What’s the most versatile tool in your shop? The answer just might be a wood router, so choosing the right one is important. If you need help making a choice, you’re in luck!
We examined seven models from various manufacturers. Our goal was to find the one with the best features and ease of operation for both professional woodworkers and hobbyists or homeowners.
We’ve picked our own favorite from the list, but we’ll review each of them for you, so you can make your own decision. Let’s find the wood router that will bring out the craftsman in YOU.
Our Top Rated Wood Router: The Makita RP2301FC 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router (Check Price on Amazon.com) offers plenty of manageable power to handle the tough projects. With electronic variable speed, it’s adjustable for all types of material. Its ergonomic design, extremely rugged build and a host of convenient features make it an excellent choice for any skill level or project.
Check Price on Amazon.com
Check Price on Amazon.com
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Check Price on Amazon.com
Check Price on Amazon.com
How to Pick The Best Wood Router
OK, so what’s the secret to choosing the right wood router?
First, you’re going to need to know what type of router you’ll need. That’s going to be determined by what you plan to do with it:
Fixed Base: This is a conventional router, best suited for edge work. If you’re creating shelves, cabinets, frames, or molding, these will get the job done with the fewest adjustments to worry about. Fixed-based routers tend to be very durable tools and comparable quality will cost less than a plunge router. They are also the best choice for mounting to a router table.
Plunge base: If you’re going to need to start working in the middle of your material, this is the type you’ll want. Sink cutouts, surface milling, carving, and engraving are all projects that will be easier with this router. Most of these can also be used for edge work – some easier than others.
Interchangeable Base: You’ve already figured it out, haven’t you? This router gives you a plunge base and a fixed base. You swap the motor between them to suit the job at hand.
Laminate Trimmer: This specialized router is designed for cutting the edge of countertop materials flush with the edge of the counter. If that’s all you plan to do, these are small, lightweight and can even be found in cordless models. They also won’t set you back as much as larger wood routers.
Once you’ve determined which of those types you’ll need, the choice comes down to four things:
Make no mistake; those first three things cover a lot of territories. Let’s look at them one at a time:
A router should be capable of ripping the right bit through just about anything. It may need to handle all sorts of material, from woods to laminates to soft metals.
Power tools are rated by current draw (amps), horsepower or both. The higher either of those ratings, the more torque a wood router develops.
This requirement should be pretty much standard for any power tool, right?
Right, but there are some special considerations with a router. These tools may rotate at speeds measured in the tens of thousands. That puts a tremendous amount of stress on motor and shaft bearings.
That’s not all. Routers get banged, bumped, pushed and drug through some pretty tough environments. Base and motor housing materials need to be strong and resilient.
There’s an awful lot rolled into this requirement:
A wood router takes concentration and skill to operate. Features make the job easier. Here’s a short list of just a few of the convenient features that modern routers offer:
- Variable speed: Working with materials of various hardness and a wide range of bits is much easier if you can control the motor speed.
- Soft start: Routers develop very high torque. Bringing the motor up to speed slowly on startup helps maintain control of the tool.
- Lights: You can’t rout what you can’t see. A built-in light is a huge plus.
In addition, you’ll want all the features common to any convenient tool. Controls should be easy to access. Changing bits should be easy. Markings should be easy to read.
There’s much more, but you get the idea.
This one speaks for itself. Let’s check out the tools!
7 Best Wood Router Reviews
It stands to reason that “best” is a relative term when it comes to power tools. To help you sort out the router that fits your needs, we’ve added some to our list based on specific criteria. Here’s the run-down on those models:
Best Cordless Wood Router
There aren’t many cordless ones available, so this isn’t a difficult choice. The Ryobi ONE+ Trim Router (Check Price on Amazon.com) is definitely worth listing. It’s part of a great line of cordless tools that share 18V batteries.
It’s also an awesome trimmer that won’t break the bank.
You can handle this tool with one hand. It weighs only 3.35 lbs with a 10” x 5” x 10” footprint. Depth adjustment is quick and easy. There’s no cord to drag around.
If you’re looking for something to trim edges with no hassles, this is it. On the minus side, it won’t handle larger routing jobs.
Best Wood Router for Beginners
Porter-Cable has a reputation for building rock-solid power tools. Their 690LR Fixed-Base Router (Check Price on Amazon.com) is a great example. It’s everything a novice needs to learn the basics, with plenty of power to take on the heavy loads.
With its machined aluminum base and motor housing, this one can take a few hard knocks. It develops 1-3/4 horsepower at 27,500RPM. A lever lock lets you set the depth quickly and ring-style fine adjustment gets you within 1/128 of an inch. The traditional knob-style handles and wide base provide a stable grip and ease of control, whatever your skill level.
This model doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but it’s a very reasonably-priced machine that will get you off to a great start. It’s also capable of tackling bigger jobs as you gain experience.
Best Wood Router Under $100
Is price your biggest concern?
Here’s a solution:
The Ryobi R163K Router (Check Price on Amazon.com) with 3 bits is a great package deal. You get the router and your first 3 bits for only $99.00!
While this general-purpose router isn’t quite as rugged as our beginner’s choice, it does pack a 25,000RPM, 1.5HP ball-bearing motor to get the job done. It also has a few extra features you’ll like:
- Quick, cam lever adjustment
- Top-mounted micro-adjustment knob
- LED work lights
- Spindle lock makes bit changes easier
- Ergonomic handles
To get you started working right away, it also includes three of the most commonly used bits: a 5/32” Roman ogee, a 1/4” round over and a 5/16” straight cutter. How’s that for economical?
Best Wood Router Under $200
You say you’ve got a little more room in the budget? Here’s a kit for you:
Wow. That’s quite a mouthful, huh? It’s also quite a deal.
This package includes a hefty, 12A, 2.25HP router motor with TWO bases. You get all the stability of a conventional wood router and the convenience of a plunge router for less than the price of many with a single base.
Did you notice that it’s made by Bosch?
If you’ve been around power tools, you know that name is synonymous with quality. Here are a few of the extra features you’ll get for your $199:
- Soft start motor
- Electronic variable speed (8,000 – 25,000RPM)
- Rugged aluminum construction
- Classic wood handles on the fixed base
- Soft-grip plunge base handles
- Precision centering
This one has all the capacity you need for really big projects, thanks to its multi-collet capability. It accepts 1/4”, 3/8” and 1/2” collets and two sizes are included (1/4” and 1/2”).
Put simply, this kit just gives you a whole lot of “bang for your buck”!
Makita RP2301FC 3-1/4 HP Plunge Router
Speaking of value for the price, this variable speed plunge router from Makita (Check Price on Amazon.com) delivers in a big way! Although it’s a plunge base, it’s designed to function equally well as a fixed-based model. What’s more, it’s the most feature-packed one on our list.
Let’s start with the motor:
It’s a 15-amp motor with internal, labyrinth-ducted fan. Electronic control provides constant speeds under changing loads, variable from 9,000-2,000RPM. Just dial it in with the convenient thumb wheel. It delivers soft starting AND electric braking, so you don’t have to wait for it to wind down.
- Oversize ball bearings
- Linear plunge ball bearings
- TWIN LED lights
- Ergonomic, rubber-coated handled motor switch
- Shaft lock
- Easy-swap template system
- Switch lock
- 1/4” and 1/2” collets included
- 2-3/4” plunge depth
- 3 preset plunge stops
- micro-adjustable plunge depth
- Lock the plunge depth for conventional routing
There’s more, but we have other routers to show you. This one will hit your wallet a little harder, but it’s worth the difference.
Triton TRA001 Dual Mode
Here’s a unique approach:
How about a single router that performs as two? This one from Triton (Check Price on Amazon.com) switches from plunge mode to rack-and-pinion adjustable, fixed-based mode.
If that’s not enough, it boasts a big 3-1/4HP motor with variable speed and soft start.
A micro-winder provides fine depth adjustment in plunge mode. Side air vents help prevent clogging. There’s an automatic spindle lock for easy bit changes. All in all, it’s a well-designed, well-rated, dual-mode tool.
What about shortcomings?
This wood router is a bit higher on the price scale. Additionally, in both modes, the handles stay well above the base. That may make for a little less stable control. For experienced operators, it may not be a problem.
This fixed-base router from Dewalt (Check Price on Amazon.com) is modestly priced but has the guts and goodies to give the others a run for their money.
2.25HP delivered by a robust 12A motor is enough to get through hard materials without bogging down. Full-feedback electronic variable speed provides constant 1,000 to 24,000RPM even when the load changes.
Old-timers will recognize some traditional features on this one. D-handles provide a more natural grip than round knobs. The motor housing twists for quick depth adjustment.
A micrometer ring does the fine tuning down to 1/64”. Bit changes can be made easier by flipping the quick-releases and removing the motor housing from the base.
This one came in second on our list for a beginner’s router, but would certainly do the job as a low-cost, basic edge router for professionals, too.
Final Verdict: Best Wood Router For Your Money
After carefully reviewing seven of the best choices, the Makita RP2301FC 1-1/4 horsepower Plunge Router (Check Price on Amazon.com) deserves our number one rating. Initially, it might seem odd to award that position to the most expensive tool in the list. After all, you’re looking for the best value for your money.
Here’s the thing:
Although this wood router costs a bit more than the others, it delivers MUCH more. It meets and exceeds all of our criteria for power, durability, and convenience.
What’s more, when you compare the features of each of those reviewed, it delivers a great feature to cost ratio, too!
This router is a valuable addition to any shop, amateur or professional. Whether you grow into it or simply start taking advantage of all it offers, you definitely won’t outgrow it. In fact, it will probably be there when your son or daughter is ready to learn. Get yours now and be ready to hand it down!