Have you ever looked at a fine piece of a wooden template and wondered how they did it? If you ask your old uncle Joe, his answer will most likely be in the lines of routers, chisels, shapers, or something very similar.
That’s because these tools are versatile, and any of them could have done it honestly. Although not all of them, in this article we’ll discuss Shaper vs Router, what are the advantages and what you should get?
Woodworks are genuinely impressive when done right. Some patterns, some design, or builds are so mind-blowing, you’ll go, “Wow! How do they do that?” I’ve been in that situation a few times.
Later, when I dug into the topic, It’s pretty amazing, the world of woodworking is. Now, I can’t open up the door to the whole world of amazement in one article, but I can definitely open up a window.
What is a Router?
A router is the small-ish hand-held power tool, used in wood shaping, or designing. You pre-emptively set the cutting bit depth, and then move the device along with the cut marks, on top of your workpiece.
A router is small, light, mobile, and easily maneuverable. Thus you can easily achieve tasks like channeling and grooving, templates, designing, joints like dovetail, rabbet mortise, even edge works like shaping, cutting, you name it, with a simple everyday router and a bit of skill, you can do those in no time.
What is a Shaper?
A shaper or rather a shaper table is another powerful tool to help out on woodworking. But it’s more similar to a table saw than a router in appearance. It is basically a cutter, set in a table, you move the workpiece, unlike a genuine router.
In terms of functionality, a shaper is used for edge works mainly. Thus the name, shaper, because it helps in shaping. Tasks like cutting, dadoing, channeling, or even joint preparation can be done rapidly with a shaper. Much faster than a router.
Similarities Between Shaper And Router
A shaper and a router are the two leaves of the same branch, both born from the same place, for the same purpose.
Both the shaper and a router are pretty versatile, thanks to the variety of bits available. So, they are not limited, rather open to many shapes and depths according to need.
Differences between a Shaper and a Router
Okay, enough rambling, let’s cut to the chase here, after all, it’s their difference that makes the two machines unique and interesting.
A router usually uses a universal motor, which provides high RPM, but low power. Of course, the power output will be proportional to power input, which will vary, depending on the model and price. An average router has about 12,000-21,000 RPM.
A Shaper, on the other hand, uses an Induction motor. Compared to a universal motor, an induction motor uses more power. The average motor used in a shaper typically spins at 8,000-10,000 RPM.
Now, based on the numbers alone, it is clear that a router motor spins much faster. Thus, it should be used for heavy tasks. That’s obvious, right?
Well, wrong. Induction motors are well reputed for power, not universal motors. Induction motors spin a lot slower, thus producing lower RPM, but each of the spins/revolutions deliver more power. This makes heavy tasks easily achievable.
Now, both the machines have their upsides and downsides. Compared to a shaper, a router delivers lower power per blow, and honestly, lower total PPM (power per minute) in general.
Okay, power per minute wasn’t a real unit until now. Anyway, you get the idea. Another mentionable downside of a router is its relatively smaller cutting bits somewhat increase the cutting time.
A shaper, along with its powerful motor, makes cuts faster, especially long, and repetitive cuts. The bigger bits/blades make things easier at this. However, one task, where a shaper is helpless, is templating/designing, or similar tasks where you need to reach in the middle.
Which one to opt for?
Both the shaper and the router have their benefits and limitations. In the end, no one is perfect, though, right? So, you got to make do, or you can buy both.
Over-all, if you do the same task repeatedly, or if you do long tasks frequently, a Shaper is your best bet. The bigger bits and heavier torque make short work of the workpiece.
But if you often do complicated/in the middle of the workpiece chiseling, a shaper is a no-go. A router is go-go.
I just want to mention one thing briefly here: If you have a shaper already, and not yet into investing into a router, you can buy a router collet for a few bucks.
This will allow you to use a router bit on a shaper. This makeshift solution won’t make up for the lack of a router but open up a few more opportunities.