Choosing the Right Router
The router is one of the most widely used woodworking tools on the market today, and for good reason. It is also one of the most verstatile performing many applications from edging to joining. The most popular types of router are the fixed-based and plunge router. Each type offers its own flavor and individual benefits: whether you're mortising, dovtailing, or edging - learn which router best suits your needs.
A router is designed to rout, or mill out an area in the surface of a piece of wood. This tool, however, is not limited to just one application. In fact, it would be difficult to determine which application the router is most commonly used for. Famous for its functionality and versatility, it is no surprise that the router is one of the most widely used woodworking tools on the market today. Routers champion edging operations, and are masterfully equip for rabbeting, mortising, box joining, dovetailing, and dadoing to name only a few.
There are several types of router available, each having individual features, benefits and their own favorite applications. The most popular types of router are the fixed-base and the plunge-base router; each of which offering their own set of pros and cons which I will attempt to shed some light upon. Beginning with the first born, the fixed-base router is a favorite of many craftsmen because of its more simple more, compact and versatile design, and its relative ease of operation. In a fixed-base router, the motor is securely clamped into the base, and has a more light weight design making it easier to work and maneuver. Built for table mounting and more stationary routing, the fixed-base router is generally better for running slots, rabbeting, and edging or molding patterns than its top heavy, plunging brother. For plunge cuts, however, the fixed-base router must be tilted or angled into the workpiece which can be a difficult procedure to master. Because the base is not fully supported as the bit enters the wood, plunge cutting can be much more difficult with a fixed-base router. These routers have simple and accurate depth adjustment systems. They must, however, be stopped and reset in between each cut.
Unlike the fixed-based router who's configuration has changed relatively little over time, the plunge-base router is more innovatively designed. The plunge-cut router is built so its motor sits atop two spring-loaded posts; this trait allows for the vertical motion which makes the plunging action possible. The vertical movement of the router essentially "plunges" the router bit into your workpieces without ever tilting or lifting the tool enabling users to get directly into the center of a workpiece without any pre-drilling or acrobatics. With the plunge-base router, making through cuts, deep grooves and mortises is generally much easier than with its fixed-base counterpart; but although a plunge-base router is the best choice for applications requiring more and deeper cuts, it is much heavier and can be difficult to move and adjust. Understanding which router is right for you can be a long process. The information below will help you narrow down your search options and determine which router fits you best.
To begin, again, with the fixed-base router, Bosh offers a 2 HP (horse power) fixed-base router with a powerful 11 Amp motor and 25,000 RPM. This router is built with a precision centering design that makes it significantly easier to keep your bits on their intended cut line. The 8.3 lb tool is also designed with a macro and microfine bit adjustment system with resettable depth indicator for constant precision. This system provides always fast and accurate depth setting adjustment. Bosch has also incorporated a large 3-3/4 in base opening (6in. base diameter) plus a 2in. subbase opening to accept larger bits. For fast and easy template guide changes there is also a tool-free template guide adapter. The 1617 router has one-piece armature shaft for enhanced accuracy and long bit shank capacity.
Bosch's fixed-base router also has a right or left switch location for user preference and consistency and a new dust sealed power switch for enhanced durability. The router features hardwood handles and a 10ft. flexible rubber cord. The 1617 also includes the RA1161 fixed-base system which allows for bit height adjustment from above the router table. For additional convenience the fixed-base system also has threaded holes that allow it to be mounted to the router table (in Bosch's four hole pattern or the common three hole pattern). Bosch's 1617 fixed-base router includes ¼in. and ½in. S.R. collet chucks, a 16mm shaft wrench, 24mm collet nut wrench, tool-free template guide adapter, a chip shield, and fixed-base.
DEWALT offers a 1-3/4 HP fixed-base router with an 11 Amp motor, 24,500 RPM, and enough power to rout out the toughest woods. The tool has an advanced microfine depth adjustment ring that provides precise depth adjustments in minute 1/64in. increments and can be adjusted vertically for a permanent switch/cordset location. This vertical movement adjusts with up and down actions rather than spinning; since the entire router doesn't turn, the whole of the tool remains in the same position. For quick and tight-locking depth adjustments/base changes, the DW616 also has a strong and adjustable tool-free steel motor cam lock. A dust-deal keeps the switch free of dust and debris enhancing its performance, durability, and overall life. And with a right or left switch and cordset location, the user has the option to hold the switch in either the right or left hand increasing comfort and versatility. The tool's overmolded rubber handles, and low center of gravity also contribute to the router's best-in-class comfort, balance, and control. The router's cordset is detachable to offer serviceability and the ability to use the same motor pack for all bases.
For easier bit changes DEWALT has built this router with a flat top - and with quick release motor latches for fast and simple motor pack removal. The router also has long, self-releasing, eight-slotted collets for better bit retention and elimination of frozen, or stuck bits. A clear LEXAN subbase (polycarbonate material specially developed for strength and impact resistance) delivers enhanced base durability and bit visibility, and also accepts standard template guide bushings. The subbase additionally has a concentricity gauge for best-in-class routing accuracy. With a heavy-duty, precision machined, die-cast aluminum base and motor housing - the tool is supremely durable, and weighs only 7.1 lbs. DEWALT's DW616 fixed-base router includes a motor pack, fixed-base, concentricity gauge, ¼ and ½ in collets, and two wrenches. The router is also available to purchase as a kit (DW616K), which includes the above with DEWALT's heavy-duty kit box.
As for the plunge router, Makita offers a 3-1/4 in plunge-router with a powerful 15 Amp motor and variable speed option from 9,000 - 23,000 RPM. The router's variable speed option ensures greater routing precision and always accurate projects. The router also has a pivoting multiple depth adjustment knob with three preset plunge depths, and a top handle depth adjustment which sets the tool to any specific routing depth. For easy penetration into your workpiece, the router also has a 0 - 2-3/8 in plunge depth capacity. Makita has incorporated an electric brake for fast bit stoppage which also helps to prevent accidental marring of working materials. And, with an electronic speed control, the tool maintains constant speed even under load. The 3612C plunge-router also has a bit deflector to keep chips and debris away from the operator and workpiece. The tool weighs 13.2 lbs, is double insulated, and has a strong, all ball bearing construction to extend the tool's overall life. Having a shaft lock for quick and easy bit changes, and a soft start feature for smoother start-ups, Makita's plunge router is equip to handle all your plunge-routing needs. The 3612C includes a ¼ in collet sleeve, ½ in collet cone, and wrench.
DEWALT also offers a heavy-duty 3 HP plunge-router with a 15 Amp motor that utilizes advanced soft-start technology for always smooth operation. The motor is also full wave variable speed, and runs at 8,000 - 22,000 RPM. The DW625 runs with a constant speed, even under load, to ensure a fine, quality finish in all your projects, and its one piece motor and shaft spindle ensures perpendicularity and professional accuracy as you work. For always fast and accurate depth settings, the plunge-router also has a rack and pinion depth adjuster, magnified scale, and microfine depth adjustment mechanism. DEWALT's plunge-router has a spindle lock button that allows for simple one-wrench bit changes and a dust extraction adapter for a cleaner, safer work-space. The tool also has phosphorous bronze bushings that provide a smooth and accurate plunge, and a guide bushing adapter plate that accepts standard guide bushings - perfect for template work. DEWALT's DW625 plunge router weighs 11.2 lbs and includes a ¼ in and ½ in collet, dust extraction adapter, template guide bushing adapter, and wrench.
Both classes of router offer a different set of features and applications, and each individual tool has its own specifications. Each option, however, offers unique and professional finishes to your woodworking projects.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a student at the University of Utah, Mallory Kramer is currently earning an Englinsh degree. Three years ago she joined M&M Tool adding to their over 150 years combined experience; there, she specializes in tool parts and web communications. For over 60 years M&M Tool has provided professional service to the tool industry with parts, sales, and service to professionl level woodworking equipment, tools, and machinery.