Read through our wood router buying guide for tips to get an idea of what you should look for before purchasing a wood router. This list is a brief buyer’s guide that covers the most important features that you want to compare on all sizes and models of router. Something’s that you want to look for and compare are collet sizes, variable speeds, soft-start motors and horsepower.
Top 10 Features on A Wood Router:
1. The first thing is to look for a wood router is horse power. You want one with the horsepower that matches your usage. Ones with high-speed and low-torque make the smoothest cuts that need the least sanding, but they’re not designed for heavy-duty or continuous use. The mid-sized with speeds between 1.5- to 2.5-hp may be able to handle deeper cuts in hardwoods, but only by straining the motor and shortening the router’s life. Larger ones with 3 horse power or more are better suited for heavy jobs and production work. For most jobs, though, a mid-sized router has plenty of power, and for small jobs, a lightweight trimmer is the easiest to use.
2. A Soft-start motor with an EVS. This is a nice feature on the router because it makes it safer and easier to use. The soft-start eliminates the wrist-wrenching motion that can happen when the router is first started, which can twist a handheld router right out of your hands, if you are not careful. Routers with soft-start motors use EVS (electronic variable speed) technology, with electronic feedback to keep the cutting speed constant even when the load varies.
3. A variable speed dial. This allows you to run the router at a lower speed when using especially large bits. The speed dial has numbers to indicate the relative speed. It’s ideal to be able to read the corresponding rpm from a chart right on the router; second best is a chart in the router’s manual.
4. A Two-stage depth adjustment control knob. This means that a fast coarse adjustment is supplemented by a micro-adjustment that makes fine adjustments easier for the router to handle. You want to find one with an easy-to-read scale on the front or side. The best routers have scales you can “zero out,” this lets you set the scale to zero when the bit’s point touches the surface of the work piece. Another nice feature is the ability to adjust the depth when the router is mounted in a table — a long depth-control knob makes this easier for the user.
5. You want to look for a router that has two separate collets instead of one with an adapter. Most mid-sized and larger routers come with both a half-inch collet and a quarter-inch one, but a few just include an adapter for the quarter-inch bits. The smaller ones only come with a quarter inch bit collet due to the fact that they are designed for lightweight projects. Look for high-quality self-releasing collets made of tempered steel. Longer collets with more slits will grip the bit better and keep it centered even if its shank isn’t precisely machined. (If the router vibrates excessively, this is often a sign of a worn or poor-quality collet or bit.)
6. A nice flat, smooth top on the metal housing of the router makes it easier for you to set it down on an even surface with the shaft facing up to change out the bits. Self-releasing collets (which grip the bit) and a convent spindle lock also make it easier, so you only need to use one wrench for bit changes (though some woodworkers prefer the two-wrench system).
7. Covered grips or handles. Be sure to find one with comfortable handles that give you good control over the router at all times and allows you to reach the switch without letting go of the handles. A dust covered power switch is also a nice feature to prevent wood chips and saw dust from damaging the switch/motor, but the most important part on the switch is safety. You want one that can’t be easily turned on/off during operation on its own.
8. A base with a large opening can accommodate medium to large bits. A 4-inch hole is the perfect size for your mid to larger size routers and a 3 inch minimum is great opening size for your trim/palm routers. If this is the only problem with a router you like than you can make your own base out of clear Lexan to accommodate whatever size hole you need. For some projects, especially on the edge of a work piece, a base with a large hole may not leave enough support.
9. A clear base that is machined precisely with good mounting holes and lets you see the view work area. LED lights are a plus, but more important is a base that’s truly flat and has the circular edge at the same distance from the bit at all points. This allows the bit to be precisely centered during use. Since so many accessories mount to the router’s base, it’s very important to have plenty of sturdy threaded holes on the base
10. Guide bushings are nice accessories. These are metal sleeves that lock into the base of a router for cutting with a pattern or using various jigs. It’s an advantage to choose a router that accepts industry-standard bushings or at least offers an adapter that makes this possible.
How to Use this Wood Router Buying Guide:
When looking at the different models of wood routers for sale,you need to understand that not every one is going to have everything on this list. What you want to do with this guide is first read over the list of 10 items to help you learn more about the basic features that come standard on most router, then select between 6 to 8 of the most import ones to you. Once you have an idea or list of the features that you require on a router, then you can use this information to compare the different models on the market to find the wood router that fits your needs in the shop or on the job.