The Best Router For Woodworking – Complete Guide

Woodworking is the art of making furniture, cabinets, or well really any number of things out of wood using a variety of tools. Chances are if you’ve done any amount of DIY you’ve had the chance to do at least some woodworking and maybe you’ve even taken it up as a hobby.

Still others have taken the step to go from a woodworking hobbyist to actually starting a business with their woodworking abilities. Whether you’re doing woodworking as a career or as a hobby, the right tools are critical.

One of the most important tools in any woodworker’s arsenal is the router. A good router is incredibly versatile and allows you to make cutouts, joinery, 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

In this guide we intend to breakdown the best router for woodworking so you’ll have the tool you need to get the job done – whether you are a serious woodworker or just someone who likes to tinker.

The Best Palm/Trim Routers

Image Product Price
DEWALT DWP611PK 1.25 HP Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit with LED'sTOP RATEDDEWALT DWP611PK 1.25 HP Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit with LED's
  • $182.99
CLICK HERE TO BUY
Bosch Colt Palm Grip PR20EVSK 5.6 Amp 1-Horsepower Fixed-Base Variable-Speed Router with Edge GuideBosch Colt Palm Grip PR20EVSK 5.6 Amp 1-Horsepower Fixed-Base Variable-Speed Router with Edge Guide
  • $97.36
CLICK HERE TO BUY
PORTER-CABLE 690LR 11-Amp Fixed-Base RouterPORTER-CABLE 690LR 11-Amp Fixed-Base Router
  • $137.79
CLICK HERE TO BUY
Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router KitMakita RT0701CX7 6.5 Amps, 1-1/4 HP, Combo Kit
  • $139.00
CLICK HERE TO BUY
Ryobi R1631K 1-1/2 Peak HP 8.5 Amp LED Lit Corded Router Including 3 Piece Bit Set (w/ Tool Bag)BEST BUDGET PICKRyobi R1631K 8.5 Amps, 1-1/2 HP, Fixed Base
  • $83.11
CLICK HERE TO BUY
DEWALT DW618PK 12-AMP 2-1/4 HP Plunge and Fixed-Base Variable-Speed Router KitDeWALT DW618PK 12 Amps, 2-1/4 HP, Combo Kit
  • $207.99
CLICK HERE TO BUY
Bosch 2.3 HP Combination Plunge & Fixed-Base Variable Speed Router Pack MRC23EVSKBosch MRC23EVSK 15 Amps, 2.3 HP, Combo Kit
  • $279.00
CLICK HERE TO BUY
Milwaukee 5616-24 2-1/4 Max-Horsepower EVS Multi-Base Router Kit Includes Plunge Base and BodyGrip Fixed BaseMilwaukee 5616-24 13 Amps, 2-1/4 HP, Combo Kit
  • $279.77
CLICK HERE TO BUY

Last update on 2018-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

DeWALT DWP611PK 7.0 Amps, 1-1/4 HP, Combo Kit

Sale
DEWALT DWP611PK 1.25 HP Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit with LED's
  • Durable 1.25hp motor delivers the power to meet the toughest applications
  • Variable speed control feature enables bit speed to be optimized for changing applications. No Load Speed range 16,000-27,000rpm
  • Soft-starting motor features full-time electronic feedback that maintains motor speed through the cut

Last update on 2018-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you’re in the market for a smaller router, it’s hard to go wrong with the DeWALT DWP611PK. To begin with, it’s a combo kit. So, you’ll get both a fixed and plunge base for your purchase. The 1-1/4 HP motor is stout and very capable, even of jobs above its weight class.

There are a number of features that make this saw much easier to use and also make the router more effective such as the soft start and electronic motor feedback. It also earns big marks for having variable speed and offering wide control over the depth adjustments.

Switching between bases is done with a quick release lever and two side clips. There is very little hassle in changing the bases out when you need to. The plunge base operates very smoothly and the rubberized grips give you more sense of control. Changing bits is also a snap with a spindle lock that has multiple catch positions so you don’t have to spin the bit far before it’s locked.

Overall, this router is comfortable and easy to use, not to mention having respectable power. It’s a great palm router for new and old users alike.

Facts and Features

  • 1-1/4 HP, 7.0-amp motor
  • Soft start
  • Electronic motor feedback
  • Variable speed from 16,000-27,000 RPM (no load)
  • 1/4-inch collet
  • Fine depth adjustments
  • Spindle lock
  • Dual LED work lights
  • Fixed base and plunge base
  • 3-year warranty

Bosch PR20EVSK 5.6 Amps, 1 HP, Fixed Base

Sale
Bosch Colt Palm Grip PR20EVSK 5.6 Amp 1-Horsepower Fixed-Base Variable-Speed Router with Edge Guide
  • POWER: Variable-speed palm-grip router kit with soft-start and quick-lock systems
  • TOUGH: Fixed base router with a 5.6 AMP motor with 15,000 - 35,000 rpm; depth adjustment system and finger support pockets
  • DURABILITY: This Bosch router edge guide offers a rugged aluminum fixed base that's durable, solid, and reliable. Case Type: Hard plastic

Last update on 2018-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Dynamite comes in small packages and the Bosch PR20EVSK does as well, but both pack punches. While this is the smallest router in the bunch, it’s still very capable of doing many of the tasks your typical homeowner could ask it to do.

The PR20EVSK comes with a 1 hp, 5.6-amp motor capable of winding up to 35,000 RPM. Luckily, it also includes soft start and variable speed control. Since this is a smaller palm router the collet is not surprisingly just 1/4 of an inch. It includes a fine adjustment to get the depth just right and the set includes an edge guide as well.

Overall, the PR20EVSK is a handy little router that hits all the high notes for important features and keeps the cost down, especially for a brand like Bosch.

Facts and Features

  • 1 HP, 5.6-amp motor
  • Soft start
  • Electronic motor feedback
  • Variable speed from 16,000-35,000 RPM (no load)
  • 1/4-inch collet
  • Fine depth adjustments
  • Spindle lock
  • Edge guide
  • 1-year warranty

Makita RT0701CX7 6.5 Amps, 1-1/4 HP, Combo Kit

Sale
Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit
  • Variable speed control dial (10,000 - 30,000 RPM) enables user to match the speed to the application
  • Smooth rack-and-pinion fine depth adjustment system for more precise settings
  • Slim and ergonomically designed body for increased comfort and control

Last update on 2018-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Makita RT0701CX7 is a very versatile package. The kit itself includes a fixed base, a plunge base, and an edge guide. That’s a lot of bang for your buck considering the price. In addition to that, the Makita has the largest variable speed range of all the palm routers on our list.

It matches the DeWALT for power at 1-1/4 HP and 7.0 amps and still includes great features such as soft start, fine depth adjustment, and electronic motor feedback. The features on it are all simple to use such as rack and pinion for the depth adjustment, easy to read scales, and a quick clamp system for moving the motor housing between bases.

All in all, there isn’t much to dislike about the Makita RT0701CX7 package except maybe the 1-year warranty. But even then, Makita has a good reputation for the performance and quality of their products. It’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed with this tool if you’re looking for a palm router.

Facts and Features

  • 1-1/4 HP, 7.0-amp motor
  • Soft start
  • Electronic motor feedback
  • Variable speed from 10,000-30,000 RPM (no load)
  • 1/4-inch collet
  • Fine depth adjustments
  • Spindle lock
  • Fixed base, plunge base, and edge guide
  • 1-year warranty

The Best Mid-Sized Routers

PORTER-CABLE 690LR 11 Amps, 1-3/4 HP, Fixed Base

PORTER-CABLE 690LR 11-Amp Fixed-Base Router
  • 11-amp motor producing 1-3/4 peak horsepower
  • 27,500 revolutions-per-minute single-speed motor
  • Precision machined aluminum motor housing and base

Last update on 2018-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

PORTER-CABLE is synonymous with rugged, long-lasting tools and you can certainly expect the same from the 690LR. This is a stout and powerful 11-amp, 1-3/4 HP medium sized router. It packs plenty of punch for many jobs.

The 690LR doesn’t fill itself with features but rather focuses on what PORTER-CABLE feels are the high mileage features. There is no soft start, electronic motor feedback, or even variable speed. Instead it has a single speed of 27,500 RPM.

The depth adjustment is capable of being accurate to 1/128th of an inch. That’s incredibly slim and is tops for any of the tools on this list. This is a tool that is focused entirely on good function and keeping the price relatively low. It would be a great addition to anyone’s collection.

Facts and Features

  • 1-3/4 HP, 11.0-amp motor
  • Single speed of 27,500 RPM (no load)
  • 1/4 and 1/2-inch collet
  • Fine depth adjustments
  • Auto-release collet for easy bit removal
  • Fixed base
  • 3-year warranty

Ryobi R1631K 8.5 Amps, 1-1/2 HP, Fixed Base

Ryobi R1631K 1-1/2 Peak HP 8.5 Amp LED Lit Corded Router Including 3 Piece Bit Set (w/ Tool Bag)
  • Enjoy the convenience of the 3 INCLUDED POWER ROUTER BITS (5/16 Inch Straight Cut, 5/32 Inch Roman Ogee, 1/4 Inch Radius Roundover) that...
  • BUILT IN LED LIGHTING allows you to simultaneously see the cut as it's made AND view the woodworking project ahead, so you can be sure that...
  • At the push of a button, you can make FAST FLUID DEPTH ADJUSTMENTS with Ryobi's quick locking technology. Now you can jump from project to...

Last update on 2018-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you’re looking for a beefier router than the palm routers with a bit more grunt but still want to keep the price down, the Ryobi R1631K is a great choice with some good features. The motor is a 1-1/2 HP and 8.5 amps, that’s not the most powerful one on our list but it’s capable of still doing a whole lot.

It does lack some of the top-notch features of soft start, electronic motor feedback, and it only has a single speed of 25,000 RPM. Those are tough to give up, but the super low cost is the compromise for those features. To me, the biggest sacrifice is that this router will only accept 1/4-inch shank bits.

The R1631K has some other nice features such as a spindle lock for changing bits and an LED work light. The fact that you also get a 3-year warranty for this price is reassuring that Ryobi isn’t selling you an expensive paperweight. It’s a good router for a great price, and sometimes that’s all you need.

Facts and Features

  • 1-1/2 HP, 8.5-amp motor
  • Single speed of 25,000 RPM (no load)
  • 1/4-inch collet
  • Fine depth adjustments
  • Spindle lock
  • LED work light
  • Fixed base
  • 3-year warranty

DeWALT DW618PK 12 Amps, 2-1/4 HP, Combo Kit

Sale
DEWALT DW618PK 12-AMP 2-1/4 HP Plunge and Fixed-Base Variable-Speed Router Kit
  • 2-1/4 hp, 12-amp electronic variable speed motor provides the power to rout smoothly through the toughest hardwoods
  • Comes with 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch collets for improved versatility and bit retention
  • Depth adjustment ring provides precise depth adjustments in 1/64-inch increments and adjusts vertically

Last update on 2018-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

DeWALT is one of those brands that seems to consistently show up on most “best tool” lists (in some cases multiple times). Their reputation as a top manufacturer of tools is well earned though. The DW618PK is a powerful machine that is comfortable to use. The 2-1/4 HP, 12-amp motor is all hog and no bog. It will shred through even the most challenging lumber with no problem.

All that power gets wound up with an excellent soft start and maintains the power with electronic motor feedback even when working seriously hard. The variable speed reaches a lowest  low of 8,000 RPM for when you need to run the biggest bits.

The depth adjustment will get right down to 1/64th if you need to be very precise and the router will use both 1/4 and 1/2-inch shanks. While I don’t usually get too excited about dust collection, on the DW618PK it actually seems to perform pretty well.

This is one of the most expensive router sets on our list but for that you get a fantastic tool that can operate well as both a fixed base router and a plunge base.

Facts and Features

  • 2-1/4 HP, 12.0-amp motor
  • Soft start
  • Electronic motor feedback
  • Variable speed from 8,000-24,000 RPM (no load)
  • 1/4 and 1/2-inch collet
  • Fine depth adjustments
  • Spindle lock
  • Fixed base and plunge base
  • 3-year warranty

Bosch MRC23EVSK 15 Amps, 2.3 HP, Combo Kit

Sale
Bosch 2.3 HP Combination Plunge & Fixed-Base Variable Speed Router Pack MRC23EVSK
  • PRECISION: Afterlock micro-fine, plunge-base bit-depth adjustment allows for easy adjustments at any plunge setting. Precision-centered...
  • POWER: Power through tough routing tasks with a 15-amp variable speed motor, 2.3-horsepower and a variable speed range between 10,000 and...
  • VERSATILE: Provides accuracy and ease with a smooth plunge action and a spring-lock lever. Versatile fixed-base depth adjustment features...

Last update on 2018-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you’re looking to spend a little more on a router and want something that really has a lot of versatility and some great features (not to mention a reputable brand behind it), the Bosch MRC23EVSK will more than satisfy.

Like DeWALT, Bosch is on of those manufacturers whose products consistently appear on our lists and do so in an impressive way. The MRC23EVSK is a beast. With a 15-amp, 2.3 HP motor, it’ll chew through virtually anything. It ticks the three major boxes having soft start, electronic motor feedback, and a variable speed. The range of speeds go from a pretty low 10,000 RPM up to 25,000 RPM. The fine depth adjustment will dial into 1/64 of an inch and includes above the table depth adjustment if you ever decide to mount it on a table.

The MRC23EVSK accepts really any manner of shank that exists for a router allowing for 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, 1/2-inch, and 8 mm shanks. It also includes always on dual LED work lights. If the machine is plugged in, the lights are on. That makes finding your mark and setting up a lot easier in any lower lighting.

One of the more unique features to the MRC23EVSK is the trigger control switch. This is a brilliant design and it’s a wonder this isn’t on more routers. It allows you to have full control of the router throughout the cutting process as you’ll never need to take your hands off the grip to start or stop the motor.

The MRC23EVSK is the most expensive router on the list, but it really does an awful lot to justify its cost. It’s a premium saw that commands a premium price and for some DIYers, that’s exactly what they want.

Facts and Features

  • 2.3 HP, 15.0-amp motor
  • Soft start
  • Electronic motor feedback
  • Variable speed from 10,000-25,000 RPM (no load)
  • Trigger control switch
  • 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2-inch and 8 mm collet
  • Fine depth adjustments
  • Above the table depth adjustment
  • Always on dual LED work lights
  • Fixed base and plunge base
  • 1-year warranty

Milwaukee 5616-24 13 Amps, 2-1/4 HP, Combo Kit

Milwaukee 5616-24 2-1/4 Max-Horsepower EVS Multi-Base Router Kit Includes Plunge Base and BodyGrip Fixed Base
  • The product is easy to use
  • The product is durable
  • The product is manufactured in China

Last update on 2018-07-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Milwaukee 5616-24 is a no frills and all work router. It doesn’t have some of the other gadgets that other routers have but instead focuses on great build quality and performance. To begin with the motor is a grunty 2-1/4 HP and 13 amps. That puts it near the top for power. Milwaukee has still included important features such as soft start, electronic motor feedback, and a variable speed.

The 5616-24 includes fine depth adjustment down to 1/64 of an inch and also includes the ability to make adjustments above the table when mounted to a routing table. Collets come in either 1/4 or 1/2 an inch.

One of the more unique features on the 5616-24 is the body grip. This is a rubberized section of the fixed base only that allows you to keep one hand closer to the motor housing (like you would hold a palm router) and one hand on the handle of the base. This allows you to have quite a bit more control over the router.

As far as price goes, the Milwaukee 5616-24 is right up there with the most expensive routers on this list. It does have a unique feature and performs great, not to mention Milwaukee is a well-respected brand who stands behind their products. You need look no further than the 5-year warranty to see that.

Facts and Features

  • 2-1/4 HP, 13.0-amp motor
  • Soft start
  • Electronic motor feedback
  • Variable speed from 10,000-24,000 RPM (no load)
  • 1/4 and 1/2-inch collet
  • Fine depth adjustments
  • Above the table depth adjustment
  • Body grip
  • Fixed base and plunge base
  • 5-year warranty

Tips On How To Use A Router

If you are brand new to this woodworking business, 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 certainly notice when you are doing it wrong because the router will feel more erratic and want to “run” in your hands. 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

A Little Bit About…Bits

We mentioned at the top that routers are one of the most versatile tools out there. This is possible because of the vast assortment of 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 set of woodworking router bits, check these out from MLCS.

Something else you should know about bits is the size of the shank. Each router is going to be able to handle specific shank sizes. Some of the more expensive ones can accommodate up to four different shank diameters.

When you purchase bits, be sure you know the size of your router’s collet (check your owner’s manual) as that will tell you what size shank you need to find in your bits. The most common sizes are 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch.

While you’re looking in your owner’s manual, you should also know the maximum diameter of the bit cutting edge your router will allow. That will save you a bit of headache and heartache down the road.

Different Types Of Routers

Fixed Base

A fixed base router is one where the base does not move. The height you select before starting the router is the same height you will have throughout the cut. These are the simplest routers. They are easy to make adjustments too and easy to set up.

They also have their handles low, near the bottom of the base, which makes them easier to control as well. All in all, these are great routers (especially if this is your first one) and will do ninety percent of the work you’ll do with a router. They are also usually the cheapest ones.

Plunge Base

Plunge base routers have a base with two springs that rise up to the bit, handles, and motor housing. This allows you to plunge the bit into the work piece with the bit already running and opens up a whole different set of capabilities that you just can’t get done with a fixed base router.

With a plunge base you’ll be able to cut out mortises and blind dadoes or you could even take up wood engraving. Because their handles are mounted higher, plunge base routers are a little more difficult to control and they can be a little more complicated to setup. But that’s nothing that can’t be figured out with experience. Plunge base routers are also typically more expensive than a fixed base router.

Combo Kits

Combo kits are really pretty straightforward. They allow you to have both a fixed base router and a plunge base router for one purchase. They do this by having the motor housing and bit separate from the base and then you mount the housing into whichever base you need to use for the job.

These really are a great setup and a heck of a deal. But you will pay more for the combo kit in the beginning. However, you are essentially getting two different tools and you won’t pay twice as much for them. I’m a big fan of things that serve multiple purposes. It cuts down on cost and clutter in my shop.

Features that Matter

What follows here is a list of different features or points you may want to look for when deciding on which router will best suit your needs. There is also a good list from Wood Magazine with their 6 different things they consider “must-haves” of a router that can do it all. Neither is a comprehensive list of everything you need to look for, but they are a solid place to start.

Motor

Routers are tasked with the difficult job of cutting specific shapes which means there is often a lot of contact between the bit and the material you are shaping. This means that routers have to have a lot of muscle to do their job well.

Also, if you’ve come far enough into woodworking that you are investing in a router, you probably have your heart set on building with more than soft woods.

Routers typically come in a few power levels which also relate to their size. Trim or palm routers will generally come in somewhere around 1-1/2 hp or below. Then the mid-size routers hover somewhere between 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 hp. Beyond that and up to about 3-1/2 hp you get into the full size production routers that are usually left mounted on a router table or a CNC machine.

When selecting a router, horsepower is not the most accurate indicator of how much power the motor will have as these numbers can be inaccurate. A better bet is to look at the amperage the router requires.

LED Work Light

I’m a fan of the LED work light and it’s a feature I can really get behind. An LED work light is a small flashlight on the router that turns on when the switch is engaged. This makes following your mark significantly easier if you’re in any place other than outside on a sunny day.

Even in my well-lit workshop, standing in the wrong place can throw a shadow on the work piece and make the line harder to see. They might seem gimmicky, but LED work lights are one of those things you appreciate once you’ve encountered the conditions where you might need one.

I wouldn’t buy a router because it had one, but if everything else was equal it would be enough to sway me.

Soft Starting

This is one of those features you won’t know you loved until you work with another tool without it. If you have ever had to fire up a router without soft starting then you’ll know the kick from the router spinning up to its full RPM’s in an instant. It’s a bit like trying to hang onto an angry Tasmanian Devil.  This can be a bit unnerving, especially if you are new to routers or have a difficult cut to make.

Soft starting eases the router up to speed over a second or two making it less intimidating to fire up and giving you better control. It’s easier on you and easier on the equipment as well.

Electronic Motor Feedback

This may not always be listed by this exact name but the gist of what this feature does is increase or decrease the torque based upon the load that is being put on the motor. If the cut is especially difficult it will increase the torque and back off when an easier cut is being performed.

This feature will produce a router that feels and behaves the same from one cut to the next and will allow for cleaner and smoother cuts in all different kinds of wood. As well, since the router is only exerting a maximum amount of torque when it is needed, it will add to the lifetime of the router. This is pretty high on the list of important features but it will add a bit to the overall price of the router.

Fine Depth Adjustment

This particular feature becomes more important the more you work on some complex jobs such as wood joinery. In those instances, fine dept adjustment is a critical feature to have to produce consistent cuts that will line up later.

If you’re just planning to use the router for doing some edge trimming or cutting out dadoes and rabbets, then you probably won’t get as much mileage out of a feature such as fine depth adjustment.

Variable Speed

Variable speed or the ability to adjust the speed at which the router spins the bit is an extremely important feature. Not all bits will perform well at the maximum speed. In fact, though it may seem counterintuitive, generally the larger a bit is the better it will perform at lower speeds.

Variable speed is also important because not all wood is the same hardness nor will it require the same effort to move through it. It might seem that in this case you could just run at full tilt regardless of the type of wood and be just fine. However, doing so will shorten the life of your router. It’s best to run the tool at a proper speed for the bit and lumber and ensure a long-lived tool.

Collet Size

There are two main sizes of collet for routers 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch and it makes a bit of a difference. If it’s possible, you’ll want to look for a router with a 1/2-inch collet. Not only do 1/2-inch collets provide more grip due to the larger surface area on the shank but usually the 1/2-inch collets will include and adapter that will allow them to accept 1/4-inch collets as well.

So, with a 1/2-inch collet you’ll get more options and slightly better control. That’s a win/win.

Spindle Lock

This is a simple quality of life thing that is a nice to have option but isn’t anything I would allow to make or break a router for me. Basically, there are two main ways to change out a router bit. You can use two wrenches, one on the motor shaft and one on the collet and loosen it that way or you can depress a button which locks the shaft into place while you use a wrench to loosen the collet.

Neither way is necessarily better or worse than the other and they both get the job done. Having a spindle lock just makes the process a little simpler and prevents you from having to hunt all over for that second wrench that somehow walked off.

Above Table Adjustments

Oftentimes, your router will live in a router table and only rarely come out to perform some other tasks. In this case, it is really helpful to be able to make any height adjustments easily with a knob or handle.

Another feature related closely to this is the ability to change your bits without needing to pull the router out of the router table. It may seem like a small thing but when you’re on a roll there are few things more annoying than needing to pull the router out for each adjustment or bit change.

Dust Collection

Dust collection is something that is so difficult to measure and often doesn’t seem to amount to much of a feature at all. There is at best a minimal amount of dust that gets collected in even the best systems.

Having said that, anything that can get collected is less in the air for you or all over your other equipment. In my opinion, this would be a pretty low priority feature due to the fact that you’re always going to end up with a significant amount of dust laying around afterword.

Safety

Using any power tool with sharp metal pieces flying around at thousands of RPMs should at least get your safety senses tingling. While routers are pretty safe compared to many other power tools, accidents still can (and do) happen. So, it’s always important to touch base on this subject.

For basics, be sure to read through your owner’s manual and always wear eye and ear protection. It only takes one bad instance for you to appreciate what eye protection will do for you.

Never start a router while the bit is in contact with the material (or anything for that matter). These are powerful tools and it’s impossible to say exactly what will happen in this scenario.

If you have a significant amount of stock to remove, do it in multiple passes whenever possible. The smaller passes are easier to make and you can avoid having the router kickback at you.

Also, be sure to always operate the router or feed your material in the opposite direction as the rotation of the bit. If you run the stock with the rotation of the bit, the router will “run” on you and you can quickly lose control of the tool.

If you are running a piece of stock through a router mounted on a routing table keep your hands as far from that spinning bit as you can. If you need to run a piece of smaller stock through, use a push stick or block to ensure your hands aren’t getting close.

If the router is not mounted to a routing table, then be sure it is clamped securely and never use your hand to hold the material in place of a clamp.

Whenever you have to make an adjustment to the router or when swapping out a bit, do it with the router unplugged. It’s too easy to accidentally flip the switch in this situation and that has bad news written all over it.

About that Extension Cord

Not all extension cords are equal, they vary significantly on the amperage they are rated for. Depending on the router you choose, you’ll need to ensure you also have an extension cord that can meet the power needs of your router.

Failing to get enough power to the router not only prevents the router from performing at its maximum, but will also cause the router to overheat and shorten the life of your router. However, you can go bigger on the extension cord as the router will only draw the maximum amps its built for. You just don’t want the router power starved.

Best Router Brands

DeWALT

DeWALT was founded in 1924 with the creation of a universal woodworking machine. Since then, DeWALT has become a household name known for professional grade and durable products. And their product line is vast, ranging from radios and work lights to axes and nail sets.

Makita

Makita got its start more than 100 years ago in 1915 as an electric motor sales and repair business. In that time, Makita has grown into a well-known global giant in power tools. Whether it runs on gas, electricity, or battery, there isn’t much Makita doesn’t make of professional quality.

Bosch

Bosch was founded in 1886 by Robert Bosch who is known for having said he’d “rather lose money than trust.” Since then Bosch has cultivated a reputation for quality and innovation across a broad spectrum of equipment and services beyond just power tools. They create auto parts and accessories, have automotive service centers, garden tools, appliances, and more.

Ryobi

Founded in Japan in 1943, Ryobi started out making die cast products. Eventually the business grew into making parts for automobiles, electronics, and telecommunications. They also have a wide range of consumer and professional grade power tools and lawn and garden equipment.

Milwaukee

Milwaukee got its start in 1924 with their first version of a portable, ¼-inch drill known as the Hole-Shooter. Milwaukee is a brand perhaps best known for their professional quality, heavy duty tools but they’ve also made their mark in the world of tools by innovation of new products such as the Sawzall, revolutionizing the 7 ¼-inch circular saw, and being the first to utilize Lithium-Ion batteries to power their tools.

PORTER-CABLE

In 1906, R.E. Porter, G.G. Porter, and F.E. Cable started a jobbing machine and tool shop out of their garage in Syracuse, New York. By 1914 the business had begun to focus primarily on power tools and eventually would design several portable tools such as a belt sander and band saw. Their design of the helical gear driven circular saw, better known as the sidewinder, is still the most popular design of modern circular saws. After more than 100 years, PORTER-CABLE has built a solid reputation for their quality and reliability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will I be able to sharpen a router bit?

A: You sure can. However, if you’ve let the bit get really dull it might need a regrinding and for that you’d probably want to ask a professional to do so. But you can keep it sharp and cutting well by cleaning the bit and running a file over it once in a while. This is a good breakdown from WOOD magazine.

Q: How can I tell what direction my bit is spinning?

A: The easiest way to tell this is to set your router down on its base as if you were going to use it. From this position, your bit will spin clockwise. Flip it upside down as it would be mounted in a router table and it now spins counter-clockwise.

Q: Which direction should I operate the router then?

A: If you are using the router in your hands then you should be moving the router from the left of the stock to the right of the stock (as if you were facing it). When the router is mounted to a table, you would then feed from the right side of the table to the left as you’re facing it.

Final Thoughts

When you’re looking for something that fills a niche use such as a router, it’s worth evaluating exactly how you intend to use the router now and to also consider where you see yourself going in the future with woodworking.

For most uses a fixed-base router will be sufficient and a plunge-base router won’t be necessary or even desired. But when you need a plunge-base router, you need one. The combo-kits are very nice but they are a considerable additional upfront cost.

Speaking of cost, it’s also important not to let price be the main determining factor in which router you choose. Of course, price will be a factor, but you can buy nice or buy twice. Make sure what you’re getting will do what you want and allow for your growth in the hobby.