While this shaper is right on the edge of qualifying for this list, it does come with a more powerful motor than any of the others. At 2 HP, you can count on this one for a wide variety of cuts. It uses either 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch spindles, both of which are included, and has a spindle travel of three inches. The table is 24 inches wide by 21 inches deep, but they also make a table extension for it, which will make it 23 inches by 40 inches, much closer to the size of larger, more costly shapers. The fence control is rack and pinion for precise positioning and to help ensure that it doesn't move on its own. There are also hold downs for the material attached to the fence. A heavy-duty miter gauges comes with it.
Grizzly has managed to produce a 1-1/2 HP shaper for less than the cost of a high power router and good router table. That's pretty impressive when you think about it. This shaper has a 20-1/4-inch by 18-inch cast-iron table and accepts 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch spindles, both of which come with it. Both spindles have sealed ball bearings for long life and a three inch travel. In fact, everything that moves on this shaper is made with ball bearings for long life. The fence positioning is by screw feed, with a positive locking lever clamp. A lot of shaper for the money.
Jet's contender in this range has a 1-1/2 HP motor which turns at either 7,000 or 9,000 RPM, depending on your selection. It also works with both 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch spindles, like the other units we've looked at. However, in this case, the spindle travel is only 1-7/16-inch. The cast-iron table is 22-3/8-inch by 18-1/8-inch. Actually, the unit is a lot like the Grizzly. Like the others, it has a wood faced, cast-iron fence, which is set by screw controls. The major reason why I placed the Grizzly before this unit was price. This one is quite a bit more expensive.
The Shop Fox that I picked for number one isn't their smallest shaper, this one is. It has a 1 HP motor, compared to the 2 HP in the W1674. It's also got a slightly smaller table and only takes the 1/2-inch diameter spindle. Even though the spindle is smaller, it still stacks up to 3 inches of cutters, although the travel is limited to 7/8-inch. In addition to the 1/2-inch spindle, this one comes with collets to allow it to accept 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch router bits. The miter gauge has an extension on it for added precision; however, the fence adjustment isn't as fine as that found on the bigger units.
Grizzly produces the biggest shaper on the market, with a massive 91-3/4-inch table, and at the other end of the line they produce this one, the smallest shaper on the market. This one comes with a 3/4 HP motor, which may limit it's usability a bit. However, it's also the least expensive shaper on the market, at under $400. Although a shaper, with a 1/2-inch spindle, it's also designed for using with router bits, and comes with collets for both 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch shank bits. The major difference you'll see between this one and a router with table is that this unit has a shaper fence, rather than a router table fence. While that may not seem like much of a difference, the adjustment of a shaper fence is better, making for more secure cuts.
There are a number of large shapers out there, but this beast from Powermatic has to be the biggest and baddest. The 7-1/2 HP motor is attached to the spindle through five differ spindle speeds, plus a reverse speed. The spindle itself is seven inches tall, allowing stacking of multiple cutters and adjusts up to 45 degrees for maximum profile versatility.
This shaper also has a full-length sliding table riding on six tapered bearings for smooth operation. The table can travel a full four feet, and sports an onboard miter gauge with clamp. There’s also a 56” long miter fence with a flip stop included, something that’s virtually unheard of. The main fence is split, with digital readouts for both sides to allow for exacting tolerances. Let’s just say there’s not much this shaper can’t tackle.
Grizzly has a large, sliding table shaper even bigger than the Powermatic but I felt this shaper had more to offer. This is their tilting arbor shaper, which does just what the name says. By allowing the arbor to tilt to a precise angle, the shaper is able to make a whole new world of profiles, using the same cutting heads. In many cases, tilting adds additional depth to the cut, increasing the profile.
This shaper has a 1-1/4" diameter spindle, with a capacity of six inches. It can handle cutters up to 10" in diameter, which it will turn at four different speeds ranging from 3900 to 9400 RPM. The spindle also moved up and down, with a travel of 6-5/8". Tilting is controlled by a second crank handle and can be set precisely from 5 to 45 degrees. The table is a massive three inches thick to accommodate the tilt.
Shop Fox also has a larger shaper, like the Powermatic, but I chose their more modest 5 HP model. The cast iron fence is split, allowing you to dial in the right amount of offset for edge profiling. This one also takes all three standard spindle sizes, has a spindle travel of 3-1/4” and has spindle lengths of up to seven inches long. Like all the other shapers we’ve looked at, it comes with fingerboards to keep the material right where you want it for the best possible cuts.
I had to include this unique shaper from Grizzly in the lineup. This shaper actually has three separate cutting heads, allowing you to set up three separate operations, without having to change cutters. For production work, this is a great time saver, allowing each cutter to be used independently of the others and ensures consistency by allowing the cutters and fence adjustment to remain intact.
Each fence is independently micro-adjustable for accuracy. All this is powered by three 3 HP motors, one per spindle, which is the standard 1-1/4” diameter. There is also a 3/4” spindle available as an option. The spindle will accept up to four inch high cutters, but does not allow for angled cutting.
Jet makes a very nice series of shapers, topping out with this 3 HP model. It’s a single phase motor, so it will connect in the average home workshop, without special wiring. This model offers four different speeds, ranging from 4,000 to 10,000 RPM. The cast iron table is pre-drilled for a power feeder, which they also manufacture. The large miter gauge makes it easy to feed material across the smooth, cast iron table.