A wood router is something that almost any woodworking enthusiast will have in his or her shop, but fewer people have a tool called a wood shaper. If your new to the world of woodworking, you may not even know what this tool does or how you can use one. To make things as clear as possible for you, I’m going to go over what these tools are, what each one does and how you can use the different tools.
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What is a Shaper?
Routers come in different designs like those you can use with one hand and those that come with an attached table. Shapers are generally as large as the router tables and table saws that many use. It has a large table that serves as the base for the tool, and most manufacturers use cast iron or steel for the table because these materials are more stable and durable.
The tool also has a spindle that pushes forward the cutter head, which typically features three individual blades. You can lift the spindle up or lower it down to make it form a better angle and relationship to your wood. The spindle and blades work together to help you create more detailed work with better definition.
What is a Wood Shaper in Comparison to a Router?
When comparing a shaper vs router, you need to keep in mind that these tools are fairly similar. Some experts actually refer to the two as cousins because the designs are so alike. If you can only afford one of these tools or only have enough space in your workshop for one, you’ll typically find that a shaper is a better choice.
Many industrial and professional workshops use shapers as a way to quickly produce mass amounts of products sold to clients or the general public.
When comparing a router table vs shaper, you also need to consider the included motor. Routers typically use a universal motor that needs less power to run but still produces a high number of revolutions. Depending on whether you get a handheld option or a table model, you’ll notice an RPM of 10,000 to more than 30,000 per minute.
The induction motor used on a shaper requires less power but has a lower RPM rating. These tables usually have a belt-driven motor inside and can produce around 10,000 revolutions per minute, though some have an even lower RPM rating. These motors are better for those who work daily because induction motors can handle more constant work.
One difference between router and shaper tools is the size of the bits that you can use with each one. Routers can only accommodate smaller bits and usually have a maximum capacity of 3.5 inches. With a shaper, you can use bits of up to five-inches in size.
The bits designed for use with a shaper are often more expensive though. While you can get router bits at almost any home improvement store, those designed for shapers are only available from specialty stores.
As you do a router vs shaper comparison, you’ll find that routers are often easier to use too. Many of the tables that you see for sale come with a wood router that you can actually take off the table. This lets you use the router as a handheld tool.
Shapers are best for those who have enough space to dedicate to the tool. It’s typically large in size and has a heavy-duty base, though some come with wheels on the base for moving it. You’ll need to use the shaper table each time you want to shape wood.
What Can You Do With a Shaper?
Many people want to know what they can do with a shaper before investing in one. These tools are great for those who make molding like crown molding, which can add height and beauty to a room. With a router, it can take hours to do enough trim pieces for your own living room, but it takes much less time to make the same pieces with a shaper.
Shapers are also great for those who work with a lot of wood on a regular basis. The blades used in these tools will remain sharp for hundreds of cuts and will give you the smooth finish that you desire on each piece of wood.
Another thing to keep in mind is that shapers actually allow you to bend and shape individual pieces of wood. Let’s say that you want to make an heirloom rocking chair for your child that he or she will use for years and take after moving out. A shaper lets you create the perfectly curved boards placed on the bottom of the chair that lets it rock smoothly.
You might wonder, “what does a wood shaper do?” or “what is a shaper used for?,” and the simple answer is that this tool is popular among those who make doors, including both interior and exterior doors for a home and cabinet doors like those used in a kitchen. Woodworking shapers let you cut panels into the door to add texture and dimension when creating a design. On cabinet doors, these tools let you create edging along the sides of the doors.
Are There Router Shaper Tables?
As the tools are so similar, you might wonder if you can get one router shaper table that lets you make all types of cuts. Companies do not make double-duty tables because customers use shaper router tables and tools for different jobs. You can, however, use a router as a shaper, but you cannot use a shaper as a router.
One option for those looking as a wood shaper vs router table is the ability to make reverse cuts. Called reversible shapers, these tables allow you to make cuts in different directions based on how you move the wood across the table. You can actually go in the same direction as your bit or in the opposite direction.
This is a helpful feature for those who might want to add some extra detailing on a door or a piece of trim. You can actually turn the board upside down or feed it through along the opposite side and let the shaper make those cuts. A wood router will only let you cut in one direction.
Another feature for those trying to decide between a shaper or router is the type of bits that they can use in these tools. When comparing a router vs shaper, keep in mind that you can often use router bits in a shaper, but you cannot use shaper bits in a router. If you can only use one tool, this feature might make you decide on a shaper.
Router or Shaper: Who Wins?
The best tool for you depends on factors like how often you will use it, what you want to use it for and the cuts that you want to make. I highly recommend that you read through my section on “what does a shaper do?” to see if a shaper will fit your overall needs. Once you do a shaper vs router comparison, you may find that a shaper does everything you want and will last longer than a router table will too.