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Woodworking Tips and Tricks Which router to buy?

03/26/2018

I have a LOT of routers!  I have at least 10 set up at any one time.  I have accumulated these over the last 40 years, mostly from garage sales, thrift stores, pawn shops, ebay and a few I actually bought new.  I have a router set up for just about every bit I use of a regular basis, so I don’t have to take the time to change a bit and then adjust it for depth.  I just grab, plug and go (usually in that order…don’t ask what happens when I get in a hurry).

To me, the best router every made was the Portercable, Rockwell “D” handle, 1-3/4 HP router.  It is a powerhouse of torque and the best feature is that it has the D handle to control it.  Makita came out with a D handle router long ago but I have never used it.  Picture your router and see if you can: pick it up with one hand, turn it on with that same hand and then proceed to use it with one hand while you are steadying yourself or the work with the other.  It is so easy to use. New they are about $180.00  I found one at a thrift store for about $7!!.  I couldn’t grab it fast enough.  You can find them used on Ebay for about $100.  They are well worth the money and will outlast you by a few lifetimes.  Yes, they are heavier than most routers but then they will outlast all of them. Perfect for a router table if you are going to do some heavy duty trim routing.

I actually have 2, one is the real deal and the other is a cobbled together set with the Rockwell D base and another router that just fit it.  I use these for routing off face frames, which takes a lot of HP when the lip is sticking out more than it should.  And this operation needs a lot of control because one little tilt of the router and the face frame is ruined and you have to make another one.

A note on expense of tools:  Always buy more expensive/quality than you think you can afford.  If you do this, you will only have to buy that particular tool once.  Buy cheap and you will have a box under your bench full of tools that broke or wore out before you did.

My general purpose router is the Craftsman router from years ago, now considered “vintage”.   These aren’t super heavy duty but I have put hundreds of hours on them and they just keep going.  I have probably 5 of these, with 3 of them in regular use every day.  As the years went buy, they got cheaper and cheaper built, especially when the bottom end of the motor where the collet is started to be made out of plastic.  I broke one of these bases just tightening the collet.  JB weld is my friend!

If you are handy with fixing things, you can get these routers cheap.  If you see one at a garage sale or pawn shop and the price is higher than you want to pay, have them plug it in to make sure it works.  If it screams like crazy, the bearings are dry.  Use that as a bargaining tool and get it for half price.  Then take it home, take the router apart, clean and regrease the bearings and you now have a like new router.  There is very little that goes wrong with these except the bearings and obvious things get broken.  Dust and 25,000 rpms do not mix when it comes to bearings.  Make sure when you buy that all the parts of the collet are there.  I bought one that had a 3/8″ collet.  I have never seen a 3/8 router bit and didn’t see that problem when I bought it.  I had to order it.

Anyway,when it comes to routers, don’t buy cheap, don’t buy junk, don’t buy Harbor Freight, don’t buy off brand stuff made in China.  They will fail when you lest expect it and that’s not good.

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