Dremel vs. Router: Can One Tool Substitute for the Other?

dremel vs router

One question that we seem to get a lot of is: “can a dremel be used as a router?” Or, “can I use my dremel tool in place of a router?”

While these are perfectly good questions, the answers aren’t necessarily as straightforward as ‘yes’ or ‘no’, so we figured we’d take the time to go into a bit more depth regarding the whole dremel vs. router discussion, and try and clear up some potential misconceptions you might have about either of these two super useful tools.

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First Things First: Dremel vs. Router -- What do they do?

At their core, bother dremel tools and full-size routers are high speed, high RPM rotary (spinning) tools. Depending on the bit that’s attached to them, they can be used for literally just about everything: cutting, sanding, etching, inlaying, camfering/rounding edges, engraving, and on and on and on.

While they don’t often get the recognition or common usage as, say, the circular saw, there really is no limit to what one could do with a router - they’re regarded in many circles as literally the most versatile tool in the world.

But what’s gotten a lot of people mixed up recently is Dremel’s introduction of their router attachment pieces, which essentially turns the tiny little handheld tools into, well, miniature routers.

(A quick note, be mindful not to confuse the loosely-used term ‘dremel’, which describes any kind of handheld high RPM rotary tool, with the actual brand name ‘Dremel’. Kind of like how ‘skil saw’ is used to describe circular saws in general, regardless of whether or not they’re Skil brand).

Anyway, with these slick little dremel router attachments, you really can turn your small rotary tool into a perfectly functioning - albeit pint-sized - router. (Check out this cool video to see one set in a plunge router attachment).

Naturally, this has got a lot of people thinking, “well hell, can’t I just save myself a bunch of money and use my Dremel tool for everything that a router could do?”

Mmm, not exactly.

Look at it this way: the standard Dremel 4000 puts out something like 1.5 amps, while a mid-range router (like the DeWalt DWP611) puts out about 7 amps, and a full-size router (like the 618) will do up to 12 amps.

Simply put, a full-size router can do tons of things that a small dremel tool cannot - just based off of size and power alone. Things like planing/milling rough lumber stock down flat, cutting joints, grooves and rebates, rounding/profiling edges, carving recesses, and shaping large pieces of material, just to name a few.

(Check out this video for a great visualization of what a router can do that a dremel can’t).   

You could potentially cut grooves, rebates, inlays, and profile edges with a dremel, but the work would be super slow and tedious, and you just can’t take off enough material at a time to make working with one practical on a large - or even normal - size piece of wood.

Also, another super key thing to consider is that whenever a dremel tool is put under a high enough load (like it would be if you tried to use one on a piece of ½” hardwood), it has potential for the bit to slip out of the chuck, which can really flub up an otherwise nice piece of work in a hurry. Full-size routers are a much more practical, efficient, and effective tool for general woodworking.

Dremel vs. Router: How can you use your Dremel tool as a router?

So how can the dremel tool be used as a router, then?

Well, it can essentially do all the same tasks as a router, but it’s major downfall is that it simply can’t do them on a large enough scale to be relevant when it comes to general woodworking.

Dremels are great for intricate, technical work like freehand engraving, deburring, and making low profiles on edges, but they’re really not practical if you’re wanting to take off more than about an ⅛” of material at a time. Profiling veneer or making/decorating ornamental pieces like jewelry boxes, cigar boxes, or gift boxes would be great jobs for a dremel in a router attachment.

(Also, here’s a really nice instructional video showing you some ideas that you can use to make your own dremel router attachments and jigs).

And of course, there’s certainly no shortage of dremel bits to choose from, so you can get as creative as you could ever want to as far as the different kinds of profiles, cuts, and grooves that you could make with your miniature-router gizmo.

Dremel Router Attachments Reviews

Dremel 335-01 Plunge Router Attachment

Last update on 2024-01-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is the single most popular dremel router attachment, and can be used for any one of the several different dremel rotary tool models. (For an in-depth review of all the different models/sizes out there, check out this article here).

The super functional attachment includes an edge guide and a circle-cutting guide, and like we said you could super creative and spend a lifetime testing out all the different bits/profiles that are out there to choose from.

Also, another really cool thing about dremel tools and their different attachments/accessories is how cheap everything is; instead of making the small investment of hundreds of dollars that you would for a normal size power tool, all the dremel stuff is super affordable

Dremel 231 Shaper/Router Table

Last update on 2024-01-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The shaper/router table is another super cheap, awesome little attachment that’ll open up worlds of new uses for your dremel tool.

It allows you to convert any one of your dremel (cordless or corded) models into a bench-mounted “mini router”, and comes included with slot, groove, sand and trim edges.

Also, the 8” x 6” table has a fully operable, adjustable fence for a huge range of jig possibilities and enough infeed/outfeed space to work with relatively long pieces of material.

A Few of Our Favorite Dremels, Routers, and Bit Sets

Last but not least, here’s a list of a few of our favorite full and mid-range size routers, as well as the dremel(s) and bit sets that you’ll find laying around our home workshop.

DeWalt DW618 2 ¼ HP Fixed-Based Router

Last update on 2022-03-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Our go-to full-size router, and the one we use 90% of the time in the shop. We like to use the Bosch RA1181 router table along with it, and there’s truly no task that this thing can’t take care of. There might be more expensive 12-amp routers out there, but as far as we’re concerned, there are none that are better.

DeWalt DW611 1 ¼ HP Compact Router Combo Kit

Last update on 2023-06-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

We don’t use this smaller router nearly as much as the full-size 618, but for the price, it’s a fantastic option to have in the shop when it comes time to work with smaller pieces (less than 12” wide), or when you’re working with stock thinner than about ¼”.

(For our full, unabridged “Best Router Buying Guide”, check out our in-depth article here).

Dremel 4000 Variable Speed Rotary Tool

Last update on 2024-02-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The original and unrivaled, best rotary tool ever. We seriously love this thing. We know there are plenty of other models of Dremel’s out there (and we probably even have a few of them laying around the garage), but for general, all-purpose use, there’s nothing better than the 4000.

It comes with all kinds of different bits/accessory options at various prices, but the best value in our mind is the 4-34; 4 attachments and 34 different bits/accessories. One of the best values in power tools.

Dremel 710-08 All-Purpose 160-piece Accessory/Bit Set

Last update on 2024-01-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Again, there are zillions of different options out there when it comes to bits and accessory sets for the dremel, but this one in our opinion is the “be-all end-all”, if there ever was such a thing.

One thing we noticed particularly about the aftermarket or ‘off-brand’ bits is that they’re especially prone to slipping out of the chuck at high RPM’s. We’ve had this happen before even with Dremel brand bits, but not nearly as frequently.

And also, for a small price discrepancy, we don’t really see the point in skimping on quality when you can get a really good bit set from the actual Dremel brand.

The 160-piece set will be more than enough to keep you busy and playing around with your dremel and router attachment for years, if not an entire lifetime.

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The Bottom Line: Dremel vs. Router

So to answer the question of “can I use a dremel as a router?”, the simple, straightforward answer is “no, you cannot.”

While both tools essentially do the same exact thing (spin a bit around really really fast in a circle), a dremel rotary tool simply does not have the size or power to work with anything of any substantial size.

If you’re a hobbyist and only interested in decorative/ornamental engravings and what not, sure, you can get by with just a dremel and a router attachment. But for true, general woodworking, there’s absolutely no substitution for a full-size router.

About Russ Thompson

Hey I'm Russ and I have been a contractor for over 20 years. I know what the cost of having the right tools and materials for the job. My passion for woodworking and helping others by workshops in my wood shop. I have beginner classes all the way up expert trade classes. Check out my bio for more.

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