Seasoned DIYers and hobbyists know the difference that a wood router can make on the quality of the finished product. From simple roundovers to fancy ogee edges, the best wood router kicks up the results a notch.
When choosing the best wood router for a project, consider some important characteristics of the various models. Most wood routers have adjustable speeds, but be sure the RPM range works for your needs. Some DIY craftspeople might need a fixed-base router to create a smooth edge, while another may prefer a plunge-base model that can carve fluting and a mortise into the workpiece.
The quality of the tool matters most, but just looking at the outside of a fancy box doesn’t reveal much. This guide will help you decide on the best wood router for your needs by describing a top-of-the-line product in several different categories.
Types of Wood Routers
When it comes to wood routers, there are different features that may make one stand out from another, and some even straddle two categories, but for the most part, there are three types of routers up for consideration:
- Plunge routers: Unlike a fixed base router, plunge routers can be adjusted, therefore they can lift and lower at a variety of depths when cutting. These tend to be the most versatile as some models can be attached and used as a fixed base router, too.
- Fixed base routers: This type of router is great for edge work and is often considered more precise and easier to control than plunge routers. That being said, because their depth is fixed, they aren’t as flexible as plunge routers, but they can be affixed to a table or modified with an adapter.
- CNC routers: Save for the occasional home-constructed model, computer numerical control (CNC) routers are most often found in factories. This type of router uses programming languages to dictate how and where the tool moves and functions.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Wood Router
Beyond the different styles of routers, keep in mind some additional considerations. Keep reading to find a list of some specs, abilities, and features to keep an eye out for when shopping for the best wood router for your needs. Some of these points might matter more than others, so weigh their importance when choosing a router.
In a router, the amount of horsepower the tool has helps determine how well it handles large router bits and dense materials. While users can make multiple passes to work their way across an edge with any router, using one that can do it all at once helps save time. This is especially important when using a plunge router: Plunging a bit into the field of a board creates more friction and resistance than just dragging it across the edge.
Most of the best wood routers have horsepower ratings between 1.25 and 1.75, while some truly hot-rod versions have more than 2 horsepower. In most cases, the lower range works quite well, but 2-horsepower routers make short work of dense materials.
One of the challenging aspects of creating perfect edge profiles is choosing the correct speed to get the job done quickly without burning the wood. No magic speed exists, as boards (even among boards of the same species) differ in density. It comes down to experience and the right touch.
The good news is that most routers have adjustable speeds that can be tweaked until you find just the right speed. They often have small dials to help select their speed. For a workable range, look for a router with speeds between 9,000 and 20,000 RPMs.
Note that some routers have speed sensors that monitor how quickly a bit is spinning and adjusts it accordingly to maintain the ideal speed. For example, if using a router at 10,000 RPMs, but you come across a particularly dense section of wood, the router can slow down and cause inconsistent results. With these speed sensors, the router boosts its power output to compensate for the increase in density, keeping the bit running at the prescribed speed.
Routers are powerful tools, and users need a safe grip on them to ensure proper control. Also, a comfortable grip helps users keep a consistent contact with the router, which helps ensure safe handling.
Fixed-base routers and plunge routers often have two handles to provide better control. They can be rubberized or made from wood, depending on the manufacturer. Some models even have handle-mounted switches, making them extremely easy to use.
Palm routers fit in the hand, so the body essentially becomes the handle. Most have rubberized moldings and contours meant for comfortable use. It’s important to find a model with these features to ensure your hand stays comfortable and you can maintain a good grip.
Dust Collection Port
Routers make a lot of dust. The high-speed cutting process removes tiny bits of wood and sends them flying through the air, creating a mess by the end of a long project. To avoid a lengthy cleanup, look for a router with a dust collection port that attaches to a shop vac or dust collection system.
Some router brands’ dust collection ports work better than others; higher-end models usually work best. These brands are popular among pros who work in custom woodworking shops where effective dust collection is a must.
Also consider the size of the bit that the router can handle. The two common sizes are ¼ inch and ½ inch.
Again, choosing the router with the best collet size has a lot to do with its intended use. The smaller (¼ inch) collet works well for light-duty jobs like edge profiling and milling hinge mortises in doors. However, it might not work as well for heavy-duty work.
For heavier-duty jobs like timber framing or working with dense hardwoods, a ½-inch collet is more suitable. These bits are sturdier, and the increased surface area ensures they don’t slip.
Our Top Picks
Before spending money on the wrong router, consult a list of top picks. This guide will point you in the right direction when choosing the best wood router for your projects and budget.
The Makita Compact Router Kit has a powerful motor and a smooth touch. With a blade speed of 10,000 to 30,000 RPM, the tool can cut and shape wood in many settings, and the locking control mechanism will not change speed during the cut. The precision depth adjustment system allows for the user to set the depth quickly and more important, accurately. The tool itself is durable and easy to handle.
The slow-start component is one of the nicest features of the Makita kit. It’s a useful feature for newer router users, but also nice for more advanced users who know the chance of a tear-out at the start. One drawback to this tool comes to light after prolonged use. When used for longer periods, the user will notice some vibration, which can cause slip-ups.
One of the best wood routers for the money is the Enertwist Compact Wood Router, a smaller unit that provides a constant running speed of 10,000 to 32,000 RPM. This helps the router make precise and clean cuts, giving your project a professional look. For the price and size, this is a great buy for the casual woodworker and domestic projects.
There are both positive and negative aspects of the smaller size of the Enertwist Compact Wood Router. The positive is that it is easy to store and transport. The negative aspect is less power, which can limit project size.
The DeWalt Wood Router is a solid router set at a premium price. This router operates on a 1.25-horsepower motor and can run anywhere from 16,000 to 27,000 RPM with ease. This router can tear through woodworking projects that are both large and small due to its ability to set and control speed.
Another major plus for this tool is the fact that it has two LED lights and a clear base to help the operator see exactly what they are doing and where they are cutting. The DeWalt Wood Router has a compact design which is easy to use and very portable. One drawback to this machine is that it can sometimes run hot when used heavily. This happens with overuse, especially at higher RPM.
The PORTER-CABLE Wood Router is one of the more powerful models on this list, and designed and typically used for larger projects. It has an 11-amp motor and can spin 27,500 RPM, which means it can tear through any kind of wood like it was melted butter. Aside from the high-end motor, the PORTER-CABLE Wood Router is great for large projects or extended use because the dust-containment system keeps the motor from getting overheated.
Aside from good power, it also can be set to a precise depth, making for intricate cutting at a high speeds. One drawback is that like with many high-powered machines, the motor can vibrate pretty aggressively.
BOSCH 1617EVSPK is a fixed base router kit that has a product of 2.25HP plunge which features a 25,000RPM that gives power when needed for smooth routing. This Bosch machinery is for woodworkers who are on a budget but needs everything a wood router does with the added benefit of finding a single router motor with a plunge as well as a fixed-based combined together in one kit.
This product protrudes a versatile kit board of application, that involves slot cutting, dovetail cutting, and more. It also has an in-built constant response circuitry. Both the plunge and fixed bases have a quick clamp feature which helps the motor move between bases without having to rely on tools.
Weighing about 13 pounds, this Triton TRA001 plunge router is made to be very durable and heavy for better longevity. It is made up of totally high-grade steel which is very sturdy allowing its users to handle heavy-duty applications. It has a very powerful 3.5 HP motor which is capable of delivering speeds from about 8,000 RPM to 21,000 RPM.
With this plunge router, professionalism is guaranteed because it comes with multi-functional Fence’s which allows its users to have more accurate and precise cuts. The Triton TRA001 features an automatic spindle lock, a single button switch and a micro winder.
Being designed to increase control and reduce fatigue amongst its users, the Festool 574692 plunge router is said to be the best overall router. This device is a one-handed operation because of the integrated switches found on the device. It also features a dust extraction mechanism that clears and protects the tools from dust and debris which can affect them later.
This router can be used with edge forming bits and maximizing chips and it is also designed to be used with the MFS multi-routing templates. It also has a precision depth adjustment and they are Versatel for all kinds of woodworking jobs.
Bosch is a highly trusted company because of its noteworthy power tools. Compactness is one of the most dominant features in the first look of the tool. It means it can be easily moved around, feels less heavy to hand, and is comfortable to hold.
The plunge base of BOSCH PR20EVSK is classified as the best of all time with matchless precision. It is not the lightest router to exist but not heavy to handle as well. Bits can be replaced in seconds through a spindle lock attached at the base. With an aluminum built body, it is highly sure that it is long-lasting.
Unlike other routers, it doesn’t have handles. Instead, it has grip spaces for fingers and can be used single-handedly. Apart from providing a solid grasp, the grips also block the vibrations reaching in the arm. Therefore, it can be continuously used for long hours.
On purchase, you are guaranteed a warranty of one year, which makes it super desirable for buying. This model has a 1HP motor best suited for its size. It is a perfect fit for neat trimming and clean cutting tasks.
Well known for its performance and quality, MAKITA RP1800 is a trusted product of thousands of professional users. It is installed with the new technology of shaft lock, which makes a bit changing even more steady and rapid.
Upon purchasing the product, you are provided with a warranty of one year and full assurance of money return upon delivering the product back within 30 days. Along with all the notable features, a chip deflector is mounted in the base to avoid waste from getting into eyes or blurring the vision.
Also, protecting the tool from dust is an inbuilt fan which is connected with the power. It works only when the tool is one, thus preventing any dust settling. It is a handheld tool and cannot be used as a router table like other routers.
Ryobi’s cordless trim router is part of its ONE+ range of products which can all be powered by the same type of Ryobi lithium ion battery (so you can use it on the Ryobi cordless planer or Ryobi cordless nail gun too) and made it to the best cordless routers page as well. So, this means if you already own a Ryobi product from this line, you can use that battery in this product. If not, you will have to buy one separately as there is no battery included with this power tool.
When you figure in the price of buying a Ryobi battery, it does push this wood router further up the price range, but it is a quality product, and their batteries are absolutely top drawer when it comes to charge time and power output.
It is this modern technology that will allow this portable wood router to reach spinning speeds of a stunning 29,000rpm. That is incredibly impressive for a cordless model.
Taking Care of the Router?
The wood router is one of the easiest tools to maintain in a woodworking workshop. All you need to do is to ensure that you:
- Follow all the instructions in the user manual
- Clean the router once you have completed your tasks
- Use your router for appropriate tasks
- Avoid overloading this tool
- Change all the blunt bits for maximum efficiency
- Make use of your warranty as long as it is still intact
Will I be able to sharpen a router bit?
You sure can. However, if you’ve let the bit get really dull it might need a regrinding and for that you’d probably want to ask a professional to do so. But you can keep it sharp and cutting well by cleaning the bit and running a file over it once in a while.
How can I tell what direction my bit is spinning?
The easiest way to tell this is to set your router down on its base as if you were going to use it. From this position, your bit will spin clockwise. Flip it upside down as it would be mounted in a router table and it now spins counter-clockwise.
Which direction should I operate the router then?
If you are using the router in your hands then you should be moving the router from the left of the stock to the right of the stock (as if you were facing it). When the router is mounted to a table, you would then feed from the right side of the table to the left as you’re facing it.
In this article, we have reviewed some of the very best wood routers for beginners and included some of the factors that you need to consider before buying your router. At this point, we want to believe that you have decided on the exact wood router for beginners that will serve your course.