That was our top criteria for selecting the best wood routers.
If you want to cut to the chase, we liked both the DeWalt and the Bosch wood routers, with the main differences being their price points, horsepower and ultimately, your preference for brand.
Wood Router Comparison
|4.38 x 5.75||6.00 x 6.69||5.50 x 4.75||4.50 x 6.25||6.00 x 5.75||3.50 x 3.75||6.00 x 6.00||6.00 x 6.00||6.00 x 6.00||6.00 x 6.00|
|Router Type |
Wood Router Buying Guide
What is a Wood Router?
A wood router is often one of the most valued tools in a woodworker’s tool set. A good quality wood router and bit set enables a woodworker to create a multitude of intricate designs, hollow out grooves, create joints and shape wood edges among other jobs. There are different types of wood routers on the market and understanding their differences can help you make the best choice on a router that will fit your needs. If you buy the wrong type of wood router, you will not get the results you are looking for. This is why the information in this guide is so important. It can help you make the right choice when purchasing a router to add to your tools.
It’s possible that you might need more than one router to meet your needs. Ask yourself the questions below to help narrow down your choices and make your selections easier.
- Will you be doing a lot of plunge cutting?
- Do you need a tool that is highly portable?
- Do you often work with large diameter bits?
- Will your router be table mounted?
Types of Wood Routers
There are two basic types of wood routers: plunge and fixed base. The type of router you choose will determine the work you are able to do. This will depend both on your design and the way in which the router operates.
Plunge Routers – A plunge wood router has a base that is spring loaded. This allows the bit to be pushed into the wood. You can lock the base at a specific depth when using it for various applications. If you unlock the depth release, you can change the depth of the bit while the router is running. The advantage to plunge routers is that the cut begins in the middle of the work rather than the edge. They offer you much more versatility but can be a bit harder to use than their fixed base counterparts. They are usually more expensive as well.
Fixed Base Wood Routers – A great beginner’s wood router, the fixed base model performs best when fitted to a router table. These models are perfect for edge cuts and molding that requires straight line precision. They are lighter weight than plunge routers and easier to use. When using a fixed base router, you will need to set the blade depth before you begin and it cannot be adjusted while it is running. In many styles, you can adjust the bit up or down by twisting the housing to screw or unscrew the router.
There are several wood router models that offer both base choices; plunge and fixed. These are easily changed out by removing the motor from one and switching it to the other base. With the interchangeable bases option you can have the best of both worlds and expand your design ability without having to buy an entire second router. You can also attach one to the table and leave another one unattached for portability. They’re much lighter to carry around than having multiple routers. If you change bases a lot, you may find that buying two routers is still the most efficient choice for you instead of having to take the time to change them.
The Significance of Wood Router HP
Different styles and models of wood routers have different horsepower and speed. Some common HP for routers includes 1 ½ hp, 2 hp, 3 1.2 hp and up. Bit sizes will vary as well, so pay attention to what the product box states about the routers you are looking at. There are some wood routers that are equipped with variable speed motors with rpms ranging from 8,000 to 30,000. Knowing what you are going to be using your router for will help determine the kind you need along with what hp and what rpm.
Important Wood Router Accessories
There are some common accessories you will want when purchasing a router that will enable you to perform the tasks you want.
- A quality set of router bits
- Router table
- Speed controls
Outlined below are some of the common features that your router might come equipped with. These are very helpful accessories and they can increase the functionality of your wood router.
Different Router Bits
There are many varieties of router bits available that can create many different designs and grooves. Below, we have the 10 most-often purchased bits detailed for you. Most of the bits listed below are available in different shank sizes that will accommodate the size of the router. They are made of steel with a carbide tip which will help them last a lifetime with proper use and care. Bits that are not carbide tipped wear out faster and are more easily damaged.
Beading – This type of bit will place a rounded convex edge slightly below the level of the sides of the wood.
Chamfer – This bit will enable you to cut a straight edge at an angle along the side of the wood.
Cove – This bit will cut a concave (inward) quarter circle along the edge of a wood piece
Dado – A popular bit that forms a box groove across the wood.
Dovetail – When the groove is across the wood and the bottom of the groove is wider than the top of the groove, you know a dovetail bit was used.
Rabbeting – A bit that puts a 90-degree cut along the edge of the work piece
Roman Ogee – This bit forms a unique S-shaped design along the edge of the work piece
Round Nose – Using this bit will leave a half circle groove along the work piece
Round Over – This bit is very similar to the beading bit. It forms a rounded edge along the work piece without any recessed edges
V Groove – This bit will leave a V-shaped groove across the work piece
Router Bit Materials
Router bits are usually made of three types of materials:
High-Speed Steel – for use with softer materials. These types of bits don’t maintain their sharpness as long as others. They are the least expensive and are the perfect choice for users who only use their routers occasionally.
Carbide Tipped – These bits are made of much stronger material than the high-speed steel bits. Carbide tips hold their edge a lot longer than the high-speed steel bits and they are great for cutting hard wood, and metal too. Carbide tip bits are a favorite of professional wood workers who use their routers on an almost daily basis.
Solid Carbide – These are the strongest and longest lasting router bits you can buy. These are the bits that are used for the hardest materials. They hold their edges really well and can be used for longer periods of time without problems. These router bits are more expensive but their longevity makes them well worth it.
Router Tables, Router Fences and Other Features
Router table – The purpose of a router table is to allow your wood router to be attached to the table with the bit up. When the router is engaged, the wood slides across the top of the table and on top of the blade or bit. There are table-top style models of router tables that you can set right on your existing workbench. There are also free-standing style router tables.
Router fences provide a guide that the user pushes the wood against. This prevents any shifting of the piece and enables to bit to cut in a precise, accurate, straight line.
Jigs – Jigs hold your work piece in place for cutting hinge recesses, box joiners, dado joints and dovetail joints.
Clamps – Clamps are a very important addition for any carpenter or wood worker. They clamp to the work piece to prevent it from slipping. They can also hold the jig to the work table so it is more stable.
Speed Controls – Wood routers have on/off switches and some will have what is called a variable speed trigger. If you need to use both hands to work on a piece, having a footswitch that can turn the router on and off makes two-handed work a breeze.
Electronic Feedback Circuitry – EFC means that the router’s circuitry monitors how much stress is placed on the motor and will adjust the torque to match it. What this does is prevent overloading the motor and keeps the routing consistent.
Soft Start – This feature prevents gouging when the router is turned on. Instead of power surging to full speed the second you turn it on, you’ll have a moment of pause after starting, then the router starts to accelerate to the preset speed. Soft start is beginning to be a standard feature on new router models. It’s a great feature for newbies who are not used to the sudden noise and movement and prevents jerking that can occur when the router just blasts on.
Spindle Lock – There are many styles of routers that have two wrenches needed to make bit changes. The benefit of a spindle lock is the ease with which it allows bit changes. It’s not a feature that is a necessity, but it does make things go much easier.
Ergonomic Handles – Comfort during use is important, especially if you have many jobs needing done that take a lot of time. Some routers have two handles. If the handles are covered in a rubberized material it can make it much more comfortable to work with.
Dust Control – A lot of dust can be generated when using a router. Getting a router with a vacuum port can help you keep your work area clear and can also decrease the chances of creating any breathing-related issues. This is becoming a very popular feature on new router styles..
Collet Size – The sleeve that holds your router bit in the router is called a collet. This works along with the router shaft which is connected to the motor and the collet nut. Collet sizes typically run in ¼” and ½”. There are four different styles of collets:
- Split Shaft
- Split Shaft with Sleeve Adapters
- Tapered Shaft with Single Slit
- Tapered Shaft with Multi-Slit
Collet Maintenance – Any tool that has metal to metal contact or that is subjected to dust and pitch (sap) will have a tendency to wear over time and require maintenance. Any collet that becomes worn, scratched, or out of round, will not give the router bit proper hold and can increase vibration and run-out. (Wobble) To get the most out of your collet be sure that you never tighten it without the router bit in place. Tightening it without a bit in place can deform the collet which will, in turn, cause improper fit of the router bit. In addition, pitch and dust can build up and clog the collet and can also decrease the recess of the shaft. The inside of the collet nut can be affected too. It’s easy to fix this; just clean the collet regularly to ensure a tight fit on the router bit.
Cleaning can be done by using a soft rag and something like Naphtha. Be sure to use a small brush with brass or nylon bristles to get into the tight crevices. Bristles made of these materials will clean the collet without damaging any of its surfaces. If you get burns or nicks on the collet you can use steel wool or a synthetic scouring pad like you use to wash dishes. Don’t ever use sandpaper. Any damaged surfaces can be smoothed out with a bronze cleaning brush.
Templates – There are many templates you can purchase to go with your router, templates that allow you to easily make many intricate designs. Just attach the template and follow it with the router.
Common Types of Wood Routers/Bases
- Fixed Base – These are much more compact and easier to maneuver than other models. Recommended for general, all-purpose routing, edge shaping, and for using with a router table. They usually weigh about 7-11 pounds and have 1 ½ to 3 ½ hp and 8 to 15 amps.
- Interchangeable Bases – Typically more economical and easier to move around. Great for users who want multiple bases and handle styles as well as users who want to be able to upgrade if their needs and tasks change. Interchangeable base routers weigh about 7-11 pounds and have 1 ½ to 3 ½ hp and 8 to 15 amps
- Trim Router – This router is perfect for tasks that require less capacity and power. They are great for trimming and beveling laminates. Great for crafters and hobbyists as well for those who do detail work. Trim routers are great for making one-handed cuts that are precise and accurate.
- Plunge Base – Plunge base routers are recommended for wood workers who frequently make through cuts, stopped dadoes, deep grooves and mortises, do a lot of template or pattern work, or who make signs or do engraving. They are easier to use for making interior cuts and typically weigh about 7-11 pounds.
- Rotary Tool – Weighing between 1-4 pounds, this little gem is great for small routing tasks, fine detail work, crafters, hobbyists, and for users who have very light tool needs. These rotary tools are extremely compact, maneuverable and versatile. They are good for all kinds of applications and great to have in addition to a router.
When it comes to buying a router, you’ll probably find that actually buying the product is somewhat easier than learning to use it. Furniture Craftsmen and remodelers love their routers and spend a lot of money on getting one of great quality for their shops. By learning all of the information contained in this guide you will have a great education on what makes up a good quality router and how to match the one you buy to the jobs you need to do. When you purchase one that matches your needs you will find it becomes one of your favorite tools. The right router, once you learn how to use it, can help even a novice create intricate designs and quality pieces without much effort. It does take practice to master the techniques, but with the vast array of templates available, wood workers can learn many different styles and create pieces they will be proud to show off.