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Monday, September 30, 2019

The Four Best Routers (The Woodworking Tool, Not the Internet Device)

A Bosch 1617EVS with bit inserted, laying on a cherry plank.
Josh Hendrickson

One of the best tools you can add to your workshop is a router. No not the thing that makes your internet go, the rotary tool that cuts and shapes wood. Here are the four best routers you can own.

What to Look for in a Router

Routers are incredibly versatile tools that woodworkers use for many purposes. If you need to glue two pieces of wood together to make a larger piece of wood, you can flatten the edges first with a router to make them align better. Routers can round over sharp edges for a better feel on a table or other furniture. You can carve slotted holes (known as mortises) into your piece to make a chair, or complete a door. And the list goes on.

Because of those various uses, routers come in two primary types—fixed base and plunge. And you’ll want to pay attention to which you’re buying, as they have different strengths and weaknesses. Beyond the type of routers, you also want to pay attention to collet size, variable speed offerings, and power (typically measured in horsepower).

Fixed Base Routers

A Bosch fixed based router with turning dial visible.
Bosch

Of the two types, a router with a fixed base is the more precise cutting instrument. Before you begin cutting, you raise and lower the cutting bit to your desired depth using a turning knob. This turning knob and “locked depth” nature makes for exact measurements and cuts.

Once you’ve found your desired depth level, the cutting bit will not move until you turn the knob again. This makes long even cuts very easy. But you’ll always start at an edge of a piece of wood and move in. Fixed based routers are not the best choice for cutting holes or mortises.  That’s because the cutting bit stays in a fixed position and you can’t easily lower it into your wood piece straight down.

Plunge Routers

A Bosch plunge router with stop bar showing.
Bosch

Plunge routers differ from Fixed base routers in that you can adjust the depth of your cutting bit easily, even as you are cutting through a workpiece.

Before you start, you set a maximum depth level your router can move to, using a built-in stop bar. Then you position your router’s cutting bit at a starting level. As you are working, you can lower the cutting bit easily, until the stop bar hits the router plate.

Plunge routers are great for cutting holes in the middle of a workpiece, and for when you need to take off a lot of material. Trying to remove a deep layer of wood all at once doesn’t work well so with a plunge router you can take off small layers quickly until you’ve removed the total amount you need. However, they are not as precise as a Fixed Base router.

For most new woodworkers, a Fixed Based router is a good starting place because of its precision. A plunge router’s strengths focus on advanced skills like mortise cutting. Many routers come as combo kits and can convert from fixed base to plunge and back.

Collet Size

A plunge router with two wrenches adjusting the collet.
Bosch

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