QUICK NOTE: To buy any product reviewed below, click on the Buy Now button to go directly to the appropriate page on another secure site to get more information on that product and/or make a purchase. The “Bob’s Pick” logo below indicates which of the products below has earned Bob Gillespies highest purchase recommendation. Below the reviews is a SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISON CHART and, finally, an article by Bob Gillespie on important features to consider when shopping and why.



While a 1 1/2 HP motor is a pretty small for a shaper, this relatively inexpensive shaper does bridge the gap between router table and shaper and it has some pretty nice features for an entry-level machine. Among these is the fact that the totally enclosed, fan-cooled motor is reversible with 2 speeds in each direction (7000 and 9000 RPM). Shaper height adjustments are made safely with a hand wheel. There are two, independent shaper fences with precise micro adjustment capability. There are adjustable work piece hold-downs attached to the fences and a spindle lock for rapid cutter changing.

          Included with this shaper are 1/2″ and 3/4″ spindles, 1/4 and 1/2″ collets for router bits, two table inserts (1 5/8 and 3 ¼ openings) which fit into a 5 1/4″ diameter table opening, two starting pins, a cutter guard, a 4 dust port and a T-slot miter gauge. The cast iron table measures 22 3/8 x 18 1/8. Spindle travel is 1 7/16 and the shaper weighs 190 Lbs. Optional mobile bases are available for this Jet shaper.


Moving up quite a bit in horsepower (3 HP, 1 PH) but not very much in price is the Jet JWS-25CS shaper. In addition to magnetic motor controls is a forward/reverse switch for left or right hand shaper operation. The cast iron table measures 25 x 18 and has a 25×7 extension wing for large work pieces. The two-speed pulley drive allows you to choose between two speeds (8000 and 10,000 RPM) and torque settings. As in the shaper above, the fence is micro adjustable. Other similarities include 1/2″ and 3/4 interchangeable shaper spindles and router bit collets (so that you can use either shaper cutters or router bits) and a 4 dust port.

         You also get hold-downs, starting pins, a cutter guard and a T-slot miter gauge. Spindle capacity under the nut is 2 ¾ with the half-inch spindle and 3 with the ¾ spindle. Spindle travel is 3. The 7 1/4 diameter table opening accommodates 7, 3 ½ and 3 table inserts (included). Shaper weight is 331 Lbs.


          This is a newer version of the Jet JWS 25CS shaper above, with the majority of features and specifications unchanged. I will mention only the changes. First of all, there has been a price increase. The router bit collets are now optional. Spindle size under the nut has increased slightly to 2 13/64″ for the half-inch spindle and to 3 13/16″ for the 3/4 spindle. Shaper spindle speeds are 7500 and 10,000 RPM.

          Shaper table opening diameter is down slightly to 6 9/32 with 2 9/16 and 4 21/64″ shaper table inserts supplied. Shaper table size is 25 x 25 ½


          This shaper has 4 reversible pulley speeds to provide the correct RPM and torque for each type of cutter: 4000, 6000, 8000 and 10,000 RPM. Magnetic controls are provided for shaper safety. The left and right fences are independently micro-adjustable. The 26 1/4 x 32 1/4″ cast iron shaper table comes pre-drilled for a power feeder. Starter pins are included, as are an extruded aluminum shaper fence with T-slots and feather board hold-downs

          1/4 and 1/2 router bit collets are available but are not included.  A 1 1/4″ shaper spindle is included. Shaper spindle capacity under the nut is 4 as is the spindle travel. Diameters of the two, provided table inserts are 2 5/8 and 4 7/8 respectively. A minimum of 400 CFM dust collection is required. Maximum cutter diameter (above the table) is 7 ¼. This shaper weighs 473 Lbs.


At 664 Lbs., this shaper is not going to slide around the floor of your shop easily. However, it does come equipped with heavy-duty casters concealed within its base, making it possible to roll it around as needed. There is spindle height digital readout for making fine incremental adjustments. The precision-ground cast iron shaper table top measures 30 x 40 and convenient quick-lock belt tensioning is built into this shaper.. There are two, reversible shaper cutter speeds (7500 & 10,000 RPM). The shaper table is pre-drilled and tapped for a feeder. The shaper fence has dual feather boards and two, 4 dust collection ports.

          3/4″ and 1 1/4″ interchangeable shaper spindle collets are included as are a miter gauge and clear cutter guard. A minimum 600 CFM of dust collection is required. The single phase, 3 HP motor requires 230 volts. Magnetic controls are provided for safety.


           This big shaper requires 3 Phase power for its 5 HP motor. Magnetic start is provided. The shaper has a very heavy, cast iron shaper table measuring 35 ½ x 27 5/8. This shaper has 5 reversible speeds: 3000, 4000, 6000, 8000 and 10,000 RPM. There are three standard shaper table inserts and the smaller shaper table insert has a guide shoulder for copy work. Inserts measure 2 1/2″, 5 1/2″ and 5 7/8 x 4 3/16 oval to accommodate the shaper spindle which can tilt 5 degrees forward and 45 degrees back for bevel shaping. Shaper spindle travel is 7 1/16. The entire hold-down and shaper cutterhead shield assembly flips out of the way to facilitate shaper spindle changes.

          The shaper fence has adjustment dials for fine tuning. The shaper miter gauge has a clamp assembly and work stop for shaping the ends of stock. A minimum of 600 CFM of dust collection is required. The shaper dust collection port measures 4 inches. Shaper weight is 682 Lbs.


          The sliding table on this 7.5 HP, 3 phase Powermatic shaper has a 4-foot stroke and works with a miter head, hold-down and shaper fence to shape everything from multiple end cuts to tenons. The shaper fence has dual digital readout for quick and accurate adjustment. Even though this is a sliding table shaper, there is still room for a shaper stock feeder. Magnetic controls are included.

          Shaper spindle travel is 7 which allows for stacked tooling. The shaper spindle tilts negative 5 degrees to positive 45 degrees. Large diameter shaper table inserts accommodate almost any size of cutter. There are five speeds, forward and reverse. 800 CFM of dust collection is required. Two 5-inch dust ports are incorporated into the shaper. Maximum shaper cutter diameter (above the table) is 12 inches and 9 below the table. This shaper weighs 1100 Lbs.


ManufacturerModel HP    PH          Price1/2″3/4″1″1 1/4″VoltageSlidingSpeedsTable
JetJWS-25X31$1,800YesYes115/230Two25″ x 25 1/2″
JetJWS-35X5-151$2,600Yes230Four26 3/4″x32 1/4″
PowermaticPM270031$3,300YesYes230Two30″ x 40″
PowermaticModel 2953$4,800YesYesYes230/460Five35 1/2″ x 27 5/8″
PowermaticTS297.53$6,700YesYesYes230/460YesFive51 1/2″ x 33 1/2″


          Depending on how you look at it, theres either no difference between a shaper and a router table or a there’s great deal of difference. They are the same in that they both work by projecting a cutter or bit up through a hole in the table. The work piece is then run along a fence and through the cutter, producing a profile on the work piece matching that of the cutter.

        In, many other ways, however, a shaper and a router table are quite different. The first question you might want to consider is: Considering the type of woodworking I do or I am likely to do in the future, do I need a shaper or will a simple router table do the trick? What will determine the answer to the question is the size of the shaper cutter or router bit profiles you want to create. You do not need to own both a shaper and a router table since many shapers can also spin router bits. However, you cannot spin shaper cutters on a router.

          If you are used to working with routers and router tables, one of the first things you will notice the first time you turn on a shaper is how much quieter it is. The high-pitched whine of the router has been replaced by the quieter whirr that is characteristic of the shaper. The reason for this is two-fold: First, most shapers turn at slower RPMs (7000, to 10,000) than routers which scream along at 20 to 25 thousand RPM. And yet, when you consider the tip speed of the larger shaper cutter as opposed to the router bit, there may not be that much difference in speed at the actual point of cutting. Second, routers are direct drive while shapers use the quieter belt-drive system of rotation.

          Because shaper cutters are so much larger than router bits, they are attached to the shaper differently than router bits are attached to a router. Shapers use heavy metal spindles that are firmly attached into the shaper at the bottom of the spindle. Spindles usually come in 4 sizes: 1/2″, 3/4″, 1, and 1 1/4″ diameters. Some machines only include one spindle but others supply two or more. There are two types of spindles: solid and interchangeable. An interchangeable spindle has a hole in the top end which allows you to mount smaller diameter spindles and even router bit collets. An interchangeable spindle can also hold shaper cutters. Solid spindles are used only for shaper cutters. Cutters, spacers, rub collars and/or ball bearings are dropped onto the spindle shaft from above and then secured with a large, provided nut. The capacity of a shaper spindle is expressed in available space under the nut. The greater the vertical capacity of the shaper spindle, the more cutters and spacers can be accommodated. Another important figure to look at when shopping for a shaper is the amount of  spindle travel. This figure relates to how high or low the spindle can be with relationship to the table top. This relates to the maximum thickness of work piece that can be shaped. Multiple cutters can be put together to create different profiles.

          Generally speaking, the largest shaper cutters work better at lower RPMs. Most shapers will offer you two different speeds. The more expensive shapers may offer you as many as five. Changing speeds is done by moving the drive belt into another pulley position as on a drill press. And, like the drill press, belt tension must be slackened before this can be done. On most shapers, this is accomplished by simply moving a lever that releases the belt tension, then, moving the drive belt into another pulley position and finally, by moving the lever back to its original tight position.

          Most shapers come with “slots” for a miter gauge in both the table and the fence. This is to allow small pieces to be shaped safely and effectively. Another piece of equipment relating to safety is the starter pin. This is a metal pin, threaded on one end, that screws into a threaded hole in the table near the location of the cutter. It gives you a place to rest the work piece against when beginning a freehand cut.

          In a router table, there are two types of router bits you may use: (1) with or (2) without a ball bearing guide. If there is no ball bearing guide on the router bit, you MUST use the router table fence. Same with the shaper. The shaper may use a rub collar or a ball bearing on the spindle shaft to prevent the work piece from being drawn into the shaper cutter deeper than the profile. If you are using a shaper cutter without a rub collar or ball bearing, then you will need to use the fence that is installed on the table. The infeed portion of the fence is set further away from the operator than the outfeed fence. This difference determines the depth of cut. Most shapers allow you to micro-adjust the fence settings for perfect results.

          When shaping irregular (not square) work pieces on a shaper, you will have to work freehand which is inherently more dangerous than using the shaper fence. To do this, you will probably need to remove the shaper fence or, at least, set it back, out of the way, toward the rear of the table. You will need to construct an alternate kind of shaper cutter safety guard. This improvised shaper cutter guard can be made from a round piece of 3/16 or thicker Plexiglas with a hole drilled through it at the center point. This shaper guard must be a bit wider than the swing of the shaper cutter being used. It should be mounted at the top of the shaper cutter or cutters on the spindle and then fastened down with the spindle nut. Keep your fingers as far away from the cutter as possible while maintaining a firm grip on the work piece at all times. With the rub collar or ball bearing installed, you can press the work piece into the shaper cutter without worrying about going too far.

          A shaper can be an extremely dangerous machine if not used properly. Anything I say in this piece or anywhere else should NOT be construed as giving advice that could lead one to do anything dangerous, harmful, injurious or fatal. In, fact, I would say that if you are ignorant of the dangers present in woodworking or are not willing to take the necessary safety precautions, then you should immediately give up woodworking and never go near a woodworking machine again. Here are some precautions you MUST take when using a shaper in the interest of your safety and that of others in your shop:

          1)    ALWAYS use some sort of guard or, even better, a power feeder mounted on your shaper. A power feeder will completely cover the cutter danger area and will push the work piece against the shaper fence as it pushes it through the cutter. Buy a power feeder and use it whenever you can. When the operation precludes the use of a power feeder, at least use an effective cutter guard. Most shaper fences come with guards. Use the guard!

          2)    Most shapers can be run forward or reverse. This is because some shaper cutters or cutter configurations require that the shaper be run in reverse. Before you start any cut DETERMINE THE PROPER DIRECTION OF ROTATION for the cutter or cutters on the shaper spindle. Then check and double-check that the shaper is set to run in the proper cutting direction. If you feed a work piece into a shaper WITH the direction of shaper cutter rotation instead of AGAINST it, the shaper can easily pull the work piece out of your grip and send it flying like a missile through your shop with possible FATAL results.

          3)    NEVER shape small or thin pieces. Instead, shape a larger piece of wood than you need and then rip off what you need on the table saw. Small pieces can also easily become missiles. Further, they will cause your fingers to be way too close to the cutter and if they slip, they may cause your fingers to go into the shaper cutter.

          4)    USE A STARTER PIN when doing free hand work with irregular work pieces on a shaper. It will give you much greater control and may prevent kick-back.

          5)    USE A MITER GAUGE WITH A HOLD-DOWN CLAMP whenever shaping the ends of narrow pieces like table or chair legs. To attempt this without a miter gauge and clamp is asking for a trip to the emergency room.

          6)    USE SHAPER JIGS WHENEVER POSSIBLE. A shaper jig is a shop-made or other device designed to guide cuts for consistent and safe results.

          7)    USE EYE AND EAR PROTECTION and wear a DUST MASK. The reasons should be obvious.

          One more piece of advice, although this doesnt relate to safety as much as it does to work piece conservation. Always shape (or rout) the end grain of a square or rectangular work piece first and then rout along the sides. This way, you have a good chance of shaping or routing away the chip-out at the end of the end grain as you clean up the sides. Also, if you are shaping end grain, try to clamp a back-up board to the work piece so that it passes through the cutter immediately after the work piece, thus preventing chip-out. If you can afford it or think you might be doing a lot of end grain cuts, consider a machine with a sliding table. In a mass production setting, it can pay for itself quickly in time saved and repeated accuracy.

          In the reviews above, we looked at a number of shapers ranging from a barely adequate shaper to a possible over-kill giant, industrial shaper. Which shaper you buy should depend upon your needs. As with any tool, buy a large enough machine so that it can meet your requirements not only now but in the future as well. Don’t over-buy but err on the side of “too big” rather than “too small.” The first shapers we talked about are designed for the small workshop environment and are adequate only to that. We then progressed through medium-sized shapers and finally to industrial shapers.

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