Micro Fence - Plunge base and edge guide (Rating: 5)

Micro-Fence plunge base w/edge fence

This is the nicest, most precise, best machined, smoothest operating, meticulously designed, all round good-looking router plunge base I've ever encountered. It's also the most expensive. You can buy a complete Festool router for less than this base and fence. That doesn't imply that you should.

I ordered one of the Micro Fence "package deals" which included the model that fits my Bosch Colt variable speed trim router plus the fence assembly the company is named for. I really like my Bosch Colt. It's become my favorite router for mid size hand held use. And, I admit to being a happy owner of numerous other Bosch tools as well.

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I have several routers - six actually, various brands. I'm not a heavy router user except for the one under my router table. But the plunge bases on my full size routers never gave me much joy, though they certainly do work. Either the spring is too strong, the release clumsy, or the sliding action jerky. So, I've never really "enjoyed" using them. Besides, the full size routers are just too large and heavy for many operations, thus increasing the "pucker factor" when doing something smaller that doesn't need the horsepower of a '67 Camaro.

With this base, smoothness and precision are clearly the design goal. With the Colt mounted, the unit is light, responsive, and just "glides" down. Likely due to the hard chrome posts and bronze bearings.

Fellow LJ Brice Macartney brought the Micro-Fence to my attention, and after pondering casually for a while decided to make the plunge (no pun intended). I have to admit that first seeing the price caused a bit of a gasp. But the more I read, the more it sounded like what I had long been looking for, costly or not. I was finally pushed over the edge when I saw a DVD with Frank Klausz raving about it as he zipped most of the waste out of some hand sawn through dovetails. Well, fool that I am…

Now that I have it, and the cost trauma has receded, I really like the base and edge guide. Truth be known, I often do not need anything like the precision this base and edge guide offers. Most of us don't, particularly if you're one of the many woodworkers who work to plus or minus 1/16". You don't need this.

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Strictly speaking, if you're willing to keep fiddling with your existing router base, and make numerous test cuts, you can achieve perfect precision with your existing router. But the thing is, that if you're like me, you seldom do that. We quickly go to "close enough" and cut. Then go "oops".

However, for those who regularly make furniture, cabinets, boxes or other detailed projects you're going to have that situation where you need to precisely duplicate an earlier line inlay groove, say. …a situation where the groove must be exact and line up with earlier pieces. This can be painstaking to adjust for with a typical full size router. But with the Micro-Fence tools, all that's necessary is one test cut, measure with calipers, adjust for the difference right on the tool (say .017) and cut. You'll be exactly on the money.

Sometimes, though, it can pay its way… when there is no really good substitute. For the kind of projects I make, the smaller size of the Colt is perfect. I can always grab one of my bigger routers if I need the 1/2" collet, or the greater power. But, most of the time, I will probably be reaching for this guy. I really like the two little LED lights (one is standard) so I can actually SEE what I'm doing. LOL

The base and fence are actually part of a comprehensive system of accessories for precision router operations like circle fixtures and ellipse jigs. I won't go into these other than to say they include a pretty complete system for the mid size router. You can see these at www.microfence.com. There should be something there for just about everyone. The various fences and jigs are made to fit many routers and bases, not just their own.

It's admittedly a somewhat specialized tool, and certainly not cheap. Many folks will say "no way" and for them, that's probably the right decision. But this combination uniquely fits that "middle size" between a full size router and the various Dremel powered routers (which I also have two of, and use them frequently). But much of the time, the Dremel is just TOO small. And neither offer the precision possible here.

So, perhaps this is the Goldilocks solution for those of us "tool weenies" who just want a smaller plunge router that is a real pleasure to use. Your mileage may vary.