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Forum topic by deeve posted 05-08-2020 03:24 PM 780 views 0 times favorited 31 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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deeve

41 posts in 273 days


05-08-2020 03:24 PM

Hello, my little “shop” is just getting off the ground. Currently, I have a table saw (Delta 36-725 T2) and miter saw. My wife likes to make signs and small personalized projects for friends/family as gifts. Recently she made a bunch of signs as Mother’s day gifts. Buying premade signs to stencil is getting expensive and she would like to have a little more options in custom sizes for the signs. She also made a couple of 6”x36” signs out of 1/4” plywood that she would like a frame for.

I am looking for recommendations on the right router gear to get started. I do not need top of the line super expensive cabinet maker grade stuff, but I also don’t want cheap since that seems like money down the drain. Best bang for the buck maybe? Since I am starting out I really don’t know what I will end up needing and hate to spend money twice by buying one thing but finding out it doesn’t meet my needs as I thought. I will not just be making signs. I plan on making some nice jigs for the table saw and eventually other tools I will get with things like t-tracks. Who knows where this hobby will go? I can retire in 3 years so it might eventually grow into more. I am hoping there are some been there done that folks who can tell me what they wish they did.

I do think I want a table of some sort since I would make cut and route half a dozen or so signs at once. I think moving the piece across a table would be much faster and better quality than clamping, routing, unclamping, moving the piece, and starting the whole process over again.

For tables, there seem to be three options that I have found. Benchtop, standalone, or table saw mounted. The table saw mount has some appeal since I like the height of my table saw and the idea of saving space.

For the router, should I get one router that has a plunge base or capability or two routers with one that stays in the table and a separate one, I use outside the table? I also think it would be smart to get above the table adjustment.

For a new guy that tends to overanalyze, there seems to be an overwhelming amount of choices.

THanks
Dave

-- Dave Hillsboro, Oregon


31 replies so far

View Madmark2's profile

Madmark2

2087 posts in 1563 days


#1 posted 05-08-2020 06:39 PM

Routers come in three basic sizes, 1hp, 2hp, and 3hp.

The 3hp beasts belong in a table. That’s where my Milwaukee 3-1/2 hp heavy duty monster lives. I use a plate that comes off with the push of a button leaving the power head completely exposed for easy bit and speed changes.


Lift out, drop in simplicity.

For template routing you need a 1hp (or 2hp at the most) since bigger gets tiring fast.

So you need at least two. One in a plunge or fixed base in a table of your choice and a smaller (typically 1/4”) freehand router.

The router is only a fraction of what you’ll spend on good carbide bits. Don’t waste your $$$ on “single use” HSS bits.


Bits are more than the router!

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View MrUnix's profile

MrUnix

8360 posts in 3174 days


#2 posted 05-08-2020 06:43 PM

Hint: Check your local Craigslist, garage sales and pawn shops. Routers are always for sale at a fraction of their cost new. Stick with any of the big brands (Milwaukee, Porter-Cable, DeWalt, Makita, etc…) and you should be fine. As an added bonus, most of the time they will come with extra stuff like various bits, edge guides, template bushings and other stuff that you won’t have to go out and buy later.

Cheers,
Brad

-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View deeve's profile

deeve

41 posts in 273 days


#3 posted 05-08-2020 07:23 PM

Thank you both. I have been looking at Craigslist and Facebook Market place waiting for a good deal. I appreciate the guidance

-- Dave Hillsboro, Oregon

View HorizontalMike's profile

HorizontalMike

7911 posts in 3889 days


#4 posted 05-08-2020 07:29 PM

[quote]…My wife likes to make signs and small personalized projects for friends/family as gifts. ...[unquote]

In that case I suggest buying a small palm-size hand router. Since you offer no information as to what State or Country that you live in, I offer you Home Depot. I am assuming that your request is probably based on a desire to use the router to engrave lettering for signage. IMO, this is a good way to start, just remember that you will need to over-size your templates, as well as pickup a few router bits to get started.

Sign making router bits such as these

This should be enough to get you started. Good luck! 8-)

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View deeve's profile

deeve

41 posts in 273 days


#5 posted 05-08-2020 07:35 PM

I just updated my signature. Home Depot works for me. The signs she is making right now are just stencils and paint but eventually she may want to do the engraving like you mentioned. The sign boards we have been getting look like pine with maybe an ochee bit. I think that’s what it’s called.

I see some palm routers come with plunge bases. Any need for that generally?

-- Dave Hillsboro, Oregon

View HorizontalMike's profile

HorizontalMike

7911 posts in 3889 days


#6 posted 05-08-2020 07:45 PM

A Roman Ogee may not be the best bit choice in the beginning, though that is doable with practice. I do suggest starting with an easier profile bit until you/she gets the technique down pat.

RE: “plunge bases”... IMO, they can be difficult to use depending on the project. If you are only “engraving” (like 1/8 to 1/4in) then there is no need for a plunge router. That said, it can be done… I do suggest starting simple though.

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View Walker's profile

Walker

443 posts in 1447 days


#7 posted 05-08-2020 08:52 PM

For starting out I recommend the Bosch 1617evs Pack. For the versatility and price point. It can do anything you ask it to fairly well. After some time if you find there is a specific feature you use a lot, then you can upgrade. i.e. if its always in the table you might want a router lift or more power. If it’s always small handheld projects you might want something smaller or with dust collection. If you find you swap it between both a lot, you’ll probably want two routers, one dedicated to the table and one for handheld.

The Bosch pack can be found used on ebay, although good deals go quick. But in good condition they can also sell for almost as much as new, which could work to your advantage it when you want to trade up.

It’s 2 1/4 hp which is more than enough for handheld routing (and better than the abundant PC690), and sufficient for most bits in a table as well. Variable speed to match different bits/woods. The pack comes with two bases and the motor can be swapped between them. I always use mine in the plunge base for handheld stuff. The fixed base can be mounted under the table. Also comes with 1/2” and 1/4” collets. There’s a ton of accessories you can find like template guides, edge guides, etc. I’ve had the 1617 for a few years and have used everything from a 1/16” straight bit to a 1” roundover without any difficulty.

For a table I would go the table saw mounted route. I’ve had a small craftsman table for a while, but I just bought the same saw (T2) and plan on building my own saw extension with a router lift. It saves space, you said you like the work height, and you can build/buy a fence that attaches to the saw’s fence.

In summary, I think the 1617evs Pack is the best all around back for your buck, and it holds it’s value pretty well if you decide to sell it for whatever reason.

-- ~Walker

View jkm312's profile

jkm312

66 posts in 378 days


#8 posted 05-08-2020 09:36 PM

Another Bosch combo to consider is the MRC23EVS. The main difference from the 1617EVS is a little more power, soft start, LED light and the best part for me, is the trigger is in the handle. The trigger in the handle is worth the extra expense for me. It is physically a slightly larger machine than the 1617, but it is well balanced and feels good in my hands when I’m cutting with it. Works well either hand held or in a table mount.

You don’t mention how big of signs you are making. Bosch also makes a 1 1/4 horse palm router with a 1/4 collette. The smaller router makes edge treatments a breeze. If you need more support adding a larger bottom plate isn’t too difficult to do. The bits do not slip in the collette like they sometimes did in the original colt.

Lastly the bits can be overwhelming trying to figure out what you need or want. A good brand of carbide bits are made by Freud to start out with. You could start out with 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 in both round over and cove bits in 1/4 inch shanks. A roman ogee and perhaps a pattern bit if you work off of patterns. Anything 3/4 inch or more you will want them with a 1/2 shank, better cut, more stable and safer.

Make your cuts in multiple passes. The last pass, just a skim cut to get a smooth finish. With some experience you will know by the feel and sound of the routing how fast to feed the piece into the router. If you see burn marks, too slow, tear outs, too fast. Make sure you are feeding into the spinning bit. If you go with the bit, that’s referred to as climb milling. Only reason to do that is if you are concerned about tearing out because of some wacky grain reversals like you get with cherry. Climb milling is more of an advanced skill to be learned after the basics have been mastered.

Lots can be done with a router, enjoy the ride.

View becikeja's profile

becikeja

1161 posts in 3788 days


#9 posted 05-08-2020 09:52 PM

Agree with the Bosch 1617. Definitely put in a table, but a home made table is just fine. Just make sure you have a good router fence, and a router lift. Now to be fair. My first 20 years of woodworking I never had a lift, didn’t see the need. I got one about 5 years ago and will NEVER do without one again. Best investment I have made in my router.

-- Don't outsmart your common sense

View LesB's profile

LesB

2796 posts in 4418 days


#10 posted 05-08-2020 11:06 PM

Look at the Porter Cable 690 series of routers. They come with various handles and are easy to mount on the plate of a router table….just 3 screws. It is a good universal router. Then you have to start buying the router bits. I suggest staying with 1/2” shafts where you can.

For cutting letters and etc I would add a set of template guides (buy templates or make your own) plus one of the brass inlay sets for making exact fitting inlays….it would work for some signs too.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Woodmaster1's profile

Woodmaster1

1620 posts in 3562 days


#11 posted 05-08-2020 11:34 PM

The Bosch router is a great router. The table would be less expensive if you made your own. That way you could get a lift for the price of a purchased table.

View AndyJ1s's profile

AndyJ1s

485 posts in 730 days


#12 posted 05-08-2020 11:51 PM

I have found the Milwaukee 5616 fixed base with the “body grip” is very handy for many cuts, but in a size that still gives you 2.25 HP with electronic variable speed for more demanding cuts. The two fixed base handles are down low to the base for ease of handling.

On the other hand, a plunge router will do everything a fixed base router will do, but not vice-versa. The plunge router handles are higher up, making the router more tippy to handle than most fixed bases with lower handles.

I couldn’t make up my mind, so I went with the Milwaukee combo (one 5616 2.25 HP EVS router, two bases)

I also mount it in a Rockler Benchdog table saw extension, with an Incra Mast-R-Lift-II-R lift, both of which are outstanding. The Incra lift is manufactured by Jessm, with one meaningful difference from the Jessem branded lift. The Jessem lift has plastic table throat inserts, which take a special tool (provided) to change out. The Incra brand lift has steel throat inserts that are held in place magnetically, and can be removed and replaced without tools. Also, though I don’t have it, there is an insert for this lift that takes standard guide bushings too.

So you might say I have three bases for my router.

As to whether a router table should be stand alone, or an extension wing on a table saw, it largely depends on how much space you have in your shop for a stand-alone router table, and how carefully you tend to plan your work to avoid interference between the tasks on the table saw.

Since the whole router lift just lifts out of the extension wing, resetting depth of the router cut is not usually required, but if the router fence needs to be removed so you can cross-cut on the table saw, that can take some time to get set up correctly again.

-- Andy - Arlington TX

View AndyJ1s's profile

AndyJ1s

485 posts in 730 days


#13 posted 05-09-2020 12:23 AM

Oh, about router bits… I would avoid getting a set of bits to start with. They are easy enough to get; wait until you know you need a specific kind of router bit before you purchase it. The kits with good quality bits don’t save you much money, and certainly not compared to the actual bits from that set you will eventually use.

I like Whiteside bits, which are made in the USA (though bearings on their bits may be sourced from foreign suppliers). Freud bits are made in Europe. Many others (especially cheaper bits) are made in China, with varying quality. So Whiteside and Freud are my first choices when looking for a bit (I have had excellent results with both).

One feature to watch is how thick the carbide cutters are (thicker carbide has more mass to soak up heat from the cutting edge). Thicker also provides for more resharpening. Cheap bits often have thinner carbide cutters. Also, pay attention to how much metal mass is backing up the carbide cutters. More mass tends to run smoother (assuming it is well balanced, which any good bit should be), and soak up more vibration from the cutting action.

One other feature to pay attention to is whether the bit is “up cutting” or “down cutting”. Neither is better in all situations. Up cutting bits extract chips better, especially in plunging cuts, but can cause more tear-out at the surface. Think about how you intend to use the bit, and decide which cutting action you prefer, if a choice is available. There are also some “compression cutting” bits which have an upward shear near the end of the bit, and change to a downward shear further up on the bit (note that I’m referring to up and down in the case of a hand held router with the bit pointing down. In a table, the up and down directions are inverted, since the router itself is inverted.

-- Andy - Arlington TX

View Foghorn's profile (online now)

Foghorn

925 posts in 362 days


#14 posted 05-09-2020 12:32 AM



For starting out I recommend the Bosch 1617evs Pack. For the versatility and price point. It can do anything you ask it to fairly well. After some time if you find there is a specific feature you use a lot, then you can upgrade. i.e. if its always in the table you might want a router lift or more power. If it s always small handheld projects you might want something smaller or with dust collection. If you find you swap it between both a lot, you ll probably want two routers, one dedicated to the table and one for handheld.

The Bosch pack can be found used on ebay, although good deals go quick. But in good condition they can also sell for almost as much as new, which could work to your advantage it when you want to trade up.

It s 2 1/4 hp which is more than enough for handheld routing (and better than the abundant PC690), and sufficient for most bits in a table as well. Variable speed to match different bits/woods. The pack comes with two bases and the motor can be swapped between them. I always use mine in the plunge base for handheld stuff. The fixed base can be mounted under the table. Also comes with 1/2” and 1/4” collets. There s a ton of accessories you can find like template guides, edge guides, etc. I ve had the 1617 for a few years and have used everything from a 1/16” straight bit to a 1” roundover without any difficulty.

For a table I would go the table saw mounted route. I ve had a small craftsman table for a while, but I just bought the same saw (T2) and plan on building my own saw extension with a router lift. It saves space, you said you like the work height, and you can build/buy a fence that attaches to the saw s fence.

In summary, I think the 1617evs Pack is the best all around back for your buck, and it holds it s value pretty well if you decide to sell it for whatever reason.

- Walker

I would definitely agree with you. My Bosch sits in my tablesaw wing. If I want to use it for something else, I snap it out of the base and use a second base I have or the plunge base. I also like the “second release” on the collet. No seizing in the collet problems I have read about with some other routers. Never found it lacking for power but I’m not trying to do things you should use a shaper for.

-- Darrel

View deeve's profile

deeve

41 posts in 273 days


#15 posted 05-09-2020 01:28 AM

Wow, I went out to do some yard work and came back to some great information. Thank you all for the advice. I really appreciate it and it gives me something to work towards for sure.

I think after I get done building a rolling cabinet for the miter saw and put together a lumber rack I will be running tight on space. Looking down the road I can see a drill press and sander in my future as well. While I think having the ability to work on a separate table, having the router table mountd on the saw seems to be a good idea. I will look into what it takes to put one together on the saw.

Quick question on the lifts. What is it about the lifts that make them such a great addition to the router table? Wouldn’t a router with above the table adjustment accomplish the same or no?

-- Dave Hillsboro, Oregon

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