuts with smaller router bits. Shaper cutters also cost a lot more than router bits. A router table with a decent variable speed router, 10 -25,000 rpm or so, is a much more flexible machine for a hobbyist. I don't know how to compare a 1 hp inductive motor to a 3 hp universal motor. To much variability in hp claims by mfg to develop a meaningful comparison. JMHO

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post #4 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 10:08 AM Thread Starter
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Hey, thanks for the info. I didn't realize that shapers run slower to run the larger bits. I'm definitely just a hobbyist and would use it for lots of general stuff. I've never built my own doors before, but that's the plan. Maybe some raised panels but certainly joining rails/styles and dados for the panels. Plus, lots of other general stuff. I also wonder if I could get a shaper off CL and swap the motor out for a router? Would still be cheap. But then again, building a router table would also be cheap (and fun).
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post #5 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 11:13 AM
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I have one of each..

A few table mounted routers in lifts in a cast iron tables, a 1 HP old Craftsman shaper with a 1/2" arbor, and a 3 HP Grizzly shaper.

What operation I want to do determines which tool I use.
The routers in the tables get the most use by far. I seldom use the 1 HP shaper set up with a glue joint bit, very difficult to get the height right. There is not the range of cutters available in 1/2" bore that there are in 3/4" and above, so I am limited by what cutters I can use in that machine.
And I have yet to use the 3HP shaper. I had planned on making more raised panels and doors but so far, no need for that and the machine itself is "trapped" in a crowed space in the shop. I can see it, but can't get to it.....
Routers are not reversible like shapers.
Shapers can't spin as fast as routers and are not useful for small diameter bits like 3/4" and under. The shaper has a nut on top of the arbor so that restricts blind cuts up from the bottom like dados. They are used for edge profiles because of that.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #6 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 07:49 PM
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Bit speed is pretty important safety-wise and cut quality wise. Woodline.com has a size / RPM chart that you should lay your hands on before you go too far down the road.

As for shaper vs. router table, I can only say that one of Woodsmith Magazine's earliest project was a router table that was just a quarter sheet of 3/4 inch plywood with holes in it and clamped to a bench. Over the years they upgraded that with legs, laminate, etc. There is still no shaper on their show, but then their show is directed at hobbyists like me. If you are planning to be a production shop, your needs may be different. I migrated with lots of evolutions, upgrades, new builds, etc. I love my "Norm Abrams router table" and have never regretted where I ended up.
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post #7 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 08:05 PM Thread Starter
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I think I'll end up doing what most people here do and build my own. I looked at the miter and T tracks and face plates available, and think I'm better off spending $100-$150 on building a table and getting a more powerful router. Both of my current routers are under powered for this application and don't have height adjustments through the base. For $260-$300 I can get a 3+ hp with electronic speed control and adjustable height through the base. So for $500, I can be set up, new router and all.

I'll probably use melamine or pre-made laminate counter tops from Lowes/HD. I also think I'll make it to fit on my work table, which I also plan on putting a new top on, thanks to Bernie's workbench thread that I found today.
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post #8 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 09:26 PM
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I'd go with the router table to start. I've made dozens of raised panel doors with a 3 1/4 horse porter cable router (variable speed is a necessity here, the panel bit gets run at 11,000 rpm). The trick is to take 3 or 4 passes, moving the fence back 1/2" or so after each pass until you reach full cut depth.
I made my router table out of flakeboard, which I then laminated with countertop grade Formica. Used aluminum channel for the miter slot, and made a coping sled using a cannibalized old table saw miter gauge. A word of advice: put a 2" (or so) radius on the corners of your table top. This way it won't snag your shirt in the event you have to reach. Ya never know.
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post #9 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 11:36 PM
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If you have about 2k to spend then go with a cheap 3hp shaper and a power feeder. They can do alot more then just act like a over sized router table. You mill your own mouldings, get a nice clean edge on lumber,etc.. They are really good for running reclaimed lumber threw to clean up.

Maker of quality hardwood moldings
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post #10 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 11:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyTooBad View Post
I'll probably use melamine or pre-made laminate counter tops from Lowes/HD. I also think I'll make it to fit on my work table, which I also plan on putting a new top on, thanks to Bernie's workbench thread that I found today.
Hi Johnny - I'd recommend passing on the melamine or the premade countertop from the big box stores. The countertop is generally post formed for drip edges and backsplashes so you have some lumps n' bumps to deal with. The melamine is typically very thin and will likely wear out very quickly. Worse though, is they both will use a partical board substrate which is neither strong nor stable.
I'd recommend 3/4" MDF, dead flat and pretty strong. Doubled to give a 1˝" thickness. You can laminate with HPL (high pressure laminate aka Formica) for a nice, slick surface. You would have enough left over from a full sheet to build a fence to boot. If money is tight, BLO (boiled linseed oil) will do a nice job of sealing (instead of the formica) and hardening the stuff and a good coat of floor wax will finish the job. Just be sure to follow the cautions on the BLO as it can be pretty flammible.

John

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post #11 of 13 Old 01-22-2013, 09:13 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks John. I didn't know pre-fab counter top and melamine were that bad. I've made my own Formica kitchen countertops before, so I'm comfortable with that. A single 4x8 sheet of MDF will be more than enough, and they usually sell the generic colors of plastic laminate in-stock pretty cheap. I can go that way. Thanks.

I ordered all the parts from Rockler and Woodcraft last night. A 15 amp Triton router (they are running a $20 rebate right now), t-track, miter track, t-track accessories, on-off switch, dust port, router table base, and various other items.
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post #12 of 13 Old 01-22-2013, 10:22 AM
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You're going to like that Triton router. It is a good router for living in a table like you're planning. Lots of power. Let's see it when you're all set up!
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post #13 of 13 Old 01-22-2013, 08:49 PM Thread Starter
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Well I'm back into the mode of making a table surface. I think I might take my first stab at this with a piece of melamine that I have. I was making a new TS extension this evening and the remaining piece is about exactly the size I want for a router table. 33x36. I put some straight edges on it, and both short ends are perfect, as is one long end. The other long end has a dip in the center about 1/64". I couldn't find any imperfections in it, except one short, but noticeable scratch that is near one of the long edges. I'm going to have to support it underneath anyway, so I think I'll start with this, then I can always replace it if I find I want something better.

I was also just standing there staring at the tools in my shop and looking at the available space. Knowing that I want to add a router table and a jointer, I think I have enough room to build a regular rolling cabinet style table. I currently have a table that is about the size of a slightly smaller router table that holds all of my drills, bits, mortising attachment, and a few other things, that I can move and put the router table there. Replacing my table saw extension also gained me some room because the old one stuck out the back of the saw a couple of feet and the new one doesn't. So when I stow it away, it leave me a good bit more room.
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