If you want to bring more versatility to your woodcraft, investing in the best wood router is the way to go. That’s why we’ve prepared this article that’ll teach you everything you need to know about these power tools. We’ll also show you how to find the best model that meets your needs and skill level.
Why Buying a Wood Router?
These machines offer a very effective way of enhancing the design of your projects. You can use them on materials such as wood, fiberglass, and plastic. You can even use them for engraving, shaping, grooving, or making wood panels.
Almost all cabinets and most of the wood furniture has been cut and shaped by a router. They are used for edge profiling, cutting grooves, trimming the wood flat, drilling holes, recessing hinges, cutting joints, and performing many other tasks.
No wonder they’re considered the most versatile woodworking power tools, and indispensable for craftsmen. Most importantly, they are essential if you’re planning on building any item that requires a certain level of precision and craftsmanship.
To know why wood routers are so necessary, you need to understand how they work. Luckily, routers are quite low-tech. Wood routers are hand-held power tools that consist of a motor that turns a spindle at a very high speed. You control it with both of your hands by grasping the vertical handles opposite to the device.
Wood routers come in many different sizes. Smaller wood routers are called trim routers and are used for delicate work on small wood pieces. This type of routers are commonly used by finish carpenters and can be incredibly valuable for model makers and hobbyists.
These machines also come in CNC form. Instead of guiding the device with your hands, a CNC router utilizes a computer and stepper motors. They offer an unprecedented amount of precision and allow for automation of repetitive jobs.
A more accessible, and more affordable way of improving the precision with a wood router is a router table. A router table inverts your router and provides a space to protrude from the top of it. You attach the router bit to the spindle and work the wood by dragging it along the guide and over the bit. This router configuration is perfect for cutting grooves, dadoes, joinery, and working with small narrow stock.
The key to performing specific tasks like joinery and shaping edges are the router bits. They are even more important than the router itself, and having a wide selection is a must.
Today, you can find hundreds of models of wood routers, and choosing the right one can be difficult, especially if you’re new to woodworking. But don’t fear, we’re here to help you make the right choice.
We tested and reviewed three of the best wood routers on the market. We tested them in accordance with a list of essential features any wood router should have. And now we’d like to share our findings with you!
Meet the Best Wood Routers
The Good: With a 2.25HP motor, this router is able to handle just about any type of wood surface.
The Bad: The power switch has no shielding and tends to collect dust which can cause failure.
The Bottom Line: This sheer versatility of this router defeats any of its faults. It’s an excellent choice for both the beginner and seasoned woodworkers.
The Good: The DeWalt offers unmatched visibility and ease of use. It’s excellent for precise work.
The Bad: Not being able to accommodate half-inch shanks severely limit its uses.
The Bottom Line: If you’ve always had trouble with making precise cuts, this router’s LEDs and transparent base will be a godsend for you .
The Good: A powerful motor, and a simple design. The Porter is capable of handling any type of wood surface with ease.
The Bad: The lack of speed control severely impact the versatility of this router.
The Bottom Line:
If you’re a beginner woodworker or a hobbyist, you should definitely check out this router because it can be an excellent learning tool.
If those short descriptions aren’t enough for you, please read on – you’ll get to know these routers in person.
All of the Factors Considered
Finding a wood router that will suit your needs can be incredibly difficult. You have to consider the build, quality, type, accessories, and many other factors. There are hundreds of brands out there, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. That’s why we did the research and created the ultimate list of factors you should consider when buying a wood router!
Build Quality & Weight
Almost all wood routers are built to be quite sturdy. They have to be sturdy because they’re meant for cutting wood and other hard materials. However, some cheaper models are made out of low-quality aluminum that’s quite brittle and can easily shatter if the machine jerks out your hands.
When looking for a router, make sure the base and the body is made out of quality aluminum. Don’t trust unknown brands, especially those who offer at suspiciously low prices. They are usually shoddily assembled and have low-quality motors that will burn out in a matter of days.
Another thing you should keep in mind is the weight of the wood router. The best wood router strikes a perfect balance between weight and comfort. The heavier the router is, the more stable it is. However, more cumbersome models are harder to handle and make prolonged operation a pain.
Router, collet or size is generally displayed in inches and refers to the size of the shank bit that the machine can accept.
Most commonly, the sizes of router bit shanks are ½-inch and ¼ -inch. Since most of the world uses the metric system, router bit shanks also come in metric form. Metric bits usually come in four sizes – 6 mm, 8 mm, 10 mm, and 12 mm.
Half-inch routers are quite versatile and can accommodate collets both half-inch and quarter-inch shank bits, as well as some in metric form. Quarter-inch routers are a bit less versatile since they can only help quarter-inch shanks, but can also accept 6 mm and 8 mm metric bits.
Half-inch bits are cheaper and easier to get than the quarter-inch ones because they’re easier to manufacture. Furthermore, longer and larger router bits are only available in half-inch shank form and require a more powerful router for successful operation.
However, for most jobs, router bits are available in both small and large forms. You don’t have to go for the larger shank if the small one can do the same job. Just keep in mind that larger bits cause less vibration when cutting, which results in a much smoother cut.
The main component of any power tool, not just routers, is the electric motor. When it comes to wood routers, the bigger and more powerful the engine, the larger the maximum depth of the cut. The power is usually displayed in watts, but it’s not uncommon for it to be displayed in horsepower.
Routers can be sorted into two groups depending on their engine power. Typically, routers with engines under 1500 watts (2 horsepower) don’t accept bits that have half-inch shanks. These low-power routers are best used for lighter work and precision cutting.
Routers over 1500 watts usually accept both half-inch and quarter-inch shank bits. These routers can handle just about anything you throw at them and are also compatible with router tables.
Soft-Start & Variable Speed
Some electric wood routers come with a soft-start feature which means the engine won’t rev up to its maximum speed the second you hit the power switch. A soft-start router will gradually rev up to the desired speed. This isn’t an absolutely necessary feature, but it makes handling way more comfortable. This also ensures your router won’t jerk out of your hands when you power it on.
Routers with soft-start engines also come with the ability to vary the speed at which the spindle turns. This feature gives you more control over the cutting action, allowing you to use the router more accurately on different types of wood.
Router Table Compatibility
A common desire amongst more experienced woodworkers is to be able to install the router inverted into a table, a router-table. This configuration significantly widens your options.
Unfortunately, not all routers are compatible with router tables. Not because they aren’t designed for it, because you can easily jerry-rig a solution. The main reason for their incompatibility is the deadman’s switch, which ensures the machine is working only when the operator is in full control over it.
This quite useful safety feature is usually the main reason why you can’t install your router on a table. You can circumvent this issue by tying down the power switch with a cable. We don’t recommend you do that because you risk burning the motor out if the shank gets stuck on a knot.
If you get a router-table compatible model, you’ll be able to utilize it to its full potential. A router table makes it easy to work with small material, edge profiling, template cutting, and you can install a dust collector to it.
Now that we covered that let’s check out how the models we feature in this article compared to one another when we factor in the things we mentioned above.
In-depth Reviews of 5 Best Wood Routers
Bosch 1617EVSPK Wood Router Tool Combo Kit
Quite the versatile kit
This wood router is incredibly versatile. It comes with both a fixed base and a plunging base. This means you can do just about anything you want with this router. You need to profile the edges, no worries, just attach the fixed base and start profiling. You want to engrave a pattern in the wood, attach the plunge base and you’re all set.
Powerful motor with variable speed
One of the top features of Bosch 1617EVSPK is it’s 2.25 horsepower (around 1700 Watt) motor. This motor is one of the largest available in a handheld power tool. In addition to this, you can also control its speed. The 12-amp motor produces 8000 rpm when on lowest settings, and you can rev it up 25,000 rpm.
Incredibly durable housing
The 1617EVSPK features a full aluminum housing. This router’s housing will last you for years without suffering any damage. Furthermore, the bases feature comfortable palm handles. We really appreciate Boch’s commitment to keeping the price reasonable since most manufacturers up the cost of models that feature a full-aluminum housing.
Full collet compatibility
If you’re looking for a wood router that is compatible with a wide range of collets, look no further than the 1617EVSPK. It comes with both the quarter-inch and half-inch collets out of the box and necessary wrenches.
Who Should Buy this Product
The Bosch 1617EVSK is an excellent router for woodworkers of all experience levels. It’s 2.25 HP variable-speed motor is capable of handling any type of wood you use it with. When you add the plunge base and router-table compatibility into the mix, it is hard not to recommend this tool to anyone who can afford it!
What to Watch Out For
While we couldn’t find any serious issues with our model, we did notice that a lot of people had problems with it. Some of the users noticed the fixed base would start to bend after a couple of months of regular use, so you should keep that in mind and regularly check it for irregularities.
The only thing we found frustrating about 1617EVSK is the lack of spindle lock. Hassling with two wrenches at the same time is incredibly time-consuming. Another thing we noticed is that the dust kept collecting on the switch, which could cause the machine to fail. Thankfully, this can be easily fixed with a dust cover.
Even when we factor in the potential downsides, we still find this wood router one of the best on the market. The motor is powerful enough to handle just about any type of wood, and the ability to switch between fixed and plunged base makes it incredibly versatile. The Bosch 1617EVSK is an excellent pick for seasoned woodworkers because it’s compatible with a wide array of bit sizes, and it’s compatible with a router-table. It is also an excellent pick for beginners because it’s easy to operate and can handle a lot of punishment.
DEWALT Router Fixed/Plunge Base Kit
Lightweight yet durable and easy to handle
The Dewalt weighs only 4 pounds with a fixed base attached, and a little over 6 pounds with the plunge base attached. This is incredibly light for a handheld router, and you could quickly think it would be impossible to control. However, thanks to large, ergonomically designed palm handles, the Dewalt is incredibly easy to manage. Unfortunately, the palm handles can be only found on the plunge base, while the fixed base has no handles at all. Thankfully, the motor can produce up to 25,000 RPM, which significantly improves control when using it with a fixed base.
High RPM variable-speed motor with a soft-start
Even though the Dewalt has a 1.25 HP electric motor, it can produce incredibly high RPMs. On its lowest setting, the motor spins the spindle at staggering 16,000 RPM. If that’s not enough, you can adjust the speed by turning the dial on the top of the unit and reach speeds of up to 27,000 RPM. For maximum precision, this router also features full-time electronic feedback system that maintains the speed of the motor throughout the cut. Fortunately, Dewalt’s motor has a soft-start, so you don’t have to worry about it jerking out of your hand when you turn it on.
Incompatible with a half-inch collet but incredibly precise
The Dewalt features a quarter-inch collet, which is the right size for a handheld router. You won’t be able to do some heavy-duty tasks such as profiling the edge on an unusually large piece of oak. However, you will be able to perform precise cuts and engravings. The fixed features an adjustment ring that allows you to control the bit depth to 1/64th of an inch. The plunge base also allows for precise cuts thanks to the fine-tune adjustment rod. You can have up 1.5-inch depth travel with the fixed base and up to 2 inches with the plunge base.
Excellent additional features and router-table compatibility
The Dewalt features a clear D-shape fixed base that besides improving the stability, also increases the visibility during edging and making radius cuts. If that’s not enough visibility for you, this tool also has to LED lights on the bottom. We also love the quick release system on the fixed base, which allows you to remove it in a matter of seconds. Another useful safety feature is the plastic cover on the power switch, which prevents dust from reaching the motor. When it comes to router-table compatibility, you can install this router on just about any table you want. All you need to do is use an insert plate you customize by marking and drilling the appropriate mount holes. And lastly, we like the 3-year limited warranty that guarantees free repairs of any defects caused by faulty materials or workmanship.
Who Should Buy this Product
Although it can’t accommodate half-inch bits, the Dewalt DWP611PK is still quite a capable little machine. Thanks to its high-rpm motor, you will be able to do fine-detail work on most wood surfaces with ease. This model is best suited for beginner to intermediate craftsmen since it gives you the much-needed visibility when cutting, something most other routers don’t offer.
What to Watch Out For
Although we didn’t notice any glaring issues with this power-tool, we did find a few that some of you might find important. Because the Dewalt is small in size, so are the bases. This means you can easily mess up the cut because the bases are just too small to be stable. We also don’t like the lack of palm handles on the fixed base because it significantly impacts on the preciseness of the cut. This issue can be circumvented with an edge guide, but you’ll have to buy it separately.
The Dewalt DWP611PK is a great little router that’s best suited for beginner/intermediate woodworkers and hobbyists. Seasoned craftsmen won’t find it very useful because it can’t accommodate larger shank bits, and because the bases are a bit too unstable.
PORTER-CABLE 690R Router Fixed Base
Minimalist design and a high-powered motor
The Porter’s most notable feature is its simplistic design. The unit basically consists out of two parts, the plastic motor cover, and the aluminum body. This might deter some, but we like how this tool looks. It features two rubberized hand-grips, a cam-lock lever, and an auto-release collet system. The aluminum encased motor is incredibly powerful, producing up to 1.75 HP. This means this machine can handle just about anything you throw at it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feature adjustable settings, but this can’t be considered a disadvantage when you factor in its price.
The aforementioned cam-lock lever allows for quick changes without using any additional tools. This is an excellent way of handling height adjustments, and we’re sad to see how little people realize the full potential of this feature. Another useful feature is the auto-release collet system since it comes in handy when you need to change bits quickly.
Surprising collet compatibility
Although the Porter is quite compact, it can accommodate both quarter-inch and half-inch shank bits. In fact, the unit comes with collets that can accommodate the said shank bits. This means that this power tool can handle just about any type of wood surface with relative ease. Just keep in mind that since there’s no speed control, the unit will vibrate quite a bit when using smaller shank bits.
A variety of available addons
Because the base unit comes with only the fixed base and collets, it leaves a lot to be desired. Thankfully, Porter offers a wide range of optional addons. These include a plunge base, a D-handle base, a template guide kit, an edge guide, and a premium straight edge guide. These are absolutely necessary if you’re planning on doing any serious tasks with this machine. Unfortunately, all these addons are sold separately. This means you will have to invest an additional $100 for necessary addons. When you do the math, it is much cheaper to go for a full-featured Bosch.
Who Should Buy this Product
The Porter Cable has been a staple of reliable design for over 40 years, and the 690lr model is no exception. It is quite basic but incredibly powerful. This makes it a perfect choice for beginner woodworkers and hobbyists because it’s incredibly easy to use. Furthermore, it’s durable and can fit both quarter and half-inch shank bits.
What to Watch Out For
690lr’s main issue is its simplicity. Yes, it does have a powerful motor, but there’s no speed control to speak of, and you will have to shell out extra cash for the accessories. Accessories that are absolutely necessary if you’re planning on doing anything serious with this machine. However, we can’t expect much form such an affordable product.
The Porter Cable 690lr packs incredible horsepower in a compact form. Although it doesn’t come with bells and whistles other more expensive models come with, it is quite reliable and almost indestructible. Even if you manage to break it somehow, the repair is incredibly easy, and most importantly, cheap. We recommend you buy this product bundled with either a plunge base or an edge guide.
The Best Wood Router – Bosch 1617EVSPK Wood Router Tool Combo Kit
Choosing the best product from three we showcased was more difficult than you might imagine. All three have their strengths and weaknesses, and each can perform wonderfully in the hands of a skilled craftsman. However, after a lengthy debate, we decided to pick the Bosch 1617EVSPK as the best wood router on the market.
No other wood router on the market offers such versatility and user-friendliness than the 1617EVSPK. The combination of a powerful motor, the ability to accept both quarter and half-inch shank bits, and the ability to switch between a fixed and plunge base make it an excellent addition to any workshop.
The Final Word
Although we decided to pick only one of the products as the best wood router, they all have something that makes them worth recommending. Whether you’re a hobbyist or a seasoned veteran, each of the products listed above deserve a place in your workshop. If you disagree with our choice, that’s okay, we would love to hear your criticism below in the comments. Keep in mind that the final decision is yours, and you should base it on what you think is important. We wrote this article to help you make an informed decision. If you found this article useful, share it with others so they can also bolster their knowledge. We hope you have fun with your next project and see you next time!