Shaper Decisions

Reasons to buy a good shaper (and a power feeder to go with it). April 10, 2007

After years of using a table mounted router for woodworking projects, I am preparing to purchase a 3hp shaper. Can someone direct me to some good reading that will educate me on the use of a shaper as opposed to routers? Also, is there a great advantage to purchasing a power feeder with a shaper?

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor J:
The best advantage to purchasing a powerfeed with your shaper is keeping all your fingers. Can't get more value out of a purchase than that, in my opinion. But you will also get a more consistent cut quality as the pieces go through at a set speed with no play, as you sometimes get hand feeding. As for books, you could start out with "The Shaper Book" from Taunton press.

From contributor P:
There is no excuse for not getting a feeder. You cannot do good quality, safe work without one. Period.

Make sure you get a shaper with a good quality, easy to adjust fence that will not flex. It should be adjustable without the use of wrenches. Miter gauges are of little use on shapers. You will need to make a sled of some type to do end cope cuts, etc. In my opinion, get a 1 1/4 spindle; don't bother with the smaller spindles and router collets on shapers - they are mostly useless. 3hp is fine for an entry level shaper. You can do lots with that. The shaper is probably the most valuable machine in the small custom shop. You will never outgrow its capability. Be safe and enjoy.

From contributor D:
If you plan on making a lot of 5-piece doors, I'd recommend taking a hard look at a shaper with sliding table. It's much better than any sled you can come up with on your own.

From contributor I:
Is the danger factor that much increased in moving from a 3hp table mounted router to a shaper?

From contributor J:
Simply put... yes. You cannot compare the force exerted from a 3 hp universal motor with a 1" - 2" diameter bit to a true 3 hp induction motor with a 2"+ bit. An induction motor has far more power. That's not to say that your 3 hp table mounted router couldn't benefit from adding a power feed to it also. Better safe than sorry.

From contributor P:
Safety is a relative thing here. Manufacturers seem to limit 1/2 shank router bits to 3 inch diameter. These can hurt you. I have several shaper cutters that are 11.0 diameter. These can kill you. Big panel raisers can be really scary. Lots of things can go wrong when setting up a shaper. If you forget to tighten something and it slips, it can make a big mess. Picture the power feeder getting eaten by a big knife head and shrapnel flying everywhere.

I am not trying to scare you away; it is a wonderful machine and it is safe if you pay attention and think about what you are doing. Experience is everything here, and only time in the trenches will give you experience.

From contributor B:
With some exceptions, there are many reasons to move up to a shaper. Power feeding is a must if you value your hands. I worked without a feeder for several years thinking that I was careful enough to avoid injury. Well, last year it finally happened and fortunately I lost only skin. As a surgeon I was too confident for my own good. I agree that a sliding table shaper is great for shorter length passes. I own several shapers and would be glad to give you my opinion on them if you wish.

From contributor H:
I'll just say that you don't want to end up short-handed by not having a power feeder. I know a guy who lost nearly his entire right hand in a shaper by trying to shape a small panel by hand. The panel shattered and his hand landed on the cutter. In my mind, you just can't afford to not have a good power feeder on your shaper. Plus, you get the added benefit of easier operation and a smooth finish.

Also, make sure you use proper jigs, clamps, sleds, etc. for the parts where you can't easily use a feeder (things like arched panels, coping rails, etc.) We have a Grizzly Z-Series 5hp shaper and couldn't be happier with it. I've seen posts where people prefer it to their Powermatic. As was mentioned, a 3 hp shaper is far more powerful than a 3 hp router. The truth is, your router isn't a true 3hp. It's a 3 peak hp motor, meaning on a good day, it might draw 3 hp for about 5 milliseconds on startup.

From contributor G:
For versatility, I suggest that you at least consider a tilting arbor as well as the sliding table. When I moved from the router, I nearly got a 5hp Powermatic, no tilt and no sliding, but luckily someone was selling a tilting sliding table Minimax and am I glad I got it. You can use the tilt to do a lot more with a limited amount of cutters... I got a 3 wheel 1hp power feed and feel that I should have gotten the 4 wheel one, as 2 wheels on each side of the cutter can is much better. Now I don't ever want to use the router table. There is more setting up time with a shaper, especially at first. And yes, get a 1 1/4" bore and forget the smaller ones. I know the 3/4" bore cutters are cheaper, but they will last you a long time, so start with the 1 1/4" bore and you won't regret it.