Well, That is a good question and the answer depends on what you are going to do with a shapper. I have a German Made shapper that cost me about $1000 and it is great. I bought it to make baseboards for my whole house. It payed for itself twice over. I was able to by the stock, the cutters, and the shapper for less than the base boards would have cost from the wholesale wood supplier I use.
A shapper is a very good tool I use it to make rail and styles and raised pannels. The cutters cost a bit more than a router, but they are much bigger and can handle more stock.
Ask yourself what you indend to do with the shapper or tell us, determine if the unit you are looking at will do the job, speed, shaft size, ect then you have an idea of what this unit will do for you.
I don't think I would spend that much on a 1 1/2 hp unit, but then again I am the guy that says to save your money and by a Powermatic 66 if you want a table saw.
If you will only use it every once and a while, can get the cutters you want, and can't do the same thing with a router table then maybe its ok.
I have one of the grizzly 1 1/2 hp. shapers. It is a good machine for the money with all the different spindles. It does not have the horse to handle big panel raising bits but for smaller bits it works good.I use a 5 h.p. shaper for panel raising and some time it is to small.
I have had a Powermatic #26 3 HP shaper for 10 years, along with their power feeder. It can do almost anything, including an attachemnt to use router bits.
I really like the power feeder so my hands and fingers NEVER get near that cutterhead. In additon, the smooth, constant feed rate of a power feeder is well worth the investment, especially if you have several hundred feet of stock to run through it.
It is well made and on a mobile base, as are most of the tools in my shop.
A 1-1/2 HP shaper will do light duty, and if that's all you need, then it will work. If you buy a more substantial one, however, it will do more and it will last forever.
I have a Delta drill press that I use that was made in 1949. It still has the original motor and works like a new one. I imagine it was pricy back when it was new. I bought it used for $40.
I have both the Grizzley 3 horse and 1.5 horse shapers. You'll find that you will have to spend a good bit of time initially getting the fense etc adjusted properly but after that you would enjoy either machine. I use the 3 horse for making door panels and have never heard it even start to sound like it is working hard. The 1.5 horse is used for making door rails and styles and it is highly adequate. Make your decision based on what you will use the machine for. If you are going to make a lot of heavy moldings the 3 horse is the better choice. Either machine works well with the router adapter and the larger router bits.
I've the reliant 3hp unit. It's cheaper than delta's, Grizzly (know of two sent back to grizzly) and powermatic. Not as refined a piece of machinery, BUT it has served me very, very well.
The worst part of the reliant unit ( from woodworkers warehouse)is the factory supplied hold downs work poorly and needed a little tweaking to make right.
Respect this tool! it is considered THE most dangerous in the shop. If you can afford a powerfeed unit get one. When I use blocks/boards/scraps as push blocks i apply self adhesive sandpaper to the edge ( keep it away from your cutters) this helps tremendously with keeping narrower pieces from being pulled into the cutter or heeling. Idealy, use a sled with hold downs. This is also a tool you definately want some dust control system attached to.
I recently purchased Delta's Platinum Edition shaper. I started out with the Delta Router-Shaper (which is basically a dedicated router table). I made a lot of raised panel doors with it, but it was time to upgrade. So far, I'm extremely pleased with the machine, especially the re-designed fence. Adjustments are very easy to make.
I totally agree with one of the previous comments about the shaper being the most dangerous machine in the woodshop. Be careful! The power stock feeder is a good idea.
Lou, after reading your response to the shaper question I have one for you. A friend gave me an old Craftsman shaper. It looks sturdy enough with a cast table. I want to use it to make raised panel doors. It has a 1/2" spindle and 1/2 hp motor. Is this enough power to even do what I want to do? If the answer is yes do you know a source for cutters? A lot of the ones I've found have much larger i.d.'s.
Like most tools sold by sears they look good they just don't work good. 1/2 hp is not much for a shaper. Yes you can do what you want with it but, you will have to make lots of passes if you are working in hardwood. The 1/2 inch shaft is not an issue because there are bushings that will fit over the 3/4 shaft and allow it to fit on 1/2 inch. The nuts top and bottom are the holding agent not the friction of the shaft.
If you think about it you buy routers that are 2 to 3 hp and put them in a table to do this kind of thing, sears puts a 1/2 hp motor on a tool and sells it to people that think they are buying something useful.
The advantage is that if you buy 3/4 shaper cutters and decide that you like shapers then you could upgrade to a real tool in the future and not waste the investment in the cutters.