Tool Talk #9: Routers

Well over half of the emails sent to me are on the subject of tools. I have no objections to responding to them but I thought it would be beneficial to start a video library of sorts to briefly touch on what I think of a particular tool or set of tools. These won’t be in depth tool reviews as I know very few people are interested in that kind of thing and I really don’t want to go over all the details. Instead I’ll just focus on the things I like about the tool, things I don’t like about the tool, and would I buy it again. I have a huge list of “episodes” that can be made and plan on releasing one per week. Hopefully this will be helpful to some people.

Woodworking Routers

I purchased the Bosch Colt, Dewalt DWP611, 2hp Drill master, and Bosch 1617EVSPK routers. The Milwaukee 5616-24 was given to me by Milwaukee. The thoughts and opinions here are my own and this article/video is not sponsored or endorsed by any company or individual and the above links are not affiliate links.

What I like:

  • My trim routers:
    • The Bosch Colt fits more comfortably in the hand because of it’s ergonomic design.
    • The Bosch Colt comes with an edge guide.
    • The DWP611 height adjustment is much more fluid and easier to use than the Colt
    • The DWP611 has better visibility of the but during use due to less material of the base being in the way.
    • Both the Colt and DWP611 have equal motor performance in my opinion.
  • My larger routers:
    • The Drill Master 2hp router from Harbor Freight is a good budget buy for use in a router table.
    • Both the Bosch 1617 and the Milwaukee 5616 have equal motor performance in my opinion.
    • The plunge base depth stop is more user friendly and easier to dial in on the Milwaukee. However, the Bosch plunge base depth stop works just fine.
    • The Milwaukee 5616 comes with a dust collection adapter.
    • The Milwaukee 5616 has an ergonomic palm grip on the fixed base.
    • Although none are included, the Bosch 1617 has more accessory options such as bushing guides and edge guides.
    • The Bosch edge guide is a nice accessory but, as I found out, a homemade version can be made with shop scraps.
    • Both the Bosch and Milwaukee fixed bases can be mounted to the bottom side of a router table and both include tools to adjust the height from above the router table.

What I don’t like:

  •  The Drill Master 2hp router from Harbor Freight had a top heavy fixed base if I recall correctly. And it doesn’t have a soft start which doesn’t make it a good long term choice in my opinion for hand held use.
  • The plunge base that came with my Bosch 1617 was either a lemon when I purchased it or wore out within 3 or 4 times using it. I’m hoping that it was just a lemon and somehow I accidentally ended up with it when I bought the kit from Lowes. If the other is true and I wore it out after only a couple projects than that’s just not something I can recommend. The right plunge shaft has no bushing at all. It just rides through a hole in the base housing. When using the guide bushings for the first time I noticed there was an unacceptable amount of play in the right shaft that caused the bit to wander inside the guide bushing by about 1/16″. By the time I noticed the problem I already had the router for over a year and could not return it to the store. I actually bought another one of the exact same kits and it had the same problem so I returned it. I also purchased a guide bushing kit that is compatible with the Bosch plunge base that I had but I apparently didn’t do enough research because I also had to buy the Bosch guide bushing adapter plate so that I could use the Bosch guide bushings with my Bosch plunge router. It seems like it would make sense to have the adapter come with the bushings.
  • I couldn’t find an edge guide for the Milwaukee router. At first I didn’t like this but in the end it gave me an opportunity to save some money and make my own edge guide from scraps in the shop.

What Router(s) would I buy to start over?

Because of my bad experience with the Bosch plunge base, it’s easy to end up spending a small fortune on Bosch accessories, and the fact that I like every part of the Milwaukee router more I wish I would have bought the Milwaukee before I ever thought about the Bosch. The Drill Master 2hp router from Harbor Freight is great for a router table and not so great in hand held use as the base felt top heavy and awkward and the motor doesn’t have a soft start. I’ll give both laminate or trim routers a thumbs up but probably lean more towards the Bosch Colt as it’s slightly less expensive and comes with an edge guide.

Situationally speaking:

  1. If I could only buy one router (or kit) I would go with the Milwaukee 5616-24 plunge and fixed base kit.
  2. If I could buy two routers I would go with the Milwaukee 5616-24 kit and the Bosch Colt trim router.

 

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32 Comments

  1. Joshua Luther

    Have you had any experience with the plunge router from Harbor Freight or heard any good or bad things about it?

      1. Ed

        PS I was able to buy a Portacable reconditioned, and two Ryobi on sale at HD, for less than $100. I have no problem with these.
        Ed

  2. jeff

    I want to ask a question and post a comment.
    Question , I wonder why wood workers buy a router kit that comes with 2 bases ( plunge and fixed)
    When the plunge base will do both jobs and cost less.
    i use now and have for 25 years a 3hp Dewalt Plunge router that I personally feel that is the best router for the money, Comes with a dust collector and a collar ring in the base that holds template guides. will except 1/2″and !/4″ bits
    Now for the Harbour freight plunge router I own one of those also. If you compare it the 3hp DeWalt router they look alike. I have used it on a lot and no problems at all.
    I have it mounted in a router table, along with a Height adjusting kit call Router Raizer Rz100.
    It has to be used with plunge routers, that have a height adjusting screw. The The Router razer will fit a lot of different routers, Its cost was well under $100. It has a crank handle to raise and lower the router that inserts through the top of the base insert
    Jeff
    Jeff

    1. Antoine

      Jeff,

      I think the reason people like the kits is to save money. By having two bases, you can mount the fixed base in a router cabinet, and then leave the plunge base as is. Then you can simply move the motor between bases when you want to switch between table vs. freehand routing situtations, instead of buying a separate router for your table (plus purchasing or building a router lift) and then buying a separate, dedicated plunge router. Just my two cents.

      Antoine

  3. David

    Jay,
    Glad to see that I am not the only person who has a stash of routers. I think I have 6 of them now. I haven’t played with the HF plunge router, but I do have 2 of their palm routers. The first one I bought for my homemade CNC, and for that purpose it works good. The second one I bought to use as intended, and there is a world of difference between the two of them. The second one is much better made. All of my go to routers are made by Black & Decker, they are inexpensive, but not cheaply made, and serve my purposes well.

  4. Derek Rowe

    Hi Jay, this was a great tool talk and thanks for covering this. I recently bought the 3 1/4 horse Milwaukee production router and so far I absolutely love this rig. I have it mounted in a Master Lift II on my Incra LS 17 Router table. This router is the first Milwaukee product I have ever bought as I always found something in their products that I did not like or found myself doubting what the product description claimed. I must admit that I have found this router to be exactly what I needed from a router to allow me to mass produce Boxes and swing my large style and rail bits and raised panel bits. I am hoping this rig will have the legs to last me a few years and really give me the return of the investment I put into it. Thanks again Jay.

    Derek

  5. John

    First,I have to agree with Jeff,why both?.I do have a Dewalt plunge/fixed kit,but only because it was a great deal and I needed a free router as my other two are in the router table.My main goto for routers for the past 20 years has been the big Freud plunge.I have had three – other two have just worn out – and have had great results.Would recommend them over all the others I have used which has to be 10 or 12 over the years.Also have the Bosch trim and love it,even with the same quibbles as you have Jay

  6. Ed

    Jay I really enjoyed your breakdown on routers, but I only was able to purchase mine, I have three, total of less than $100. I like the higher end items but just can’t afford such.
    I know there a lot of tricks woodworkers use with routers, and I’m learning some, I wish you would present some in your newsletters. I also would like other tool tricks and more jigs for small, tiny, little table saws.
    Thank you and am enjoying your news letters.
    Did you know that Jesus Christ was a Carpenter?
    Ed

  7. Patrick

    Big fan of the channel Jay! Kinda off subject but I think I remember you saying you were making a trip to Jackson ms this week to pick up some lumber? I’m from the Jackson area and was wondering where/what you were coming after? Thanks and keep fighting the good fight!

  8. john cooper

    Good presentation and info as always. My plunge router is a Makita 3600B that I purchased back in the 1980’s. It has an excellent plunge and lock system, but it’s a monster that probably weighs about 20-pounds. The weight is an advantage when cutting hardwoods like oak and hickory.

  9. Hedware

    I have owned about six routers over the years and used others. I think in general they are getting better in terms of quality of manufacture, layout, features, precision and just sensible design. But you still need to really think, test and visualise before buying. My latest is a Triton plunge and it is the best I have have used particularly in terms of usability, depth setting, and ease of getting the settings in order for various jobs.

    I am in Australia and barrel or fixed base routers are very hard to find. I think US is the only place where they are popular. So for us it is a plunge router and/or router on a table.

    Thanks again for your candid tools reviews.

  10. JB

    As always, great, working man’s review of the routers and their differences. Good straight shooting talk on the good and bad. Thanks for the review Jay. Keep up the great posts.
    JB

  11. Carlos Ferreyra

    Thank you very much Jay, very instructive video. Greetings from Uruguay. I always follow your posts.

  12. jeff

    I also have a Dewalt trim router that came as a set. Fixed based, a base for trimming inside corners of counter top laminate It also came with a base that tilts , Which I use to flush trim angle edges. on wood Decking on wood boats
    I also made a jig that allow’s me to flush trim 2 pieces of wood to each other.
    Jeff

  13. Edison Norman

    Great review Jay!
    What was the Hp on the Milwaukee and Bosch? Also when working with a router table are the ones you have well equipped enough to handle raised panels and such?

    1. Jay Bates

      I’ve never used a router to make raised panels. I don’t see why not though. As long as you can slow down the rotation speed for larger diameter bits You should be able to use larger cutters so long as you slow down on your passes.

  14. Evan Jones

    Enjoyed your review.
    I’ve used the 1617 Bosch 2.25hp for several years, and the on/off switch went out on me just before the winter holidays – couldn’t finish a couple projects in time for Christmas. Had to send it in to be repaired. Evidently many people have had this same problem with this model. Yet another reason to choose the Milwaukee.

  15. jeff

    Edison the answer to your question is yes 3hp router have plenty of power to do raised panel doors.
    The rail and stiles bits run at full Rpms, and a speed rate that allows thr bit to cut without burning the wood. The panel bit slow it down.
    You will want to run the end grain first on a practice piece. Too see if the bit burns the edge grain. If it does you will need to play with the speed of the bit and the speed rate you are pushing the the wood to get it so you do not burn the wood. At that point you will still want to do the 2 ends first , so that you eliminate tear out.
    On the stile ends you will want to back up your piece with a piece of wood to eliminate tear out there too.
    Hope that helps
    Been making raised panel that way for years.
    Ps you can also make raised panel doors on your table saw.
    Jeff

  16. John

    I certainly enjoy your web site and continue to learn. My only comment about the routers is that Dewalt makes one with LED lighting in the base which is very nice. It lights up what you are working on.

  17. Kevin Byrne

    Any thoughts or experiences with craftsman line of routers as they are less expensive would be appreciated as I view you blog a lot. Are they as
    accurate as your choice of this tool talk ect?

    1. Jay Bates

      I have no experience with Craftsman routers. The nearest Sears to me is over an hour drive so I’ve never even considered using one. And when I search online I never really thought about Craftsman brand. Out of sight, out of mind kinda thing.

    2. Ian

      I have a Craftsman router table with a 1 3/4 HP Craftsman router. It has performed well in all tasks I have asked it to complete. Mostly adding decorative edges. However, I will soon be using it for some dados and rabbets. I expect it to perform well though.

  18. Art English

    Hey Jay, I wanting to buy a small hand held router and am seriously considering the the DeWalt. Although it is my understanding that it only comes in the 1/4″ size and everything I’ve heard suggests the 1/2″ size over the 1/4″. Also considering a Skil because it is a !/2″ size. Additionally, could you recommend a med $$ router bit. All I see from Amazon are the cheap ones and the expensive ones. New to routers so I’m inclined to shop a little on the conservative side. Appreciate all you do for us that are entering in to the wonderful world of woodworking. I’ve followed you for quite a while now and really enjoy your work and your detail explanations as they have help me to figure out just how to do things right. Keep up the good work and look forward to any advise you can give an old man.

    1. Jay Bates

      Hey Art. The vast majority of my router bits are 1/4″ shank. All of my 1/2″ shank router bits are used in my plunge router anyway. If you’re looking at getting a small router for edge work I don’t see a problem going with a 1/4″ collet router. I’ve had good results with Bosch router bits from Lowes. I don’t like getting those large router bit sets as I typically only use one or two in the set. I normally just use a roundover or chamfer bit.

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