We have been making our cabinet doors on the router table and it has been working out pretty well, but I know a lot of people use a shaper. Is it less professional or does it take away from the quality of the overall product to have doors made on the router vs. the shaper?
From contributor J:
Do yourself a favor and buy a minimum 3hp shaper with a good stock feeder. Router tables have there places in any shop at times but I prefer a shaper. The quality of the product is determined by the craftsman not the machine. I can make the same cut on a shaper as I can on a router table the difference is that I can do a raised panel in one pass when it might take you 3-4. If you have a kitchen of about 30 raised panels to do it might take you almost 350 passes, and by hand!
On a shaper I can feed it and get a perfect cut every time without wearing myself out and as I said in one pass (of course harder woods and deeper profiles it varies). Used shapers are rather cheap, cheaper than some of the expensive new "cast iron" router tables I have seen advertised lately. There are people spending $500 on the top, $350 on the 3hp router, another $400 on the lift mechanism, etc. I don't understand it really. Look for a used Delta or Powermatic they are great entry shapers but get a feeder if you can.
Yes the passes will come down but quality will increase. When you use a feeder to profile stock with say a sticking cutter for a door profile you don't get any chatter, just a smooth evenly run profile. On a router table you are prone to going too deep or missing some areas. And sometimes you have to make the profile in 2 passes. With the shaper usually 3/8-1/2" profiles cut clean esp. on a 3hp+ in one easy pass.
The best advice is to try to visit a cabinet shop in the area let you watch them run a shaper, run stock, profiles, raised panels or check out videos online. A lot of great books out there too.
The same thing for edge profiles like panel edges and outside edge details. If your cutters are sharp enough and your setups are accurate enough, a good millman can produce high quality edgecuts on a router table.
Would you be better off with a shaper? You bet! It is much easier to get good results with the power and rock solidness of a shaper and power feed and much faster to run the parts. If you are in this long term you should make it a goal to get a shaper. Despite what some will tell you itís ok to start with just one shaper and power feed. Work your way up from there. When you get a shaper - 1" spindle minimum and 3 horse power minimum. I am ok with a cabinetmaker making do with the tools he has and adding more and better machines and tools when they can be afforded.
So after you make a dado, say, the hole itself may close a little or open a little. The next cut into the same dado will then remove a little more of the material that is left from the first cut on one side or the other of the dado. Another huge advantage to the shaper is that you can climb cut the stickers on wood that has a tendency to "pick" or splinter - especially figured material. They do sound scary when you crank them up and are new to them, but they are really much safer than routers when used with a power feed.
Shapers got a bad rap years ago when knives were hand ground out of old files and held in place with pinch collars. Today, they use very safe corrugated back knives, lock edge knives, through bolted knives and are extremely safe so long as you don't overload the spindle. When looking for a shaper, get one with a standard 1 1/4" spindle so that you can take full advantage of the machine's versatility.
You have to be more conscious of operations that you are hand feeding as opposed to using the power feeder and never climb cut on a shaper without a power feeder. Ever see a missile launch? A router table is great for running small profiles but you really start working it when you add raised panels or if you want to start making custom mouldings or doors thicker than an inch.
Half inch router bits now come in a multitude of profiles and are much sharper than shaper cutters. Some are so cheap that you can simply throw them away when they get dull rather than sharpen them - it's cheaper. These bits also have the advantage that they usually have a ball bearing incorporated into them, so it makes setting your fence easier by just lining up with the edge of the bearing. The bearing also makes it much easier to prevent snipe on the ends of mouldings and on copes by preventing your stock from intruding into the cutter. I have a small power feeder which quickly attaches and detaches from my table so I have no more trouble with smooth cut runs than I do on the shaper.