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Shaper vs. Router

QuestionIf I want to mill my own picture frame moulding, do I need a shaper as well as a router? I'm not sure how to cut the decorative edge of the frame.

AnswerThe answer depends on whether you are making frames commercially or just making an occasional cut and how wide a profile you want to cut. Mouldings used in picture frames can be exceptionally wide with large detailed profiles—a shaper would be the preferred tool. However, a portable router mounted into an accessory table could produce results similar to a shaper. These tables are sold separately although some benchtop table saws have a spot built into one of the extensions to accept a router. It is important that you use a plunge router as this makes it easier to adjust your depth-of-cut. Also make sure the router comes with a router height adjustment knob or it is available as an accessory. You'll find this a lot easier to use.

Personally I have this type of setup in my shop; however, I use a router that's rated at 3 1/2 HP and 15 amps and has a 1/2" shank. This size router gives the feel of a shaper and allows such bits as edge forming, which includes raised panel and stile & rail, which includes Ogee cutters. These bits can have a diameter up to 3 1/2". You need the HP behind the router to use such large bits.

To get an idea of what these bits look like and others, look in a tool manufacturer's catalog (Bosch or Porter Cable). A section under "routers" will display the kinds of bits available. This type of operation allows the material to lay flat on the surface while the cutting is done from the underside.

If your work is stationary (well clamped), there is no reason why you can't use a portable router. In this case you will work and cut from the top surface of the material. The most commonly used router is the 1 1/2 HP, which can handle most projects. If you don't have a router and are considering one, first define your needs, what type of wood you work with, and the type of bit you are going to use. Once you have that information, contact the manufacturer for a recommendation on the best router for you.

Since routers come in different weights and styles, visit a dealer that specializes in tools and check them out personally. You need to pick them up to get a good feel—especially to see if you like the two-knob handle vs. the D-handle. Most manufacturers can be contacted through the web via eMail.

Copyright © 1999 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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