Compact Router vs. Full size Routers

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 mid-range motors are good for most general-purpose tasks, like routing decorative profiles in the edges of doors and drawer fronts. Full-size routers are quite capable when mounted in router tables.

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.

Compact routers (Palm routers)

Here are three excellent palm routers.

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For less than a hundred, you can get this palm router with variable speed control, soft start motor, edge guide attachment and plastic carrying case.

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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.

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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.

Full-Size Routers

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It’s bigger than the 690, has soft start and variable speed, and features a dual-position power switch that makes it easy to turn off without moving your hands and losing control.

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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.

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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.

Top 10 Best Palm Routers

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.

arrow Jump to the list of the best palm routers

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.

Spindle Locks

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

Dust Collection

 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.

Plunge Base

Accessories

 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.

Best compact router comparison table

palm router review
DeWalt DWP611PK palm router

Palm router reviewlFestool 574368 MFK Trim Router

Palm-router-reviewMLCS 30 Trim Router

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Bosch PR20EVSK Colt router

best palm router
Bosch PR20EVSPK palm router

best-compact-routerPorter Cable 450PK palm router

best-palm-routerDeWalt DWP611 trim router

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Porter Cable PCE6435 trim router


Router Type


Fixed & Plunge

Fixed-base

Fixed-base

Fixed-base

Fixed & Plunge

Fixed & Plunge

Fixed-base

Fixed-base

Horsepower


1-1/4

1

1

1

1

1-1/4

1-1/4

1-1/4

Collet Diameter


1/4″

1/4″

1/4″

1/4″

1/4"

1/4"

1/4"

1/4"

RPM


16,000 - 27,000

10,000 - 26,000

10,000 - 30,000

15,000 - 35,000

16,000 - 35,000

up to 27,000

up to 27,000

16,000 - 35,000

Weight
(Pound)


8

11.3

5.6

11.8

14.6

10

5.5

5.2

Dimensions (inches)


7 x 10.2 x 19.2

6.4 x 6.4 x 15.5

10 x 8 x 6

15 x 13 x 8

21.5 x 16.2 x 7.2

19.2 x 10.2 x 7

5.6 x 11.5 x 7.3

8.3 x 8.3 x 5.8

The Best Palm Router list

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

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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.

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  • 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

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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.

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  • 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

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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.

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  • 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

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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.

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  • 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

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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.

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  • 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
 Slightly heavy

DeWalt DWP611

Palm-router-Dwalt

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.

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  • 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

Palm-router-porter-cable

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.

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  • 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

DeWalt DWP611PK

Palm-router-Dewalt

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.

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  • 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

Bosch PR20EVSPK

Palm-router-bosh

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.

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  • 1.0 HP output for extensive routing applications both at-home and professional jobs
  • Variable speed
  • 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

Palm-router-Festool

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.

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  • The 720 watt motor is capable of handling most trimming, routing and profiling applications
  • Variable speed
  • Detachable cord.
  • 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

Conclusion

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.