Routers

 
Routers

Adding the right router to your workshop gives you a well-rounded, adaptable tool with the necessary power and capabilities for a wide range of tasks. With a router, you can make cutouts, form duplicates from a pattern, shape edges, cut joints, and make decorative surface cuts and much more. If you are a crafter or a serious woodworker, you'll find many uses for your router.
 

 


You may even discover that you want more than one type to meet all your needs in the most efficient and convenient manner possible. Before you learn about available options, use the following questions to start thinking about how you'll be using your router and which one or ones might benefit you most:
 
          • How much edge shaping or plunge cutting will you do?
          • Do you plan to mount your router on a table?
          • Is tool portability an important consideration?
          • Do you work with large-diameter bits?
 

Type, Power, Capacity and Applications


Different routers are better suited to different tasks; so many woodworkers purchase multiple models for maximum versatility and ease of use.
 
It's also more convenient to have a router that's dedicated to your router table if you use one, so you don't have to detach and reattach every time you switch between hand and table routing. Always keep your intended applications in mind as you evaluate the benefits of each type of router, as well as the special features that are available.
 
Plunge vs. Fixed Base: Routers either have a fixed base or plunge base. The plunge router's housing permits controlled vertical movement during a cut, so you can plunge the bit into the surface of your workpiece.
 
With a plunge-base router, it's easier to make precise cuts on the interior of your workpiece, including through cuts, deep grooves and mortises, as well as pattern and template work. If edge shaping is your primary task, a fixed-base router tends to hold a precise setting more dependably, and many users find them easier to maneuver due to compact body size and handle placement.
 
          • Fixed-base routers are a good all-purpose choice for many home and professional woodworkers
          • For plunge cuts, the fixed-base router must be tilted into the workpiece, which can be tricky and less 
            precise
          • If you think you need a fixed-base and plunge router, consider a router with interchangeable bases
 
Interchangeable Bases: Some routers allow you to change out bases, so you can switch between a plunge and fixed base. You simply remove the motor from one base and insert it in a different base.
 
This allows you to upgrade your base or purchase bases with different handle styles at a lower cost than buying another router. Interchangeable bases also give you the option to leave one base attached to a router table and remove the motor, rather than attaching and removing your router or buying a separate router for your table.
 
          • Interchangeable bases give you the benefits of multiple routers without all the weight, so they're easier to 
            carry
          • Many interchangeable routers can be purchased in a kit that includes a fixed base, a plunge base and a
            carrying case
          • If you switch applications frequently, multiple routers may be more efficient and convenient than 
            changing bases
 
Power and Capacity: Most manufacturers give router power ratings in maximum (or peak) horsepower (hp), which can only be attained for a brief period. Make sure you're not comparing maximum horsepower on one model to sustained horsepower on another. If you have doubts, compare the amp ratings of the motors. Routers are available with 1/4" and 1/2" collets, which indicate the size of the bit shank they can accept.
 
Routers with 1/2" collets are more versatile because 1/2" bits are available in larger diameters, and many routers with a 1/2" collet include adapters so they can also accept 1/4" or 3/8" bits. If you will be working with large-diameter bits, you'll need a router that's capable of slower speeds. As the diameter of the bit increases, the appropriate routing speed decreases, so routers with a wide speed range are more versatile.
 
          • Deeper cuts, harder woods, larger bit diameters and demanding use require more horsepower
          • Users with medium- or heavy-duty needs should look for a router with at least 1-3/4 hp
          • Laminate trimmers and rotary tools offer routing capabilities for users who don't need the power and 
            capacity of a standard router
 
Special Features: A soft-start feature brings the motor up to speed gradually, so the tool won't jerk out of position as you begin routing. This results in smoother operation and better control, which is especially important if you do a lot of routing.
 
Many higher-end routers offer EVS (Electronic Variable Speed) control. This allows you to select the ideal speed for different applications and bit sizes. If you'll be working with large-diameter bits, you'll need to be able to select slow speeds for safety and control.
 
          • A metal motor housing delivers longer-lasting performance under heavier loads, though plastic housings 
            may be lighter
          • If you change bits frequently, look for a tool-less bit change system, or a spindle lock for single-wrench 
            changes
          • Some routers use a trigger control; if you plan to use a router table, you must be able to lock your router 
            in the "on" position
  

Type

Specs

Advantage

Recommended For

Fixed Base • 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 hp
• 8 to 15 amps
• 1/4" or 1/2" collet
• 7 to 11 lbs.
• More compact and easier to
  maneuver
• General all-purpose routing
• Edge shaping
• Use with a router table
Interchangeable Bases • 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 hp
• 8 to 15 amps
• 1/2" collet
• 7 to 11 lbs.
• Easier to transport than
  multiple routers and usually
  more economical
 
• Users who want multiple base
  and/or handle styles
• Users who want to be able to
  upgrade or diversify if their   
  needs change
Laminate Trimmer (or Trim Router) • 3 to 6 amps
• 1/4" collet
• 3 to 4 lbs.
• Lighter, more compact and
  easier to maneuver than a
  standard router
• Can make precise, one-
  handed cuts
• Routing tasks that require
  less power and capacity
• Trimming and beveling
  laminates
• Detail work
• Crafters and hobbyists
Plunge Base • 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 hp
• 8 to 15 amps
• 1/4" or 1/2" collet
• 7 to 11 lbs.
• Easier to use for making
  interior cuts
• Through cuts, stopped
  dadoes, deep grooves
  and mortises
• Template or pattern work
• Sign making and engraving
Rotary Tool • 1 to 5.5 amps
• 1/4" or 1/8" collet
• 1 to 4 lbs.
• Extremely versatile, compact,
  maneuverable tool
• Can be used for many
  applications other than
  routing
• Small routing tasks and fine
  detail work
• Users with light but diverse
  tool needs
• Crafters and hobbyists

Features


Router Table: A lot of routing tasks can be completed on a router table with more convenience, control and consistency than by hand. The inverted router is mounted under the table with the bit sticking up through the table's top. Router tables can be built or bought, and some routers even include a portable table.
 
Electronic Motor Feedback: Routers with electronic motor feedback maintain a consistent speed, so they won't become bogged down when the load increases.
 
Microfine Depth Adjustment: Microfine depth adjustment allows you to make very small, precise depth-of-cut adjustments for greater accuracy, convenience and versatility.
 
Comfortable Handles: Routers vary widely in handle size, shape and placement. Choose a model with handles that are comfortable and give you lots of control. You may prefer different handles for different tasks, so some models with interchangeable bases offer fixed bases with a choice of handle styles.
 
Dust Collection: The ability to hook your tools up to a dust collection system isn't just about keeping your shop clean. Dust can cause serious health problems, so you should collect dust at the source whenever possible.