What you should know before you buy a woodworking router


It's hard not to be impressed with a woodworking router's credentials. After all, with the right bits and accessories, it can cut intricate joints, make moldings, carve, make sighs, rout fancy edges, cut curves, make bowls, turn wood, joint edges, and trim laminates. No other shop tool is as versatile or more fun to use.

What isn't so fun is trying to decide which one to buy?
There are just too many, to choose, from, each with a different blend of features, each at a different price. After paring down your choices somewhat, you can then focus your attention on selecting a woodworking router with features that best suit your requirements. The following information and also from next articles, should help you do that.

How much horsepower do you need?

There is no substitute for power. Sure, a light-duty woodworking router can duplicate the work of a more powerful tool by taking two or more light cuts instead of one heavy one. But multiple cuts multiply your chances for error, and resetting the depth adjustment time after time is annoying.

Horsepower also determines how effective a woodworking router will be in maintaining operating RPMs. Any router you buy will have more than adequate rpms under no load, but an underpowered tool will slow down as soon as you feed it some work. As the tool slows down, cut quality drops off, the tool begins to strain, and its life expectancy drops.

For these reasons, buy as much power as you can afford. Unless you are certain you only want your woodworking router to perform light work on softwoods, go for a minimum of one hp. If you know you'll be making heavy cuts such as dadoes, cutting deep mortises and large tenons, or working extensively with hardwoods, I'd suggest selecting one with at least 1.5 hp.

Buying power will also almost certainly assure you of higher quality throughout the tool. You'll certainly get all ball-bearing construction rather than the less expensive and less durable sleeve bearings. I've owned two sleeve bearing routers in the past, and both burned out in a relatively short time. As you can see from the chart, most manufacturers have gone exclusively to ball bearings.