Our best wood router pick is the Dewalt DWP611PK 1.25 HP. This amazing tool topped our list due to its variable speed, dual LED’s and its power to deliver even in the toughest applications.
Our step-up pick is Bosch 1617EVSPK which is a powerful combination of versatility and precision.
Our budget pick is the Porter – Cable 690LR. We loved the Auto-release feature in this machine, and its ease of use. It is the best bargain to deliver value for money.
If you are new to woodworking, or if you want to engage in more advanced work, it is important for you to have the right wood router. Wood routers are used by both starters and experts for drilling holes, shaping, cutting, and trimming wood surfaces.
If you are a woodworker, a wood router is one of the most important workshop tools you need to have. You can create all kinds of groves, joints and designs, and shape wood to your liking. There are various kinds of wood routers on the market, each with different specifications. It is therefore important to understand the differences on each tool in order to correctly determine the best one for you. Buying the wrong tool means you won’t get the desired results.
In this review, we will guide you through the features and functions you should consider before buying a wood router. We will help you separate the wheat from the chaff among the several models and brands found on the market. At the end of this review, you will be able to easily and quickly identify the best tool that fits your need.
How Wood Routers Work
Routing simply translates to cutting, shaping and trimming wood. This process is carried out at high speeds. Mostly, a wood router consists of an electric motor with a collet and a base. The collect is located at the tail end of the shaft of the motor. It allows you to adjust the bit’s height. Each tool has a handle or knob on the sides to enhance your control. A wood router is one of the most versatile woodworking tools.
How To Use A Router
When using a router, bits are used to apply different cuts and shapes to the wood. Unless you install the router bits correctly, they won't function perfectly. If not properly installed, the bits will vibrate and make a loud noise. Improper installation of the bits can also lead to injuries. To ensure that you are utilizing your device in the best and safest way possible, first ensure you have correctly installed the bits.
Applying partial profiles in combinations with bits will allow you to create several profiles on the edge of your wood. In addition, you should always ensure that you are moving your router against the rotation bits. This will give you better control over your tool.
Additionally, always ensure that you read the user manual which comes with the device to understand how your machine works, how to maintain it and how to use it safely.
Types Of Wood Router
There are several types of wood routers. Below is a summary of the most common types. Naturally, the best one for you will depend on type of work you want to do. Your choice will also depend on your workload and experience.
You will fall in love with trim routers if your work requires less capacity and power. They have little horsepower and they don’t always have a plunge base. They are ideal for edge work, and a novice will find them easy to use. As the model name implies, they are the most suitable for trimming. Trim routers are mostly used by hobbyists and craftsmen. They perform quite well, especially when you are undertaking detailed work. On top of that, they are the perfect tools if you want precise one-handed cuts.
These fall in between trim and full-sized routers. They are a good option for your workshop or home as they are suitable for medium range work. They handle more work than the smaller tools and are ideal for table mounting if you wish.
Full Sized Routers
These tools are the preserve of veterans and those with enough experience. You can't use most of these big machines for freehand applications due to their heavy weight. However, there are some smaller models in the market which can be used in freehand once mounted on a solid table or workbench. All in all, you need to mount them on a table in order to maximize their capability.
There are two types of bases, though most of the power tools come with interchangeable bases. These bases perform different roles, so make sure you have the right one for your work.
Like the name implies, these come with a fixed base, which means that they will maintain a fixed bit level as you work. By changing the height base of a fixed base, you can move the bit up and down thus making them ideal for edging applications. Though they are great when it comes to easy, around-the-home chores, they perform dismally in some applications. One good thing about them is that you don’t have to worry that you might accidentally press hard and change the height of the bit. The fixed base ensures the machine can hold a precise bit depth perfectly.
If you are a novice who is just starting out, a fixed base router is the best tool for you. This tool works best when it is fixed on a router table. If you are after precise edge cutting and molding, this is the most suitable tool. It is a good tool for any kind of work that requires straight line cutting. When compared to plunge, these routers are lightweight and simple to use.
Always ensure you adjust the depth to your preferred size before starting, as the depth of the blade can’t be changed while the motor is running. Nevertheless, you can adjust the bit in some models by screwing or unscrewing the router.
If you are into interior work and want the best variation of techniques when cutting deep, plunge bases might be your best option. Though they are a bit sophisticated, a few hours practice is enough to get you going, even if you are a beginner.
This tool comes with a spring located in the base, allowing you to push the bit into the wood. Depending on the application you are using, you can lock the base at various depths. To change the depth while the motor is running, you just need to unlock the depth release. This is the most visible difference between fixed and plunged routers.
Another core difference and perhaps one that gives this tool an upper hand is that it cuts in the middle rather than the edge of your work. Plunges are versatile and offer wide range options than fixed base units.
Are you torn between plunge and fixed base tools? No need to worry. Some models come with interchangeable bases, allowing you to transfer the motor from one base to the other, depending on whatever task you have at hand.
Units with interchangeable bases are a great choice since they allow you to take advantage of both base types. They not only save you money, but they are easier to handle and work with. If you feel that the type of project you are working on needs both bases, you should consider purchasing models with interchangeable bases.
How We Picked
To determine the best wood router, they are certain core features you should look at. You should also keep in mind that different models perform different kind of jobs. The following are the factors we used to come up with the best wood routers:
If you are new to woodworking, a soft start is definitely something you want. Though the motors in power tools produce torque in high amounts, a soft start will prevent a slight mishap from ruining your work. Tools with a soft start pause for some moments before powering up and then gradually increase speed to the level you have set. Even the most experienced tool workers prefer this, though it is most critical to a newbie. Most of the models have this feature, but be sure to check out before purchasing
The horsepower of your hand tool is a core aspect that you should consider. High horsepower translates to more cutting strength, but it also translates to a much heavier machine and more torque being produced.
Most of the light works can be comfortably be done by a router with about 1 horsepower, but go for more powerful tools if you are engaging in heavy work and you want the best results.
If you are working with different types of woods, having variable speed is of importance, more so for plunging applications. Running your tool at high RPMs exposes you to risks of burning your best piece of wood. However, some harder woods might require such speeds. Therefore, it is best to have a tool that allows you to vary the speed depending on what you are working on.
If you are experienced, you can go ahead with a single speed though you might be exposing every new material you use to damage risks.
If you are working on a project that requires a plunge, even the best fixed base model will not be very useful. The fixed base is suitable for some light applications, such as edging applications. It will also allow you to drill the starting hole and put your router in, but it can’t perform in other applications.
Above The Table Adjustments
The best hand tools allow you to do cutting height adjustments above the table by the use of a handle, knob or a crank. In addition, the best power tools have the ability to extend the collet above the table.
Some of the hand tools found in the market can be hard on your wrists or hands. Great set of grips are important for accuracy. Put in mind that the best grips not only make your machine attractive but they also impact your work.
Your comfort when using a hand tool is very vital, though often overlooked. When you are comfortable handling your tool, you will not only be able to accomplish your job effectively but also your safety will be well assured as you will have the machine under control.
Our pick for the best wood router is the Dewalt DWP611PK 1.25 HP Variable Speed Router. This machine has several incredible features such as LED for enhanced visibility, a soft start motor and the ability to perform almost every woodworking job.
This machine has 1.25 horsepower with a variable adjustable speed which ranges from 16,000 – 27,000 RPM. It also has a welcoming grip. The machine measures 7 X 10.2 X 19.2 inches and weighs just 8 pounds, making it an easily portable wood router.
What we liked about this unit is the fact that it comes with interchangeable bases out of the box, both the plunge and fixed bases. We also loved the quick release feature which makes changing bases super easy and quick. The clear bases also ensure that you see through to your work.
Another thing that made Dewalt DWP611PK scoop our best position is its ability to work on both hardwood and softwood. In addition, the ease of changing bits and its precision made it a favorite. The machine is also relatively quiet and adjusting the plunger depth is quite easy.
The biggest advantage Dewalt DWP611PK has over other routers is its reliable dust collection hood feature which is not found in every other router.
Below are the specifications of the Dewalt DWP611PK:
Dewalt DWP611PK Specifications
7 X 10.2 X 19.2 Inches
3 Year Limited Warranty
Flaws But Not Deal Breakers
One of the limitations of Dewalt DWP611PK is the limited movement caused by the cord. In addition, it is hard to reach the cullet nut and its ¼ inch cullet limits your job. It also tends to overheat after a prolonged usage.
Step Up Pick
Our step-up pick is the Bosch 1617EVSPK Variable Speed Router. This machine is ideal for difficult and technical jobs as it comes with both the plunge and fixed base. It has also been designed with a focus on reliability and quality. This tool also allows micro-fine adjustments and comes with a soft starts motor.
This powerful machine has a motor with 2.25 horsepower with a variable speed of between 8,000 - 25,000 rotations in a single minute. The versatile speed is crucial for performance on different tasks. On top of the variable speed, this tool offers you very accurate cuts.
What we noticed and liked about Bosch 1617EVSPK during our testing, is how easy it is to use. We also fell in love with the rubberized grips which cover the plunge base and the beautiful, sturdy wooden handles of the fixed base. Changing the bases is quick as it has quick clamp system, though we observed it is a little bit tricky when the machine is cold.
The power switch of Bosch 1617EVSPK is covered by a special sealing to protect it from the accumulation of dust. In addition, both the housing of the motor and the two bases are made of high standard aluminum for increased durability. Additionally, this machine is very convenient to use thanks to it inbuilt Constant Response Circuitry which helps to maintain a constant speed throughout your operation.
If you are looking for a wood router that won’t hurt your pocket and one that will perform optimally, you should consider purchasing the Porter – Cable 690LR. The Level Release (LR) feature has a cam-lock which makes height adjustments a breeze. We also liked the fact that you can make micro-height adjustments of up to 1/128 inches, allowing you to make precise and accurate cuts.
The 690LR is a fixed base router which has 11 AMP motor which produces 1 – ¾ horsepower. It has a single speed motor that runs at 27,500 revolutions per minute.
Though cheap, the 690LR is sturdy and durable. While its design is not as flashy as the previous machines, it performs its roles optimally. It has a sealed ball-bearing construction and a dust-sealed switch, which prolongs its life by ensuring minimal wear and tear. In addition, both the base and motor are covered by aluminum.
Another advantage of the 690LR is that it works well with both ¼ and ½ inch collets. Additionally, removing the bits is way easy thanks to the in-built auto-release collet system. This machine is also consistent and user-friendly.
Best Palm Wood Router
Our best palm wood router is the Bosch PR20EVS, which is made up of a powerful combination of versatility and precision. It has a 5.6 Amp motor which produces 1.0 horsepower with a variable speed which ranges from 16,000 to 35,000 rotations per minute. For extended use, it has a comfortable design, sturdy construction and it allows micro-fine adjustments.
Bosch PR20EVS comes with a fixed base. The base is made of aluminum and due to it solidity, you can use it to do precise jobs. It has the capacity to allow 1-5/16 inches in diameter. We also liked the fact that you can easily change the bits with just a wrench and one spindle lock, allowing you to easily modify your applications.
This machine also provides a decent level of comfort due to its well-designed palm-grip. In addition, this budget-friendly hand tool offers you the necessary control you need when trimming edges thanks to its finger support pockets. The impressive angled exit feature helps you to keep the cord out of your way while in operation. Another great feature on this unit is the quick-clamp system which allows you to move or adjust the motor from one base to another.
Best Fixed Base Wood Router
Our pick for the best fixed base wood router is the Dewalt DW618PK which has 2-1/4 horsepower. It comes with a 12 Amp motor with a variable speed, which makes it possible to rout smoothly against the hardest hardwoods while ensuring perfect depth adjustments. One of the most impressive feature this tool has is the integrated dust collection which allows great visibility.In addition, the ability to make fine adjustments of 1/64 increments makes this tool quite precise.
We also liked the user-friendliness and comfort provided by this router. Its handles made of rubber are greatly designed to offer a low center of gravity, giving you full control over the machine. To remove the frozen bits and for handle retention, the DW618PK is equipped with 8 self-releasing slotted collets. The plunge lever is also easily reachable even when you are working.
This power tool also comes with a nickel-plated aluminum motor housing which ensures increased durability. Its light weight and precision-machined aluminum base also allow a comfortable maneuverability. This fixed base machine is ideal for both hobbyists and professionals. It cuts perfectly and comes with a soft start motor.
Best Wood Router For A Beginner
If you are a beginner looking out to start your woodworking journey, you should consider buying the Hitachi KM12VC. This machine is the best for you if you value ergonomic design. It also comes with a silent, powerful motor, simple base changes, simple depth adjustments and a two-state release clamp for the motor.
This machine motor housing is nickel-plated, and the powerful motor ranges 11 amp. It has a variable speed which ranges between 8,000 – 24,000 rotations per minute (RPM), allowing you to match to your task at the perfect speed. It also comes with electronic speed control in the motor which keeps the RPM constant under a certain load for the best cuts.
What impressed us the most about this tool is its quietness. It operates at 79 DB, which means it can operate stably as there are minimal vibrations. This is a good thing, since such vibrations have been shown to have negative impacts on the user’s health. The two-stage clamp system allows you to interchange bases and make accurate depth adjustments. This means that switching from either fixed to plunge or vice versa is very easy.
The versatility of Hitachi KM12VC makes it a top-notch machine. This tool is easily compatible with most workshop bits. This machine can work with a ¼ inch and ½ inch bits without any hitches. In addition, it also comes with a ¼ inch and ½ inch collet chucks.
The Hitachi KM12VC can be easily controlled by a newbie thanks to the nicely shaped handles. The plunge base is not very heavy weighing only 9.9 pounds, while the fixed base weighs just 7.3 pounds. If you travel frequently, this machine is best for you as it comes with protective gear.
Best Wood Router For Trimming
If you are into trimming works or if you are artistic, the Makita RTO701C is the best router for you. This lightweight machine which weighs just 4 pounds and has a motor which produces 1.25 horsepower is the best for handheld operations. You get a lot of power from a tiny tool.
We were quite pleased by it performance on fluting, certain edge profiling tasks and trimming cabinets. The sight line worked well with all the bases and you can make the best cut adjustments quickly.
This little machine comes with three bases, namely a tilt base, a fixed base, and the plunge base. We loved the tilt base due to its convenience which allows you to make cuts at an angle. Though the bases are made of plastics to boost visibility, their durability is not affected. In addition, its versatility is great as it supports standard template guides found on the market. The Makita RTO701C is also the most compact and easily portable router in the market.
Best High-End Wood Router
If you are looking for a very powerful wood router and the price is not a concern to you, the Bosch MRC23EVSK is your best bargain. This beast of a machine is designed to go through anything that is thrown its way.
The MRC23EVSK has 15 AMP motor which produces 2.5 horsepower, and amazingly the total weight is less than 13 pounds. During our testing, were impressed by the ease with which we performed basic tasks such edge profiling and plunging holes, as well as its efficiency when performing more sophisticated tasks like rabbeting, which needs precise accuracy.
We also liked the dual LED lights which enhanced visibility in dark areas and the ergonomically designed handles which help you maintain total control. The trigger switch located on the handles is of great importance especially when you are operating for long hours.
The MRC23EVSK boasts of a soft-start feature as well as adjustable speed settings and a Constant Response circuitry. Each of its bases allows micro-depth adjustments and it produces the exact cut each time. The variable speed of 10,000 to 25,000 RPM allows you to match its speed to the task at hand. It can also use different bits of various sizes. In addition, it supports both ¼ inch and ½ inch collet.
There are several power tools out there on the market which didn't make it into our list of best wood routers due to several underlying factors. Some of the factors include but are not limited to insufficient speed, lack of comfortable handles, too much noise and lack of soft-start motors.
Other Considerations When Buying A Wood Router
Wood Router Accessories
If you regularly use wood routers you know that the buying cost is not the only cost you will incur. In the course of your operations, you will require other specialized components to facilitate your operations.
Let's take a look at some of the components which you might need in the course of your work.
There are several varieties of router bits. They vary from the simplistic different sized bits which are used for grooving, to the specialized bits which are used to make impressive, sophisticated edges with a single pass.
If you have a huge workload, it is advisable to avoid the high-speed steel bits as they become blunt quickly. Alternatively, you can go for carbide edged ones as they are durable and stay sharp for long with proper management.
If you are a serious or professional worker, a router table is a necessity in your workshop. They are found in different sizes and budgets. These tables are vital as they allow you to achieve a certain level of functionality that would be difficult to achieve when you are holding the tool.
You can never go wrong with an investment on a table router as it helps you greatly improve the capacity to shape and modify pieces of wood in your workshop.
Guides and Jigsaw
If you need to make precise cuts, guides and jigsaw are necessary equipment. They are found in various types and varieties. Gas chainsaws are used to make sure that the joining edges of your project are perfect while guides are used to keep the edges of the interior work straight. If you really love dovetails and other antique techniques, these accessories will ensure you always achieve the best cuts.
D-handle bases are found mostly in tools which have interchangeable bases. If you love working freehand or if your work dictates that you use freehand often, you might find it worth investing on D-handle bases as they facilitate a unique grip which will aid you in various techniques which can be impossible to achieve with a normal grip.
This tool is the most convenient for your light tasks. It does marvelous work on detailing and routing tasks. It is the most popular tool among hobbyist and craftsmen. This tool is highly compact and convenient. It can be the best addition to your router and you can utilize it in various applications.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Q: As A professional woodworker, how many wood routers do I need?
A: The number of wood routers you will need largely depends on the variation of work in your workshop. In most of the times, a professional will need two or three wood routers based on base type and horsepower.
Q: How many types of bits are there?
A: As we mentioned earlier, wood routers are among the most versatile machines. This is possible due to the various bits you can get for your tool and the work they can perform. Below, we give you a quick summary of the best kind of bits you can purchase for your power tool and what you can use them for:
Straight Bits: Straight bits are used to cut straight, square-bottomed grooves. They come in different diameters but the most important sizes are 1/4, ½, and ¾ inch diameter.
Roman Ogee Bits: These are maybe the most popular edge-shaping bits. They are suitable for cutting classical decorative detailing into horizontal rails, vertical stiles, picture frames and edges of the table. The width cut is controlled by a ball-bearing pilot attached at the end of the bit.
Rounding Bits: Rounding bits are used to shape the edges of chair arms, shelves, and any other location you would like to round over a sharp edge. The width of the cut it is controlled by a ball-bearing pilot fitted in the bit. They are available in different diameters.
Cove Bits: These bits are basically the opposite of rounding bit. They cut a concave radius instead of rounding the edges. This results in a simple, decorative edge that magnifies cabinet doors, bookshelves and furniture legs.
Rabbeting Bits: A rabbet is a L- shaped notch cut along the edge of a panel or a board which can accept another panel or a board at a perfect angle forming a rabbet joint. The simplest way you can cut a rabbet is with a rabbeting bit which is equipped with a ball-bearing pilot. We identify rabbets by the depth and width of the cuts they make.
Rabbet joints are mostly used to install cabinet backs, to join cabinet sides to cabinet tops and to build drawers for the cabinets.
Flush – Trim Bits: If your work mostly involves wood veneering or plastic laminating, you might want to get yourself a flush-trim bit. Due to the ball-bearing pilot, this straight cutting bit allows trimming of overhanging surfaces excellently with the substrate. You can use this bit to build tabletops, plastic-laminate counters, drawer faces and cabinet doors. Flush-trim are available in different sizes.
Q: How can I find different bits for my router?
A: In reality, you may require an unlimited number of bits in the course of your woodworking. The best idea is to partially profile three or more bits. You can create infinite bits for use by applying partial profiles.
Q: How do I know the right rotational direction of my power tool?
A: If you are buying a power tool for the first time, knowing the right direction can be a bit tricky. In order to avoid a misdirection, you can rotate your tool against the direction of the bits. Doing this will allow you to have full control of your work.
Q: How can I reduce power tool tear outs?
A: Power tool tear outs have been a major concern among woodworkers around the globe. One of the first measures you can undertake to prevent/reduce tear outs is to buy a sturdy and durable model from the above best list. Secondly, you can reduce the rate at which the tear outs occur by identifying tear prone areas and working more carefully on them.
Q: How do I deal with small and narrow moldings?
A: It is hard to save narrow or small moldings from chattering while you are working on them. The best action you can undertake is to rout the profile on a wide board. It is wider and safer. You can use a table saw to cut off the edge later on.
Q: My power switch is damaged, what should I do?
A: The best power tools are quite durable. However, power switches seem to be the most common problem for several users. This mostly occurs when the on/off switch wears out. You should immediately replace the switch once it starts to show any sign of deficiency.
If you are looking for the best wood router, you should consider buying the Dewalt DWP611PK 1.25 HP, which came top in our list. It is an excellent tool that comes with a soft start motor, variable speed, and dual LEDs. The 1.25 HP motor delivers enough power to perform optimally even in the toughest applications.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.