Decent and happily low cost trimming tool

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Review by ferstler posted 12-05-2008 08:16 PM 25024 views 2 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Decent and happily low cost trimming tool No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

This tool has been reviewed by another user some time ago, but I thought I would throw in my two cents worth.

OK, Chicago tools are mostly junk. I have gone to Harbor Freight many times and observed their stuff, and for the most part some of it actually scares me. However, certain of their offerings are OK, and that rating applies to this little Chicago Electric trim router, stock number 44914.

First off, I should point out that Grizzly apparently sells the thing (or something very much like it) in green-color form as its Laminate Trim Router (Model H7791), with a current list price of $45. I got mine on sale at Harbor Freight for a total of twenty bucks. What makes me even happier is that one of the woodworking magazines did a review of several trim routers and gave the Grizzly what amounts to a best-buy rating of sorts at a then $40 price. Heck, that makes me feel superb, given that I paid half that.

Anyway, this is a proper tool if you remember its limitations. It comes with a decent owner’s manual (which even has a good exploded parts diagram), a limited 90-day warranty, a bottom guide made from clear plastic (to better see what you are cutting), and a spare set of brushes. The no-load, fixed spin speed is 26,000 rpm, the motor draws 2.4-amps startup (1.7 amps steady state), and the collet handles any small sized, ¼-inch shaft sized bit. The cutting depth is controlled by a fairly decent rack and pinion gear and the motor assembly is easily removable for adjustments and cleaning. The unit weighs in at a bit over 3 pounds.

I certainly would not want to do heavy-duty routing work with this tool, but for small jobs it works just fine. I have used it almost as much each of my three regular routers, and for some jobs it was in a position to work much better than any of them. It spins like a dentist’s drill and sounds like one, too, but at twenty bucks how could anybody go wrong.

Howard Ferstler

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342 posts in 4981 days

15 comments so far

View JoeButler's profile


39 posts in 5188 days

#1 posted 12-05-2008 08:32 PM

I have one of these also and agree with everything you said. I really love it. It’s just the right size for small projects. Like you, I got mine on sale for $20. Best $20 I have spent in a long time!

-- Joe

View clieb91's profile


4267 posts in 5395 days

#2 posted 12-05-2008 08:45 PM

Howard, Thankyou bery much for thehonest review of the products you have posted. I am on a bit of budget as well and really found some of hem helpful. I own several Ryobi bench top items and as you noted as long as you know that they are not going to have all the bells and whistles of the higher models they are good machines.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View oldskoolmodder's profile


802 posts in 5140 days

#3 posted 12-05-2008 09:17 PM

Harbor Freight isn’t always a junk store as some would try to make you believe. Though I had a brad nailer that crapped out with less than 100 brads used, I’ve had luck with other brad nailers and other products. If I need drill bits in small sizes, why not pay 79 cents for TEN, and if they break, then they break. I’d rather have an 8 cent drill bit break than a $4 bit the same size.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View Moose's profile


9 posts in 5571 days

#4 posted 12-05-2008 10:39 PM

I bought this for use as a laminate trimmer when I had a small countertop going in my bathroom, but I’ve used it occasionally since then for other trim/freehand tasks.

Although it’s not the most ergonomically sculpted tool in your hand, it isn’t overly heavy to handle and it does give you a fair bit of power for the price. The base is a bit cheap and it could do with a micro-adjustment knob, but for this price one can’t really complain.

Harbor Freight is a great place to pick up that odd tool that you need for the odd job but don’t plan on turning into an heirloom tool. I have a number of their nailers that I use for rough construction and hidden joinery. They’re not fantastic, but I don’t mind banging them around or scratching them up.

-- Scott, Pickering/Ajax, ON

View ferstler's profile


342 posts in 4981 days

#5 posted 12-05-2008 11:20 PM

I occasionally am too hard on Harbor Freight. While I have problems with some of their Chicago brand power tools, the place is loaded with all sorts of unpowered goodies that any hands-on type guy can get excited about. Heck, I purchased a digital caliper there some time ago for fifteen bucks and it works very well, indeed. Have several clamps, too, as well as caster wheels for several heavy tool stands that I move outdoors onto my deck to work with. If nothing else, the place is fun to visit.

Howard Ferstler

View USCJeff's profile


1065 posts in 5529 days

#6 posted 12-06-2008 09:13 AM

I posted my opinions on this one. In short, got $20 out of it easily. Great for small profiles. Now that I’ve used a Bosch Colt for a while, I see it’s no where close, but it is nice to be able to dedicate a bit ot it cheaply.

-- Jeff, South Carolina

View TomK 's profile


504 posts in 5335 days

#7 posted 12-07-2008 05:43 PM

I have one of these too, and it works well, even after a fall that broke the adjustment mechanism. I just adjust it and lock it down with vise grips. I’ve easily got my money’s worth out of it.

-- If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it's free! PJ O'Rourke

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David Hagan

11 posts in 5167 days

#8 posted 12-08-2008 04:23 PM

I have one that I bought on sale for $17. Its not a bad little router, and when I finally get around to building my CNC router, I’m going to use this. One problem that I’ve noticed is that the bit tends to slip at times. No matter how tight I make it. Its a great cheap tool. Easily worth the $17 I paid for it.

I doubt I’ll ever use the replacement brushes. If it stops working, I’d just go buy a new one rather than take the time to repair it. Now if I had a router that I spent a couple hundred bucks on, that would be worth the time to repair. But (some) Harbor Freight tools are fairly disposable. And I agree with oldskoolmodder, having something cheap break is a lot less upsetting than having something expensive break. In fact, most of my tools are Harbor Freight or Ryobi. HF 8” Drill Press, HF 10” Compound Sliding Miter Saw, Ryobi Bench Grinder (Black Friday, $20), Ryobi Table Saw. The one tool I actually spent money on is my Jet Mini Lathe. Even then I’m using turning tools from Harbor Freight. Since I’m still learning I don’t want to destroy good tools. When I practice sharpening my turning tools, I want to practice on ones that I paid $10 a set for, rather than ones I paid $50 each for.

View dmann's profile


82 posts in 5267 days

#9 posted 12-19-2008 06:14 PM

I’ve got one of these trimmers too. For the amount I use it, it was a bargain. I have a friend who bought one and it was dead out the box :( As usual with HF tools your mileage may vary.

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of my Harbor Freight turning tools too. After turning for almost a year I am starting to obtain higher quality name brand gouges and scrapers. I am retiring the HF chisels or regrinding them into scrapers for finishing odd shaped pieces. Not a bad $35 spent although the 1/4” scraper

-- David / Durham, NC

View tmiller's profile


103 posts in 4773 days

#10 posted 05-05-2009 09:21 AM

It is a lot of bang for the buck but the on/off switch on mine broke and it was useless. It might have been able to be fixed but why bother for $20. The base on mine slipped because these vibrate quite a bit. Because of that I didn’t trust it with a round over bit but a straight cutting bit worked fine. I decided not to replace this with the same one when it broke but rather invest in one for the long haul. If you are just starting routing and don’t want to make a big investment or need another router for a quick and light application this would be an OK choice.


View a1Jim's profile


118322 posts in 5038 days

#11 posted 05-05-2009 05:44 PM

I have several Harbor Freight tools Including 3 dust collectors that work great. I have bought some things from them that would make good boat anchors though.


View Mike Gager's profile

Mike Gager

665 posts in 4728 days

#12 posted 07-16-2009 06:56 PM

i just bought one of these and gotta agree its money well spent. i paid a little under $18 for mine total with tax

View jake's profile


39 posts in 5164 days

#13 posted 08-18-2009 11:53 PM

I keep one for odd jobs and extended its use by purchasing an acrylic base with the center hole that accepts PC style bushings. I simply cut off the excess and screwed it on as the base is in two pieces. Now I use it even more often and it safely holds the bushings when I make signs etc. I have a Bosch Colt as well, but I reach for this often. Lets face it, a router is one of the most simple tools made, a motor with a collet on the end and thats about it. Yest the adjustment could be better but cant say the Bosch is all that great of an improvement in that area. The Bosch can do more and will last longer but at 6x the price I am happy having this as a second one to toss in the tool box when I am not in my shop etc. Even some of the trade magazines have said decent things about it.

View rsmith71's profile


269 posts in 4503 days

#14 posted 01-30-2010 07:32 AM

I like going to Harbor Freight to look around and agree that there are some extremely good deals there. This trimmer looks to me like a cheap version of my two Makita trim routers I’ve had for ten years now. I don’t know about the Chicago versions but I love my Makitas. The template bushing issolidly trapped between the base and sub-base and never needs checking as it cannot move. Best small template router i”ve ever used. Done miles of inlay work with them. That said- Harbor Freight has some great tools and some total junk. They also have a LOT of inexpensive tools that are great for occasional or light use. I’ve always been too nervous about cheap routers to try theirs. Routers are pretty simple but quality matters to me when I have carbide spinning at 20,000 + RPMs a couple inches from my fingers. I’ve had bits slip in collets before and don’t like the feeling. I had a straight trim bit come out of a collet once (it wasn’t this router, although I cannot remember the brand now) and narrowly missed being stabbed through the upper leg with it. There are alot of good models and brands out there, some more expensive than others. If it works for you and is safe, go for it. I am partial to those two little Makitas and my assorted Porter-Cables. I’ve relied on them a long time now.

-- Robert - Haven Wood Crafts

View sd80mac's profile


5 posts in 3620 days

#15 posted 07-13-2012 02:03 AM

I too bought the HF Trim Router recently. Being new to routing, I wanted to get my feet wet, but not have to shell out $200-$300 to do so. So, I picked up this little gem for $20.99 and ended up taking it back because the base plate was warped. Luckily, they had three more on the shelf, so I was able to check them all out prior to the exchange.

The first was warped worse than the one I originally purchased. The second was better, though it still had an ever-so-slightly warped base plate. However, the third one was a winner, so I took it home along with a three-pack of Warrior brand straight cutting bits. I cut a couple of test dados in some scrap 2×4s, and after dailing in the router’s settings, I got fairly decent results.

I think I’m going to like routing, especially when I get a better machine!

-- Donnell

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