Complicated woodworking projects can be made easy on a router table. Even beginners can cut precise cuts using the table and accessories such as the router edge guide. When something goes wrong, however, even the simplest operations can be really frustrating. Just remember that everyone makes mistakes and that’s totally fine. Here we will discuss the most common router problems that you can fix yourself instead of paying a repairman to fix the table.
You’re probably going to work on different projects so you need the bit and the table to be set at a specific height and changes in height will result in mistakes in the project. This can happen when you use the router table a lot and sawdust will eventually accumulate and cause the bit to be pushed a bit, something you really don’t want.
To solve this issue, take a screwdriver to get rid of sawdust and then use compressed air to remove sawdust from the table.
Inconsistent Bit Speed
Another common problem is inconsistent bit speed when the bit slows down or moves faster when you don’t need it. When everything works properly, you have the control over the bit’s speed. The problem is commonly caused by the worn out router belts that make the bit change its speeds.
The simple solution to this problem is to shut off the power, unplug the router and see if the belts have abnormal wear and tear. You can find the belts in the housing of your router. If the belts are damaged, they should be replaced. If belts are fine, you should check if they are properly connected to the drive wheels. If not, you should make sure everything is set properly on the wheels. You should also tighten up the belts so that they will stay on the wheels.
A Slipping Bit
One of the most common problems that even professionals have to deal with is the slipping bit. It is a situation when the bit will slip around but won’t move in the wood. Most of the time, you should simply tighten the chuck around to create a tighter fit. However, the chuck can be stripped. If it happens, you can’t tighten the bits properly. You will have to get a new chuck for your router table.
What can be more frustrating than a situation when you’re trying to work on a project and turn on the router cable but nothing happens? This is also a common problem that happens to everyone, but it has quick and easy solutions. First and foremost, check if the router table is plugged in. As funny as it sounds, you could accidentally pull out the power cord.
You should also check the circuit breakers to see if there is a problem. Sometimes you should simply switch the breakers on and off. Or the fuse can be damaged and you need to replace it. If nothing mentioned above helps, then you either have a problem with electricity or a malfunction with your router table. This is when you need to call a professional.
Another problem that many beginners face is that guides can get stuck. The guides are used to do precise and accurate cutting, especially perfectly straight lines, but these guides can quickly become useless due to temperature fluctuations and other factors.
The simple way to fix the problem is to use a wrench or pliers to loosen the bolts so that the guide can move. Just be very gentle with those bolts because they can quickly break. You can use a lubricant to loosen the bolt and help the guides move. Just make sure everything is secured so that the guide doesn’t move while routing.
Sometimes you may feel that the speed of the bits is too weak or too strong. It happens when the belts are loosened, and it is easy to fix. Just turn off the power when examining the router table. Make sure the stable transmission of power to the belts. If it doesn’t help, check if the wheels are damaged. You want the belts to be as tight as it is stated the instructions for your router table.
Watch Your Bit Speed
Not all bits can run at the same speed. Larger router bits, for example, create more vibration at high speeds. The rule of thumb is the larger the bit, the slower the speed. Check the description on the box to see the maximum speeds for your bits and follow the recommendations. However, you should remember that the instructions state the top speed for safe operation. You should adjust speeds according to your needs.
Can’t Make One Heavy Cut
This is really important when you work with bit profiles that remove a lot of material, but it is also important when routing rabbets with a bit. Many beginners try to hog out all the material at once, which is nearly impossible. The bits get burning if you try. Besides, increased load makes the bits dull quicker.
What you should do is to make several passes, slowly increasing the depth with each cut. This is especially important when working with woods that burn easily, such as figured woods or cherry. And if you’re trying to trim an edge, take a jigsaw and remove as much material as you can to avoid overloading the bit.
The Bit Bogs Down
The feed rate means the speed at which the bit is moved. If the speed is too fast, the bit will bog down. As a result, you will get a rough cut. If the speed is too slow, you will leave burn marks on the material. If you’re a beginner, make practice cuts until you produce a consistent feed rate.
And here you have it: simple tips for solving problems with your router table. If you can’t repair the tool, call a professional. However, as you can see a lot of problems can be solved without help.
A cordless router, by layman’s definition, would mean routers that do not have a power cable. In other words, they are actuated by replaceable batteries. Once these batteries run out, you replace them with new ones of the same specifications or recharge the batteries if the version is rechargeable.
This article is intended to highlight the theoretical advantages and disadvantages one would discover when using a cordless router if it ever comes to reality. There’s no known functional cordless router(s) already in the market, and thus we would want to imagine a cordless router’s benefits and demerits, probably compared to corded routers that we use every day.
Why manufacture a cordless router? Do we need one?
There are many reasons why cordless routers are required, and we will highlight a few here.
Our first imagination resolves to the accessibility of power. There are instances when you are forced to operate in a house or workshop with no electricity outlets in it or even nearby. A cordless router thus becomes very convenient as the absence of power does not hinder you.
Cordless routers would solve the problem of having the cord (of a corded router) being cut accidentally when using some machines or even the router itself.
Occasionally, the cable may be stretched to it limits when working on a profile. In this case, a cordless router wins the selection.
Some workshop operators also argue that having cordless routers may potentially reduce the cost of workshop routers. That’s debatable, but it has a lot of logic. A cordless router would be imagined to be accompanied with a few other smaller tools in its packaging as well as one or two extra batteries at a relatively low price.
Why Haven’t We Seen Any Serious Cordless Routers Yet? My Guess
Well, no one can be pretty accurate on this, except for the manufacturers of routers. But we can as well guess why and explore the reasons in depth.
Routers’ Power Consumption Needs Vs Tasks/Loads
Most routers are very power hungry, and the tasks performed by routers vary from one router to another. It’s not likely to produce a cordless router that will do virtually the same functions as the corded routers. The main point here is the power needs. Some router tasks are very power draining and using a cordless router will be a challenge as it may not stock enough power for the whole process.
Having to recharge or change the batteries of a cordless router every so often in a single day or workshop duty cycle is tiresome and may be impossible in areas where wired electricity is missing. It also slows down the work cycle as you have to wait for it charge. Moreover, some applications of routers are best suited for corded routers.
Size/Weight: The Portability Factor
To stock enough power to last a day of non-stop work in the workshop, cordless router batteries will have to be large enough to match the capacities. That may bring challenges in size and weight. Once weight issues crop in, portability becomes a challenge. Manufacturers wouldn’t want that.
Cordless Tool Technology
Of course, this has to be one of the main reasons here. Technology is changing every day, but it has not yet provided us with enough capacity to create fully functional, reliable and efficient cordless routers. This could be attributed to the different aspects of a cordless router, particularly the power concerns.
Developing a super battery to hold enough capacity, have a small weight and size, and have it integrated into the cordless routers is the next big research exercise for most router manufacturers and we can only hope for the best. We need it for sure.
Skeptical Nature of the Market
This may not be a convincing reason for the lack of cordless routers but it definitely holds some water. Most people, reading from forums discussing routers, are very skeptical about cordless routers. Most of their defense is the power issue. Manufactures would have demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that their cordless routers are trustworthy with regards to power capacity.
Let’s imagine a cordless trim router. It’s going to be a challenge to engineer a cordless trim router that is both compact and ergonomic, as one can only achieve one and not both (my thought is a cordless router can either be compact or ergonomic). Also, functionality and ergonomics of a cordless trim router will have to match those of a corded trim router, which may be a tall order to manufacturers. But they have to if they are going to create a cordless trim router.
What Would Be the Likely Advantages Of A Cordless Router?
If we had a cordless router what would be the possible benefits? Let’s examine a few likely ones.
Improved portability, as it’s not limited to availability of electricity connection.
Ideal in these situations. If you are going to patch floors in the field using routers, cordless would be the best bet.
Convenient in the fields- There may be times when you need to work in the field where wired electricity is missing.
We imagine cordless routers to be relatively cheaper compared to corded routers. In most cases, cordless tools are often packaged with extras like extra battery pack and smaller tools.
Cordless routers eliminate the risk of a router’s cord being cut while in session which can result in injury to the user.
May also eliminate the risk of having a profile being worked on a long board being damaged by a stretched cord.
Likely Demerits of a Cordless Router
Although we may be head-over-heels with the idea of a cordless router, they may come with a few limitations.
May not stock enough power for extensive usage or even for a power demanding task. The rechargeable batteries may not last long to see the completion of a task.
Recharging or replacing the batteries demands that you stop what you have been doing. This slows down work- even worse when you have to recharge the batteries.
Designing a cordless trim router that is both compact and ergonomic may prove a tall order. And it’s also expected that a cordless trim router will function as effective as a corded trim router and at the same time be as ergonomic as possible.
Costly to replace the rechargeable batteries with better battery packages. In most cases, battery packs with better performance as well as capacity may be expensive. Sometimes, the prices may be around the cost of the router.
The idea of a cordless router brings with it a lot of expectations with regards to performance and portability. We sure hope manufacturers will research further on this and come up with a workable design. To achieve this, they will need to address the limitations as power.
What do you think of cordless routers? Share your expectations and thoughts.
Hitachi offers you another new high-end yet affordable model, the Hitachi M12VC. With an electronic speed control and a powerful motor, M12VC is a perfect choice for smooth cuts and different kinds of materials. It operates quietly; you can choose a speed of your own liking and the best part allows you to make easy depth adjustments. To cut to the chase, M12VC is a perfect addition to your workshop. If you are a regular woodworker, then adding this to this new model to your workshop will do you some good. Check out why you might want to give it a top rating.
To cut to the chase, M12VC is a perfect addition to your workshop. If you are a regular woodworker, then adding this to this new model to your workshop will do you some good. Check out why you might want to give it a top rating.
You’ll barely come across a fixed base router that has everything you need. The M12VC just made that misconception invalid. With an 11-Amp motor featuring a 2-1/4 horsepower, you’ll need to apply less effort to achieve accurate and controlled cuts. It offers you a two-stage quick motor release that allows you to make quick and precise depth adjustments as well as base changes.
It is also one of the fixed base routers whose motor will offer you an astounding performance for an extended period. Also included is an electronic speed control that will maintain constant RPMs when varying the loads. Long story short, Hitachi offers you an astounding performance at a price that won’t hurt your pocket. Check out some of the reasons it is rated at the top.
Benefits of Buying Hitachi M12VC fixed base router
Make depth adjustments without a sweat
Hitachi M12VC offers you a two-stage motor release clamp that allows you to make quick and precise adjustments with limited risks. The clamp enables you to move from a fixed to a plunge base router easily. With a motor housing that is nickel plated, you never have to worry about unwanted stains and scratches on your tool.
A motor performance that will encourage you to continue
When dealing with hardwood material, you’ll need a heavy-duty motor that won’t break in the middle of completing your project. Hitachi M12Vc is one way to go. With an 11-Amp motor having a 2-1/4 peak horsepower, you can always be sure of perfect cuts even when working with the toughest hardwoods. It also features an electronic speed control that runs at 8,000 to 24,000 for maximum performance. This makes it easier to maintain a constant RPM when changing the load.
You’ll rarely find a router that is equipped with a powerful motor that operates quietly. With Hitachi, you’ll have to drop that thought. Even with one of the most powerful motors you’ll find with any router, you’ll always enjoy a quite operation. With a noise level of 79.5 dB, you’ll never have to worry about noise ruining your ear drum. This also allows you to be in control of your cuts.
Ergonomic design offers you comfort and full control
If you’ve worked with any other Hitachi tool, you might have realized that manufactures placed much effort in ensuring that it is comfortable to handle and control. Hitachi M12Vc isn’t an exception. It weighs only 7.3 pounds making it a perfect choice for freehand routing. Also, its handles are covered with an Elastomer compound that works best to reduce the vibration as well as prevent your hands from slipping while in use.
What you might not like
There are few complaints about the collet releasing bits. Some users claim that you have to involve much effort in ensuring that you don’t damage the collet jaws when releasing some bits. To be on the safe side, you must be cautious enough not to set the router bit fully.
If you experience the problem, you’ll have to tap the releasing bit lightly using a rubber mallet or anything similar before you remove it. The good news is, none of the issues affects its performance, meaning that you’ll just need to be a little bit careful when working with the tool.
Summary of customer reviews and ratings
If you are looking for a way to do away with disappointments, investing in Hitachi M12VC will undoubtedly meet your needs. Unfortunately, not all users agree with this. There are those who rank it at the top as well as those who wish the manufacturers had made some changes.
Going through the positive reviews, it is apparent that most users are satisfied with what it can do. There are more than enough claims about the motor performing beyond expectations.
The quietness of operation, easy depth adjustments, and comfortable handling are just some few things some happy customers can’t fail to mention. Another thing mentioned a lot in the positive comments include its electronic speed control that maintains the RPM at a constant level when varying the loads.
On the other hand, we can’t miss a few complaints here and there. There are those users who have a lot to complain about including the stiffness of the plunge base and more. There are also a few complaints about the ½’’ and ¼’’ collets.
Other users claim that the bit can be a little disappointment when working on complex projects. It gets loose, and if you are not careful enough, it can spoil your workpiece. So, you need to be careful.
Summing up all the user ratings on Amazon, Hitachi M12VC settles at a 4.1-star rating after 244 reviews. Over 81% consider it the best on the market, 15% have a few issues, and 4 percent feel it isn’t the best choice for a woodworker who hates disappointment. The good news is, even the complaining users, are happy with its performance.
There is no doubt that you’ll come across a router that will impress you the moment you step into the market. What you must keep in mind is that not every router is designed to meet your needs. Hitachi M12VC has been tested by both the users and other reviewers on sights such as Walmart, Lowes, and Amazon. I must say, that it has a better rating than its closest rivals. Give it a try and realize the difference.
Whether you are working on simple cuts or the most intricate inlay grooves, Triton TRA001 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router will make your job easier than before. It combines precision, ease of use and simplicity to make your work easier.
Designed to meet the needs of both an amateur and a professional woodworker, Triton TRA001 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router comes with some of the most amazing features. Here are some of them.
A spindle lock that is automatic
A multi-purpose fence mount
A height winder that is removable
A plunge tension spring that is removable
Comes with speed controls that are variable.
An enclosed plastic shielding and more.
What Makes Triton TRA001 a good Choice for Any Woodworker?
With a 3.25HP motor that runs at 8000 to 21000 RPM, Triton TRA001 can handle all sorts of workpieces, whether simple cuts or the most complicated mortises. It comes with a variety of features that are not only simple and useful but also easy to set.
It also features a three-stage turret that makes it easier for you to make a precise cut, especially when working on tough projects. It offers you a chance to work with variable speeds that allow you to choose a perfect speed for any cutter type.
This triton router has a micro winder that allows a fine depth adjustment throughout the full plunge range. Other features include safety-switch shutter locks, a multi-purpose fence, an automatic spindle lock as well as an air vent to prevent the dust from ruining its performance.
If you are looking for a plunge router that will cut anything, go anywhere and handle all sorts of projects, then Triton TRA001 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router is without a doubt a way to go.
Benefits Of Using Triton TRA001 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router
Triton TRA001 features a 3.25HP motor that runs at 8000-2000 RPM. This is one of the most powerful motors you can find with a router its type. With this kind of a motor, you can handle almost everything from the simplest cuts to the most complex workpieces.
Triton TRA001 was designed with an aggressive woodworker in mind. It offers you some of the most straightforward and easy to use yet useful features that offer you almost everything you need to make your work easier. Among these features include a fixed base router having a rack plus a pinion rack for precision and smooth cuts.
Triton TRA001 features a safety switch shutter locks that are closed in a bit change mode to stop the power on. It also comes with air vents that prevent you from going through the motor casing especially when you mount it upside down on the router table. With these two features and proper care, you never have to worry about the router table breaking down anytime sooner.
What makes working with complex workpieces quite a task, is the requirement to make precise cuts such as mortises and inlay grooves. With Triton TRA001, you don’t have to worry. It features a multi-purpose fence that offers you an excellent control required for circle cutting and hand-held use.
This allows you to make even the tiniest cuts that entirely depends on your precision. It also comes with a plunge spring that is removable. The fall spring makes it easier for you to make bit adjustments. Other additional features for precision includes a three-stage turret for accurate cut depths.
Easy to control
The last thing you need when working on complex work pieces is to make simple mistakes due to lack of control. Unfortunately, when working on tough projects, most of the time you will have to rely on your precision. Triton TRA001 comes with a multi-purpose fence that allows secure control, especially when doing circle cutting using.
Perfect for all cutter types
You don’t need to worry about the cutter type. Triton TRA001 combines the performance of variable speeds and soft start that allows you to choose a particular speed for any cutter type giving you an easy time when working on a project that requires you to make both minor as well as complex cuts.
What you might not like about it
Other users claim that the manufacturers could have removed the safety lock feature. This is because, when the router is plunged, you will have a hard time turning it on.
When you attach the router to the table, and you plan to use a long-depth adjustment knob, it will be harder to turn on after achieving the bit height you require.
Contrary to this, most users find this feature quite convenient especially when working on tough projects.
There are also a few complaints about Triton TRA001 being heavier than expected. Some users feel that it might not be a good idea when plunging.
Summary of Customer Reviews and Ratings
There is a lot to like about Triton TRA001, but no one has been able to define accurately how this fantastic workshop took can change a wood worker’s life. According to some reviews on Lumber Jocks and Amazon, many seem to like its flexibility, useful features and its ability to achieve almost everything.
Others claim that it is one of the best choices for table mounting simply because it is a combination of both a plunge as well as a fixed base router. Summing up all the customer reviews, Triton TRA001 settles at 4.2-star rating after 83 user reviews that make it one of the most liked routers its type.
It is evident that more than 60 percent of the users find it quite convenient while the remaining few have some few issues.
If you are looking for the best deals, then buying Triton TRA001 at Amazon.com will do you some good. At Amazon, you’ll get the best deals and offers on both used and new Triton TRA001. It is also one of the safest purchasing platforms. You can also buy it at its official site, Triton tools, lumber jocks and many other affiliate sites.
The Final Verdict
Triton TRA001 comes with some of the amazing features making it the best router for router tables. Designed with clients in mind, it offers you a variety of useful functions that allows you to make precise cuts. It is robust, durable and the best part works for most projects.
DWP611PK is an electric router kit that can work both as a plunge as well as a fixed base router. Unlike any other router, it combines simplicity, control, and salient features into one perfect performance.
DWP611PK is designed to handle several applications that vary from minor cuts to heavy flush trimming. It also features a high-performing 1-1/4 horsepower motor plus dual LED lights for illumination.
Whether you are working on large and heavy workpieces where repeat applications and stability is required or complex projects such as inlay grooves and the rest, Dewalt DWP611PK will always make your work easier.
It comes with heavy duty handle on both sides that offer your hands maximum comfort and allows you to control your cuts fully when using it as a plunge router.
Durable and light
As mentioned earlier, it features a 1.25 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful routers its type on the market. The motor also enables your router to operate at different speeds making it easier to achieve a variety of projects.
It comes with a plastic housing as well as an aluminum construction that makes it one of the strongest and sturdiest light-weight routers its type. Its overall weight is approximately 8 pounds making it easier to use and move around when working on different projects. Also, its metal design makes it one of the most excellent workshop tools.
The adjustment ring
Dewalt DWP611PK comes with an adjustment ring that makes it easier to control the bit depth changes. It also makes it easier for you to tighten as well as loosen its bits.
When using the Dewalt DWP611PK as a fixed base router, the depth can go up to 1.5 inches while for the plunge router, it can go up to 2 inches creating a securely smooth operation.
The Dewalt DWP611PK also features a spindle lock button that makes it simpler to achieve single wrench bit changes with the depth ring ensuring that the motor remains where it is, making it a perfect choice for complex cuts.
Other things you might like about it include, a 1/4 –inch collet that is a perfect size for any palm router, making it one of the best wood routers for both the beginners and pros with already a larger router but need a small-sized compact router.
The fixed base is D-Shaped for stability as well as enhancing your visibility when working on radius cuts and edging. Also added are quick release tabs that are spring loaded making it easier for you to release the base faster.
What you might not like about it
Not suited for large projects: Dewalt DWP611PK isn’t designed for larger heavy-duty projects. The fact that it is small and compact makes it a better choice for smaller home projects. However, it might also come in handy for those who already have a large router, but in need of something that is easier to move around and more.
Not meant to work for longer periods: According to some few user reviews on Amazon, Dewalt DWP611PK can’t run for more extended periods only because it gets hot to a point that it can melt the plastic parts. As mentioned earlier, this router was designed to work on smaller and simpler projects that take a few minutes or even an hour to finish, meaning that using it for longer periods is like trying to damage it.
Summary of Customer Reviews and ratings
Going through the user reviews on Amazon, Lumber Jocks, and other sites, it is quite clear that Dewalt DWP611PK is a compelling product. More than enough users find it quite convenient for both simple projects as well as complex heavy duty projects.
However, not all are satisfied. Despite its simplicity, ease-of-use, performance and salient features, there are a few users who feel that it would have been much better if it worked for longer hours without getting hot. There are also those who think that it could be much better if it were a heavy-duty machine.
Summing up all the user reviews, Dewalt DWP611PK 1.25 HP combo router settles at a rating of 4.8-stars out of 5 after 440 reviews; that is quite high compared to what we see even with the heavy duty routers on the market. Compared to its closest rivals on the market, I can say that Dewalt DWP611PK hasn’t found a perfect match yet.
Dewalt DWP611PK might work for heavy duty tasks, but woodworkers whether pros or amateurs need it to work on complex projects where lack of precision is a problem. Despite its small size and its inability to work for longer hours, it proves quite convenient for a variety of projects. The only way to find out is to try it.
Fixed base or plunge router, which one is better? Why should I buy one and leave the other? If you are a woodworker, then you want a router that will give you an easy time when working on both simple and complex projects; enables you to achieve precision without a sweat and most importantly makes it easier for you to meet deadlines. But are those some of the things that differentiate the two?
Well, the only answer you can get from a dealer is that the router bit of a fixed base router is constant while that one for the plunge router isn’t. To help you make a wise choice here is what make them different.
What Differentiates A Fixed Base Router From A Plunge Router?
Just as the name suggest, the router bit of a fixed base router is constant, meaning that if you set it at a ¼-inch cut depth, the router bit will protrude past the ¼-inch base until you adjust the depth.
On the other hand, a plunge router is designed in such a way that you can pre-set its cut depth and then plunge the router bit through and into the cut while the base of the router remains flat on the surface of the workpiece.
As you can see, both the fixed router and the plunge router will allow you to do the same thing, but in a different way.
One fact is, there are those who find how a fixed base router works quite convenient as well as those who don’t. And the same goes for the Plunge router. However, for a person who is planning to buy and use one for the first time, it is always vital to notice the major pros as well as cons. Here are some of them.
What Are The Advantages Of Using A Fixed Base Router?
Control is much easier
One thing that makes a fixed base router quite admirable is that it is simpler to control. When using it, your hands have to be closer to the work piece making it easier to control as well as to avoid mistakes making it a better choice for jigs as well as freehand edgework.
Re-do without compromising the overall result
As mentioned earlier, the bit router of a fixed base router is constant. Just set the depth you want to use and it will give you an accurate routing. If it doesn’t come out as you want, you can again place it back and get what you want, unlike the plunge router where repeating the process might compromise the overall result.
Easy set up on a router table
The fixed base router comes in handy when you are using a router table having interchangeable bases. What you need to do is, set up the fixed base into your router table then using a motor, slot it back into the router table anytime you need it.
As you can see, fixed base routers have their advantages and that is, they are much easier to work with, allows you to achieve routing without a sweat and more. But does this make it better than a plunge router?
Reasons to use a Plunge Router Might Prove Convenient
Works best for Inlay grooves
Inlay grooves are one of the most complex tasks when woodworking. The only way to achieve better results without risking anything, is to use a plunge router, why? It isn’t fixed meaning that it can go anywhere. The plunge mechanism makes the exit and entrance into the cut much easier, unlike a fixed base router where making a cut like this increases the chances of misalignment.
Best choice for complicated jigs
Plunge router works best for the elaborate jigs that are used to cut mortises, dovetails and more and they can’t achieve this much better with a fixed base router, but a plunge router.
Easy to make fine adjustments
An inbuilt bit protection
A plunge router features a micro-adjustable depth Knobs that makes it simpler to fine-tune the router compared to a fixed base router. Unlike a fixed base router, it allows you to read as well as fine tune the depth to your liking making it easier for you to work on complicated projects.
One thing that a Plunge router has that a fixed base router doesn’t is an inbuilt bit protection. This works best to ensure that your bit is protected when not in use. What you need to do is, disengage its lock lever for the spring loaded mechanism to retract the housing as well as safely lift the bit.
The bottom line
It is quite clear that both the fixed router and the Plunge router were designed to meet that needs of different woodworkers. The fixed base allows you to work on simple projects with a lower risk of making mistakes and most importantly easy to use. However, when you are planning to work on the most complicated projects such as specialized bits, inlay grooves and more, nothing comes in handy as a Plunge router.
There are many routers giving your the abilities to use them both as plunge of fixed base. You can easily see which one of them are on this list.
For many new woodworkers, choosing a first router can be exciting, but confusing. There seem to be so many different sizes and they all appear to be made for something different. So how do you know what size router is right for you? The question isn’t as difficult to answer as you may think. In fact, there are really only two basic sizes, with a few different power ratings for each.
Compact vs full-size routers
The most common type of router in use today is the full-size router, which you’ll mostly find in horsepower ratings from 1-3/4 to around 3-1/4 whereas compact routers will come in horsepower ratings from 1 to around 2.
The good news is if you want to make rail and stile doors, decorative moldings or small joinery projects with your router, but you’re on a tight budget, you should go for a router with around 1-3/4. Smaller routers are usually less expensive, so you can buy something that won’t break the bank but is powerful enough to handle most tasks.
Light-duty tasks like rounding over or chamfering edges are best done with a palm router. These compact routers have small motors and are ideal for tasks that would be tiring with something larger.
Palm routers are perfect for trimming laminates and veneers or routing small letters in wooden signs. They’re available with many of the options you’ll find in full-size routers, like variable speed and soft start.
Because of the small motor and compact body, a palm router probably isn’t the best choice if it’s going to be your only router. But, if you already have a full-size router, you might want to think about getting something smaller for your light-duty work.
This is another model with variable speed control and a soft start motor. It’s from DeWalt, so you can be confident that it’s well made. You may also find that the LED lights in the base help you see what you’re doing.
Finally, take a look at this palm router from Porter Cable with 1-1/4horsepower. Again, this one has variable speed and soft start. It’s a good router from a reputable company.
You can purchase a number of useful accessories for full-size and palm routers, including dust collection ports and plunge bases. The key to choosing a router is deciding what you plan to do with it. For most tasks, a 1-3/4 or 2-1/4 horsepower router is perfect. To use large bits (2” in diameter or larger), go with a heavy-duty router. When you already have one or more full-size routers, consider a compact router.
There are several full-size routers with lower horsepower motors that are excellent entry-level choices for most woodworkers. Purchase one from the list below and you’ll have a tool that can handle everyday woodworking projects.
This is the router you’re most likely to see if you walk into a professional woodworking shop.This 1-3/4 horsepower has been around for a long time and has proven to be a real workhorse in production environments. Although it doesn’t have a lot of the features that some newer and often more expensive routers do, it’s time tested and works equally well for handheld and router table work.
DeWalt’s basic full-size router is another model you’ll find in a lot of professional shops. It’s also rated at 1-3/4 horsepower, but you might find this one quite a bit more comfortable to work with because of the rubber handles and lower center of gravity. You can pick up one of these routers for a little less than the Porter Cable, but the DeWalt comes with a hard plastic case.
Although less popular than the Porter Cable and DeWalt, Milwaukee’s BodyGrip router features an ergonomic design that’s made for continuous use, so you’ll experience less fatigue when using it for long periods. Get one with a plastic carrying case.
Horsepower ratings vary once you move up from 1-3/4. Anything between 2HP and 2-1/4 could be considered mid range, and anything larger should probably be called heavy duty. As you might expect, a bigger motor means you can use bigger bits, so take a look at the following mid range routers if you want to be able to use joinery bits like the lock miter.
With wood handles, variable speed and 2-1/4 horsepower, this is a sweet router that’s a step up from the previous models in more ways than one. It’s not much pricier than the routers you’ve already seen, and you should be able to find one online.
It looks just like the DW616K, but this router packs more horsepower and variable speed control.
For the most demanding jobs with big bits, a heavy-duty router is the tool to use. There are a number of excellent routers at or above 3-1/4 horsepower routers that can handle any job you throw at them, but here’s the one that dominates the market.
Like the 690LR, this is a popular router with professional woodworkers because of its quality and reliability. The powerful motor has five preset speeds for bits of all diameters. You simply choose the speed that works for the application. Be prepared to spend more for a big router like this.
If you’re a serious woodworking enthusiast looking for the best palm router, here is our attempt to help you find it. It’s easy to get sucked into a tool-collecting vortex when you see all the shiny new gizmos in catalogs and websites. Fortunately, you can justify owning multiple routers. Even if you already have a full-size router or two, a palm router will come in handy for lighter tasks.
Introducing the Palm Router
A palm router, also known as a laminate trimmer or trim router, is a compact router designed for light-duty operations. Palm routers have small motors (under 2HP) and accept ¼” shank router bits. A few models also work with other shank diameters.
In professional cabinet shops, woodworkers use palm routers to trim plastic laminate and veneer. They glue oversized pieces of laminate to particleboard and trim the excess material with flush trimming bits mounted in palm routers. This kind of work would be exhausting with heavier and larger tools.
Uses for a Palm Router
Anytime you need to do a lot of routing with a small bit, a palm router can be a good choice because the reduced weight eliminates the fatigue that would occur from handling a bigger tool. Chamfers and round overs are perfect chores for a palm router. ¼” shank bits for these operations are widely available. You’ll also be able to fit a palm router into spaces that are too small for a full-size router.
Palm routers are also helpful in shops that use CNC technology. Small parts tend to move around when cut on a CNC machine, so woodworkers use a technique called “onion skinning” to prevent this. Here’s how they do it: The CNC routes most of the way through a piece of stock, leaving a small “skin” that holds the part in place. Then, a woodworker routes through that skin with a palm router and flush trimming bit, which releases the part from the stock.
Commercial CNC machines like those used in big shops use electronically controlled router spindles, but hobby machines are often fitted with palm routers. You’d probably be surprised by the complex work a palm router is capable of producing when used in a CNC machine. Woodworkers make all kinds of interesting things this way, including 3D carvings, guitar bodies and signs.
Square and Circular Bases
If you’re shopping for a palm router, you should look for a few key features. Good routers have spindle locks that make bit changes easier. A spindle lock is usually just a button you press that prevents the spindle from rotating and allows you to loosen the collet nut with only one wrench.
If your router doesn’t have this feature, you’ll need two wrenches to change bits. Spindle locks tend to malfunction on cheap routers, so your best bet is to look for a router designed for professionals.
Many of the palm routers available today have square or rectangular bases, which are helpful when you need to route against a straightedge. It’s easy to keep the router on a straight path by keeping the flat edge of the base against whatever you’re using as a guide. Circular router bases aren’t always perfectly symmetrical.
When they’re not, your bits can be off center by 1/32” or more. If you’re routing against a straightedge and you rotate the base even slightly, your cut can end up being crooked. A circular base doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but it’s something to think about if you’re going to route a lot of dados with a straightedge as a guide.
Variable Speed Control
The ability to adjust spindle speed isn’t usually as important in a palm router as it is in a full-size router. You can’t use large diameter bits, so you shouldn’t ever need to slow the router down, unless you’re working with metal.
Spindle speeds for routing metal are fairly slow, so variable speed comes in handy if you incorporate aluminum, brass or copper into your work. If you use a palm router in your CNC machine, variable speed control will open up all sorts of possibilities for working with different materials. Many manufacturers offer palm routers with variable speed control, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one you like.
If you use a palm router in your CNC machine, variable speed control will open up all sorts of possibilities for working with different materials. Many manufacturers offer palm routers with variable speed control, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one you like.
Dust is a fact of life in the woodshop, but tool manufacturers have come up with some creative ways to keep the air in your shop as clean as possible. The Rocky 30 Trim Router from MLCS Woodworking comes with a dust-collection attachment that allows you to connect your shop vacuum or dust collector.
It does a fine job of sucking up dust and woodchips. If you can afford it, Festool makes the 574368 MFK 700 EQ, a fantastic little palm router with a combination vertical/horizontal base.
The first palm routers had fixed bases. Today, you’ll find a few other convenient options. The Bosch PR20EVSPK 5.6-Amp Colt Combo Kit comes with fixed and plunge bases. A plunge base is a useful accessory for a palm router. It’s great for inlay work, mortising and a lot more. DeWalt and Porter Cable also offer fixed and plunge base palm router kits.
Before you buy a palm router, find out what accessories work with it. Manufacturers usually offer their own edge guides, dust collection attachments and baseplates. You can also find some aftermarket items for popular routers.
You’ve learned about what palm routers are and what they do. Now, here’s a look at ten of the best palm routers, starting with the least expensive. These are all excellent tools, so choose one that fits your budget and has the features you need most.
MLCS Woodworking Rocky 30 Trim Router
This version of the Rocky Trim Router is one of the easiest to use while at the same time very efficient in delivering service. The new MLCS 9056 Rocky Trim Router has added features that compliment it’s already high ranking profile. It boasts of a high-performance 1-HP motor speed adjustable from 10,000rpm to 30,000rpm by only using a speed control dial located at the top of the motor.
Its 1-HP motor speed is variable from 10,000 rpm to 30,000 rpm making it fairly versatile
It has a 1″ long rule fixed into the aluminum housing marked in 1/16″ as well as 1mm long increments.
The motor is double insulated and includes a spindle-locking button to expedite single wrench bit changes.
The MLCS 9056 Rocky Trim Router has a rack and pinion height adjustment system employed in adjusting the motor’s height.
This version of the Rocky Trim Router possesses a rubber pad that partly wraps the base and offers a positive gripping surface whenever the router is held in the palm.
The MLCS 9056 Rocky Trim Router is a heavy duty machine yet a very easy to use router.
At times the router becomes hot and smells as if it’s burning when in intensive use
Bosch PR20EVSK Colt
The Bosch PR20EVSK Colt is one of the bestselling and most reviewed routers today. It’s a versatile tool perfect for performing custom carpentry, mortising hinges, and trimming laminate flooring/deck planks among other professional and at-home based jobs. With it comes a big power package, small but compact. The Bosch PR20EVSK Colt has a powerful motor, variable speed and has an adjustable depth to ensure precise results. Also, it has a package of user-friendly features for comfort, flexibility, and reliability. This version of the Bosch routers has constant response circuitry for stable motor speed.
Efficient cooling while in intensive use
Its Speed dial is variable and is easily accessible. It’s located on the router’s top
It has an indicator to let you know which direction the bit is going to take while rotating.
Unlock/lock mark on the side of the router
The angled cord maintains the cable away from the work area thus limiting chances of it being cut off while in active session
The Bosch PR20EVSK Colt has a soft start thus reducing start-up torque
Comes with an edge guide. The PR002
May not be easy to use for beginners
In rare instances, the power output was discovered to be insufficient
The base can at times prove to be very slippery
The fixed base limits its plunge base performance.
The location of the adjustment wheel makes it somewhat difficult to adjust the depth
Makita RT0701C 1-1/4 HP Compact Router
This router is a 1-1/4 HP compact router with adjustable speed control allowing to make it run from 10,000 to 30,000 RPM. The RT0701C is an amazing piece of engineering, able to perform a wide range of routing applications. The complete set comes with additional features such as a soft start feature. Durability is assured through a double insulation using a heavy-duty motor housing made of aluminium.
Soft start to minimize the start torque of the motor. This is achieved through a 6 1/2 Amp 1-1/4 Horsepower Motor
Equipped with a variable speed control that goes from 1-6. This gives speed options of between 10,000 to 30,000 RPM depending on the application.
Equiped with a depth adjustment system allowing for precise settings.
Electronic speed control that ensures constant speed when put under load
Changeable base allows for other base types to be used together with this router
It has a Durable flat top design for easy changing of bits
Comfort and control are guaranteed through a slim and ergonomically designed body
The power switch does not have a dust shield
The motor is likely to drop when the base is unlocked
It requires two wrenches to change the bits
Does not have a micro depth adjustment
Ridgid 1-1/2 Horsepower Compact Router
The RIDGID 1-1/2 HP Compact Router brings with it an exciting mix of features that allows for precision, admirable performance as well as durability. It has a soft start to minimize start-up motor torque thus extending the life of the motor. It also features adjustable speed control for different applications and material type. Depth control is assured through the introduction of a micro adjust dial. The most common version is the #R24012 model.
It has a LED light to illuminate your work station (increased visibility)
A soft start to minimize the start-up torque as well as extend motor life
Variable speed control allows for diverse application and material type
It features a spindle lock for easy bit changes
A round and square base allow room for more convenience and versatility in your workstation
It also has an easy access micro adjust dial for precise depth adjustments
The RIDGID 1-1/2 HP Compact Router has an electronic feedback system for consistent power and speed
It has a dust shield to control the direction of dust.
Motor I easily removal from the base through a quick release lever
Flat top allows router to sit upside down while changing bits
It’s corded meaning the cord may get cut off when the router is under load
The horse length is only 8feet
Porter Cable PCE6435
The Porter-Cable PCE6435 Laminate Trimmer is of one the best laminate trimmer available today. It packages a lot of features that ensures precision, utmost performance, and control. The Porter-Cable PCE6435 Laminate Trimmer has an onboard LED for improved visibility, adjustable speed ranging from 16000-35000 RPM as well as a 5.6 amp motor for power and durability. The ergonomics provide for increased handling and comfort. It can be single-handedly controlled. It’s best for most trimming, hinge routing and small edge forming applications.
Has a variable speed ranging between 16000 and 35,000 RPM in addition to a 5.6 amp motor for power and durability needed for cutting various materials
It’s most ideal for most trimming, hinge routing and small edge forming applications
Onboard LED offers improved visibility in the work station
It can be single-handedly controlled given the amazing ergonomics
Its precision is machined and has a cast-aluminum fixed base for long term durability
Motor release and depth adjustment is made easy using an extra-large locking clips
Depth rings attached to this laminate trimmer also provides for accurate and quick bit height adjustments
Additional spindle lock button is included for single-wrench bit changes
It has a 1/4 in. collet
DEWALT DWP611PK 1.25 HP Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router offers an excellent mix of characteristics that put it above fellow compact routers. This router is easy to use, has power and its ergonomic features provides for efficient handling, visibility, and overall performance. This router is capable of handling a variety of applications ranging from small bevel cuts to large edge profile, heavy flush trimming or as dictated by the application. Moreover, this Dewalt masterpiece has an additional LED light for illumination of a workstation. The complete package comes with a fixed base but can as well integrate well with plunge bases.
LED allows provides extra illumination onto what you are working on, giving you clear view on all angles
A special ergonomic assembly (handle) allows you to efficiently handle the router, especially when shifting from plunge to base or vice versa
This router is perfectly compact and has few limitations on what workspace you can operate in
It has different speeds that suit different applications and materials. It can do up to 27000RPM
It also has a soft starting motor which means low torque on start-up. This extends motor’s life
Additional adjustment ring allows for bit depth changes to within 1/64
Two tabs are included to allow quick and easy release of the base
A new adjustable clamp design to maintain the router/base position even in difficult applications
The handle would offer more grip ability if rubber were used instead of aluminum.
Does not allow for side handles except for the base only.
Would have offered more service were it cordless
Slightly expensive, given of its neighbors
Porter Cable 450PK
This router features 1-1/4 HP, is a fixed/plunge router with a powerful palm-grip. The Porter Cable 450PK is capable of handling both light and heavy duty woodwork tasks despite its light weight.
This is partly made possible because this router does integrate easily into both fixed and plunge arrangements.
You will need this masterpiece whether you are a woodworking professional or a DIY type. It’s the recommended router for cabinet construction, sign making, decorative cutting and even delicate inlay work.
Comfort and control are assured by it being excellently compact and lightweight in design.
The 1.25HP motor is amazingly durable and delivers power irrespective of the technicality of the application.
It has a soft start motor with an all-round clock electronic feedback mechanism for speed maintenance throughout your on-load session
Bit depth control is guaranteed through the adjustable ring, can be brought to within 1/64.”
Single wrench bit changes can comfortably be achieved through the large, low-pressure spindle lock button
The motor can be maintained in any desired position with the aid of the Depth ring and clamping mechanism. This is for fixed base only
Precise depth setting has been made possible by the inclusion of a fine-tune adjustment rod in the plunge base
The Motor can easily be converted from fixed to plunge bases orientations
Stability is guaranteed by having a large plunge base platform
Extended 8-slot 1/4″ collet allows for a tighter grip by maximizing surface contact with router bit shank
It may prove somewhat difficult to use on jigs as the bits may not reach the area to be cut.
May not have enough horsepower for anything larger than ¼ cutter flute or round over
The DEWALT DWP611PK is a 1-1/4 HP router featuring variable speed control. It shares a lot of features with the Porter cable 450PK 1-1/4 HP.
The DWP611PK combines power, performance, comfort, convenience and precision all in one package. A powerful 1-1/4 motor for power does a fantastic job just as the LED that provides illumination on the working area.
Features a marker to control the depth of the bits for plunge use.
Rubber handles, included for a firm grip.
Dual LEDs ensure max visibility while in operation.
Speed control for various applications.
Motor with a soft starter.
Depth travel for up to 1.5 inch.
Allows for exceptional user control given its smooth depth stroke
A 5 step adjustable turret stop enables stepped plunge cuts for precision and consistency.
Features a couple of tabs for a quick base release.
An added feature of a new base and adjustable clamp, to have motor location kept in position through toughest uses.
Router collet of a size of 1/4 inch.
Up to 3 years warranty coverage.
It at times melts out parts during extensive use, for example, brushes
A 1/4″ collet may be a limiting bit choice
The d-shape may not accept all standard guide bushings
This cold palm router is of a variable speed type and is proven to be an exceptionally versatile tool. It is of those routers good for performing mortising hinges, trimming laminate flooring, deck planks.
It is a robust router featuring a 1 HP and allowing a speed variation from 15,000 to 35,000 RPM. Its soft-start help reduce startup torque. When the router is working overload, its constant feedback circuitry monitors and maintains the speed for consistent performance.
1.0 HP output for extensive routing applications both at-home and professional jobs
A Soft Start that reduces torque at start-up for extended motor life
Circuitry for monitoring and maintaining the speed when router is under load.
Angled cord to make sure the cord is kept far out of the way
The PR20EVSPK has a rough plunge base combined effortless plunge action as well as a depth rod with micro fine adjustment and a plunge lock release lever
The PR20EVSPK boasts of a fast & precise depth adjustment systems
The PR20EVSPK has a comfortable grip area and is probably the best on the market
Multipurpose and fast bit changing system
The push button Spindle Lock ‘s hard to maneuver but may be avoided using two wrenches
No dust cover over power switch
Notches and markings are missing on the edge guide
It may get very hot during usage which calls for usage of gloves
Festool 574368 MFK 700 EQ Modular Trim Router Set
The Festool 574368 router is designed to suit all your shop-based and job site trim routing needs and offers unbeatable precision and flexibility. Its systematic design added to its multiple base options delivers a swift transformation from vertical to horizontal routing positions. Comfort and control are well taken care of in this masterpiece of a router by having the base relatively wide and an easy-to-grip handle.
The manufacturers added even more amazing features as can be seen in its micro-adjustability, a ratcheting collet, and repeatable depth stops. You can use it with bearing-less bits when combined with the attachable feeler bearing. Dust extraction allows for increased visibility and saves you clean up time. This Festool router has a warranty coverage of up to 3 years.
The 720 watt motor is capable of handling most trimming, routing and profiling applications
The inclusion of a Threaded insert allows for integration with template guides. This provides for a smooth glide on a surface without the need to mar the material to be routed.
Dust extraction port allows you to attach a vacuum dust extractor.
A Multi-Material Control (MMC) Electronics guarantees the motor of the MFK 700 delivers a constant spindle speed when under load.
The MFK 700 Router features a one-wrench collet.
A tool-less base system for quick and easy change between the horizontal and vertical bases supplied with the MFK 700.
Super Fine Micro-Adjustment
This router is quite expensive
Routers are very handy tools in the woodworking industry and knowing which router suits best in what working conditions or for which specific tasks is goldmine kind of knowledge. Our review focuses most on the key features that distinguish these routers and what makes them suit particular tasks. We also have highlighted a few disadvantages of each of these routers that users have come so you get a balanced approach to router review.
We hope you enjoyed reading and obtained valuable information that influences your next router purchase.
Out of the so many workshop accessories, the best Plunge Router makes one tool to get almost everything done, but only when you know how to get the best out of it. Unfortunately, lots of woodworkers know not how to maximize the benefits of this simple yet a convenient workshop tool.
However, for those who are well acquainted with it, it isn’t just like any other regular tool in your workshop. Just like a remote control, it reduces that task of coping with complex cuts. It makes your work much easier and most importantly, safer. That’s every woodworker’s dream. In this article, I’m going to take you through a brief overview of a plunge router and how you can maximize on its uses.
A plunge router is simply a tool used to carry out projects related to woodworking. Just like a fixed router, a plunge router is used to achieve precise woodwork cuts. However, if we have to rank by performance, many woodworkers find a plunge router quite fascinating. It allows you to adjust the cut depth when the router is on making it quite convenient when trying to achieve precise plunging. Unlike a fixed router, it is also much flexible allowing you to do a lot of things different from what it was initially designed for.
What is a plunge router used for?
1. Sign Making
Sign making on a piece of wood is one of the hardest tasks you will ever come across. Like it or not, precision is a must simply because you don’t want to deliver the wrong message. What you need to do is, sketch a letter or a logo of your choice on the workpiece. You can then route along the sketch lines. You can achieve this much easier with a plunge router than using your free hand.
2. Routing an interior pattern
As many woodworkers say, plunge routers can go anywhere, and that’s one of the reasons they make the best choice for routing internal patterns. Unlike the fixed router, you don’t have to tip your router into the cut risking to damage the workpiece. What you need to do is, find and use a collect extension that fits into the router collect.
With a plumber router, you can come up with a jig just like the one you get from mortising. The only difference here is, you don’t need to slot the acrylic top. What you need to do is, bore approximately 5/8-inch holes. You can then make more than one top ensuring that the spacing between them vary. Set it up the just like when you are mortising. Plunge the holes to a depth you prefer and lastly, use the dowels and glue to assemble the joints
4. Making flutes, grooves and dadoes
Making field cuts such as flutes, grooves, dadoes or any other cut that is accuracy-demanding quite tricky especially when using a fixed base router only because they require you to tilt the router. There is a high chance that the fixed base will miss the track and damage the workpiece, and this is where a plunge router comes in. What you need to do is, use an edge guide or a clamp-on to ensure that your workpiece is tightly held in place.
5. Circle routing
One significant advantage of using this type of router is that it allows you to create perfect circles by doing less. On to the trammel arm that circles the fixed point, you can quickly cut out a perfect circle from your piece of wood. Here is what you need to do.
Into the edge guide mounting holes of your router, insert the trammel’s rod and then fasten it.
Measure from the inside of the workpiece, find the correct radius and then set it.
Through the center of the scrap pivot block, drill approximately a ¼-inch hole and then attach the block to the bottom of the table.
Into the drilled hole, insert the pivot pin of the jig and then plunge your router bit. Lastly, route your workpiece slowly.
6. Rout inlay recess
Just as sign making, routing an inlay recess is tricky. It requires a stable hand only because messing up even a bit may force you to start over. A plunge router has templates having bits that are guided by bearings. This eliminates veering off the course making it easier for you to decorate or patch a flow. In short, a plunge router reduces the chances of making mistakes when routing an inlay recess.
7. Making a slotted keyhole
If you don’t want to use a wire or a hanger bracket to hand your things on your wall, you will find a slotted keyhole quite useful. Using a plunge router, you can make several sizes depending on what you are planning to hang. In fact, keyholes make a better choice for small projects or a few larger ones. Fortunately, making a key hole isn’t a task like any other routing tasks mentioned above. What you need to do is, set a depth you prefer and then plunge into the back. You can then route out approximately 1-2 inch of the slot.
Vital for sophisticated jigs used in making complex joints
Useful for template routing simply because it is trouble-free
Makes mortising much easier than a fixed base router
Helpful in making popular bits
Makes it easier to mill stopped grooves and flutes.
Few things you can only achieve with a plunge router
One may argue that fixed-base can achieve almost everything a plunge router can do, there are a few exceptions. A plunge router can go where no other router can go. Routing chores such as mortising, inlay patterns and stopped dados are best achieved using a plunge router. The unique base and the spring-loaded plunge mechanisms coupled with a lock/release levers make this tool the only ideal router for these routing chores.
The best plunge routers
There are some tools that a woodworker just can’t live without, and a good router is at the top of the list. No other portable power tool can cut mortises, tenons, biscuit slots, arcs, circles and more as easily as the router. You don’t need a bunch of bells and whistles for most of these operations, but some wood routers come with helpful features that make them more suitable for certain types of work than others. For mortising and inlay work, you can’t beat a plunge router.
Routers come in two basic types: fixed-base and plunge-base. With a fixed-base router, you set the depth of cut and go to work. You can’t make adjustments to the depth when the router is on. To cut mortises and pockets, you have to turn the router on and tilt it into the work. That doesn’t always produce the best cuts, and that’s where a plunge router comes in handy.
A plunge router allows you to turn the router on and “plunge” the bit into the work. Most routers have a plunge lock that needs to be released to start the plunge. You can easily start cuts in just the right spot, which is exactly what you need when cutting pockets for inlays that must fit snugly. Template routing is also best done with a plunge router. Here’s how it works: Install a bushing in the router baseplate and start the cut with the bushing pressed firmly against the template. Plunge into the stock and follow the contours of the template with the bushing. When you’re done routing, retract the bit.
What makes the best plunge router
When shopping for a plunge router, look for one with a smooth plunging motion. Cheap routers often get stuck in position at the top or bottom of the plunge and can be difficult to release. That can be frustrating in the best cases and can ruin your stock in the worst. You can easily damage a work piece by trying to retract a sticky router base at the end of a cut.
Festool plunge routers are known for their superior quality and excellent plunging motion. You can’t go wrong with a Festool, but you’ll pay a premium. They start around $440. Bosch and Hitachi routers provide smooth motion with lower price tags.
A good plunge router should have a secure depth stop that limits the depth of cut. Most depth stops are simply round rods that are locked into position with setscrews. The best kind of stop has either a flat face machined onto one side of the rod so the setscrew can make solid contact or a housing that clamps around the rod.
A threaded rod is also a good option and prevents movement at the bottom of the plunge where the rod touches the base.Some routers also have adjustable depth stops that let you set multiple stop positions. There’s a dial at the base of the router that can be rotated to the appropriate location for each depth. This can be helpful when you need to make joinery for a lot of parts that aren’t all the same and you don’t want to have to keep switching the depth stop on your router.
You’ll find good depth stops on just about any plunge router from Bosch, Dewalt, Festool, Hitachi, Makita and Milwaukee. Although they’re not known for moving around during use, Porter Cable depth stops are usually just the round rod and setscrew type.
If you plan to use your router often, you’ll need something sturdy and well built. The more you handle a tool, the more likely you are to accidentally drop it or hit it with something that could damage it.
A few of the low cost routers designed for hobbyist and homeowner use are made with cheap plastic housings that can easily crack or break. High quality professional routers are made to withstand the wear and tear that occurs in a production environment, so they’ll take quite a bit more abuse.
Professional woodworkers have relied on DeWalt and Porter Cable routers for decades, and there’s no reason to think this is going to change anytime soon. You’ll likely be satisfied with any router from one of these two manufacturers.
Plunge routers are available in a variety of horsepower ratings, so you need to choose one that can handle the type of work you do. For mortising and inlay work, just about any plunge router will suffice. You won’t use large bits for these operations, so even the smallest router should provide adequate power. Bits over 1” in diameter require bigger motors, so look for something above 3HP if you plan to cut big decorative profiles.
Large bits need to spin at slower speeds than small bits, and you should have the ability to use any bit size. This is where variable speed is useful. A router with variable speed can handle a ¼” diameter flush trimming bit as easily as a 2” diameter super rabbeting bit. All you have to do is adjust the speed accordingly. Fortunately, most (but not all) plunge routers now come with built-in variable speed control.
The last must-have feature in a plunge router is soft start. When you turn on a router with soft start, it slowly ramps up to full speed. This prevents the jerking motion that would occur with a router that instantly hits full speed when turned on. You’ll find this feature extremely helpful with large bits.
Now that you know what to look for in a plunge router, here’s a quick comparison of three excellent plunge routers. You should be quite happy with any of these routers, but a look at what makes these different will help you select the one you’ll enjoy the most.
You can get a good plunge base router that has all the most important features. The Hitachi M12V2 has a 3-1/4 horsepower motor, soft start and variable speed. It’s somewhat ugly, and several of the online reviews mention problems with the collet nut and depth stop.
This plunge router has a big motor (3-1/4 HP), six speeds and soft start. It has additional features like a locking shaft that makes removal and installation of bits easier. It also accepts ¼” and ½” collets, so your bit options are wide open. This router has all the bells and whistles. The only apparent downside is that the baseplate doesn’t accept standard guide bushings, but you can buy special bushings or a baseplate adapter.
Festool 574342 OF 1400 EQ Router
If your budget allows, consider Festool’s 574342 OF 1400 EQ. It has a smaller motor than the Hitachi and Makita, but Festool claims it outperforms all 2-1/4 horsepower routers, as well as many 3-1/4 horsepower models. Most of the reviews seem to support this claim. This router also has a built-in dust collection port that works with Festool’s dust collection system. You’ll need to shell out more money for that, but if you like this tool, you might end up owning several Festool products, and the dust collection will work with them all.
The bottom line
As you can see, a plunge router means a lot more to a woodworker than any other regular woodwork tool. Whether you are working on massive projects that rely on your speed or complex workpieces that demand your accuracy, a plunge router will always do a perfect job. It works best for most jigs; it’s one of the vital tools for template routing, recommended for special bits and more. It is also the best choice to achieve accurate routing when it comes to sign making, inlay grooving and more. To cut to the chase, a plunge router makes everything easier. For real router table fanatics, you can’t do it much better without a plunge router.
The router is arguably the most important tool in woodworking. You can make dovetails, box joints, lock miters, decorative molding and a whole lot more with a router. If you’re serious about getting into woodworking, this tool should definitely be in your collection. Before you buy your first router, you should know exactly what options are available so you can get the one that’s right for your needs. Let’s investigate what makes the best wood router.
10 Things You Need to Know to help select the best wood router
Fixed Base Routers
Plunge Base Routers
Many routers come with what’s known as a fixed-base, which means that the cutting depth will remain fixed during operation.
To use a fixed-based router, you install a bit in the router collet (more on that later) and set the depth of cut by adjusting a ring on the outside of the router base. Then you lock the base in position before making a cut.Because the bit sticks out beyond the base of the router when you start the cut, a fixed-base router is most appropriate for operations in the edges of boards.
It’s excellent at creating decorative profiles for doors, drawers and tables. A fixed-base router is also a great tool for joinery like dovetails, box joints, lock miters, rabbets and dados. You’ll need a router table for a lot of joinery work, but you can do an impressive number of joints without one.
When routing with a plunge base, you start with the router bit above the work and then “plunge” it into your material. You do this by pressing a lever that allows the bit to slide downwards. This is extremely helpful when cutting a mortise into the face of a board.
It’s also perfect for routing inlays or using guide bushings and templates. Many projects that would be difficult or impossible with a fixed-base router are easy with a plunge base.
Most router manufacturers offer kits that contain fixed and plunge bases. If you don’t want to be limited by your router base, consider getting one of these kits. You’ll be able to switch between the two bases, and some woodworkers like to keep one mounted in a router table at all times while using the other for handheld operations. It’s usually less expensive to buy a kit than to buy the bases separately, so you might want to get both up front if you think you may need two.
DeWalt’s DW618K kit is a great value. You’ll get variable speed, 2-1/4 horsepower, plus ¼” and ½” collets. The 693LRPK kit from Porter Cable is another good deal for about the same price, but it doesn’t come with the variable speed option and has a lower horsepower rating. However, this router is a workhorse and you’ll find it in just about every professional woodworking shop.
Bosch makes the 1617EVSPK kit with variable speed soft start, 2-1/4 horsepower and two collet sizes.
Not all routers come with variable speed, but it’s a handy option because it allows you to use bits of all sizes. Small bits can be operated at high RPMs, but the bigger the bit, the slower it needs to spin.
Some woodworking routers are capable of speeds up to 35,000 RPMs, which is way too fast for a large bit like a lock miter. To use large diameter bits, you’ll need a router with variable speed. You simply dial the speed up or down to something appropriate for the bit you’re using.
Even routers without variable speeds can be adjusted for bigger bits with the use of an external variable speed control. There are several models available that allow you to adjust your router’s speed simply by turning a dial. An external speed control isn’t cheap; expect to pay about $50 for a good one. For this reason, it might be wise to invest in a router with built-in variable speed.
When you turn on a router, it immediately spins at full speed, unless it has what’s known as soft-start. Routers with this feature slowly ramp up to full speed, which is much safer with large bits that can cause the router to jerk during start-up. Soft-start is especially helpful on routers over 2 horsepower.
You don’t want a router to jump out of your hands when you turn it on, and the larger models have enough power to take off if you don’t have a tight grip.
To put a bit in your router, you insert it into what’s called a collet and tighten the collet nut. The collet clamps the bit in place. Router collets come in ¼” and ½” diameters. Although some routers can use both, some can’t.
Many routers that are designed for homeowners or hobbyists come with ¼” collets and can only be used with bits that have ¼” shanks. If you choose a router that only accepts these smaller shanks, your choice of bits will be limited. Most professional routers come with ¼” and ½” collets, so look for brands that are made for people in the trade, like Porter Cable, DeWalt, Makita, Milwaukee, Bosch and Festool.
A router might be the best joinery-making tool you’ll ever use, and to make the most of its capabilities, you’ll want to invest in some quality guide bushings. To route mortises, inlays or anything that requires a template, you install a guide bushing in your router’s base plate. The bushing follows the edges of the template during routing so that you end up with just the right shape.
You’ll also need a bushing if you want to route half-blind or through dovetails for drawers or casework. There are several dovetail jigs on the market, but they all work basically the same way. The router bushing follows an aluminum template to cut the shape of the dovetails into your work pieces.
Before purchasing a router, find out what kind of guide bushings it will accept. Most dovetail jigs, inlay templates and other commercially available fixtures are made for routers that can use Porter-Cable style bushings. Some manufacturers make their own bushings, which won’t fit on routers made by other companies. If you end up getting a router that won’t accept Porter Cable bushings, it doesn’t mean you can’t use them. You can purchase an aftermarket base plate adapter, but you’ll spend a little more money than you would by getting a router that comes from the manufacturer with the correct base plate.
Routers come in a variety of horsepower ratings, from 1 to about 3-1/2. Depending on what you want to do, you may be able to get away with a smaller router. However, if you’d like to be able to make raised panel doors or crown molding, you should shell out a little extra cash for something more powerful.
The Porter Cable 690LR is the industry standard router, and it’s rated at 1-3/4 horsepower. That’s enough muscle to handle dados, dovetails, decorative edges and other joinery work on a daily basis. It’s also adequate for occasional heavy-duty routing with panel raising and crown molding bits.
Most hobbyist woodworkers will probably never need anything bigger than the 690LR, but for those who want to do a lot of work with big bits, a 3-1/4 horsepower router is a better choice. For demanding jobs on a regular basis, something like the Porter Cable 7538 or the Makita RO2301 would be a good fit. Big routers like these are pricier than the lower horsepower models, but they’re worth when you need something with serious power.
Are you planning to do a lot of joinery and decorative profiles with your new router, or do you just need something for light trimming tasks? Laminate trimmers are small routers that can be operated with one hand. They’re designed to trim laminate and veneer, but can be used for a variety of other jobs.
For example, hobby CNC machines are usually equipped with laminate trimmers and are capable of routing signs, guitar bodies, templates, solid wood, plastic and even non-ferrous metals like aluminum. A few manufacturers even make plunge bases for their laminate trimmers, which opens up even more possibilities like inlay work and mortising.
The DeWalt DWP611PK is an excellent laminate trimmer that comes with fixed and plunge bases. For something a little more entry level, the Rocky 30 Trim Router is one of the few laminate trimmers available with variable speed. It also includes a built-in dust collection port, another feature you won’t find in most routers of this size.
To turn your router into a joinery-making powerhouse, you’ll need a good router table. The router mounts in the table upside down, and instead of running the router over the work piece, you run the work piece over the router. You might be surprised at just how much this expands the tool’s capabilities.
Parts that are too small to work with a handheld router can be safely machined in a router table. You can install feather boards and hold-downs in the table to control the stock and produce more accurate cuts. Joints that would otherwise be impossible are easy: lock-miters, finger joints, cope-and-stick joints and many others can be safely cut on the router table.
When shopping for a router table, look for something with a split fence. This means that the fence can be adjusted on either side of the bit, allowing you to increase or decrease the opening size according to the bit diameter. You don’t want a big gap between the bit and the fence, which could allow chunks of material to get stuck during operation, so get something that can be adjusted to provide the smallest gap possible.
Kreg, MLCS Woodworking, Bench Dog, and Woodpeckers make excellent router tables and fences. Some of their products can be expensive, depending on the options you choose to include. To get started, a simple phenolic or laminated table and split fence should be just fine. In fact, many commercial woodworking shops never use anything fancier. But, if you do want all the bells and whistles like a micro-adjustable fence and above-the-table router lift, go for it. Just know that you’re going to spend as much as $1000.
For a less-expensive option, you can build your own router table. All you need is a flat piece of material like MDF or particleboard for the surface and fence, plus some 2x4s for the stand. To minimize friction, apply plastic laminate to the table top and fence. You can find dozens of plans for router tables online. If you have some basic tools like a miter saw and a drill, you should easily be able to build your own router table.
When selecting your first router, look for the best combination of features, durability and price. Most of the professional-grade routers are comparable in quality and will come with both ¼” and ½” collets. Before purchasing a model designed for hobbyists like a Craftsman or Skil, make sure it doesn’t take only ¼” bits, unless you’re sure you won’t ever need anything larger.
To get the most out of your router, you’ll probably want variable speed and a plunge base. The fixed/plunge base kits are great options that can save you a little money.
Professional woodworkers usually work with Porter Cable, DeWalt or Bosch routers, so you can be confident that anything from these manufacturers should be able to handle your woodworking projects.
Finally, if you’re looking for a recommendation for the best overall value in a router, check out the DeWalt DW618K fixed/plunge kit mentioned above. You can’t beat the combination of power and features. It also comes with an adapter for Porter Cable style guide bushings, a handy accessory for template work.