Woodworking is the art of making furniture, cabinets, and other items out of wood using a variety a tools. Countless people do a little woodworking in their free time, or as a hobby.
Others have gone from a hobbyist to actually starting a business with their woodworking abilities.
Whether it is a career or a hobby for you, the right tools are critical.
One of the most important tools in any woodworkers arsenal is the router. A good router is incredibly versatile and allows you to make cutouts and hollow out wood with ease. In fact, Jeremy Broun wrote a book in 1989 called “The Incredible Router” describing it as the most versatile tool in the world.
Just what all can you do with a router? How about “shape decorative edges, form raised panels, cut grooves and slots, carve signs, make moldings, rout intricate inlays, trim plastic laminate and veneers and mill dozens of woodworking joints, including rabbets, dovetails and mortises, to name a few.” – Popular Mechanics
Today we’re going to breakdown the best router for woodworking so you have the tool you need to get the job done – whether you are a serious woodworker or just someone who likes to tinker.
Table of Contents
Quick Summary: Top Woodworking Routers
GETTING STARTED WITH A ROUTER
If you are brand new to this woodworking thing, here is some advice to get you going with a router. First, make sure that you are always moving the router opposite the rotation of the bit.
That sounds confusing, but this will help you keep control of the router because your bit will be digging into the wood and moving forward. You’ll probably know when you are doing it wrong because the router will feel more erratic in your hand. A router going in the right direction will feel very smooth and almost effortless.
Also when first starting, make sure you practice on some wood that you don’t care too much about.
It sounds obvious, but you’ll be so anxious that you’ll want to dive right in and start making dovetails and dados on your antique wood cabinets or something crazy…
Here is some more advice for beginners from the Family Handyman.
WHAT MAKES A ROUTER “THE BEST?”
For this we turn to Wood Magazine, who gave a list of 6 different things they consider “must-haves” of a router that can do it all:
6 Requirements of do-it-all Router
1. Ample power to run any bit, even the largest panel-raisers.
2. A variable-speed motor with soft-start and electronic feedback for maintaining speed under load.
3. Good balance and features for handheld fixed-depth routing.
4. Smooth, easy-to-use plunge action and features.
5. Through-the-base bit-height adjustability for router-table use.
6. Helpful included accessories: edge guide, dust-collection attachments, multiple subbases with different-size openings, guide-bushing holder or adapter, subbase centering cone, and a carrying case or bag for storage.
These are a good guide for us to go by, so we’ll dive into some specific routers that are great for woodworking projects.
BEST ROUTER FOR WOODWORKING – OVERALL
The DEWALT DWP611PK 1.25 HP Variable Speed Router gets our vote for the top pick of woodworkers. Equipped with a number of clever features, including LED lighting for better visibility, there is little that it can’t do.
Here are a few things we like about it:
- It comes with multiple bases out of the box – fixed and plunging
- The quick release lock lever makes changing bases super quick
- Plunge handles are easy to grip and control
- Clear base on both – meaning you can see through it and view your work
- Adjusting plunger depth is foolproof
- Plunging action is smooth and simple
- Changing router bits is very quick to do.
As you can see, there are a lot of good things to say about the Dewalt DWP611PK combo kit router. One of the big game changers is the reliability of the dust collection hood, which you won't find on just any router.
Also the fact that you're buying a combo kit ready for plunge routing means that you'll be able to tackle just about any job.
To watch a video unboxing and overview of the Dewalt DWP611PK, check out the one below.
Quick Summary: Top Woodworking Routers
BEST BUDGET ROUTER FOR WOODWORKING
The Bosch PR20EVSK Colt Palm Grip Router gives a lot of bang for your buck. It doesn’t have quite the feature set of the DeWalt combo kit discussed earlier, but at under $100 you can really do some great woodworking with this baby.
According to Bosch, “It’s not just a laminate trimmer, but is ideal for trimming deck planks, hinge mortising, edge forming, slot cutting, dovetailing, window cutouts and decorative inlays”
The palm grip on this Colt is very comfortable, so if you like the palm grip style you’ll most likely be pleased with how this feels in your hand.
The biggest downside to this model compared to the DeWalt we reviewed earlier is the difficulty you might have with removing router bits.
So you may want to make sure you have a 10 mm wrench on hand to make the bit replacement process easier.
Despite the mixed reviews on that front, at this price point and lightweight the Bosch Colt really does deliver on versatility and quality routing. One experienced router described it this way on BoschTools.com:
“…I was instantly amazed at how well ergonomically designed it is as well as how powerful it is. I have found through use that it can perform 90% of my routing needs. The one handed design and low weight make narrow edge routing operations much easier compared to steadying a 'full sized' router."
Overall, the Bosch PR20EVSK Colt Palm Grip Router is a fantastic entry level router.
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT BITS
We mentioned at the top that routers are one of the most versatile tools out there.
This is possible because of all the different bits you can get for a router and what they can do. Here is a quick summary of the kinds of bits you can buy for your router and what you might use them for:
Straight Bit – Straight bits are very common and are used mostly to cut out a groove in a piece of wood. The diameter can vary.
Chamfer Bit – These are used to make a beveled edge on something like a table corner – mainly for decorative purposes.
Flush-trim Bits – Rockler.com puts it this way: “As the name suggests, these bits are used to trim the edge of one material flush with the edge of another– for example, trimming a veneered surface flush with a substrate or using a pattern to create multiple identical pieces. They usually are guided by a pilot bearing that’s the same diameter as the cutter. The bearing may be at the tip of the bit or at the base.”
Edge Bits – Edge forming bits like ogee and cove are used to cut all kinds of edges, mostly for decorative uses.
Rabbeting Bits – These are used when you are cutting a shoulder to join two pieces of wood together. Like straight bits, they come in a variety of sizes.
If you are looking for a solid kit of woodworking router bits, check these out from MLCS.
If you’re new to woodworking it really can be a great skill and enjoyable hobby for people of all ages.
Your router is going to be your best friend, so my suggestion is that you don’t skimp on it. As they say, if you buy on price you buy twice. The DeWalt model we recommend isn’t overly expensive, but it really will get the job done for people of all skill levels.
You should give it a serious look..