A router is considered to be one of the most critical parts of any woodshop nowadays. You will probably be going to need a router no matter what project you are currently working on, for at least one operation. Whether you’re making raised-panel doors or just applying a simple half round-over to a tabletop, having the best router tool available will help you a lot.
There are a lot of router tools across the market, and you might find it hard to choose the one that will fit your needs. This article will help you with buying the right product for you. Let’s take a look at how you’ll decide what product is a good pick for your needs.
Down below are listed the main things you should consider when buying a router tool.
Usually, most router tools have multi-speed or variable-speed adjustments equipped. However, you will often find some models with a single-speed operation. You need the ability to adjust the speed range based on the wood species that you’re working on, type of the operation you are working on, and the bit diameter. All of this will increase your work quality and make your work environment a lot safer.
Router tools, as almost any other tool, are available in different configurations.
This type of router will definitely serve you well with its impressive performance and compact size. They are ideal for decorative inlays, windows cutouts, slot cutting, edge forming, small-scale dovetailing, hinge mortising, and trimming. Considering that this category of routers is limited to 1/4” shank router bits, they will never be a good option for any big operation.
These models are probably the most popular too, thanks to their ease of operation and fantastic versatility. They can easily handle almost any operation, including everything a palm router can do plus circle cutting, template design work, panel cutting, and large-scale dovetailing. These routers will accept 1/2” and 1/4” shank bits, and you will usually find them with multiple bases. An excellent mid-sized model will probably be the best router for woodworking that you can find.
Routers from this category are considered the workhorses of the family. They are usually designed only for production use. They are usually dedicated to CNC operations or to a router table. They are huge and massive in size, and that’s the reason why you probably won’t be buying a router from this category.
The base style is as much as important as the motor size that goes with the base. There are a couple of styles available, and you should select the one that will fit the best your operations and projects you plan to work on.
The fixed base is considered a standard. Models from this category are fixed with knobs or handles on opposite sides of the base for guiding and holding the router. These models can only be used to edge routing applications, but they can usually be mounted to a router table too. A model with a fixed base is also perfect for operations like box joint jigs and dovetail. A router model with a fixed base usually has ring-style settings adjustment incorporated.
A router tool with a plunge base is very versatile. It can be used for everything that already mentioned, fixed base, can be used for, plus all kinds of operations that require plunging into the wood. Routers with a base like this one are ideal for mortising operations, dado cuts, fluting, and blind grooves. The mechanics are elementary. The motor is moving up and down on columns that are spring loaded. A base like this one is usually equipped with adjustable settings that you can tune the way you prefer to use it.
This base is very similar to the standard base. The only difference is that two knobs used on a standard one are replaced with a D-shaped handle. This handle provides locking on/off trigger power switch and pistol-grip control.
If you are looking for a product that is able to utilize more than one base, there’s also something for you. Usually, manufacturers will release a special package called a Combination Kit. These kits incorporate a plunge and a fixed base in one prepackaged kit. This will save you a lot of money since you will be paying for two routers at a price much lower than you would if you would pay for two separate tools.
The compatibility of aftermarket accessories is yet another thing that you should definitely pay attention to as you are reviewing your options. Usually, manufacturers are offering just some essential accessories such as universal subbases, dust collection attachments, router bushings, and edge guides. However, you are also able to find routers with more advanced accessories like template guides, router plates, and router lifts. If you are interested in these accessories, you will have to take a close look at a specific model since these accessories are model/brand specific.
Soft start is something that every router tool should have. Without it, the tool will start working at full speed the moment you turn it on. The noise it makes will not be pleasant, and the power of the tool will make the router go up and down in your hands. A soft start feature will slowly accelerate the speed of the router tool once you turn it on. Definitely, one of the essential features you should look for when you’re buying a router tool.
Rockwell Bladerunner X2
This product is the brand new model by Rockwell. Some could say that it represents the best cutting machine thanks to everything it offers. This version is updated and now has better control and capacity than the first version in its original form. Some of the reasons why this version is much better than the original model are the addition of a more substantial rip fence for better control, a splitter able to work with more extensive materials, a hold-down guard, and a new tabletop handle designed for portability. The saw is very convenient and versatile, allowing you to set it up in just a few moments and make it ready to cut aluminum, metal, plastic, ceramic tile, and of course, wood.
This model has a standard saw, however, with blades you can change without any tools. Your hands are completely free of the material being cut while you’re using this product. This means that you won’t have to hold the material with one and the router with the other hand. You will enjoy an unlimited capacity for rip and crosscuts thanks to the traditional splitter and guard system if you decide to buy this model. This router tool is incredibly compact and lightweight, making it very easy to carry the tool anywhere you want to. The carry handle incorporated is making this even more accessible. The included accessories are cutting blades for metal, aluminum, wood, tile, and a blade for general purpose. Some of the other accessories are a rip fence and a miter gauge.
• One of the best on the market
• Trustable manufacturer
• A bit heavy
• Some users find it inconvenient
This is one of the most compact router tools that you can get at the moment. It has almost everything you need – a very compact size, excellent precision, versatility, and performance. It has about one horsepower, and the manufacturer decided to go with the plunge base for this tool. This router is made merely for a massive spectrum of precision routing applications. A motor with this much horsepower will offer you an ability to adjust the speed at any given moment so that it matches the application you are working on. You can change the speed from 10,000 to 30,000 RPM. Some of the additional features are the above mentioned soft start feature, and the electronic speed control that will allow you to maintain a constant speed. The router itself is insulated heavily with an aluminum housing that will make sure your tool is always very durable.
This specific model by Makita is made specifically for precision. The router includes a unique deep adjustment system as well as user-friendly depth scales allowing you to set the router up with much better precision. This router tool has a unique lock system that’s made for easy base removal and depth adjustments. A uniquely designed base is further improving performance and handling.
Some of the bonus features that this router offers are its lightweight, ergonomic design, and a flat top design that’s adding convenience while you’re changing bits. You are able to remove the base and install a different one quickly.
• Very compact
• You may not like its unique design
This router tool is designed with the intention to teach beginners how to use a CNC machine. This is maybe even the best router for woodworking for beginners. If you want a machine for your woodworking hobby, this product will definitely help you in making exquisite patterns and curved words. If you are a CNC learning student, this product is going to help you a lot to engrave models that you’re designing and coding. This router is able to cut a vast range of materials like PCBs, PVCs, acrylics, woods, plastics, and soft aluminum and others. The depth of useful engraving is about 1.8 inches. Soon after you buy this machine, you will find out how natural this product is to use and how much it can help you to try different DIY ideas. You won’t be taking almost any risk of damaging your expensive equipment.
The frame size of the product is 17.3 x 14.5 x 11.4” which is definitely enough for a beginner woodworker. The frame is made from aluminum, as well as the axis bracket. The Genmitsu series has the maximum power of 120W. The machine itself is capable of using Grbl control software making cutting even more comfortable and more fun. Supported operative systems are Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows XP. Users review this router tool as very useful and easy to use. Some say that it took them only about two hours to assemble it without even reading the instruction manual. Some users report that their antivirus on the PC is telling them that the software that comes with the machine is getting reported as harmful for some reason.
• Great for beginners
• Suitable for a lot of materials
• You have to assemble it
• Harmful software reported
As with all other Tacklife products, aim with this one is to deliver to the consumer a fantastic product that will make the user’s life much more secure and convenient. All of the products are very professional, and the manufacturer is trustable with a team focusing on every single detail that allows the users to enjoy exquisite, portable, and well-made products. This router tool by Tacklife is suitable for all kinds of woodworking such as crafting, woodworking slotting, edge finishing, furniture processing, door processing and other. An interesting thing about this product is the dust collection port feature, which you can use to connect it to a dust bag or a vacuum cleaner. This will allow you to enjoy a much comfortable and cleaner working environment in just a few moments of setting up and cleaning. Tacklife’s motor is about 600W in power and is able to deliver enough energy even for the most robust applications. This is why this product is fantastic for almost any DIY project. You won’t have problems with wires and cords too thanks to the 3M power cord that comes with the router tool that will make your working environment even more convenient and flexible.
The handle is covered with very soft rubber handles which are making the body of the tool even more balanced and your working hours will be more comfortable. There’s an auxiliary handle included with the product too. Your user experience is only further increased thanks to this. The body structure is making the traditional structure a lot more flexible and innovative.
• Very professional looking
• Not for you if you like the traditional structure
• Not very powerful for factories
Bosch 12 Amp
There aren’t a lot of things about Bosch that you probably already don’t know. It’s a fact that the manufacturer is trustable and with a long history of making incredible products. This router tool isn’t an exemption either. It has a soft start feature, variable speed dial, and it can maintain a constant speed under load. Both of the bases have a quick clamp system, and the router includes a fixed base with an adjusting system located a bit higher than a router table. Precision centering is another great feature that this router tool offers; its job is to make it a lot easier to keep on the cutline when you’re using templates, jigs, dovetail fixtures or any other guidance device. The fixed base that this product has is mountable to the 4-hole pattern router table by Bosch as well as any other 3-hole pattern. Both bases have depth adjustment systems, bit, wide base openings, microfine, and two inches sub-base openings.
This router tool is among the most powerful out there at the moment with 8,000-25,000 RPM and 2.25 horsepower. The integrated speed-control technology of this router is there to maintain and monitor the desired RPM for the best performance. The router is allowing you to set up the optimal speed every time before you start working on your material or task. Handles are made of hardwood, and they further maximize the control that the user has. The base of the motor is made from extremely durable materials, and you will never have problems with getting damages on this router tool.
• Adjustable speed
• Trustable manufacturer
• Depth adjustment system
• You may not like hardwood handles
• Some users don’t like the clamp system
This model is the upgraded version of the 3018 version. It offers a lot of new features than the previous series. The control software for this product is GRBL which is fantastic and will allow you to enjoy the process of woodworking much more. The working area of the product is 30x18x4.5cm which is enough even for beginners. Supported operating systems for the software is Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows XP. There are two main advantages to this controller. The first one is that it is offline; you don’t have to connect it to a computer ever. The second one is that you don’t have to download files, saving you a ton of time and energy. All you have to do is to adjust the X, Y, and Z location as your starting point for engraving, then manually close or open spindle, and manually close or open cooling fan. You can also download the manual for the software in English very merely from the manufacturer’s website. You can also contact the manufacturer if you have any other problems.
This product is capable of engraving in wood, PCB, PVC, acrylic, plastic, or any other wood-like material. The machine can’t engrave jade, hard metal, or any other hard material. Core components and some of the others are usually hand assembled and easily disassembled. All you need are the installation instructions. Overall a very lightweight, small sized portable machine with a plastic body perfect for any beginner or a professional.
• Great software
• Adjustable systems
• Suitable for a lot of materials
• You may not like its size
• Manual needs to be downloaded
Master Works 6.5 Amp
Yet another excellent router tool on this list for numerous reasons. This product has an incredible 1.25 max horsepower and 6.5-Amp motor. It is capable of delivering abundant power for a variety of trimming and routing applications. The speed is variable, and you can control it and change the settings. Usually, you will use about 10,000 to 32,000 RPM. This allows you to choose the right speed for any kind of material you’re using. There’s also an adjustment system that makes sure your operation is done very precisely no matter what woodworking or cabinetry application you’re working on. There are two LED lights incorporated that will help you in dark working areas.
Handles are covered in very soft rubbers that make your grips a lot more comfortable. You are also able to enjoy an easier carbon brush replacement thanks to the outer brush cap. The manufacturer added a quick locking system that makes base changes and depth adjustments a lot more convenient. The base and the body are very durable thanks to their aluminum nature. Your working surface will be protected no matter what operation you’re working on thanks to the rubber-covered case. There’s also a dust hood included that will help you with cleaning your workspace. This model has everything you can ask from a router tool.
• Potent motor
• Adjustable speed
• Soft handles
• You may not like its looks
• A bit heavy
Kreg PRS 1045
This is a very solidly built piece of a router tool. Some people find it a bit expensive, but they report that that’s only due to the fact they wouldn’t use it that much. However, everyone report that this machine is doing the job correctly. You will instantly see the results once this router is out of the box. The machine is exact, quick, and user-friendly. All of this combined is making it wonderful and portable. Even if you’re not an expert, you will find a great way to use this machine. For example, making tables will become a lot easier and enjoyable. Once you’re done with your first project you can start working on another one, and trust me, you will do that thanks to the convenience of this router tool. There are a lot of parts that you need to put together when you’re assembling this machine, but you will enjoy it since they all fit perfectly.
• Some users find it expensive
• You may not like the looks
All in all, it is definitely up to you to decide what router tool is the best choice for you. If you still can’t decide which one from this list would be the best option for you, go back to the start of this article and reread the buying guide. Hopefully, you will then be able to decide and get your new woodworking friend. Start working on new projects and applications as soon as you get them out of the box and enjoy your time!