Q. I’m thinking about starting a side business building custom doors. Should I consider investing in a shaper or use my router table? Shaper cutters are larger and last longer than router bits. The heavy weight large-diameter shaper cutter is designed to remove large amounts of material.
A. Get a shaper. Simply stated, the shaper produces more in less time than a router can. A 3-1/2-hp router table setup can handle the occasional kitchen and, coupled with today’s router bits, is even capable of making full-size, 1-3/4-in.-thick exterior doors. But a router is not designed for large-scale wood removal on a continuous basis. A 1-1/2-hp shaper will actually remove more wood than a 3-1/2-hp router. That’s because routers have lightweight universal motors designed for handheld use that develop low torque. A shaper uses an induction motor designed for continuous, heavy-duty use with torque to spare. Torque is what allows a shaper to hog off two to three times as much wood as a router can in a single pass. You’ll still need a good router table setup. Small-diameter bits need the high rpm to make a clean cut. Although shapers have adapters that allow you to run router bits, they don’t spin them fast enough for an optimal cut.