Routers are one of the most versatile tools in the woodshop. There’s a saying that routers are like clamps, you never have enough. Some people expand upon their versatility by having many of them set up and dedicated to different tasks. This Milwaukee router is the seventh router in my arsenal and I’m enjoying the addition so far.
I was asked to be part of the Home Depot Pro Spective program to test out and give some Milwaukee tools promotion. Of course, I said yes. So with that said, this article is part of the #THDProSpective and #HomeDepotPartner program. The views and opinions are mine and my only requirement is to have an honest discussion and simply link to the product.
I requested this Milwaukee 2723-20 18v compact router as I thought it would be a convenient addition to my CNC workflow, as well as for general woodworking use. The router came without a battery as a tool only package. In the package is the router, base, larger baseplate, edge guide, dust shroud, and two collet wrenches (Yes!).
The base has a standard edge guide attachment knob on one side. This is pretty standard for trim routers. My Bosch Colt has the same thing and in fact, the edge guides are interchangeable between the two routers. The edge guide has a pair of vertical bars that straddle a guide key on the base and is held in place with the attachment knob.
I’ve never needed this much adjustment from an edge guide on a trim router but it’s there.
Neither of my other trim routers (Bosch Colt and Dewalt DWP611) came with any dust collection accessories so it was nice to see one included here. Inside the dust shroud is a mounting pin.
That pin fits into a hole on one side of the base.
And the other side is secured with a knob. Once tightened down the shroud is locked and ready for a shopvac hookup. I’ll get into the performance later. Due to the way the shroud mounts I don’t expect it to take a ton of abuse. The knob side is locked in place but there’s enough flex in the shroud to back the pin out about halfway. Maybe the flex was designed into the piece to prevent it from cracking. So while it works, it just doesn’t make me feel good long term. Time will tell. This is literally my only complaint with the router.
Elevation adjustment in the base is similar in function but much better than the Bosch Colt that I have. There is a threaded rod with a spring-loaded half nut (not really a nut, just something that engages the threads) with a quick-release button for coarse adjustment or to remove the router completely. The way this engages and disengages is MUCH better and smoother than the Bosch Colt, which is my biggest complaint about that router.
For fine adjustment, there is a knob attached to the top of the threaded rod. Clearly labeled are markings for every 1/64” of elevation change. I really like how easy this is to use.
And, of course, the base has a locking latch like just about every other router out there. Don’t forget to latch it before cutting!
Here’s the standard base plate that goes on the bottom of the base. You need to use this base if you plan on using the edge guide.
And here’s the included larger base plate. It’s not secured in this image. I simply set it on top of the standard plate so you could see the size difference. You can’t use this plate with the edge guide though as there is no slot for the edge guide attachment bars to go through.
Going back to the edge guide, I thought it would be worth showing my modified Bosh Colt edge guide. It’s basically the same thing but I chopped up a small shopvac floor sweep attachment and hot glued it on an angle to the bottom side of the guide. Dust collection is FLAWLESS with this setup as it puts the suction right where the chips are being made. I’m not going to modify the Milwaukee edge guide because they are basically the same thing and I’ve already got the work done on the other. So if you end up getting this router I HIGHLY recommend doing what I did. You won’t regret it.
Top-down vs bottom-up dust collection. Which do you think is better? Well, it depends on the situation. If you have space, the bottom-up dust collection is superior. If you don’t have space, the top-down dust collection is better than nothing.
I cannot stand the spindle lock buttons on routers. It makes no sense to me. It’s like trying to stop an oversized bolt from spinning with one hand while the other hand uses a mechanical advantage to try and spin it. It just doesn’t make sense. When I saw two collet wrenches in the box I just smiled. As Wranglerstar says, seeing that gave me the fizz.
Of course, if you prefer the spindle lock button then you won’t be disappointed because it’s included as well. I think this is one of those standard features that everyone adds just to increase the spec sheet.
The universal downside to all battery-powered tools is the weight of the battery. There’s no way around it here. Putting the battery on top makes the entire router top-heavy. But that’s the only location for it to go so it’s just a characteristic of all battery-powered routers that you need to get used to.
The on/off switch is just out of reach by my thumb in the most comfortable grip position. No big deal though as my other hand is usually the one pushing the button. The variable speed dial is conveniently located though.
Here’s another tip for you, slow down your router RPM for the majority of all cuts. We all move routers slower than the recommended travel speed for fast RPM cutting. This results in an extremely low chipload which results in a lot of rubbing instead of cutting. The bit is spinning so fast that it doesn’t take a bite with every rotation. That’s when rubbing happens. Rubbing causes friction, the friction causes heat build-up, heat build-up causes burning of both the bit and the wood, which causes decreased bit life. Slow down your router RPM and enjoy cleaner cuts and longer bit life.
A chamfer bit in action. No dust collection.
Same setup but with dust collection hooked up to the included top-down dust collection shroud. Better, but not perfect.
And now my modded edge guide with the suction where it needs to be. Dust collection is flawless. You could argue that the router isn’t even running or cutting but I promise you it is. I’ve been enjoying this simple mod for many years and I want to encourage all of you who have this setup to do the same thing. Of course, when doing this test I couldn’t find the standard shopvac hose that this plugs into so I had to use my hand as a coupling.
Here’s a perfect situation where the edge guide dust collection mod just doesn’t work. There’s no room for it here. In this case, the integrated dust collection is acceptable. Not perfect, but acceptable. I lowered the exposure on the second and third shots so you could better see the amount of chips on the table.
And finally, the situation where I’ve wanted a battery-powered trim router for a long time. This is a perfect tool to cut tabs at the CNC machine. I do not have a vacuum table on my CNC machine so I utilize tabs in the milling process to prevent the parts from shifting as they are cut. This means the tabs need to be removed to break the pieces free. My normal routine is to chop each tab with a chisel and go to the router table. Then change the bit in the router table to a flush trim bit and trim all of the tabs. Now, I can leave a 1/4” diameter flush trim bit in the router and designate this router for use at the CNC machine.
So that was the original plan anyway. To keep this as a flush-trim bit only router. However, I like this router much more than both of my corded trim router options so that may change. The instant stop of the bit, when turned off, is really nice. The power is more than necessary for trim router tasks (don’t expect it to make cabinet doors…). The dust collection is acceptable and kudos for even including the option. The elevation adjustment is great. Two collet wrenches are GREAT. Two base plates are great. The edge guide is great and ready to be modded.
Should YOU buy it? That’s up to you. I little interest in telling people now to spend their money. But if its capability, form factor, and features sound like it will be a good fit for your needs then just know that I have no problems giving this tool a thumbs up. It is the best trim router I’ve ever used, without question. If you’re interested in learning more you can check out the sales page on The Home Depot’s website (affiliate link): https://homedepot.sjv.io/gzKqA