What is a Woodworking Router?

A wood router is a tool, sometimes a hand tool (though more usually a power tool, these days) used to hollow out an area inside a larger piece of wood – such as a detail design in creative carpentry, or a hinge joint.

Larger routers are used when you need to quickly get through a high volume of work load without risking your router bogging down. Because of their size and weight, they can be unwieldy to handle. Large routers are classed as anything over 1.75HP.

Smaller routers are used for intricate detail work and one-off pieces. They tend to lack the power of larger routers, and can get bogged down very easily. Small routers are classed as anything under 1.75HP.

Do I Need a Wood Router?

The simple answer is: yes. The router is easily the most versatile tool in your woodworking shop, and vital if you intend to do any kind of carpentry.

Ideally, you would need both a large and a small router, to provide maximum versatility. If you can't afford two routers, look for the most versatile tool in your price range, and buy it.

If you're doing a lot of woodwork, it's best to purchase a large router, as these offer more versatility than their smaller counterparts, and can stand up to volume.

What Do I Need to Look for When Buying a Router?

Make sure you know what you intend to use the router for. If you're mainly focused on detailed craftsmanship, you'll want a small router, whereas if you're working to volume, a large yet versatile router is going to be the best buy for you.

Pay attention to what size of bits the router you intend to buy takes – there's nothing more frustrating than buying the perfect tool, but not being able to use it because you can't source the accessories locally.

Finally, make sure you don't skimp on the quality of the final product. Chances are, you're going to be using your router a lot, so you want it to stand up to the demands of the average shop.

Here's a few handy reviews to get you started, and give you some ideas of what to look for in the world of woodworking routers.

Top Five Best Buy Large Routers Compared

As mentioned previously, if you can only afford one router, go large, as the large routers typically offer more versatile performance and power than small routers.  Here's our pick of the five best large routers out there.

#5: Bosch 1617EVSPK

This large router offers 8,000-25,000 variable speed rpm, and is a good general purpose tool for most standard wood work projects.  However, it would benefit from a deeper plunge depth, as currently the ability to carry out deep routing is limited. Full review here.

Pros:

  • Variable speed

Cons:

  • Needs deeper plunge depth

Who is it For?

This router might suit someone new to woodworking, or new to routing, who is simply looking to develop basic skills, and perhaps do some general, fairly basic routing work.

Value For Money?

Quite expensive for what is really a beginners' tool.

 

#4: Hitachi M12VC

Running from 8,000-24,000rpm, this router offers easy depth adjustment, and holds a set cutting depth well. It is ergonomically designed, and runs smoothly, if somewhat loudly. The running noise is particularly noticeable at high rpms, and, being very high-pitched, can be irritating.

Also, the speed control on this router does leave a bit to be desired. We get into more detail in our review here.

Pros:

  • Good depth adjustment and hold
  • Runs smoothly
  • Ergonomically designed

Cons:

  • Poor speed control
  • Runs very loud

Who is it For?

The lack of quality speed control makes this unsuited to those looking to do detail work, but, if you can tolerate the noise, it's good for general purpose volume work.

Value For Money?

This is a reasonably priced large router, and an inexpensive addition to your workshop. It's a good buy if you're doing a lot of fairly basic routing, but would be a waste of money if you were looking to do detail work, because of the poor speed control, which would impair this functionality.

 

#3: DeWalt DW618B

Offering 8,000-24,000 rpm, this router runs smoothly, and reasonably quietly – it's a power tool, so you're always going to get some noise. It offers variable speed control, and, while it would benefit from LED bulbs and a clear base, to enable you to easily see your work area, it is good for detail work.

The trigger switch can be a little stiff, which might be more of an issue if you're working in a cold shop, or have arthritis in your finger joints.

Pros:

  • Good for detail work
  • Runs smoothly and fairly quietly

Cons:

  • Would benefit from better lit, more visible work area
  • Trigger switch can be stiff

Who is it For?

This is an ideal router for those specialising in detail work, who still want the versatility of a large router. Would suit cabinet makers, for example.

Value For Money?

This is a pricey router, and is let down, for the detail work it is designed for, by the lack of a visible and well-lit working area, which is something of an essential where detail work is concerned.

 

#2: Porter Cable 690LR

An affordable, ergonomic router for general purpose work, it would be nice if it came in a case, though at this price you could easily afford your own.

The depth adjustment is good, but the height adjustment could do with some improvement. This may not be so much of an issue, and the lack of a case certainly won't, if you intend to clamp this to a table during use. We wrote a more detailed review here.

Pros:

  • Good depth adjustment

Cons:

  • Height adjustment could do with improvement

Who is it For?

This is a general purpose router, though better suited to someone who is looking to use their router clamped to a table, owing to the lack of a case and the poor height adjustment.

Value For Money?

A very affordable general purpose beginners' router.

#1 Best Buy Large Router – Bosch 1617EVS

This router monitors and maintains your desired rpm, between 8,000-25,000rpm. It is a powerful, capable router, that can handle metal and plastics, as well as wood.

It runs smoothly, and fairly quietly, and features easy depth adjustment.

Pros:

  • Easy depth adjustment
  • Monitors and maintains desired rpm
  • Handles a wide range of materials, including metal, without losing power
  • Runs smoothly and quietly

Cons:

  • None that we could see!

Who is it For?

This router would be ideal for anyone, from the beginner to the professional

Value For Money?

This router represents excellent value for money, given its performance capability. You're not spending anything close to top dollar, but you're still getting peak performance.

The Best Professional Wood Router: Festool 574354

This is a professional-quality large router, which is reflected in the price.  While it's definitely not designed for small spaces, it has the power to cope with volume work, and the precision to handle details.

If you have a large shop area, and are looking for one router to rule them all, this is the buy for you, bringing you power, precision, and versatile performance – at a price. In our review we conclude that it is worth it, if you do enough woodworking.

Pros:

  • The most versatile router you're likely to find
  • Power, performance, precision

Cons:

  • It doesn't come cheap!

Who is it For?

At this price, this is a professional's tool.

Value For Money?

It's a lot of buck, but it packs a lot of bang, too.

The Top Three Best Buy Small Routers

A small router will typically be backing up your larger router, taking care of the details while the large router packs the punches.

Here's our top three picks for small routers.

 

#3: DeWalt DWP611PK

Offering variable speed control between 16,000-27,000rpm, this router also features a see-through base and dual LEDs, making it easy to see your project while you're working on it.

It is a powerful router for its size, but it is prone to heating, which can cause some parts to melt. The locking mechanism also doesn't lock tight, and can slip during use. Here's our full review.

Pros:

  • Dual LEDs
  • Clear base
  • Powerful for its size

Cons:

  • Locking mechanism prone to slipping
  • Prone to overheating

Who is it For?

This would be a good, affordable router for someone who does occasional detail woodworking.

Value For Money?

For occasional light use, this is a very affordable small router, that is good for detail work.

 

#2: Bosch PR20EVSK

Running at 15,000-35,000rpm, this router offers excellent depth adjustment, and is smooth and comfortable to use.

It would benefit from a see-through base, and LED lighting, and the guides are poor quality, making it difficult to fine tune.

However, if you are an experienced router with a well-lit shop, this is a good general purpose small router. Our reviewer recommended it for experienced woodworkers.

Pros:

  • Excellent depth adjustment
  • Smooth and comfortable to use

Cons:

  • Poor guides
  • Would benefit from a better lit work area

Who is it For?

This would suit an experienced router with a well-lit shop who is looking for an affordably priced detail tool.

Value For Money?

Good price for good functionality.

 

#1: Best Buy Small Router: Makita RT0701C-1

A very affordable router, the Makita runs between 10,000 and 30,000rpm, and the variable speed control matches the router's speed to your application. 

It features a fine depth adjustment system, giving you the precision you need, and is slim and ergonomic, making it ideal for all spaces and users. It fits most hands very well, and has lower vibration than many other routers, making it comfortable to use even over long periods.

It would benefit from a clear base to enable you to check your progress whilst using the router, however. Here's the full review we wrote.

Pros:

  • Fine depth adjustment system
  • Matches speed to application
  • Slim and ergonomic
  • Less vibration

Cons:

  • Would benefit from a clear base

Who is it For?

This is an affordable, general purpose small router that would suit everyone.


Wood Routing Articles

Individual Wood Router Reviews