The wood router is considered one of the most utilized tools in any woodworker’s arsenal. The best wood router is incredibly versatile and will allow you to make hollowed-out wood, joinery, and cutouts with ease. Finding the best wood router, one that works with the type of materials you often use for your woodworking project, can be a challenge. Especially if you’re new to woodworking, or you’re on a tight budget. I’ve created a buyer’s guide that includes features to look for that make a router more versatile, durable, and reliable. I’ve also reviewed several of the best-selling routers on the market, narrowing it down to five that have what it takes to give your next woodworking project pro-looking results.
Below, I’ve included a comparison chart with each wood router, its top features, and how it rated.
Wood Router Comparison Chart
|SKIL Plunge and Fixed|
Base Router Combo
Best Wood Router-Dewalt DWP611PK Router
The Dewalt DWP611PK router offers variable speed control, dual LED lights, and a clear base that allows you to clearly see your workpiece. The 7 amp motor provides more than enough power for large woodworking projects. The adjustable speed settings will allow you to choose the appropriate motor speed, based on the type of material you’re working with, which will result in smoother, cleaner cuts. The lightweight design makes the router easier to handle and control, so it’s a great choice for the new woodworker. The router’s ergonomic design improves user control and handling, so you can take on a wide variety of applications from large edge profiles and small bevel cuts, to heavy flush-trim jobs. This fixed base router comes with all of the bells and whistles you need to take on any project you want.
- Fine depth adjustment system
- Variable speed motor
- Easy motor pack removal
- Reasonable price
- Only accepts ¼” shank cutters
This compact fixed base router offers more power than what you’ll get from competing routers in this price bracket. It also features a contoured, low grip that gives you more control over your workpiece, for precise cutting action. The router also comes with a couple of tabs that allow for simple and fast base release and an adjustable clamp design. Easy to use, lightweight, and built tough, this is one of the most portable wood routers on the market, so it’ll be a must-have for the pro on the go or the amateur woodworker who needs a portable router that’s versatile and built tough.
Best Wood Router Combo Kit-Dewalt Router Combo Kit
If you’re looking for a versatile plunge router, one that’s tough and includes all the gear you need to take on a wide variety of woodworking projects, this Dewalt router delivers. The versatile tool features 2 ¼ HP, complete with variable speed control. The electronic variable speed offers full feedback control for speeds under load ranging from 8,000-24,000 RPM. The router’s soft start is designed to minimize torque for improved control. The D-handle design and trigger switch with a lock-on feature make this model more user-friendly. Additionally, the tool-free steel cam lock makes base changes and depth adjustments fast and simple.
- Variable speed
- 12 amp motor
- Fine depth adjustment
- Quick clamp system
- Versatile router
This woodworking router includes a quick-release motor latch for easy and fast motor removal for base and bit changes. This is one of the best combo router kits on the market. This power tool will work for both amateurs and pro woodworkers and comes with all the features you need to take on both simple and complex woodworking projects in your home workshop or on the job.
Best Woodworking Router for Beginners-SKIL Plunge and Fixed-Base Router Combo
This plunge router features a 14 amp motor and 2.5 hp. This set also comes with both plunge and fixed bases so you can take on a variety of projects. The electronic feedback will ensure the router’s motor maintains the RPM as you’re routing material. The large speed control LCD display will let you choose the perfect material and bit type and will provide suggested speed settings, based on project type.
- Variable speed motor
- Live tool indicator
- Electronic feedback
- 14 amps
- Speed control LCD display
- Soft start
- Small sub-base limits you on the types of bits you can use
This plunge base router is versatile, includes important safety features that make these plunge routers more user-friendly and allows for fine depth adjustment. This is one of the toughest and most versatile plunging routers on the market and it’s available at a price that’s reasonable.
Most User-Friendly Wood Router-Porter Cable Router
The Porter-Cable PCE6435, like the past model, the Porter Cable 690lr, is perfect for small edge forming, most types of trimming jobs, and hinge routing projects. The router features a 5.6 amp motor and 16,000-35,000 RPM. The ergonomic design allows for single-handed control and helps to reduce user fatigue. The cheapest wood router in the manufacturer’s lineup, this model comes with extra-large locking clips for fast depth adjustment and motor release. The attached depth ring lets you make height adjustments fast and easily, while the spindle lock button provides single wrench changes. This user-friendly model is a great buy for the new woodworker on a budget and comes with all the features you need for a wide range of projects.
- LED light
- Easy to use
- Spindle lock system
- Precise depth adjustment
- Variable speed router
- Variable speed dial creeps a lot
This Porter Cable wood router is affordable, easy to use, and includes a clear sub-base and LED light, both of which work to improve visibility while you work. This wood router may not come with many flashy features, but it does include those must-have features that are designed to make your life a little easier while helping you to complete a project faster, with pro-quality results.
Best Trim Router-Dobetter Trim Router
This trim router comes with 12 router bits, a roller guide, an edge guide, carbon brushes, a wrench, and a dust hood. The rack and pinion depth adjusters offer a more precise cutting function and six speeds to choose from. The constant power and soft start make the router easier to control, preventing it from jumping in your hand. The compact design also makes it easier to handle and use for a longer period of time. The 6.5 amp motor gives the router moderate power, delivering 1.25 HP.
- Variable speed settings
- Constant power
- Includes 12 router bits
- Quick-release cam lock
- Low price
- Included directions are vague
The best wood routers are easy to control, hold, and can make precise, clean cuts. This model comes with some great features and extras, that add to its versatility and ease of use. Offering smooth operation and a design that allows you to easily slice through soft and hardwood, this router is durable, built tough, and is available for a price that won’t break the bank.
Wood Router Buyer’s Guide
You can do so much with a wood router such as shape decorative edges, mill woodworking joints such as mortises, dovetails, and rabbets, trim veneers and plastic laminate, create intricate inlays, create moldings, carve signs, and cut slots and grooves.
In this guide, I’ll break down how to choose the best wood router for your next woodworking project, so you end up with a tool that can get the job done, whether you’re an amateur or a pro woodworker. But before I go over the different types of wood routers available and the features to look for, let’s check out some of the wood router’s top benefits.
Benefits of using a Wood Router
Wood routers are very useful power tools that make your woodworking projects more functional and allow you to add more decorative flair. A router comes with a variety of specifications that are useful for both industrial and home purposes. Below, I’ve compiled a list of some of the top benefits of using this popular woodworking tool and how it can come in handy for your next project, whether you’re creating a table, fine trim, or a type of decorative piece.
- A router is easy to use and can perform a variety of tasks thanks to its wide functionality. It can be used to shape and cut wood and other materials including trim. Many pros consider the router one of the most versatile tools in woodworking.
- Routers can do more than just cut through pieces of wood, plastic, or metal, in fact, it can be used to make different patterns utilizing its wide variety of features. If you’re new to woodworking and don’t know how to use a router, there are many styles and types available that are beginner-friendly.
- With the help of this tool, you can cut a perfectly sharp edge in a matter of minutes.
- A wood router will allow you to create decorative and stylish moldings. With this tool, you can craft any shape or style of molding for baseboards, doors, or windows.
- You can use a router to carve pieces of wood to form a stronger link. This link can be used in cabinets, windows, and doors.
- A router can also be used for cutting patterns and grooves, in addition to making designs on your workpiece.
- The router is considered the most precise joinery tool. You’ll have a hard time finding a woodworking tool that’s as accurate. Because a router can cut quickly and leave behind a smooth surface, this means joints and bonds will be stronger.
Types of Wood Routers
Wood routers are available in different designs and styles. Some types are more user-friendly than others and you’ll also come across wood routers that are designed for beginners or professionals. If you’re new to woodworking and just learning the ropes, a smaller, low-powered model should be sufficient.
Fixed Base Wood Router
A fixed base router has a base that doesn’t move. The height you choose before firing up the router will be the same height you’ll use throughout the cut. These routers are very beginner-friendly. You can easily make adjustments and set up the router for the right cut. The fixed base router also has handles that are set low and located near the bottom of the base. This design makes them easier to control. Overall, these are great wood routers for the beginner since they end up handling approximately 90% of the job. They are also the most affordable.
Plunge Base Wood Routers
This type of wood router features a base equipped with a couple of springs that rise to the motor housing, handles, and bit. This design allows the user to plunge the bit into the wood with the bit running, allowing for more versatility with cuts that you won’t get with a fixed base wood router. With this style, you can cut out blind dadoes, mortises, or try your hand at engraving. Since the handles are located higher up, these routers are more challenging to control and complicated to set up. However, if you have experience with woodworking, then you should be able to get the hang of this style of wood router in no time.
You should also keep in mind; a plunge base model is more expensive than a fixed base.
A combo wood router is pretty straightforward in design. This type of router is basically a plunge base router and fixed base router in one, allowing you to enjoy the best of both worlds.
With this design, the bit and motor housing separate from the wood router’s base, then you can mount the housing into the base you need to use based on the job. A combo wood router features a versatile set up and is usually priced affordably. However, you will pay more for this type of wood router in the beginning. Bottom line, you’re basically getting two different types of routers and you won’t pay twice the price. Additionally, they’re a great choice for the woodworker that is short on space in their workshop.
Other Important Features
Below is a list of different features that you’ll want to look for when you’re searching for a new wood router that will suit your needs, your budget, and your skill level.
A router has the difficult job of cutting wood into specific shapes. The design means that there’s not often much contact between the material and bit. This also means that a wood router needs a lot of power to do its job well. Additionally, if you take on challenging projects that require a wood router, you’re properly considering working with more than just softwood. A wood router usually comes with a few power level options you can choose based on the size of your workpiece. Trim wood routers usually come in at 1 to 1 1/2 horsepower or below. A mid-sized wood router will feature 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 HP. High-powered models have 3-3 1/3 HP and are mounted to a CNC machine or router table. When you’re shopping for a wood router, horsepower isn’t always the most accurate indicator of how powerful a motor is. Looking at the amperage can be a better bet and can ensure your router has the type of power you need to get the job done.
Most woodworkers prefer routers that come equipped with LED work lights. These lights consist of a small flashlight on top of the router that will turn on when the switch is engaged. The goal of the light is to make following your mark much, easier especially if you’re working indoors. Even in a well-lit workshop, if you stand in the wrong place you can throw a shadow on your work, which will make the line harder to see you. While an LED work light may seem a bit gimmicky, these lights are definitely a feature most woodworkers will appreciate once they find themselves in conditions where light is scarce.
Soft start is one of those features you didn’t know you couldn’t live without until you tried a tool that had one. If you’ve ever had to switch on a router without a soft start mechanism then you know the kick from the router powering up is pretty intense and it happens in an instant. This can make a router difficult to control. A soft start powers up the router to the correct speed over one to three seconds. This feature makes it less intimidating to fire up the router, giving the user better control.
This feature goes by many names, however, the most common is electronic motor feedback. The goal of this feature is to help control the torque, decreasing or increasing it based on the load that’s being placed on the motor. If you’re dealing with an especially difficult cut, it increases the torque, backing off when you’re making easier cuts. The feature makes the router’s operation smoother, especially if you go from one challenging cut to the next. Because the router only exerts a maximum amount of torque when it’s needed, it increases the lifespan of the router and is much gentler on the engine.
Depth adjustment is a more important feature when you’re working on complex woodworking jobs such as joinery. For these types of jobs, depth adjustment is a critical feature and one that will help you produce consistent cuts. However, if you want to use your wood router to do some rabbets, dadoes, cutting, or edge trimming, you may not get as much mileage out of this type of feature.
Variable speed control allows you to adjust the speed at which the router spins a bit. Not all types of bits can perform well at max speed. Basically, the larger a bit is the better it performs at a lower speed. A variable speed setting on a wood router is also important since not all types of wood have the same hardness. While it may seem like you can just run the router at full tilt, regardless of the types of wood you’re cutting, doing so can be very hard on the router’s motor.
There are a couple of different main sizes of collets for routers; ½ inch and ¼ inch. A ½ inch collet offers more grip because of the larger surface area found on the shank. Additionally, this size of collect often comes with an adapter that allows them to work with ¼ inch collets as well. Basically, this collet size will give you more control and better options.
There are a couple of ways you can change out a bit in your router. You can use a couple of wrenches, with one wrench on the motor shaft and the other on the collet to loosen a bit, or you can push a button that locks the shaft into place as you use a wrench to loosen the collet.
Having a spindle lock makes the entire process a little easier and will prevent you from having to search all over for that extra wrench. While this isn’t a make-or-break feature, it definitely helps to streamline the process.
Dust collection systems or something that’s difficult to measure and usually doesn’t seem to amount to much of a feature, at least if you’re looking for an efficient system that will remove up to 90% of the sawdust from the air. With that being said, any amount of dust that can get collected is less dust in the air for you to breathe, and less dust that will cover your equipment. Overall, most woodworkers consider a dust collection system low on their priority of features to look for since there’s no one system that is 100% effective. The bottom line, you’ll always end up with a significant amount of sawdust flying around after your job is done. However, it’s still nice to have a wood router that comes with one of these systems, simply because it can remove a portion of sawdust from your workspace and the air.
You’ll find wood routers available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Palm routers are perfect for small jobs and can fit in the palm of your hand.
A compact router features more power compared to palm routers, is slightly bigger, and often comes with portable carrying cases.
A full-size router is more powerful than the other two options and is built for heavy-duty jobs.
Many routers are sold with a set of bits, however, if the wood router you want doesn’t come with the types of bits you need, this shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Bits are fairly inexpensive and you’ll find yourself in need of different types as you advance in your woodworking skills. Below, you’ll find a list of some of the most common bits sold with a wood router, and what these bits can do for your woodworking projects.
The wood router is one of the most versatile tools out there because of the vast assortment of different types of bits you can choose from and what they’re capable of. There are a variety of different bits you can purchase for your router including:
Straight bits are very common and are often used to cut out grooved pieces in wood. The diameter of these bits can vary.
This type of bit is often used to make a beveled edge on something such as a table corner. Essentially, this bit is commonly used for decorative purposes.
These bits are often used to trim the edges of a piece of material flush with the edge of another. Typically, they are guided by a pilot bearing that is the same diameter as the cutter. The bearing can be positioned at the base of the bit over the tip.
An edge bit is used to cut all types of edges for decorative purposes.
This type of bit is used when you’re cutting a shoulder to join a couple of pieces of wood together.
A router table allows the woodworker to run wood over the router instead of running the router over the wood. Router tables can add versatility to a router by allowing the wood router to work upside down. Inverted routers are mounted to the table and will allow the woodworker to run their wood over the tool instead of running the router over the wood. These tables come in many different sizes, some of which are portable, while others are stationary. Router tables are a must-have piece of gear for the serious woodworker and for larger projects.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Should I Look for When Buying a Wood Router?
Power should be a big priority. Adequate power is needed based on the type of woodworking projects you normally work on or future woodworking project goals.
What Can I Use Instead of a Wood Router?
You can cut channels in wood using a dremel, or a similar type of tool. However, it’s almost impossible to get the same type of clean-cutting results that you’ll get when you use a wood router. If you’re using a dremel, you’ll need to use a utility knife to clean up the edges of a cut. This can also help prevent the edges from splintering.
Is a Router Tool Worth it?
Yes. The versatility of a wood router will open up new project possibilities, not to mention it will give you more freedom to get creative with your normal woodworking projects, while also allowing you to take on more challenging projects.
Should I Buy a Plunge or Fixed Base Router?
A plunge router is a better choice for woodworking projects that require the woodworker to begin cutting in the middle of a workpiece. A fixed base router is ideal for small trims. The fixed base router can also allow the woodworker to provide greater detail for edge work.
My list of the best wood routers on the market may not work for everyone. When you choose a router, do so based on the size of the projects you work on, the types of materials you’re working with, and your woodworking goals. Picking the right wood router can be a difficult job, however, with the information in this guide, you should have no trouble selecting a wood router that comes equipped with the features and the type of power you need to take on even the most challenging woodworking projects.