I am in the process of completing and equipping my wood shop. This will be for hobby purposes and "honey do" projects only. I need to purchase routers to replace "hand-me-downs" I've had for years. I'm not sure if it would be best to stick with one brand or cherry pick the best from various brands. Over time I plan on purchasing a palm/trim router, a plunge router, and a router suitable to fit in a router table. I did go over to Tool Reviews and take a look. But, most of the reviews are very old.
I'm interested in durability, ease of changing bits, power to get the job done, convenience of use (power switch/ handling), and your overall comments on likes and dislikes.
You guys are a valuable source of information! In fact, I bought my table saw based on advice I received here and couldn't be happier (thanks for that!). So what say you?? If you were in the market for new routers, where would you start? As mentioned above, I will eventually be buying at least 3 as funds permit and projects require.
I think at least 3 routers are needed for a moderately equipped shop. The palm router you mentioned, a router of about 2 hp that has both a fixed base and a plunge base and #3 a router in a table top. If you find yourself frequently using large bits you may want something larger than 2 hp. but that would be used in the table top.
My preference has been Porter Cable and their 890 series of combinations will take care of two of the above requirements. If you can't afford two large routers the motor on the 890 series can be moved from one application to the other without too much fuss.
Depending on the volume of work you're going to do, you could get by with a palm router and a "kit" like the Porter Cable Plunge and fixed base router (one motor, 2 housings). A 2.25 hp like this one can do most things - hand held and attached to a plate and dropped into a router table. In the long run, if you find yourself taking it in and out of the table, then maybe a second motor…
My preference of routers is DeWalt. A good starting point would be the dw611 and the DW 618.
The 611 is just a bit bigger than a palm router but is equipped with a fixed and plunge base. It is a fantastic tool for treating the edges of work with a round over or chamfer for example. The bases fit standard guide bushings. I find that it has plenty of power for 95% of my handheld routing. There is a dust collection attachment sold for both the plunge base and the fix base that work quite well. The 611 is only available, as far as I know, with 1/4 inch collet.
The 618 is a 2.25 horsepower motor that is available in a kit with a fixed, Plunge and D handle base. It is a variable speed which comes in handy for larger bits and comes with a quarter and half inchcollets. I have this router in my router table all the time. This router will give you plenty of power for both handheld and table routing applications. The only downside of this router is that it may be a little bit underpowered if you plan to use larger raised panel bits. I don't personally care for the look of raised panels so I have never attempted to use a bit larger than 1 and 1/4
I can't remember what each of these tools cost but I feel the pricing is very fair for both.
If I assume Festool is off the table (my favorites). The Dewalt 611 with the plunge kit for a compact router, the Bosch MRC23 with plunge kit for the mid sized router and a PC 7518 or Milwaukee 5625 in a good lift for the router table.
Considering your want list of features take a look at the MRC23 and the features it has compared to the other routers in the class, particularly the power switch on the plunge base. I think you will see why it is my second favorite mid-sized router. While I prefer the Festool 1400 the MRC23 is a really well thought out router and the dust collection attachments work better than all but the Festool.
If you are willing to pay Festool prices replace the Dewalt and Bosch with the Festool 1010 and 1400.
For the router table and occasional handheld use I would suggest the Triton MOF001 (2.25hp). This router is really great in a router table-above table bit changes and height adjustment without having to buy a lift mechanism. The power switch is not ideal-but workable. I have this router and it has worked very well for me for the past 5 to 10 years. If it broke today I would buy another in a heartbeat.
I would start with a combo kit (plunge and fixed base) that is rated 2.25 HP, and has both 1/4" and 1/2" collets (not adapters). some of the ones in that category would be the Milwaukee 5216 (my favorite), the Bosch (which always get rave reviews) and the PC 895. After you use it a while you will get a feel for what to get next, and there will be more than one. You might want to stay with the same brand as you add the additional routers so you can interchange some of the parts, like collets, edge guides, etc.
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