The Jet and Grizzly fences work well. They're accurate, but have more limited adjustment ranges than the others. The Jet's guard lowers to cover most of the cutter, which is a comforting safety feature, and it has simple, effective hold-downs.
For work without a fence, only the Grizzly has a standard provision: a shroud that caps the cutter head, which is nice for helping to prevent sad, but apt nicknames for unlucky shaper users like "Stubby" or "Lefty."
Switching the fence orientation maximizes Delta's large table. Run long stock parallel with the long side of the table. For wide stock, short pieces, or use with a sled, run parallel with the miter gauge slot.
Setting and locking cutter height exactly where you want, and having it stay there, is vital to success with shapers. A cutter that wanders or wobbles even a little bit may not show on those 16-foot lengths of base molding, but for dadoing or cope-and-stick work, the tiniest cutter-flutter can throw your work completely off. When I set up to build 50 doors for my customer's mansion, I want to feel sure that the last stick will be just like the first. To test the accuracy of these tools, I ran each of them through dado and cope-and-stick setups, and checked the adjustment wheel stability when the cutter height was locked.
Delta's and Rojek's spindle-height locks were bombproof–and Bridgewood's was almost as good. The Grizzly and Jet, while dead-on accurate during the testing, showed some subtle play while adjusting their cutter heights and after I locked their wheels down.
These machines require enough adjustment, and cost enough, that they should come with a full complement of wrenches, collets, and spacers. Also, the shaper that accepts optional accessories, like a sliding table or power feed, will make your life easier as you expand your use.
Bridgewood ships with a 1/2-inch router bit collet, which I like for working small molding or cove stock, but it also arrives with 1/2-, 3/4-, and 1-1/4-inch spindles and spacers for each one. A super-convenient, stamped-steel toolbox holds these parts and all the wrenches–a far cry from a cardboard box. Bridgewood also offers an optional sliding table.
The Jet and Rojek tools also ship well-equipped. Jet's shaper arrived with two spindles: 1/2- and 3/4-inch. It also has 1/4- and 1/2-inch router collets plus adjustment tools and a miter gauge. Rojek ships with wrenches and a
single-stepped spindle that takes 3/4- or 1-1/4-inch cutters–very nice. There's no groove in the table for a miter gauge, but they do offer a sliding table.
Rojek's cutter-change is slick, accessible from the table top with a wrench and Allen key.
The Delta and Grizzly show up a little leaner. Delta's ships with a 3/4-inch spindle, a full set of spacers, and wrenches. Other spindles and router collets are available as accessories. I like that the Grizzly shipped with a miter gauge, 1-, 1/2-, and 3/4-inch spindles (with spacers), but there weren't enough wrenches for changing cutters and making adjustments.
The Bridgewood, Delta, Jet, and Rojek tables ship with tapped holes for bolting power feeders onto them.
Cutter-Change. Changing the cutters on the Bridgewood, Delta, and Rojek shapers is straightforward. All the mechanisms are well-designed and accessible from the front of the cabinet. Rojek's is the easiest to change out. All you need is an Allen wrench and one spanner wrench; everything's easy to reach. Bridgewood's cutter-change is slick, too: A spindle lock holds the spindle while you tighten the cutter.
The Jet and Grizzly worked well, too, but since access to spindle changing and speed is located at the back of the tools, they're not as easy. While this might not be a big deal in some shops, it is in mine. Rear-only access means that I cannot position the unit against a wall, which is a nice spot for a wood shaper.