Upgrading from a Router Table to a Shaper Table

Freud Tools King Canada Tools recommendations router shaper table woodworking

What's the difference between a shaper and a router table?  Shapers are router tables on steroids. They do everything a router table can do and a whole lot more.  Most shapers will come with a few different sizes of spindles, and collets for router bits are also available.  Any of the router bits used on a router table can also be used in my King Canada Tools 5HP shaper, which expands its versatility.  I have lots of bits that fit on the ¼” and ½” shank.  With my new shaper table I also have a 1 ¼” and a ¾” spindle, which fit lots of the larger cutters.  

Once you step up to a shaper there’s a whole range
of cutters that you could never get with a router table. 


Dusty with his 2021 router and shaper collection

Bits on router tables only spin in the vertical position, and you can run wood over them or on the side of them to create profiles and shapes.  By contrast, with the shaper table you can get all kinds of shapes, sizes and profiles of cutters like tongue and groove, straight shapers, groove cutters, glue line cutters and more! With a shaper you get cutters that can cut much deeper grooves and profiles so you can do a bunch of different techniques and expanded possibilities.

The adjustability and speed are awesome on my shaper table.  The fences move back and forth adjusting for the width, diameter and position of the blade.  This happens by loosening two locks and turning a knob to adjust.  The front and back fences can also be shifted independently so a board can move through smoothly depending on the cut being made.  If I was cutting a radius edge that would come out with a millimeter off, the back fence would be adjusted so the board met with a flush fence ensuring no board wobble.  The fence knob is easy to use for micro-adjustments to get this alignment perfect.  

Adjustable fences

Adjustable fence knob


On the front of the unit is a height adjustment wheel that makes the bits and cutters  go up and down, it has an added lock in the middle holding the table in place once it’s set up perfectly.  There is a handy digital readout on this model to show how high or low it’s sitting, and it can be zeroed out to help find the position needed.   


Height adjustment wheel and lock

The blade can also run in Forward and in Reverse which is not possible on a router table.  This comes in handy when the direction of the grain in the board might cause the wood to want to splinter and break out.  In these cases I like to flip the blade over, changing the direction so that I am working from the other side to get the cleanest cut possible.   


Blade direction

Inside the motor access panel is a sticker listing the spindle speeds and belt position to get the three different speeds. The speed is adjusted by unlocking the motor to loosen the belt, which can then be moved to the recommended positioning.  


RPM recommendations

Motor and belt

Cutter recommended RPM

Look for max RPM recommendations on cutters and blades.  


To change the bit/cutter/blade: 

  • Reach underneath to lock the spindle.  

  • Loosen and remove the bolt from the top of the spindle. 

  • Take off all the spacers.  

  • Remove bit/cutter/blade.

  • Change the spindle and plate(s), if necessary. 

  • Place on the new bit/cutter/blade.

  • Stack spacers back on the spindle until the top piece is just above the shaft. 

  • Top it off with the washer and bolt, tighten. 

  • Reach underneath to unlock the spindle. 

Starting to remove the spindle

Removing spacers

Spacers are there to allow for a wide range of cutters


Shaper spindles


A shaper with multiple sizes of spindles opens up even more dynamic and aggressive possibilities.  Changing the spindle requires loosening the nut located at the base of the spindle from above.  Followed by loosening the shaft bolt found at the bottom of the spindle by reaching underneath the unit.  When both l have been released the entire shaft can be pulled out from the bottom, then the spindle can be unscrewed and removed.  To attach the new spindle follow those steps in reverse.  Start with screwing in the spindle, thread the shaft in from underneath, and tighten both.


Shaft taken out from underneath


Depending on the cutter being used and the way cuts will be made 
the plates can be removed or added to adjust the table base 
so much as possible is covered.  

There is also a dust shield which adjusts up, down, back and forth to get the most dust protection.  This helps contain dust and push it to travel out the dust collection system.  This machine has two dust collection ports, one up top and one down below.  I have found that when combined these ports do a really good job of sucking most of the dust away. 

Dust shield

Dust collection system

What’s the difference between router and shaper tables? 

Router tables spin bits really fast

Shaper tables have more torque and spin the blades and cutters slower  

A router table is good for removing small bits of material.  Only a little bit can be taken out at a time or it will bog down.  These are like a noisy cricket or a snappy little chihuahua.  They’re great for doing those smaller jobs like fine work, small radiuses, rabbets and flush trim type work  

When you want to remove a lot of material, like cut out large pieces and do repeat set ups, the torque and power of a shaper table is beneficial.  A shaper removes a ton of material quickly, efficiently and with a really clean finish.  With a shaper table you also have a wider selection of cutters to choose from.  

If you follow any of my social media pages you know my shop is packed with equipment from King Canada Tools. I’ve also been a fan of Freud tools for many years and they have a huge range of bits and cutters for shapers.   A big time saver for me has been Freud’s selection and stock.  Their broad range of tools, blades and bits are above standard and very predictable.  I’ve never had an issue with any orders out of the box.  They’ve also delivered high quality specialty items like an odd size blade for one of my saws.  Happy woodworking! 



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