Wood routers are a very essential tool for every woodworker, this is why every woodworker needs this article to select the best wood router to make work easier for them. This piece of advanced tool is useful for making a whole lot of complicated cuts including decorative and non-decorative wood and plastic pieces.
Wood routers come in different shapes and sizes and with different functionality hence we’ve made this guide to help you choose the best woodworking router available on the market today
Let’s start with the important features to look out for in a woodworking router
What to Look for in a Wood Router
- Speed: Some routers offer only a single-speed operation but you want to go for something more versatile that offers multi-speed adjustments so that you can work with different species and diameter of wood without problems.
- Weight: Aim for a router that is not too heavy to handle, but still offers enough weight to keep the router stable during use.
- Soft-start Feature: Soft-start feature allows the router to gradually elevate to a desired speed instead of immediately ramping up to a set speed when turned on.
This is a good feature to look out for as it generally makes your router safer and less likely to jerk out of your hands when you power it up.
- Power: Go for an electric router with 1500 watts or above as routers with wattages less than that may not accept large router bits that have a 1/2″ inch shank.
- Motor Size Configuration: When it comes to motor size, there are three different router classifications:
- Palm Routers (1 HP): These types of routers utilize ¼” inch shank bits and run on a 1 horsepowe engine.
They are mostly for trimming, slot cutting, hinge mortising, edge forming, window cutouts, decorative inlays, and small-scale dovetailing.
Palm routers are compact-sized but still offer impressive performance however; they cannot be used for large routing projects.
- Mid-size Routers (1-3/4 HP – 2-1/4 HP): These types of routers are more versatile than palm routers because they can accept 1/4 ” and 1/2 ” inch shanks. Their engines range from 1-3/4 Horse Power to 2-1/4 Horse Power, and they are available in multiple bases.
Due to their versatility, mid-size routers can handle any projects palm routers can handle, along with more advanced operations like panel cutting, large-scale dovetailing, circular cutting, and template design.
- Full-size Routers (3 HP – 3-1/4 HP): These are the strongest and the most versatile routers you can ever get, running on 3 Horse Power to 3-1/4 Horse Power engines.
However, they are mostly for professional or industrial operations as they are a bit more complicated to work with compared to other types of routers.
- Base Styles: Another thing to look out for is the base style of the router which is just as important as the motor size configuration. There are three major base styles including:
- Fixed base Style: The fixed base style router usually comes with two knobs, one on each opposite end of the router to make holding and guiding it easy during operation.
They can be mounted on a table but are limited to edge routing operations or operations that require guide bushings such as dovetails and box joint jigs.
Fixed-base routers also have quick-setting ring-style depth adjustments.
- Plunge Base Style: Plunge-base style routers offer more versatility than fixed-base routers.
They can typically handle any project the fixed-base style router can handle, and are the most common types of routers on the market.
They offer multiple depth stop to be plugged into the wood away from an edge.
Plunge base routers are ideal for operations that require the best settings with micro adjustments that you can fine-tune to your own specifications.
This type of router is best for dado cuts, blind grooves, fluffing, and mortising operations.
- D-Handle Base Style: They come with a D-shaped handle that provides pistol-like grip control, and an on/off trigger power switch.
- After Market Accessories: How readily available are the accessories you need for the router? Especially the advanced accessories like template builder, router plate, and router lifts?
To guarantee access to all the accessories that you need which may not be included by the manufacturer sometimes, it’s smarter to go with a well-known router brand.
Some manufacturers offer combination-style bases with kits that can be used to change from fixed-base to plunge-base routers.
It’s better to buy these types of routers because it’s almost like buying two routers for the price of one, and you get a router that can handle most small to mid-size projects and some large-scale projects too.
Now, let’s talk about wood routers that offer you the best value for your money- routers that offer the most functionality for their price and are proven to be of good quality.
The Best Wood Router for the Money in 2020
Budget Pick – Porter Cable 690LR
If you are looking for big and a level router to learn routing, the Porter Cable 690LR will give you everything you need to get started.
This is a low cost product so; you shouldn’t expect high end features on it. This is just a single-speed router that you can buy for a round since the RPM is limited and the size of the bits you can use is also limited.
It delivers an RPM of 27,500 and at this RPM range; it is not wise to go for bits beyond 1” inch.
However, this machine gives an accuracy of up to 1/128 bevel inch which is twice as more precise than the Dewalt router brands.
This router is a fixed-base style router model but you can use it with a plunge base that you can buy separately.
But if you are going to work only from a router table, you don’t need a plunge base anyway.
Other notable features include collets to accept 1/4″ and 1/2″ shank bits, under table stop to prevent the motor from inadvertently rotating out of base, overmolded grips for greater comfort in extended use, Cam lock lever to enable simple coarse height adjustments and motor release, and an Auto-release collet system that allows for easy bit removal after use.
What makes this model even more attractive is the 3 year warranty.
Who Should Pick This Router? This is our budget pick. This wood router is best for beginners and woodworkers on a budget.
Best Buy – DEWALT Router, Fixed/Plunge Base Kit, Variable Speed, Soft Start, 2-1/4-HP (DW618PKB)
Unlike our budget pick, the Dewalt DW618PK can go head to head against any wood router on this list.
If an accuracy of 1/64 “is enough for you, you should buy this model. It is a variable speed router with full feedback control for constant speed under load from 8,000-24,000 rpm.
Let’s look into the performance characteristics of the Dewalt DW618PKB.
You can use bits of every size on this machine. This model comes with a collect diameter of ½ “ and ¼“ which is the most common diameter for bits thus, you will never have problems finding the right bits for the job since the machine operates at low RPM ranges as well as high RPM ranges.
Its Micro-fine depth adjustment ring provides precise depth adjustments in 1/64″ increments and adjusts vertically for a constant switch/cordset location, and it features an impressive dust collection system that collects 95% of the dust and provides superior bit visibility during use.
There’s also an adjustable, tool-free steel motor cam lock makes depth adjustment and base changes quick and provides solid-locking function.
The best part is that the Dewalt DW618PK comes with a Fixed/Plunge Base Kit that you can use to switch between base styles, and it also comes with 3-year warranty and 1 year free service along with a 90 day money-back guaranty.
Who Should Pick This Router? This wood router is best for learners, professionals and woodworkers who want a versatile wood router that can handle most routing jobs.
Pro/Industrial Pick – Bosch MRC23EVSK Combination Router
Now, this is where things get serious. The Bosch MRC23EVSK is a heavy-duty router. It has a motor that produces 25% more power than the Dewalt DW618PKB, with a 15 Amp variable speed motor, 2. 3 Horsepower and a variable speed range between 10, 000 and 25, 000 RPM that lets you power through tough routing tasks with ease.
The benefits of this performance upgrade don’t become evident at low RPM ranges but at high RPM ranges.
It comes with as a Combination Plunge & Fixed-Base Router with Hard Case, and threaded holes to make the fixed base Router table-mountable.
Both routers feature fast, 2.3 HP, soft star motors with variable speed dials that let you set the speed you need for the job.
There’s also a trigger control system located in handle for enhanced control.
If your routing operations are limited to less than 1”, the Bosch MRC23EVSK can help you route any type of wood but this model is more useful to someone who is routing on a semi-pro to pro level or people who follow a production level schedule.
Who Should Pick This Router? This is a heavy duty router that is not suitable for beginners or for home use. The BOSCH MRC23EVSK is best for professionals or semi-professionals.
Best Router for the Money– DEWALT Router Fixed/Plunge Base Kit, Variable Speed, 1.25-HP Max Torque
If you are looking for an economical solution, the Dewalt DWP611PK is the wood router you must go for. It is the best wood router for the money.
It is about 20% cheaper than our top pick however, the reduction comes with the price of performance.
The Dewalt DWP611PK also comes with a fixed base and plunge base. The fixed base lets you cut up to 1.5” deep, and the plunge base lets you cut up to 2” deep.
It also comes with a fine adjustment mechanism that lets you set the depths and increments to 1/64”, and variable speed control feature that enables bit speed to be optimized for changing applications.
It features a No Load Speed range of 16,000-27,000rpm, soft-starting motor with full-time electronic feedback that maintains motor speed through the cut, durable 1.25 horsepower motor delivers the power to meet the toughest applications, and Dual LED lights with clear sub-base that ensures maximum visibility in operation.
Dewalt offers 3 year warranty on this machine but that’s not all, you get a 90-day money back guarantee and free servicing for 1 year.
Who Should Pick This Router?: Best for all levels of woodworkers as it can handle most projects.
Top Pick– Bosch 1617EVSPK-RT 12 Amp 2-1/4 HP Plunge and Fixed Base Variable Speed Router
The Bosch 1617 EVSPEK is the best wood router on the market. It features electronic variable speed plunge and fixed base router kit; soft start, micro-fine depth adjustments, and 2-1/4-horsepower router combination kit; variables speeds of 8,000 to 25,000 rpm.
Using the 6 position dial, you can select the right RPM for the material you’re routing. The micro-meter style fine-adjustment mechanism lets you set to depth in increments of 1/256 bevel inch. No other product in this price range can match this level of precision.
This machine accepts bits of ¼”, 3/8”, ½ “, and 8 millimeters.
If you like to route with exotic sizes, this is the router for you but the product has an important downside. The warranty on the product is only for one year. Other products in our list have very attractive warranty policies.
Overall, the Bosch 1617 EVSPEK rates higher on performance and price so, it’s not surprising why this is our top pick.
Now that you understand the nature of performance compromises, you can decide whether you want to go for our budget pick, top pick, or simply go for the best router for the money.
For more information on price, click the link at the top of each product review.