Routers are essentially tools used for cutting and shaping wood for utility and decorative purposes. They have a cutter that rotates at high speed and removes the wood in their path. Imagine a thread cutting self tapping screw if you may! A router does similar work but on a bigger scale! It is like a really sharp knife with its blade spinning very fast! In this article we attempt to give you wood router reviews to guide you in choosing the best wood router for your needs.
All woodworkers agree that a wood router is a Multi-Tasker because it can accomplish a wide range of tasks from dovetail joints to grooves to stile joints to rails to mouldings, frames, shelf edges, carvings, rabbets to adding a profile! It allows an extensive range of shapes to be placed even on the edge of the wood to make the woodwork look artistic and striking! So it is a must have on every woodworker’s list of tools.
Check out our picks on the top rated wood routers for 2016 below.
Top Rated Wood Routers
Top 9 Wood Router Reviews
This is fixed/plunge combo kit seems to be a good deal! Switching between the bases is a breeze! Being light it is easy to carry around. It is good for small projects and trimming work. Its highlights are the LED lights and impressive micro depth adjustment. This has prompted many Bosch Colt fans to switch over to this router!
It is however not without some setbacks like –
- It can work only with 1/4 inch collar router bits, making you handicapped if you want to work with larger bits.
- Some find the on/off switch inconveniently located.
- Not compatible for use with a router table.
This kit would have been a complete 5 star package if it would have been accompanied by an edge guide, a vacuum attachment and a hard carrying case instead of a soft bag. But it’s still a deal not worth missing for this one of the best wood routers in the industry!
This kit comes with a good carrying case having compartments for carrying bits of both shank sizes. It also comes with an edge guide, a valuable aide! Unlike other routers this one comes with a long chord. It does its job quietly and does not vibrate. Wow…isn’t that something when it comes to a router? A highlight of this kit is that the depth adjustment stays the same and hence no readjustment is needed every time you switch a base! Saves you time!
However not all is well with the wooden handles on the fixed base and they are of poor quality and need frequent readjustment. Also the router base tends to be very tight and rigid and loosens only when router warms up. A frequently echoing complaint is that the switch of this router stops working often due to dust accumulation. It has to be cleaned frequently. A shout out to Bosch to seal its switches better to make its consumers happy!
The Porter-Cable 690LR is a fixed base router. The ‘LR’ refers to Lever Release quick adjustment feature. It is very durable and will serve you till you get tired of it! The fact that it does not come with variable speed control should not bother you much because it is compatible with a router speed control device! It is uncomplicated and easy to use. The collet is industrial quality and very good. Most users opine that it is one of the best handheld routers out there.
A few annoyances with this kit are –
- It gives a kick on starting as it lacks the soft start feature.
- The switch is inconveniently located but well protected from accidental starts.
- The case is supposedly cheap and small.
- The tightening mechanism is unsatisfactory for two reasons- Firstly because it is a two wrench one and secondly it slips and doesn’t stay put no matter how much you tighten.
- The bit changing process is also relatively laborious.
However it is a very good router to put under the table.
This is another DeWalt combo that looks good. Not only is switching between the bases is easy, moreover adjusting the depth is trouble-free and almost intuitive with this kit! It is sturdy. The plunge base is very smooth and it has a multi-step turret stop. DeWalt seems to have vowed to overcome the common Porter Cable complaints and offers –
- Removable power cord.
- Spindle lock and 1 wrench for adjustment.
- Through the column dust collection feature and a switch dust sealed for durability. Way to Go!
The cherry on the topping is that it comes with a sub-base concentricity gauge, a vacuum adaptor, and a very heavy-duty kit box for convenient transport and storage purposes.
Only drawbacks are that it does not come with bits and a guide which have to be bought separately, also it lacks the soft start feature. But that’s just a miniscule minus, right?
This is a combo kit from SKIL. The bases are the best features of this kit and are made of solid aluminium making the router sturdy! No wobbling, no toppling over! The bases have knob handles, fine and coarse height adjustments. Quick release clamp makes switching the bases uncomplicated. The handle grips are of ergonomic design. LED lights shine through your work making it easier! No jerk, no kick back because of soft start feature.
On the flip side Bit changing and depth control aren’t the best and hence it is not good for use with a router table. Also it seems to be a good bargain until you realise that you will have to spend almost half the price of the router on buying essential accessories like bits, dust collection bag, wrenches, adapter to use the guide bushings etc.
However it is good for an amateur or hobbyist looking at multiple wood router reviews to buy this as their first router.
Milwaukee is a trusted name in router industry! It has come up with a fixed router with two striking features namely, BodyGrip design and Exclusive Linear Depth Adjustment System. The BodyGrip® design enables both left and right-handed operation because of an adjustable hand strap and also ensures superior comfort, manoeuvrability and control due to the two over-moulded palm-grip handles on the side! The exclusive feature of linear adjustment of depth includes a big, steel motor lock lever as well as a threaded screw with greater durability. Also it is designed so that the switch and cord remain in the same optimal location. The facts that it is possible to micro adjust the router without having to disassemble it from the table, makes it easy to use with router tables.
Only things lacking are the soft start and variable speed control features but speed control can be achieved with a separate device and so you need not hesitate in buying this one!
Any seasoned woodworker would rubbish my statement as no router is silent and they are natural screamers! But Hitachi has come up with a wood router with a class leading noise level, only 79.5dB! This is guaranteed to give you a quieter workshop and you might even be able to listen to that radio! Comes with the soft start feature and is light and easy to manoeuvre. The convenient carrying case and the long chord are added bonuses. It decently handles all tasks thrown at lower speeds.
Coming to the limitations a common complaint about this router is the carbon brushes! If not checked and cleaned periodically they require replacement within 1 year even with moderate use. The product requires constant electric supply and use with generators or in power fluctuation situations can damage the loop circuitry. Also there are some complaints that releasing the bits damages the collet jaw sometimes. The collets do not fit right, and bind in the taper. It does not come with a spindle lock which would have made changing bits easier. As is with most routers the switch could have been better placed.
But all in all a good medium router which is value for money!
- DEWALT DW618PK Kit – DEWALT hits a Home-Run with Ergonomics but strikes on the motor & customer service front!
DEWALT is known for making routers with good and solid designs. This kit is no different and comes with a flawless finish and fit! Yay for ergonomics! Unlike other combo kits where either the fixed or the plunge base is good, in this kit both the bases perform very well! It comes with a removable power cord which is really helpful as every power tool user knows. Though it is heavier than most of its contemporary products, people prefer the squat stance of this router. For changing bits DEWALT gives you an option of spindle lock or two wrenches. Also the dust collection feature of this router is impressive.
Coming to the flaws many complain that DEWALT quality has gone downhill since production was outsourced to Mexico! There are numerous complaints of the motor of this router burning out and the variable speed feature malfunctioning. This would not be a deal breaker only if the repairs were done quickly but on an average it has taken more than 2-3 weeks to get the repairs done, which makes a few ditch the brand. Brand loyalists wish it came with an edge guide and a D-handle and wouldn’t mind paying a few extra bucks for it.
You are bound to be blown over this German technology high end router which works with great accuracy, has a plunge base that cuts through wood like a knife through the butter and gives you an almost dust-free routing experience! It comes with a Dust Extraction Hood, Chip Catcher, Collet Wrench, 1/2″ collet 1/4″ Collet and 8 mm Collet, Guide Bushing Adaptor, Plug-It Detachable Power Cord, T-LOC 4 Systainer. That’s quite a handful! It has a Ratcheting Spindle which makes bit changing faster and easier. Another highlight is the Systainer® Festool’s revolutionary system for organizing, packing and transporting power tools, accessories, and consumables.
However buying this router will burn a hole in your pocket as it costs a bit higher than most other wood routers! It will prove to be a bang for your buck only if you are a seasoned enough of a woodworker and a Festool junkie! There is a learning curve with using this router as there are no clear instructions and the design may not be comfortable enough for all. It is not compatible for use with a router table. At the heavy price the company could have thrown in LED lights for better visibility; also the dust collector obstructs your view.
Summing up a delight to work with for a professional!
What are the types of routers available?
The first wood router was a specialized kind of hand plane with a broad base along with a narrow blade that projected well beyond its base plate. Now used rarely, it has been largely replaced by the modern version which is a compact electric one. It is spindle driven and comes with interchangeable bits for creating different designs in the wood. There are two main types of routers namely fixed and plunge.
- The fixed-base router has a cylindrical housing and a motor. Here, once the bit is in and the base is locked, the bit is in a ‘fixed’ position, meaning its depth is set and will stay set. It has handles located near the base which provide a stable grip and good control. It is ideal for shaping the edges of shelves. It approaches the wood from sides.
- In case of a plunge wood router the motor is attached to the base with the help of spring loaded piston rods that have to be pulled downwards in a vertical direction for the bit to be able to make contact with the wood’s surface. The bit can be locked in the router, and then plunged in and out of the material. It approaches the wood from above.
- A combination router or kit comes with both the above bases which are interchangeable! You can choose the base best suited for your job or which offers the best grip for your work.
In what sizes do routers come?
Based on the power rating routers are classified into 3 categories:
- Small aka Laminate Trimmers – Under 1 HP and useful for light duty operations.
- Medium –Fall in the 1 ½ to 2 ¼ HP range. Most commonly used routers.
- Large – With 3 ¼ HP they are for heavy duty work.
How to choose a router?
Before you analyse based on the wood router reviews, you need to know the different types of routers that are classified based on the following factors:
- Your experience in woodworking – beginner or pro. As a beginner you need not invest in expensive models with advanced features. It is recommended starting off with a small fixed base router, something in the 1 HP to 1½ HP range. As you grow more confident and comfortable, you can go for larger router in the 1¾ to3½ HP range.
- The purpose for which you will put the router to use. Light duty or heavy duty work?
- Frequency of use. Every day? Or once in a blue moon?
- If you are confused and unsure it is better to take the combination router so that you will get the best of both worlds.
- Look for a supple power cord of at least 8 feet so that you have flexibility while working.
- Buy a good brand router with a higher amperage draw instead of focussing on HP alone.
- Ensure it has a ‘soft-start’ feature so that your hands don’t jerk causing you to lose control.
- For smoother cuts and better control look for ‘electronic variable speed’. It regulates and maintains the speed so that too fast speed doesn’t cause burning.
- In case of plunge routers a stop system is essential. Also look for multi turret stop feature.
- Also for a plunge router buy one with good depth control.
- Check where the controls like switch on/off buttons, plunge levers, fine adjustment controls are located. The more convenient the location the higher is safety of use.
- A router with dust hook up abilities would be an added advantage and make the dust collection more neat and tidy.
- Whether you will be using a router table or not. If you plan on using one, a router with above the table adjustment will be helpful.
Wrapping up Remarks
Whether you are a weekend warrior or a seasoned pro, a router is a woodworkers pride and delight so we know how important it is to find the best wood router. There is no ‘perfect router’ as such! It all depends on your requirements, your level of expertise and your budget. All routers deliver on different fronts and our attempt here in compiling wood router reviews is to help you choose what works best for you. It is always best to have at least 2/3 routers in your collection for different types of work, for example a small, portable router for trimming jobs; a large one for ploughing large rabbets or carving dovetails with a jig and a medium one for regular use!
Stay tuned here for upcoming articles on routing basics, tips on using router safely and new reviews! Happy Routing!