There’s no quicker way to add a whole lot of capability to your workshop than to add a router. These tools, while seemingly simple, add an absolutely enormous amount of things you can do with wood in your shop and finding the best wood router can be something of a chore.
So lets get started on picking out the first tool that you’ll need to go from being a DIYer to a true craftsman.
If you’re new to using a router and want to start with a high-quality tool, then the DeWalt DWP611PK is a good place to begin your journey.
Top Best 5 Wood Routers
|Name||RPM||Router Size||Base Type|
|MLCS 9056 Rocky 30 Trim Router||10k-30k||Compact||Fixed|
What is a Wood Router?
A wood router is essentially a shaft fixed to a motor with handles. They allow you to make specialized cuts dependent on the bit you’re using and depending on the model can allow you to work edges or the interior of a piece.
The cutting portion, or bits, of the router allow you to make joinery as well as aesthetic modifications to the work piece.
As a tool, they tend to be rather high-powered and the older models can be a bear to use. Thankfully, modern technology has actually improved wood routers for the most part, rather than simply making them cheaper than their elder counterparts.
What is the Advantage of Owning a Wood Router?
Wood routers are simply indispensable. The only tool which is comparable in usage are old router planes. Unlike a lot of carpentry tools, there’s really no debate in this arena: a powered wood router is the superior tool.
Without one, many of the basic operations used in woodworking will simply be beyond your shop’s capabilities.
Having one or two of them around in varying sizes isn’t just creating an advantage, it’s pretty much required for anyone who plans to do more than chop 2x4s when it comes to wood working. For such a simple tool, they’re one of the mainstays of the serious craftsman.
What to Look for in a Wood Router
There are a ton of different routers on the market, enough of them that it seems almost impossible for the novice to figure out what they’re looking for. Thankfully, it’s a fairly simple process. Hopefully you already have a project in mind, but if you don’t we’ll tie everything together for a good all-around router at the end of this section.
Routers come in three basic sizes, each of which has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Trim routers are the smallest. They’re also referred to as palm routers, and they’re generally smaller tools which can be easily handled. These are best for light paneling work, and the motors usually come in at under a horsepower. If you’re looking to clean up trim or do light edge or interior work they’re your best bet.
Intermediate routers are a bit bigger and usually range from 1-2 horsepower. They’re the most versatile of the router family and with modern electronics they can make a fantastic all around router. They’re suitable to be used free hand and can also be mounted in a router table.
Full sized routers are generally those which have 2+ horsepower. At this range they tend to be rather bulky, and while they can be used free hand it’s really not recommended for a novice. For the most part, a full-sized tool will live out most of its life as the central component of a router table.
This is a lot less of a concern than it used to be, thanks to the existence of modern kits which will allow you to interchange bases. The base types are split in two main types.
Fixed bases are generally used for edge work, they maintain the router’s bit at a fixed level of depth and allow you to work on the edge of a work piece quickly and easily. They’re not really suitable for interior work.
Plunge bases, on the other hand, allow you to change the depth while moving the router. They’re the primary tools used to work the wood in the interior of a piece, allowing the craftsman to do intricate work away from the edges of the wood.
Most people will want a kit that allows you to do both, they don’t cost much more than buying a less versatile tool.
Unlike a lot of tools, you don’t just want a high-RPM router. Instead, what you need here is a variable speed control.
Different types of wood handle faster and slower bits differently, a slow cut is better on hardwoods like oak while faster works better on softer woods. A good wood router will have a variable control which allows you to cut a wide variety of different materials without risking burning them.
The electronics in a router are a complicated mater. This is the main reason it’s always best to go with a modern router, unlike some other tools where the main innovations have been making them cheaper.
Electronic feedback is standard on any new router. This allows the motor to adjust the torque produced on the fly in response to the pressure you’re putting on the workpiece. It’s pretty much essential, especially with larger routers.
Soft start is the feature to look for if you’re not used to routers. A soft start spools the speed of the router up over a couple of seconds, rather than just starting it at full speed. It’s less of a concern with palm routers, but in anything with a horsepower or more of motor behind it you’ll quickly see the advantage.
Variable speed controls are also a good thing to keep an eye out for. Some routers will come with a high/low speed, but ideally you’ll be able to adjust the speed as needed rather than being limited by factory settings.
Tying it All Together
If you’re just trying to add a router to your workshop, and you’re not sure what you’re looking for, we recommend the following:
- Mid-sized Motor
- Interchangeable Base
- Smooth Variable Speed Control
- Soft Start
As long as you have all of that, you’ll have a good “all around” router which is suitable for all but the most delicate or heaviest-duty projects.