Buying Guide

Types of Wood Router Tools

Options

Routers typically have either a fixed base or a plunge base, with a few models that allow you to swap between the two.


Plunge routers

  • The housing allows for controlled vertical movement during a cut, so you can plunge the bit into the surface of your work piece without worry.
  • Make it easy to make through cuts, deep grooves and mortises, as well as pattern and template work.


Fixed base routers

  • Great for edge shaping as they are easy to maneuver.
  • Considered a good, all-purpose router.
Power, Capacity and Applications

Horsepower determines how powerful your router will be, and collets determine the size of bit it can take.

  • Most routers deliver horsepower in a 1 ½ to 3 ½ range, with a range of 3 to 15 amps. Maximum HP should only be attained and used for a short period of time.
  • Routers are available with ¼-inch and ½-inch collets, which indicate the size of the bit shank they can accept.
  • Routers with ½-inch collets are more versatile as ½-inch shank bits are available in larger diameters, and some routers come with adapters that can accept ¼-inch or 3/8-inch bits.
  • If you work with larger bits, make sure your router is capable of working with slower speeds.
  • A soft-start feature brings the router speed up gradually so the tool won’t jerk out of position.
  • Some routers offer electronic variable speed (EVS) control, which allows you to select the ideal speed for different applications and bit sizes.
Types of Routers
Description Feature/Benefits Recommended For
Fixed - Routers 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 With a router table
DEWALT - Routers 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
Professional Woodworker - Corded Routers 3 to 6 amps 1/4” collet 3 to 4 lbs. Lighter, more compact, easier to maneuver than 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 - Routers 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 HP 8 to 15 amps ¼” 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 tools 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
Router Tables

You may find that a router table is necessary when securing the work piece to your bench takes more time than you’d like.


At its most basic, a router table mounts the tool upside down so its bit projects above the surface.

  • Added refinements include mechanisms for raising and lowering the router, a miter gauge slot, provisions for dust collection and a fence to guide the cut.
  • The fence can be as simple as a straight piece of wood clamped to the edges of the table, or as elaborate as a split-fence system that permits individual adjustment of the infeed and outfeed sides.
  • There are two key considerations when buying a router table. First, ensure that it will hold your router. Second, make certain that the top is flat. Push on the top to make certain that it won't deflect under the weight of your router.
  • A router tabletop that isn't flat is as useless as a stretchy tape measure – both make accurate work nearly impossible.
Advice on Bits

Entry-level routers accept only 1/4-inch diameter bits, while more powerful units feature an interchangeable collet that can also grip bits with a 1/2-inch diameter.  


Although bits with larger shanks cost more, their larger cross-sectional area minimizes deflection due to lateral pressure, and the increased diameter provides more clamping surface for the collet, making bit slippage less likely. 


It's a wise decision to hold off buying a bit until you have a need. Some of the most popular profiles include round-over, V-groove, flush-trim, chamfering and cove. Each has a wide range of radiuses. Follow these tips:

  • When removing large amounts of material, make multiple passes. Doing so will put less strain on the router and bit, plus produce a cleaner cut.
  • Pitch and debris on the bit dulls the cutting edge and causes overheating. A mild household cleaner often does the trick. Soaking the bit overnight in a sealed kerosene container usually does the trick for the worst cases (remove bearing first).
  • Leave sharpening of bits to professionals (look under Saw Sharpening in the Yellow Pages).The larger the bit diameter, the slower it should spin.


Here's a table with operating guidelines:

BIT DIAMETER

  • Up to 1”
  • 1 to 1 1/4”
  • 1 1/4” to 2 1/4” 
  • 2 1/4” to 3 1/2” 


MAXIMUM SPEED (RPM)

  • Up to 24,000
  • 6,000 to 18,000
  • 12,000 to 16,000
  • 12,000