Best Wood Routers of 2017 – Reviews & Buying Guide

wood routerAs the name suggests, a wood router is used to rout wood! Handy for many different DIY projects, it’s a very useful tool to have around. Indeed, the wood router can also be used on metals, plastics and laminates whether cutting, trimming or shaping. A wood router can hollow out a hole or a groove as well as finish edges and provide curved contours, for example.

The best wood router is a very versatile power tool thanks to the very many bits with which it can be equipped. In fact, many woodworkers consider the wood router to be an absolutely essential piece of equipment, particularly for cabinetry and decorative moldings. Nowadays you can find a variety of different types of wood routers so there’s almost certainly a product out there that fits your working needs. Let’s get started and find it!


The Best Wood Routers of 2017

MODELPRODUCT DIMENSIONS
ITEM WEIGHT
USER RATINGPRICE
Bosch 1617EVSPK
Bosch 1617EVSPK
6.2 x 19.5 x 14.5 inches
18.2 pounds
4.6/5
$$$$$
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DeWalt DW616
DeWalt DW616
10.8 x 9.2 x 7.2 inches
10 pounds
4.6/5
$$
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DeWalt DW618PK
DeWalt DW618PK
15.9 x 24 x 9.1 inches
22.1 pounds
4.5/5
$$$$
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Porter-Cable 690LR
Porter-Cable 690LR
10 x 10 x 8 inches
9.4 pounds
4.5/5
$$$
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Black & Decker RP250
Black & Decker RP250
11.5 x 6.6 x 11.9 inches
9.9 pounds
4.0/5
$
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If you’re unsure as to how to go about choosing a wood router, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find all the answers you need in order to select a great product. Read on for our detailed wood router reviews which will explain all about the pros and cons. There’s even a buying guide so you can learn about the various features to look for and how to make the most of your new purchase!

1. Bosch 1617EVSPK – Our Top Pick

Bosch 1617EVSPKWhen you’re seeking a mid-sized wood router, the Bosch 1617EVSPK fits the bill and is a great tool for both amateurs and professionals alike. It has a number of key features that show it is a quality model. The soft start and variable speed offer a greater degree of control and help provide better quality work. The variable speeds range from 8,000 to 25,000 RPM and the engine generates 2.25 HP. This is more than enough power for most wood routing needs and means you don’t have to work quite as hard to get work done. Despite the power, this unit is quieter than many other wood routers on the market.

Aside from the excellent performance, this is the best wood router on the market because it’s also very easy to use. The 18.2 lbs weight is enough that it’s not too difficult to move yet provides sufficient stability when in use. Handling is excellent due to the rubberized grip handles and indeed the wooden grips by the base. The quality construction of the 1617EVSPK means that you’re unlikely to encounter many problems. The motor housing and bases are made of aluminum while the power switch is dust sealed. However, the warranty is only 1 year which may not be long enough for some people.

Pros

  • Offers excellent power

  • Quality build with aluminum parts

  • Easy to handle

Cons

  • Only comes with a 1-year warranty


2. DeWalt DW618PK – Another Solid Pick

DeWalt DW618PKA mid-range wood router, the DeWalt DW618PK features a variable speed 2.25 HP, 12 Amp motor. This can manage anything from 8,000 to 24,000 RPM and the overall power should be enough for most tasks you throw at it. As with any high-quality wood router, it has a soft start feature. The quality of construction is good with the solid metal frame which helps minimize vibrations during use. Having an excellent aluminum build means that the cut quality tends to be very good. However, one disadvantage of this is that it is on the heavy side at 22.1 lbs.

We really like the mix of basic and advanced features on this model which make it ideal for people with all levels of experience. It tends to be sold as a combo kit which includes a fixed and plunge base. Some features may not be exciting but are necessary nonetheless. These include the dust sealed switch although the dust collection of this model is said to be relatively poor. However, the unit does have a great ergonomic shape including handles that are of a comfortable size. Overall this is a competitively priced unit for the power and number of accessories that it offers.

Pros

  • Durable due to solid construction

  • Depth adjustments can be made quickly

  • Ergonomic shape makes it comfortable

Cons

  • Quite heavy at 22.1 lbs

  • Dust collection is sub-standard


3. DeWalt DW616 – Best for the Money

DeWalt DW616While the DeWalt DW616 may not pack the punch of pricier wood routers, it may be more than enough for your working needs whether on hard or soft woods. It features 1.75 HP, 11 Amp motor which is a respectable offering for the price. However, the motor is a little loud compared to some higher quality DeWalt models. One of the best things about this unit is in its quality construction. It’s a durable model and the motor housing is nickel plated. When you buy this product it should come with 1/4 and 1/2-inch collets as well as a couple of wrenches and a sub-base concentricity gauge. Just as important is the 3-year warranty.

A number of convenient features make the DW616 the best wood router for the money. The on/off switch is dust sealed while the unit itself is easily serviceable. Adjustments and base changes are quick and easy because they’re tool-free with a steel motor cam lock and quick-release motor latches. Meanwhile, the design is intended to be comfortable with molded rubber handles and excellent weight distribution for better balance. It’s a sign of a quality product that there aren’t too many complaints to be made. Perhaps the power cord is a little on the short side but otherwise, this is a very good mid-priced option.

Pros

  • Competitive price

  • Durable construction

  • Tool-free adjustments

Cons

  • Quite loud

  • Power cord is quite short


4. Porter-Cable 690LR – Worth Considering

Porter-Cable 690LRThe Porter-Cable 690LR isn’t the most attractive looking wood router on the market but if you’re looking for a quality tool, this probably won’t matter! Thankfully this wood router offers good performance. It has a 1.75 HP motor which runs at 11 Amps. Perhaps one of the most impressive features is that the single-speed motor is capable of generating up to 27,500 RPM which is higher than most other handheld wood routers on the market. This means that cuts are very precise and of high quality. The two ergonomic handles ensure you will maintain a steady grip even when working through the toughest of wood.

Another feature of the 690LR worth noting is the dust-sealed components that ensure the longevity of the product. There’s also the fast bit removal which makes changing the setup quick and easy. Despite the various advantages, there have been some concerns expressed by consumers regarding the deterioration in quality with some people receiving models with minor faults. Also, there is no soft start which may be an issue for some people but this is not a feature to be expected from a relatively cheap wood router. Overall this Porter-Cable wood router is a good no-frills product available for a competitive price.

Pros

  • Good quality for the cheap price

  • Impressive RPM

Cons

  • Reports of some faults in the newest models

  • No soft start feature


5. Black & Decker RP250 – Mediocre Wood Router at Low Price

Black & Decker RP250If you’re looking for a low-cost wood router that offers sufficient power for light-duty work, you may want to consider the RP250 from Black & Decker. The 10 Amp variable speed motor offers 8,000 to 27,000 RPM and the unit has three turrets that are easy to set which is great for when you’re doing repetitive cuts. This wood router is particularly good for those with less experience as it isn’t overloaded with features and is very light at just 9.9 lbs. It’s good to know that a 2-year warranty is offered with this particular product.

While the Black & Decker RP250 is perfectly fine for occasional DIY, it has a few limitations that prevent it from being suitable for heavier applications. For a start, the handles are on the small side which may result in hand fatigue during prolonged use. Also, the plunge lock is said to be quite difficult to use which may prove problematic for those who are new to using a wood router. Despite these issues, basic features such as a sightline base and spindle lock mechanism make it fairly easy to use. If your wood routing needs are simple and you’re on a budget, this may be the product for you.

Pros

  • Spindle lock system for easy bit changing

  • 2-year warranty

Cons

  • Plunge lock can be tricky to use

  • Handles are quite small

  • Lacks power for heavy-duty applications


Factors to Consider When Buying a Wood Router

Like any other power tool, a wood router is an important purchase. A good product doesn’t usually come cheap so it’s important to know exactly what you want. In order to do that, we need to, first of all, introduce you to the two basic types of woodworking routers: plunge routers and fixed base routers.

  1. Plunge Routers

A plunge router has a base that is spring-loaded. This allows the user to push it down into the wood. It is possible to lock the spring-loaded base at a specific depth. The depth can also be changed by unlocking the depth release and moving the base in or out. A plunge router makes cutting a piece of wood from the middle much easier. They offer a great deal of versatility and, as such, tend to be more expensive than fixed base routers. They’re also a little bit more difficult to use.

  1. Fixed Base Routers

Unlike with a plunge router, a fixed base router requires the user to set the blade depth beforehand. It’s not adjustable when in use which makes it less versatile than the plunge router. When adjustments need to be made, they usually require twisting the housing in order to screw or unscrew the router in the base. This helps move the router bit up and down. Fixed base routers are good for making edge cuts and for designs that require a great deal of precision. They’re ideal for beginners since they’re lighter in weight and easier to use.

Key Wood Router Features

Now that we know about the two types of routers to be looking at, let’s look in a little more detail at some of the most important features. Having some knowledge about these should come in handy as you make your decision.

Horsepower

As you’d expect the horsepower of a wood router can vary from product to product. Some have as little as 1.25 HP and some as much as 3+ HP. We always think it’s best to plump for more horsepower than you think you’ll need just in case. 2 HP is a fairly safe option for most wood routing tasks, minus the most heavy-duty. If you’re seeking a wood router that will do it all then you really need to be looking at at least 3 HP.

  • Speed Controls

As with some of the wood routers we reviewed, some wood routers have speed controls which can make your work much easier. The ability to speed up or slow down quickly and easily can make all the difference.

  • Soft Start

Some of the better wood routers on the market have a soft start feature which prevents gouging on startup. This allows you to make smoother transitions and makes the router easier to handle. The acceleration slowly increases until reaching the preset speed.

Any other accessories?

Aside from the various wood routing bits, there are a number of other accessories that will help you perform the tasks you want:

  • Tables and Fences

A routing table provides you with a little more flexibility in how you use your wood router. With it, you can have your wood router placed up with the blade or bit protruding from the table. The wood is then slid across the bit via the table. A fence helps guide your work, keeping it on course and helping cut nice straight lines.

  • Jigs and Clamps

Router jigs and clamps make wood routing easier. A jig can hold the wood in place while you make very specific cuts. A clamp stops the wood from slipping. In fact, a clamp can be used to hold the jig.

  • Ergonomic Handles

Ergonomic handles aren’t the most obvious of features but you’ll quickly come to appreciate them when working for an extended period of time. Some routers have two handles which are rubberized for better comfort and grip.

  • Dust Control

As you’d expect, a wood router can create a lot of dust. A router with a vacuum port can help improve visibility when working as well as reduce the risk of inhaling dust.

Wood Router Bits

If you want to be able to make different designs then you need to be able to perform different cuts. For this a variety of bits is essential. Here are just some of the bits you might need:

  • Beading: With this, you can create a rounded convex edge on the sides of the wood.

  • Chamfer: This bit allows you to cut a straight edge at an angle along the side of the wood.

  • Cove: For a concave quarter circle along the side of the wood.

  • Dado: With a dado bit you can form a box groove across the wood.

  • Dovetail: For cutting a groove across the wood. The bottom of the groove is wider than the top.

  • Rabbeting: This is for making a 90-degree square cut along the edge of the wood.

  • Roman Ogee: Allows you to make an S-shaped design along the wood’s edge.

  • Round Nose: For cutting a half circle groove across wood.

  • Round Over: Creates a rounded edge without recessed edges.

  • V Groove: With this, you can cut a V-shaped groove across a piece of wood.

10 Top Wood Router Tips

Now that you know what you need, why not learn a few tips and tricks for whichever wood router you end up choosing?

  1. Use 1/2” bit shanks

1/2” bit shanks tend to offer less vibration because of the increased size of the shank. This provides better stability and thus makes a smooth cut more likely.

  1. Double check the bit is properly installed

It’s always worth double-checking that the bit you’re planning on using is properly installed. A bit coming loose during operation can be dangerous to do what you can to avoid this.

  1. Check the condition of your bits

You can avoid getting a bad cut by regularly checking the condition of your tool’s bits. These can usually be sharpened and smoothed out.

  1. Choose the appropriate speed

Different router bits should be run at different speeds. Generally speaking, the larger the bit, the slower the speed required due to the vibration generated.

  1. Clear those chips

Cutting wood inevitably leads to a lot of sawdust. Too many chips can get in the way of a clean cut. Some routers come with vacuum ports though you can always use a shop vac if necessary.

  1. Slow and steady wins the race

It’s better to make multiple light passes rather than try to gouge all of the material in one heavy cut. Wood routers are designed for the former. Try to increase the depth of the cut slightly each time for best results.

  1. Calculate the feed rate

Moving the rotating bit too fast along the edge of the material can result in a rough cut while too slow can burn the edges. A smooth, consistent feed rate works best.

  1. Ensure stability

If the workpiece is shifting during operation, you’re not going to get a nice cut. You can address this issue by using jigs and clamps, for example.

  1. Rout the right way

The bit on a wood router spins clockwise. Outside edges should be routed in a counter-clockwise direction and inside edges in a clockwise direction. This helps provide maximum safety and greater control.

  1. Rout in the right order

Rout end-grain edges first before moving on to long-grain edges. This helps avoid wood splintering off on corners in end-grain routing.

We hope that these tips help you with whichever wood router you choose! There are plenty more tips and tricks to be found online and we encourage you to seek them out in order to get the most out of your new DIY power tool purchase!


Conclusion

Choosing your wood router should now be much quicker and easier! We’ve learned which wood routers are the best on the market as well as some of the features to look for. We’ve even discovered some of the best bits to use as well as some tips and tricks to get the most out of your purchase.

Deciding on a power tool is never the easiest of decisions but hopefully, it’s now a lot less complicated! As you’ll have seen, there is a wide range of products and prices available. This means that there is certainly a great quality wood router to suit your needs and budget. With any luck, our reviews wood routers will help you narrow down the options.