Most people who work with wood know the value of such things as table saws and wood saws. These are great tools, to say the least. There is just one problem with them. A jigsaw is a precision wood cutting tool for making curved lines and a table saw is used for making straight-line cuts. So what do you do if you have to make different shape angle cuts or grooves in a piece of wood? The answer is you grab a router. These are one of the most versatile woodworking power tools you can by. They have special bits that allow them to make a variety of different cuts and grooves in a piece of wood.
The best wood router is truly a very useful woodworking tool and you will learn all about them in this article. We will even include a handy router buying guide and a series of wood router reviews. This article will basically give you all the information you need to find a router that is just right for your individual woodworking needs.
Below you will find that we’ve investigated wood routers in 2 sections; “Plunge Base Routers” and “Fixed base routers“.
1. Bosch 1617EVSPK Woodworking Router Combo Kit
Bosch is a highly respected name in power tools and this is a well-designed plunge router from them. It has all the features anyone could possibly want in this style wood router. This is a versatile router because it also comes with an attachment that will allow you to set it up as a fixed position router too. So you get the best of both worlds with this Bosch router kit.
Why can this router handle a variety of woodworking tasks? The answer to that is the power it has. It can be set to run anywhere from 8000 – 25,000 RPM’s with its powerful 12 amp motor. That is enough to make grooves and cuts even in the toughest hardwoods.
This router features mostly aluminum construction that makes it durable but also keeps it lightweight too. Bosch also backs this product up with a 1-year limited warranty, 30-day money-back guarantee, and it also comes with a 1-year service protection plan.
2. Makita RP2301FC 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router (Variable Speed)
Here is another well-built plunge router from another respected power tool manufacturer, Makita. It can nicely be set to make different depth grooves and cuts. This wood router even comes with twin LED lights to nicely light up the area where you are using it.
This plunge router has power to spare too. That’s due to the 25,000 RPM speed that its generous size 15 amp motor creates. There is also a shaft lock to help make bit changes easier and trigger lock for continuous operation. One of its best features is its electric brake which stops the bit from spinning immediately after releasing the trigger.
It also features oversized ball bearing construction in its motor which should greatly extend this power tools working life. The handle is ergonomically designed and includes comfortable built-in rubber grips too. Makita backs all of their power tools up with a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 1-year warranty.
3. Triton TRA001 3-1/4 HP Dual Mode Precision Plunge Router
Here is another nice dual-mode router. It’s made by Triton which has a solid reputation in the power tool manufacturing. This wood router can be set up to work as a plunge router or a fixed-base router. That makes it one of the most versatile routers you can buy.
Not only is it versatile but it has all the power you need for even the toughest routing tasks. Its decent size 15 amp, 3 ¼ horsepower motor will generate over 22,000 RPM’s of routing working speed. It has such innovative features as side air vents to channel dust away from the motor. This wood router also comes with a multi-function safety fence.
Bit changes are also easy to do when working with this wood router. There is a shaft locking mechanism which enables the bits to be changed with just single wrench action. It even includes a soft start switch to extend motor life and can be operated at variable speeds.
4. DEWALT DWP611PK 1.25 HP Max Torque Compact Router Combo Kit
If you like well-made power tools, you can never go wrong purchasing tools made by Dewalt. This combination style router from them can provide the user with many wood cutting and groove making options. It can easily handle woodworking tasks that both plunger style and fixed style routers can do.
This is also the type of router that those who use their router at multiple locations will like. That’s because it is a little more compact and lightweight than most models with similar power are. It measures just 19.2” x 10.2” x 7” and weighs less around 8-pounds. That makes it one of the more portable wood router options you will find.
Other features on it to like are its two LED working lights and variable speed selection. It even has a multiple shaft-lock for easy bit changes and a soft starting switch for extended motor life. Dewalt warranties this router for a period of 3-years from the date of purchase.
5. Festool 574692 Router OF 1400 EQ Imperial
If you do a lot of precision router work or are a woodworking professional, this router should really interest you. It can do routing jobs that require up to 1/10th of a millimeter in accuracy. It has more adjustability built into it than just about any other router you will find in the marketplace. Plunge routers just don’t get any better than this model from Festool.
This router comes packed with plenty of working power too. It features a 2 ¼ horsepower, 11 amp motor that generates up to 27,000 RPM’s of working power. That’s plenty enough to do routing work in even the hardest woods. It also features a category-leading 2 3/4″ plunge depth.
Its advanced MMC electronic control system also helps to keep the bit spin rate constant even under load. This router is made with a chip deflection design and incorporates an excellent dust collection system into it. Festool offers an above industry-standard 3-year all-inclusive warranty on this product too.
6. Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit
This is an extreme well-designed router for the price you will pay for it. It’s perfect for woodworking hobbyists that want a more compact dual-purpose router. Makita has designed this router so it can be used as both a fixed and plunger-style power tool. At a little over 5 pounds, it’s also one of the lightest quality made routers you will find.
Despite its compact design it still has some nice power too. Its 1 ¼” horsepower, 8.8 amp motor allows bits to turn at up to 30,000 RPM. There is also a built-in variable speed function and a soft start switch to improve motor life. It even features a heavy-duty aluminum motor housing and a shaft lock to make bit changes simple.
This Makita power tool is slim and ergonomically designed so it’s comfortable to use even for extended periods of time. It also comes with a 30-day money-back satisfaction guarantee and a 1-year warranty.
7. PORTER-CABLE 892 2-1/4-Horsepower Router
This is a company that has been known to make reliable power tools for many decades now. Here is a very nicely designed plunge router from them. It has many of the same features that much more expensive router models have.
It features a 2 ¼ horsepower, 12 amp motor that allows the bits it uses to spin at up to 23,000 RPM’s. It also has a built-in soft start switch that will help extend the useful life of the motor. There is a variable speed function and it has full-time electronic feedback to maintain bit speed even through tough wood.
There are also over-molded handle grips to help make this wood router comfortable to use for longer periods of time. Other features include a handy dust collection system and a shaft lock to make bit changes easier. Porter-Cable stands behind this product by offering a fairly standard 1-year warranty.
Reviews of the Best Fixed-Base Routers
These are what we feel are some of the top fixed-base router buys in the power tool marketplace:
1. Bosch 1617EVS Fixed-Base Router
As usual, Bosch has designed a pretty nice power tool with this router. It’s a fixed-base style router that is lean and powerful. The 2 ¼ horsepower, 12 amp motor it comes equipped with can spin bits as fast as 25,000 RPM’s. That will make routing easy in even the hardest types of wood.
There is a lot to like about this router besides the power too. It is very well-built and sturdy. This router is made of mostly lightweight but durable aluminum. Parts such as the motor and switches are also sealed in the right places to prevent dust intrusion. It has larger size and ergonomically designed wooden handle grips too.
This is a very precise wood router too. It features micro-fine adjustments up to 1/64th of an inch. Bosch also backs this wood router up with a one-year limited warranty and a one-year service protection plan. You also get 30-days to try it out as it comes with a full money-back guarantee in that time period.
2. PORTER-CABLE 7518 Speedmatic Fixed-base 5-Speed Router
If you like a lot of speed choices in a fixed-base router, then you will like this Porter-Cable router model. It has 5-different speed settings between 10,000 to 21,000 RPM’s. That’s the type of versatility that will make this router useful for many woodworking tasks.
It is very nicely powered too thanks to its 3 ¼ horsepower, 15 amp motor. The motor should last a long time too due to features like its soft start switch. Its motor is also designed to keep a constant speed even when it’s under heavy load. There is also a built-in auto-release collet system to make bits easier to remove or change.
Porter-Cable has a lot of confidence in how well this router is built. They back it up with a full 5-year warranty. It also comes with a 30-day performance certificate. If you don’t like how this wood router works in that time period you can get your money back.
3. DEWALT DWP611 1.25 HP Max Torque Compact Router
If you have been looking for a powerful yet compact fixed-base router, then this Dewalt router should interest you. It is a slim design router that measures only 5.5 x 11.5 x 7 inches. It is also easy to maneuver due to the fact it only weighs 5.5 pounds.
This router may be compact but don’t mistake that for not being powerful. It has a 7 amp, 1 ¼ horsepower motor that spins bits up to 27,000 RPM’s. The motor has a soft start switch which will tend to extend its useful life. There are several precision adjustments on this router too. You can do your routing work as accurate as 1/64th of an inch.
It’s an ergonomically designed product that also becomes a plunge router if someone purchases the optional base. This wood router from Dewalt will also let you see where you are working thanks to its twin LED lights. Dewalt nicely stands behind this product with a full 3-year warranty.
4. Ryobi P601 One+ 18V Lithium-Ion Cordless Fixed-base Trim Route
Ryobi is a company that’s known for making excellent cordless power tools for an affordable price. That’s exactly what you get with this cordless fixed-base router. It is very powerful for a cordless router and it will run longer than you expect on a single charge too. This battery-operated router is especially useful for those that do carpentry trim work.
Once you add an 18-volt battery to it, the power this router has will spin your bits at a surprisingly fast 29,000 RPM’s. Other nice features include its two LED lights that shine on your work area and its sturdy aluminum base. It also comes with a rubber-coated grip and a quick depth adjustment knob.
One thing to be sure to note is that this cordless wood router does not come with a battery and charger. These must be purchased separately but can be used with a wide variety of Ryobi ‘One+’ cordless tools. Ryobi warrantees this wood router for a 3-year period.
5. PORTER-CABLE 690LR 11-Amp Fixed-Base Router
Here is a fairly lightweight and compact wood router from the well-known power tool maker Porter-Cable. It will do a large variety of wood routing jobs for the affordable price you will pay for it. This fixed-base router is also ergonomically designed for long periods of use.
This Porter-Cable router has the power to take on even the toughest routing jobs. That’s because it has a 1 ¾ horsepower, 11 amp motor that produces some 27,500 RPM’s of bit rotation. You can also do course adjustments on it that are accurate within 1/128th of an inch. These adjustments are made even easier by its spiral can design and cam-lock lever.
Other nice features on it include its auto-release collet system that allows for easy bit removal and changes. It’s a durable router also thanks to its precision-machined aluminum motor housing and sealed ball-bearing construction. Porter-Cable will backs this product up with a nice three-year warranty.
6. DEWALT DW616 1-3/4-Horsepower Fixed-Base Router
This is another very streamlined and compact fixed-base router from Dewalt. It is much easier to use and transport than bigger and heavier wood routers. But despite its smaller stature, this router still packs a punch and will handle heavy-duty routing jobs too.
It has a 1 ¾ horsepower, 11 amp motor that propels the bits it uses up to 24,500 RPM’s. There are also oversized handle knobs built into it for easy maneuvering. This router is also very precise when working with it. It can be adjusted to do routing tasks within a 1/64th degree of accuracy.
This wood router also features a tool-free cam lock that makes depth adjustments and bit changes very simple to do. There are also quick-release motor latches that allow you to remove the motor pack so it’s not in your way when changing bits. Dewalt stands behind this item with a generous 3-year warranty and a 1-year service plan.
What is a Woodworking Router?
As was mentioned, table saws and jigsaws can make a variety of cuts but they are very limited when it comes to making such things as joints and grooves in wood. That’s where a router comes in handy because it is perfect for doing these types of woodcuts and more. They are a beefy power tool that’s hand-operated and there are many bits that can be used in them. Each bit makes a different cut or groove pattern. The tools name itself, to ‘rout’, means to hollow out.
What makes a router so effective is that they spin bits at an extremely high RPM rate. Many routers generate bit speeds of over 20,000 plus RPM’s. This makes their cutting action very precise and able to penetrate even the toughest woods. This makes router use very popular among such woodworkers as those who do cabinetry.
Routers are not only used on wood either. Those who work in the plastic industry also take advantage of their precise cutting action.
Wood Router Buying Guide
Here are some things to consider when you are getting ready to shop for a new wood router.
Important Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting to Shop for a Router
You should ask yourself these questions before you start shopping for a new wood router:
- What size wood router do I need?
You have to make sure the router you buy has the capacity to make all of the cuts that you want it to.
- Do I need a light, medium or heavy-duty router?
This will help you determine the quality of the router that you need. The more you use your router the more durable it will have to be.
- What are the main tasks that I will be doing with my new router?
You don’t need a fancy a router to just to make normal cuts with it. If you do many different tasks with a router you will need a more sophisticated model.
- Will I be working at fixed depths or will I need to adjust as the depth as I do my routing?
This will let you know if you need to buy a plunge router or a fixed base router.
- Will the router be used in a single workshop or does it need to be used at many different job sites?
This will help you determine how portable the router you purchase needs to be.
What Type Of Wood Router Should I Buy?
There are basically three different types of routers and all have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are the 3 main types of routers:
These are the easiest routers for beginners to use. Their handles are also lower so they give you a little more control as you work than other types of routers do. They are also less expensive than comparable quality plunge routers. The biggest drawback with them is you have no ability to raise and lower the bit as you work. This means all cuts that you do with them have to start at the edge of the material.
With a plunge router, you can start your cut anywhere on a piece of wood. They even allow you to cut grooves in the center of the wood. You can even adjust the depth of the cut as you work. Plunge routers also tend to be more versatile and safer to use than fixed-base routers are. However, plunge routers can get expensive and they are always used freestyle. That means you cannot use them in conjunction with a fixed-base router table. So you get tired faster when using a plunge router.
If you need to use a router that does both variable depth and constant depth cuts then this is the best way to go. It will save you from having to purchase two separate routers to get the job done. The downside to these is you will have to change the base out frequently. They can get a little pricey too. This also eliminates the need to decide whether you need a fixed vs plunge router.
The Most Important Wood Router Features to Consider
Here are a few router characteristics that we strongly suggest you consider before buying a new router:
We went over the different types of routers above. It’s important to match the router you want to buy with the main woodworking tasks that you want to use it for. For instance; if you want to be able to make signs and have the ability to adjust the depth of your cut as you work, then you will purchase a plunge type router. This consideration is absolutely critical if you want to be satisfied with your new router purchase.
You also have to consider what size router that you want to purchase. There will be a definite tradeoff between how big and powerful as to how easy your router will be to maneuver around as you work. Palm-size routers are the easiest to use but have the least power and versatility. Slim and sleek routers also tend to be very easy to use but are not as adjustable as other router models. Compact routers offer a good mix of power and ease of use. Larger and more powerful routers are always the preferred choice for those that have to cut through harder woods on a regular basis. So the size of the router you buy will definitely impact its usefulness.
Why do you need to think about the intended use you have for a router before you make a purchase. The answer to that is simple. Not all routers are adjustable and versatile. This kind of goes hand in hand with the type and size of router that you buy. For example; if you need to change the depth of a cut as you work you will need a plunge style router. So it’s very important to be sure that the router you buy can handle the main routing tasks that you want to use it for. It’s also not a bad idea to talk to a salesman or company rep on the phone to verify a router is a good fit for your needs.
Router weight becomes a factor if you are going to be taking your router to different job sites. This also matters if you do prolonged router use on a regular basis. It stands to reason that the heavier your router is the tougher it will be to maneuver. Heavier routers also will tire you out faster as you work. So always consider a routers weight when looking to buy a new one. You have to come up with the proper balance of weight and performance.
In order for a router to cut through heavy woods and make precise cuts, it has to be powerful. So the power of a router is definitely an important factor to consider when looking to purchase a new one. Usually, the more horsepower and amps a router has the faster and more consistent it will spin a bit. Also, the harder the material you are cutting or making grooves in, the more powerful your router needs to be. So make sure your router purchase has the right combination of power and RPM’s to meet your routing needs.
It’s no secret that routers are most often used in tough working environments to do tough jobs. If you buy one that is not built well it won’t last you very long. Look for a router that is made out of heavy-duty plastics and lightweight metals such as aluminum. You also want its motor and switches to be well-sealed so duct does not get in them.
There are many people that have made a router purchase only to find out it does not cut to the depth that they need. Don’t let this happen to you. You can easily avoid this by making sure you know the depth that a router can cut to. This is usually listed on the packaging or can also be easily found on a manufacturer’s website.
Look for a router that cuts within at least 1/64th of an inch accuracy. This is the type of precision you will need when making router cuts. The more micro-adjustability the better. You also want to be sure these adjustments are easy to make on your router of choice.
If you want a highly portable router or one where the cord does not get in your way go cordless. However, when you do this you will most likely sacrifice some precision and adjustability. Cordless routers are most often fixed-based routers too. There are also many corded router options too. These tend to be more powerful than cordless model routers. You also don’t have to worry about charging batteries with them.
Ease of use
We have talked about size and weight some here. These all have a direct impact on how easy any router is to use. The design shape of a router makes a difference in how easy it is to use also. Other characteristics make a router easy to use are quick bit and adjustability changes. So look for these features when router shopping.
When you are talking about a power tool that spins sharp bits at over 20,000 RPM’s there are dangers involved. That’s why you want to check out the safety features on any router that you are thinking about buying. You want a router that has such things as built-in overheat protection and properly placed guards. It’s also a good idea to buy a router whose electrical components are well-sealed up to prevent shock hazards. Most manufacturers use safety features as a selling point so familiarize yourself with them before buying a router.
Routers pound for pound are some of the most expensive power tools you can buy. They are far from being a disposable item that you want to purchase on a regular basis. So you want your new router to be built well and come with a good warranty. Look for a warranty that is not only comprehensive but also lasts for the longest period of time possible.
Router vs. Jigsaw
Many people wonder why you can’t just use a jigsaw to do the same cuts as a router does. In some cases, you can but the cuts are just much more difficult to make. You also cannot make grooves in the center of a piece of wood with a jigsaw as you can with a router. Also, a jigsaw cannot start making a cut in the center of a piece of wood unless a hole is drilled through that wood first. These are all reasons why someone would choose a router over a jigsaw.
Another advantage that routers have over jigsaws is the precision of the cuts that they make. That’s why people make joint cuts with routers instead of a jigsaw. A router also leaves a much smoother cut edge than a jigsaw does.
Jigsaws do have their advantages over routers. For starters, they are not as heavy and do not cost as much. They also make their cuts much faster than a router does. They are perfect for doing rough curved type cuts too.
Both of these power tools are pretty much must-have items for anyone that does much woodworking.
Handheld Router vs. Table Router
There are times when it’s best to use your router handheld style and times when it’s better to mount it to a table.
If you are working with a large piece of wood, most woodworkers prefer to use a handheld router. Using a handheld router is also best when the cut is done better by moving the router as opposed to the piece of wood. Delicate and precise router work is also done best when using a handheld router. This is because it gives you a better view of where you are cutting.
Table routers work best when you are routing smaller pieces of wood. It helps to keep them stable and makes it safer to cut. That’s because you move the wood to the stationary router and not the other way around. Thin and long strips of wood such as molding are generally much easier to cut on a table router too. Large size routers are also easier to use when table mounted. For safety reasons, table routers should always be used when working with bits larger than 1 ½” in size.
How do Wood Routers Work?
Routers produce a high amount of RPM’s just like any hand drill does. They are also similar to a regular drill because they work using special bits. What makes routers different is they can be used with literally hundreds of different bits. All of these bits make a special shape and size cut. These special bits also will be used to shape either the edges or the center of a piece of wood. When used properly, routers also make a very precise and smooth cut. That’s why they are popular among people that need to join two pieces of wood together often such as furniture and cabinet makers.
What Does a Wood Router Do?
Wood routers first became popular as a tool for cabinet and furniture makers to use. That’s because they did the cuts that enabled two pieces of wood to be joined together in a strong way. But these handy power tools have many other uses too. They are also popular for doing such woodworking tasks as sign making, crown molding shaping, cutting mortises, making plugs, and making small trim cuts to the edges of a piece of wood.
How to Use a Wood Router
Many people think wood routers are hard to operate because of the way they look but that’s hardly the case. Here are the steps that are necessary to use a router:
- Decide what type of cut you want to make with the router
- Select the proper bit to make that cut
- Next, select the depth that you want your cut to be at
- Line up the router where you want to make the cut
- Turn on the router and start cutting
- Move the router to the right as you work with it
- Look down from the top to keep your router lined up properly as you use it
- Once you get a little experience using a router it really becomes this simple to operate.
Read on to find more details on choosing the best oscillating tool.
Wood Router FAQ’s
Here are some of the most common questions we get regarding wood routers:
- Question: How do I determine how heavy duty the router I purchase needs to be?
Answer: the answer to this is you have to look at two things. What types of jobs will be using your router for and how often will you use it. Light duty routers are good for home woodworking hobbyists and occasional professional users. Those who use a router quite a bit in multiple locations most likely will choose a medium-duty router. They will sacrifice some durability in exchange for their router being more portable. Heavy router users who make tough cuts on a repeated basis will definitely want a sturdy, heavy-duty routing tool.
- Question: Do I need to make a pilot hole when I want to use my router in the center of a piece of wood?
Answer: You may think you need to do this because it’s a necessary step when using a jigsaw in the middle of a piece of wood. The fact, people use routers of jigsaws because you don’t need to cut a pilot hole. With a router, you do not have to do anything special before cutting. This is true whether working on the side or away from the edges on a piece of wood.
- Question: there are so many router bits available how do I know which ones are a good choice?
Answer: Well, you could go online and see if you can find reviews on the router bits you are thinking about buying but there is probably an easier way. The price of a router bit is usually very indicative of its quality with few exceptions to this rule. We have been using router bits for many years now and we find very few exceptions to this rule.
A Few Final Thoughts on Wood Routers
If you are into precision woodworking a router is pretty much a must-have tool. They come in all sizes and price ranges so everyone should be able to find one that meets their woodworking needs and their budget. There are also literally thousands of bits to choose from to use with these high RPM power tools. That makes them one of the most versatile woodworking tools you can buy.
It is our hope that you will use the information here to help you find the best wood router. They really do make a great power woodworking tool for even those that only do occasional woodworking tasks. If you don’t want to spend much time looking for a router, the models we did wood router reviews on will all work well for you. So if you do not already own one of these handy woodworking tools, you should consider buying one.