A wood router is a handy tool when it comes to hollow out an area inside a piece of wood.
These tools come in a number of varieties and are sold by an even larger variety of brands, which can be overwhelming for first timers or even experienced woodworkers.
To help you navigate through the extra choices, I compile this list of best wood routers for different needs.
There is a brief buying guide so that you have a clear idea of what you should look for, a comparison chart for a quick check, and an FAQ section where I answer some common questions.
Now let’s dive in.
What to consider when buying a wood router
As with other tools, before choosing a wood router, think about the tasks you intend to do. As you do, make a list of the key features that you want your future router to have.
This tool seems like a simple machine in comparison with a car or a cell phone. However, don’t be fooled by its appearance. Wood routers are highly versatile.
A capable router can handle a number of tasks such as soften edges, make joints, cut workpiece, and drill holes.
>>> Read: How To Round Wood Edges Without Router
When looking for a wood router, you want the most suitable model for your particular needs, not the best according to other’s opinions. So here are a few criteria:
Speed: If you intend to use one router for many bit sizes, look for a mid or full size that let you control their many speed levels.
Smaller bits work well with mid to high speed while large bits need pairing with slower speed for safety.
Adjusting speed is usually easy as many routers have a dial for this.
Electronic feedback circuitry: It was not until I had to use an old-school router that I truly appreciated how handy this feature is.
This sophisticated circuitry is in charge of adjusting the torque’s output according to how much load you put the motor through.
The electronic feedback circuitry ensures that your router will not stall under a heavy workload.
Soft start: To give you some time to adjust to the speed and noise of the router, most manufacturers add the soft start to newer routers nowadays.
Imagine you are holding a wood router with a big bit on. The moment you turn on the router, it reaches the full speed. Many will be startled as their muscles and ears have not had enough time to adapt to the force the router generates.
A router with soft start will have a few seconds of pause before accelerating to the full speed. A crucial feature on any handheld router in my opinion.
Spindle lock: This feature comes in handy when you have a plunge router.
Some routers need two wrenches to change a bit, but if yours has a spindle lock, you only need to deal with one. That is the one responsible for loosening or tightening the collet.
Above the table adjustment: You will have to deal with table routing sooner or later if you choose to pursue woodworking.
For this particular need, there are two helpful features to look for.
The first of is a handle or knob that allows you to change the cutting height without stooping over.
The second one is a collet that can be extended so that you are able to change the bit easier.
A router with ATA usually has these two handy features.
Best wood routers comparison chart
|Makita RT0701C 1-1/4 HP Compact Router|
|DEWALT DW618 2-1/4 HP Electronic Variable-Speed Fixed-Base Router||$$$$$|
Detailed reviews of the best wood routers
DEWALT DW616 1-3/4-Horsepower Fixed Base Router
I bought this one after I sold my DW612. What I aimed for back then was a budget-friendly but versatile router.
I knew well that the Porter-Cable 690 was the best choice all around in this area. However, its recent changes were not to my liking so I decided to buy a DW616 instead.
This was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Why? The answer is right below.
The first thing I keen on about this model is nothing more than its toggle switch. This may not sound like an important feature that can affect a buying decision but it is convenient for everyday use.
The switches protrude more so I have a better grip on them. Another good feature is a rubber fitting that deals the machine from dust.
As with the PC 690, the DW 616 can be placed down on its top when you need to change the bit.
There is no spindle lock on this one so you will have to spend a few seconds more on using its two wrenches.
The wrenches are made of stamped steel so they look stable and durable.
Another big selling point of the DW 616 is how easy it is to remove the motor. After unlatching the latch and pressing the quick release latch, you can lift the motor out with ease.
Adjusting the depth cut is quick and easy too. You unlatch the main latch and turn the adjustment ring.
This router comes at a very reasonable price because the manufacturer has left out a few minor accessories.
The first thing this DW616 does not have an edge guide. It does have holes for edge guide but you have to purchase one separately.
Another feature to lower the overall price is the handles. While some other noted brands like Bosch and Porter-Cable use wood and phenolic, Dewalt makes use of rubber. This saves you some money and rubber is less brittle than phenolic.
Theo only drawback I can find in this router is its safety certification. I expect a UL but it turns out to be a CSA. I have nothing bad to say about a CSA but I prefer a UL and I believe the manufacturer do this to cut cost.
- DW616’s 11-amp motor and 1-3/4-horsepower can rout some pretty tough wood.
- A micro-fine depth adjustment ring that can go as small as 1/64-inch.
- Easy and quick change of depth and base.
- Sub-base concentricity for great accuracy.
- CSA listing instead of UL listing
Bosch 12 Amp 2-1/4 HP Variable-Speed 1617EVS with 1/4-Inch and 1/2-Inch Collets
This Bosch model is smooth, powerful, has speed regulation and accurate adjustment.
The shank bits are another plus as they fit in and grip well.
This one does not have the spindle lock either so you will have to use the 2 wrenches for changing bits. Some other woodworkers told me they prefer this type of routers as they believe the push pin lock breaks off easily.
Either way, you might consider this an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your experience and preference. It could be better if there is a spindle lock mechanism but I have no problem with the 2 wrenches.
The handled base is made of wood, adding a classy look to the router. Again, this is my personal preference.
Some people dislike where the switches locate but other brands like Craftsman and Hitachi also make the same switches. A solution is to purchase a plunge router that has a trigger switch if you take this matter seriously.
The only criticism I have is the collet. It is not very precise so be careful with this.
- Good height adjustment lock
- The ball handles offer good grip and control.
- The speed adjustment is great
- The soft aluminum on the body can scratch easily.
- The collet is a bit off.
DEWALT DW618 2-1/4 HP Electronic Variable-Speed Fixed-Base Router
What impressed me about this router are the motor removal, the power, and the depth adjustment ring.
I love the adjustment ring as it makes changing bit height an ease. I no longer have to spin the motor housing and the precision is high.
Removing the motor is also quick and easy. All you have to do is to loosen the motor lock, and then turn the releasing tabs on each side. That’s it and the motor is off the base right away.
Here is the best part.
I have never tried any large bits with this but I have used some smaller ones on poplar, pine, and white oak. The motor made all the burn-free and smooth cuts in one pass.
The only drawback this tool has is how cumbersome it is to change the bit. There is a spindle lock on this Dewalt but it does not make the situation any less complicated. To change the bit, you have to hold the spring-loaded button with one hand and at the same time turning the wrench with other.
I have used other models that with better spindle lock. All you have to do is to lock the spindle and you have your both hand free to change the bit.
- Great height adjustment ring
- Powerful motor
- Easy motor removal
- Cumbersome bit changing
Bosch 12 Amp 2-1/4 Combination Horsepower Plunge and Fixed Base Variable Speed Router Kit 1617EVSPK with 1/4-Inch and 1/2-Inch Collets
This is, without doubt, the best set of router I have ever had.
This Bosch router has so many advantages over other models I have used.
It is a lot quieter, which is a great plus if you have to spend long hours in the workshop like me. If you do, this is the best woodworking router to buy.
The soft start is better too. It lets me just enough time to adjust to it before reaching the full speed. The plunge base is also smoother.
And the best part is, it has plenty of power for whatever I might need it.
That’s not all.
The collet is of great quality as it holds the bits tightly but releases it quickly when the job is done.
I have heard so many complaints about the lack of a spindle lock. However, this does not bother me at all.
On this particular model, the two wrenches prove to be the better method. Let me tell you why. The spindle lock is of great help for routers handling small and mid-size bits but not for the large ones.
A spindle lock cannot hold the bits tightly enough to prevent them slipping and leaving burn marks on your work. This is why I prefer wrenches to spindle lock on the machine that has to handle large bits, like this Bosch for example.
Some other complaints are about the imprecision of the plunge base. I can set any depth I want within the 1/64 inch and I have not seen any variation.
The case for the set is of plastic and everything fits well inside of it.
The fixed base can be uncomfortable for people with large hands.
- Have a lot of power
- Good soft start.
- Good quality collet
- The handles can be a bit uncomfortable for large hands
Makita RT0701C 1-1/4 HP Compact Router
This Makita RT0701C is one of the best plunge routers I have ever used.
Setting up this router is super quick.
The latch lock is of great help when it comes to changing the base and you have a wide range of options during any project.
My last project required a constant switching of the plunge base and this one took me no time to do the job.
The body of this Makita is compact and not at all bulky so you can maneuver it with ease. In fact, I always feel like I am on a flat pencil, which is great for complicated patterns.
The edge guide for the perimeter comes in handy when you have to deal with intersecting lines. The plunge base is for the dots and the straight edge is for the grid.
This method has helped me a lot when making something as intricate as Chinese Calligraphy.
If you have to deal with projects like mine a lot, this Makita is a good choice.
The motor creates clean cuts while keeping the wood piece in place so you do not have to worry about mishaps that can ruin the project.
However, this one is not without a drawback. It has no dust extractor so beware.
- Flat top for an easier change of bits
- Quick base removal and also base changes
- It accepts industry template guides
- Quick-release cam lock system
- Durable base insert
- There is no dust extractor
What can you do with a plunge router?
A plunge router is of great help for the following tasks:
Making cabinet: This particular job needs to be trimmed with care. It was once done by hand and chisels. Nowadays, with a plunge router, you can handle this with ease.
Making molds: A plunge router allows you more control over its movement so you can have a more intricate design.
Decoration: For something like a bowl, a router can go all the way inside and create the depth of the item as well as the outside and the base.
Trimming: A router’s portability makes it the ideal tool for edging. You can make a minute adjustment to the project, thus more complex patterns.
What is the best wood router for the money?
There is not a solid answer to this question as there are so many different needs for wood routers.
Bosch, Makita, or Dewalt will not even bother to make a router that can meet every kind of needs because it is both impossible and unnecessary.
The key to land the best wood router is to know what you really need.
Do you need one that is suitable for making complex patterns? So the Makita RT0701C 1-1/4 HP is the one for you.
Or if you want something that is made out of quality material, anything from Bosch will do.
Make a list of the key features you cannot live without and stick to it. Remember to set priority, which ones the router must have? Which one can be sacrificed?
Once you have this list, the quest is a lot easier. Find something with all of most of the priority features. In this way, you are sure you don’t buy anything redundant that can increase the price of the machine.
Can you use a router as a saw?
A saw and a router are two different tools so they can hardly cover each other’s tasks. A router can cut wood but it is not usually used that way.
Who makes the best wood router?
This is a very tricky question as each brand has it owns advantages.
My favorite is Bosch for their effort to keep the good quality. Other than that, I usually like a particular router rather than a whole brand.
Are there any decent routers under 100?
Yes, of course, there is.
If you have a tight budget, the following names can be a good choice:
- Makita RT0701C
- WEN 6033
- Ryobi ONE+ P601
What are some easy projects for beginners?
Some of my early projects when I first used a wood router are:
- A cutting board
- Wood numbers
- Party signs
- Picture frames
So that is some of my experience with a wood router. Remember, like I always say, the key to buying the best wood router, or any woodwork tool is to know exactly what you need.
If you have your own list of wood routers, please share with me and everyone by commenting below.