Shaper Cutter

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Frequently Asked Questions...

In woodworking: In what cases would we use a shaper instead of a 3-1/4 h.p. router and router table?

Can't I do everything and more with a big router mounted in a nice router table? What can a shaper do that a router/table can't?


Best Answer...

Answer:

You're right, a shaper is basically a big router, but the difference is that a shaper cutter is often a bigger diameter and has three knives and most router bits only have two, in addition to being a smaller diameter. A shaper also has a much bigger arbor and more solid table, all of which make for smoother cuts than you get with even a large router and a good table and base. A shaper can run for a lot longer without overheating, the dust collection is usually a lot more efficient, and you can install a power feeder on one to make them even more productive and safe for large runs of material.

I use both at our shop and if it's only for a limited amount of linear footage, I'll use the router table, but if I have to make a hundred feet or more of a custom molding profile, I'll use the shaper because the larger 3 wing cutters cut a lot smoother than most router bits. It's also safer and cleaner because you can adjust the fence to be much closer than possible with most router fences. Our shaper has a reversible motor so some cutters can be run upside down, which is an extremely handy feature at times.

But you can do an awful lot of stuff with a good 3 1/4 or 3 1/2 horse router and you don't have to have a shaper even if you're a large commercial shop. A millwork shop might require a shaper, but most places can get by without one, though they are awfully nice to have sometimes for the above reasons. With a router, you're only limited by your imagination, experience, and tooling budget. They are extremely versatile tools and a necessity for any shop. There are a million little tricks and procedures to make a router more efficient, safe, and productive.