wood shaper

Wood Shaper Face-Off: 9 Machines Whittling Down the Competition

Reviewed By Dr Solly

While testing 9 different wood shaper tools, I found that the DEWALT 20V Max Cordless is best for effective, convenient, and simple wood shaping.

Using my 15-year history of both hobbyist and professional woodworking, I’ve learned through (painful!) trial and error what tools work and which you should steer clear of, from woodworking table saws to carving kits.

Factors that led me to choose the DEWALT as my favored shaper include its immense ease of use, portable and compact design, and powerful shaping capabilities.

On the flip side, the DEWALT is surely not all-encompassing: 

For exceptional use cases like high-precision projects, brand new beginners, and flexible design choice, I have a few other recommendations.

Read on to see my 9 top choices and how each one measures up to the champion tool!

9 Best Wood Shaper Machines

Let’s break down the 9 wood shaper machines I’ve chosen (starting, of course, with my personal favorite!):

Product ImageProduct NameSimpleWood
What I likedWhat I did not likeLink
DEWALT 20V Max CordlessDEWALT 20V Max CordlessBest Overall– Ease of use, 
– Portability, 
– Machine power
– N/ACheck Price Here
BOSCH PR20EVSBOSCH PR20EVSMost Convenient– Variable speed,
– Sturdy
– Good cord location
– Requires frequent adjustment
– Overheating problems
Check Price Here
SKIL 10 Amp CordedSKIL 10 Amp CordedBest for Cost– Affordability
– Small build
– Easy to assemble
– Lacks precision
– Inconvenient power switch
Check Price Here
Makita RP2301FCMakita RP2301FCBest for Control and Variability– High maximum power
– Adjustable speed
– Variable depth
– High learning curveCheck Price Here
KREG PRS1045KREG PRS1045Most Precise Shaping– Fence guide
– Micro-adjustment
– Flexible height
– Higher price
– Frequent corrections required
Check Price Here
POWERTEC 71402 Bench TopPOWERTEC 71402 Bench TopBest for Stability– Secure surface
– Large work area
– Steel stand
– Inconvenient fence designCheck Price Here
AVHRIT Cordless CompactAVHRIT Cordless CompactMost Portable– No cords
– Quick release
– Compact size
– Poor dust collectionCheck Price Here
AnoleX All-Metal CNC MachineAnoleX All-Metal CNC MachineMost Beginner-Friendly– Simple assembly
– Clear instructions
– Convenient accessories
– Unadvertised included partsCheck Price Here
Milwaukees Cordless CompactMilwaukee’s Cordless CompactBest for Ease of Use– Small dimensions
– Intuitive design
– Steady power supply
– Poor visibilityCheck Price Here

1. DEWALT 20V Max Cordless – Best Overall

DEWALT 20V Max XR Cordless Router, Brushless, Tool Only (DCW600B)

For most woodworkers, the DEWALT 20V Max Cordless is the optimal choice, on account of a few simple truths:

  • Ease of use. Due to factors like the comfortable grip, convenient cordless design, and lightweight build, I found this machine exceptionally easy to use, making it a great choice for beginner and hobbyist users.
  • Portability. The DEWALT is highly compact, doesn’t suffer from any pesky cords, and is easy to lift and maneuver; all pluses for those who move from workstation to workstation and need to bring their tools with them.
  • Machine power. A deceptively small and simple design sits on top of impressive power. The 20 volt battery power and max 25,000 RPM speed will get the job done for heavy-duty wood shaping projects.

2. BOSCH PR20EVS – Most Convenient

BOSCH PR20EVS Router Tool, Colt 1-Horsepower 5.6 Amp Electronic Variable-Speed Palm Router

Minimizing frustrations, slowdowns, and prep time has long been one of my main criteria for any woodworking tool. 

In that field, the BOSCH PR20EVS excels:

  • Variable speed. The PR20EVS’s variable speed motor lets you easily adjust the pace of your work, which is a must-have if you work with several types of projects.
  • Sturdy. With a fixed base design and extra grip support, the tool lets you work with minimal disruption or inaccuracy (a huge boost to high-precision projects!)
  • Cord location. By using an angled exit for its cord, I found that the machine kept the cord from intruding on my workspace and slowing me down.

But, I should give a more complete picture and explain the cons I noticed.

This shaper isn’t the easiest to get the hang of: The tightening mechanism requires frequent adjustment and this led to some slipping problems as I worked. 

Additionally, there were definitely overheating problems. I had to routinely pause the machine to let it cool off and keep the motor running smoothly. 

3. SKIL 10 Amp Corded – Best for Cost

SKIL 10 Amp Fixed Base Corded Router —RT1323-00

There’s no reason a low-budget, DIY project can’t have a high-quality wood shaper to work with, and the SKIL 10 Amp Corded helps make that dream happen:

  • Affordability. The SKIL 10 Amp Corded is at the very low end of the typical price range for a quality wood shaping machine, so it’s virtually unmatched in the DIY and low-budget woodworking space.
  • Small build. With a small, lightweight design, the machine is perfect for quick and inexpensive shaping for less ambitious design plans.
  • Easy to assemble. Utilizing simple fastening and compact dimensions, you’ll have no trouble at all mounting the tool to your table and getting straight to cutting.

One area where I found the SKIL shaper disappointing was precision. Accurate cutting is not impossible by any means, but a built-in edge guide would dramatically improve its overall performance.

I also disliked the placement of the power switch, which was very inconveniently located and difficult to reach while working.

4. Makita RP2301FC – Best for Control and Variability

Makita RP1800 3-1/4 HP* Plunge Router

Some wood shaping applications necessitate a high degree of flexibility for the users. The Makita RP2301FC offers that control in spades:

  • High maximum power. With its motor supporting up to 120 volts, you have a huge range of projects you can use it for, from simple cuts to heavy-duty wood-shaping extravaganzas.
  • Adjustable speed. Speed is easily controlled on the user end, so you won’t feel locked in to one cutting pace for all of your work.
  • Variable depth. Incorporating a built-in depth gauge, there’s no limitation on adjusting how deep you cut each time you put wood through the machine.

An unmistakable downside I encountered was the high learning curve. 

The tool is clearly intended for users who already have some experience under their belt; even I faced some trouble in figuring out how to use the complex depth gauge or effectively apply the switch lock.

5. KREG PRS1045 – Most Precise Shaping

Kreg PRS1045 Precision Router Table System - Self-Squaring Router Table Fence System - Sits on Precision Router Table Top - Carpentry Tools & Accessories

Maximum precision is the key to more exact and finely-tuned wood shaping, and the KREG PRS1045 shaping table accounts for this through a few methods:

  • Fence guide. With a built-in fence guide, the tool keeps cuts straight and exact by not letting the blade stray off course; a handy feature when you need exactly-measured cuts.
  • Micro-adjustment. The fence also includes an adjustment wheel, so you can easily and precisely set up your cuts.
  • Flexible height. By letting you change the table height, the PRS1045 improves accuracy and overall ease of use.

Now, it wasn’t all positive!

The price was on the higher end of the usual range for shaping tables. That, along with the frequent corrections I had to make to alignment, height, and motor speed soured the experience a little.

6. POWERTEC 71402 Bench Top – Best for Stability

POWERTEC 71402 Bench Top Router Table and Fence Set, with 24” x 16” Laminated MDF Top, 2-1/2” Dust Collection Port and Featherboard

Highly stable wood shapers are not only practical and convenient, but they also aid in precision and overall quality of work.

The POWERTEC 71402 Bench Top keeps that principle in mind with its features:

  • Secure surface. A key characteristic of the POWERTEC’s design is the work surface, which is flat and strongly attached to the stand, giving you a solid space to cut and shape your project.
  • Large work area. With a wide open tabletop, the shaper provides you with plenty of room to work. The lack of crowding and cramped space keeps your workflow running smoothly and at a steady pace.
  • Steel stand. The machine’s rock-solid stand wards off the possibility of collapse or breaking: Both a stability boost, and a safety perk.

The most noticeable (and annoying!) con was the fence design, which required tightening and correction, as the pieces were off by a sizable margin. 

This kept me from getting straight to work, and also proved to be quite tricky, since tightening the fences called for a screwdriver and the knobs are a pain to reach.

7. AVHRIT Cordless Compact – Most Portable

Avhrit Cordless Compact Router, Wood Router Tool With 2PCS 4.0Ah Batteries, 21V Brushless Portable Handheld Palm Routers for Woodworking, Wood Trimmer Cutting with 15 pieces 1/4' Router Bits Set

Portability is a huge concern if you don’t confine your projects to a single workspace. 

Luckily, the AVHRIT Cordless Compact accommodates that flexibility:

  • No cords. As the name suggests, this AVHRIT shaper won’t make a mess of your workspace with power cords, and the battery-powered design lets you take the tool with you on the move.
  • Quick release. The machine includes a quick release mechanism, so you can speedily and conveniently uninstall the shaper and change workstations.  
  • Compact size. With the small dimensions, moving and installation the shaper is no concern.

A big obstacle I ran into was dust collection. The design of the base plate leaves room for dust to gather, which poses problems to both functionality and longevity. 

8. AnoleX All-Metal CNC Machine – Most Beginner-Friendly

All-Metal CNC Router Machine 3020-Evo, AnoleX X&Z-axis Dual Steel Guide Rails CNC Router Kit with 300W Spindle, Limit Switches & Emergency-Stop for Metal Wood Acrylic MDF Carving Cutting

I firmly believe wood shaping machines should not be confined to expert and professional woodworkers, and the AnoleX All-Metal CNC Machine clearly agrees with my beginner-welcoming attitude:

  • Simple assembly. The AnoleX machine is surprisingly easy to put together, with the whole process being completed within minutes. Beginners won’t be turned away by an intimidating installation!
  • Clear instructions. Everything included in the instruction manual is plainly stated and gives all the facts needed to put the tool together and safely start using it.
  • Convenient accessories. This one ships with a few helpful extra parts, including spacers, shims, and clamps.

Strangely enough, my main complaint with the AnoleX is that it includes parts that aren’t advertised on the store page. This could lead to users wasting money on accessories they didn’t know came included with the tool.

9. Milwaukee’s Cordless Compact – Best for Ease of Use

Milwaukee's Cordless Compact Router,18.0 Voltage

I don’t like wasting much time figuring out how to use my woodworking machines, and I’m sure most of you don’t either!

Milwaukee’s Cordless Compact gets rid of a heavy learning curve burden with its offerings:

  • Small dimensions. This is a highly compact machine, so there are simply fewer functions you have to bother learning.
  • Intuitive design. Even unfamiliar users will quickly get the hang of the tool, which is built to work almost effortlessly. 
  • Steady power supply. The battery power supply lasts for several hours, cutting down on the need to periodically pause and recharge.

Not everything about the shaper was pleasant! 

Visibility was a concern for me, and it wasn’t always clear where the bit was in relation to the wood I was cutting. 

Choosing and Buying a Wood Shaper

While the 9 wood shapers for sale I’ve covered are a good jumping off point, let’s look at some additional tips for narrowing down the best shaping tool for your project:

Comparing Features

Above all else, look at the features!

In my experience, a wood shaper machine almost always has a few characteristics in common:

  • Blades for shaping. As the most crucial of the woodworking shaper bits, the blade is responsible for cutting and shaping the wood; without it, the machine would be useless.
  • Spindles. Shapers typically have a spindle attached to the blade, which propels the blade and keeps the cutting process going.
  • Guiding fences. Fences are positioned to guide the wood into the cutter, preventing lopsided or inaccurate cuts.

Now, the trick is to decide which features are most essential to your project, and compare two tools’ side by side. For example, a shaper might boast a sharp and high-powered cutter, which is a good sign if you’re working with stubborn hardwoods. 

On the other hand, you may need a portable machine, where you can easily maneuver or even disassemble the pieces.

Can a Wood Shaper Be Used as a Jointer?

Speaking of features, let’s talk about functionality: Does a shaper have to be used strictly for, well, shaping? 

Let’s look at jointing, for instance: Can’t you just cut out the middleman and use your wood shaper as a two-in-one shaper and jointer?

For the most part, yes!

While the process does require making some (often tricky!) adjustments, I’ve successfully used shapers as jointers for projects where I built tabletops or fencing.

Is a Shaper a Router Table?

While we’re on the subject of comparing features between shapers and other woodworking tools, what about router tables?

Though a shaper has much in common with a router table (and you may often see the terms used interchangeably), the two aren’t exactly the same.

A shaper is an industrial tool, with much more powerful motors used to shape wood for professional projects. 

As you might imagine, that makes shapers much more expensive than most router tables.

For beginner and intermediate woodworkers, I’d strongly recommend a router table over a shaper, both for cost and usability reasons.

Problems to Avoid

There are a few common traps people often run into when choosing a wood shaper:

  • Overlooking size. You might come across a cool, powerful shaper and decide to buy it, only to discover there’s nowhere in your workstation that it’ll fit!
  • Not factoring in noise. Shapers can be very loud; when looking at a specific model, it’s helpful to check out the reviews and see if users 
  • Neglecting alternatives. Try not to just pick the first option you see! It’s always better to compare several choices and see how they match up.

Final Thoughts

After judging how easy it was to use, its conveniently movable and adjustable construction, and raw machine power, I came away with the unmistakable impression that the DEWALT 20V Max Cordless is the overall best shaping machine.

Interested in buying it? Take a glance at the DEWALT store page to review the wood shaper for yourself!

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

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