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FIND THE PERFECT HANDHELD ROUTER IN MINUTES
We have reviewed our top 5 choices below and also done in-depth reviews by brands, but if you are in a rush:
Here’s our top choice: DEWALT DWP611PK Combo Kit (Check Price on Amazon.com)
When it comes to making trim boards and working on smaller pieces of wood, using a palm sander is your best bet. These sanders are smaller in size and can fit in just one hand but are compact enough to use on even the tiniest of boards. Though you’ll want to look at features like size and horsepower, you’ll also want to take a look at our top model.
We picked the DEWALT DWP611PK (Check Price on Amazon.com) as the best because it features a 1.25-horsepower motor that can tackle the toughest of jobs and a variable speed design that lets you change its speed. It also comes with a clear base that enables you to see the tool as it touches the material to avoid accidents. Use the other information we provided to pick the perfect product for your needs and to get some tips on using one.
If you’d like to read our review of the traditional wood router, then click here.
Contents Table - Click to expand
Top Products On The Market
How to Choose the Perfect One
What is the RPM Rating?
RPM, which stands for revolutions per minute, is an important thing to know when shopping for power tools. The more revolutions that a tool makes in a minute, the more cuts you can make and the deeper you can go. This also helps you complete projects faster and get through the day quicker.
We highly recommend looking for a tool with an RPM rating of at least 10,000. This may not be as high as you need, depending on the types of boards you want to use the tool on. Some of the tools that made our list have an RPM of 20,000 to 25,000 or even higher.
What is the Horsepower Speed?
Knowing the horsepower speed produced by the motor can tell you a lot about how fast the tool works. With a standard table saw or a larger unit, you can get one with a motor that produces two horsepower or more. Smaller tools like the compact ones do not produce as much horsepower.
Many of those we found on our search come with a one-horsepower motor, which is suitable for most minor projects. We picked DEWALT as the manufacturer of our top tool because it comes with a 1.5-horsepower motor that runs a little faster than its competitors.
Do You Need a Cordless Model?
When you have your heart set on something like a Ryobi cordless unit, you need to narrow down your search to models made by this company and only those that lack a cord. Corded and cordless models all have their pros and cons.
With a corded model, you never need to worry about the battery dying or about swapping out batteries in the middle of a job. The downside is that you must work near an electrical outlet. Depending on the length of the cord, you may have less freedom of movement than you would like.
Cordless models run on a battery that you can charge separately and before you begin work. Most manufacturers make compatible battery packs that will power other power tools. Cordless models generally weigh more because of the weight of the battery, and you may need to charge the battery more than you would like.
How Long Does the Battery Last?
When looking at cordless models like a battery powered unit, find out how long the battery will last too. Smaller tools typically use smaller batteries that may only last for an hour or less. This means that you'll need to spend more time charging the battery and less time using the mini variant.
You can also find out how long it takes for the battery to completely charge too. While you may want to plug in that battery and let it charge overnight as you sleep, you may need to charge it in the middle of the day too. Those that take too long to charge are those that you'll use less often.
Does it Have a Soft Start Motor?
Soft start motors are typically found on palm products from companies like Makita and DEWALT. With a typical unit, the motor comes on so quickly that it can jerk or pull the tool right out of your hand. This makes it harder for you to start and can result in accidents like the bit cutting right through your wood.
A soft start motor is one that starts out much softer to help you keep your hand on the tool. These motors also reduce the amount of feedback that can occur as you cut. Feedback can keep the motor from operating on the maximum speed that you selected.
Does It Have an Ergonomic Design?
Manufacturers spend millions of dollars or more every year on research, design and development, and those companies typically work with designers to create tools with an ergonomic design. A hand tool with an ergonomic design will have a flat top that lets you rest your palm on the top of the tool without feeling any discomfort.
An ergonomic design relates to the placement of adjustments dials and knobs too. You should feel comfortable adjusting your hand to reach all those features without feeling any cramping or pulling in your hand.
How to Use a Handheld Unit
Even if you find the best product for your workshop, you may need some help figuring out how to use it. That's why we included a list of helpful tips on using a mini wood tool.
Move in the Right Direction
Moving it in the right direction helps you create smooth cuts and edges. Look through the housing or the base to the direction in which the bit rotates. You'll want to move in the opposite direction that the bit moves.
Use Clean Bits
Take the time to check the bits that you want to use it before setting up the tool. Make sure that your bits are completely clean and that there aren't any wood chips or debris sticking to the metal. Any debris on the bit will keep it from cutting smoothly.
Clean As You Work
Many do not take the time to clean as they work, which is dangerous for a few reasons. The first is because it blocks your view through the base, which can result in you making the wrong cuts or cutting too deeply. Not cleaning as you work can also result in you moving off target as you move the unit.
We also recommend that you practice first and experiment a little before making permanent cuts. You only get one chance to make a permanent cut, and you want to make the right one. Using an old board lets you check your depth and other measurements before working on the real project.
Our Review of the Top Models
The best handheld unit that we came across is the DWP11PK from DEWALT, which comes with a 1.25-horsepower motor instead of the standard one-horsepower motor found on most models. We also like that this is a palm product in every sense of the word. You can make all the adjustments you want to make and ultimately control the tool with the palm of your hand.
Located right in the center on the top of this tool is a simple power switch. You can use one hand to turn the tool on and off. It also features a variable speed knob on the top too that lets you adjust the speed of the motor while you’re in the middle of a project.
To ensure that you can see the board and anything around you, DEWALT created a clear base that fits on the bottom. You can see all the way through the base. It also features LED lights that you can turn on and off as needed.
We also like that this one comes with a plunge base. Many manufacturers either make products that will not work with this type of base or require that you purchase one separately. Only DEWALT includes a plunge base with a palm router.
Those looking for a Bosch product should look at the Colt, which we think is the top model from the company. The Colt comes with the same 1.25-horsepower motor that our top-ranked DEWALT model does, and it includes a long cord that works with any outlet. This cable lets you move freely to work on different ends of the board without feeling stuck in place.
A variable speed knob near the top changes the speed at which the seven-amp motor operates to let you use more or less power based on the wood type. It enables you to use the tool as a standard unit or when making trimming applications. You’ll notice a conveniently placed power switch on the top too.
Unlike other tools in this price range that use a split type of aluminum, the housing on this one uses full aluminum that wraps all the way around the device to give it more stability. This cover and base also extend the size of the bits that you can use with it and allows you to use up to a 1-5/16 bit.
Though the aluminum housing blocks some of your view of the bit, it has a definite design on the bottom to give you an opening that you can look through. Bosch also gives you LED lights to help you see better.
While we think our top DEWALT model is the best handheld unit, we consider that many will like the DWP611 from the same company. This one is a little larger in size but still comes with a 1.25-horsepower motor that can handle any type of wood. Thanks to the variable speed knob on the top of the tool, you can adjust the speed at which the motor runs too.
The cord attached to the back runs off any outlet because it features a two-pronged design instead of the three-pronged design found on more significant tools. This cable also has a textured end that helps you keep a grip on it when plugging it in or removing it from the outlet.
DEWALT designed this one as a flexible start tool too. Soft start means that it starts out softly but quickly comes up to the speed that you set, and it will remain in that setting unless you make any adjustments. It helps you maintain your speed level while cutting.
Two built-in LED lights come on quickly to light up the wood and anything else beneath the tool. You can see straight through the device to your work area because the base of this model is clear. That support is flat and will not get in your way.
The smallest product that we found might just be this option from Makita. Designed as a compact unit, it both weighs less and measures less than similar tools. It features the standard Makita blue color on the upper part of the housing and features the company’s logo across the top too.
Designed to help you handle any application and any wood, this model features a variable speed dial in a bright red color that stands out against the blue housing. You can smoothly move this knob with one finger to change the speed while in the middle of a cut. It is an excellent feature for those who like to experiment with different settings and cutting methods.
The cam lock system has a quick release design for faster changes and adjustments. You can lock the base in place when working on specific projects and then remove the base for other projects. This system also allows you to adjust the depth of your cuts too more quickly.
Capable of producing up to 30,000 revolutions per minute, this Makita tool can drop down to just 10,000 revolutions per minute too. The ergonomic design of this device is also helpful because it reduces user fatigue on longer projects.
The Rocky from MLCS is a solid choice for those who want and need to work with trim boards. Designed specifically for trim jobs, it is compact enough that you can use it with just one hand. While you can keep one on the top as you move it across the wood, you can use either to make all the adjustments that you need.
Included with this tool is an attachment for flush trimming, which allows you to create trim boards and other pieces that sit perfectly flush with each other. You also get an edge guide that makes it easier for you to set up the tool and make smooth and straight edges.
Though you might think that you can’t get much power from such a small tool, MLCS designed the Rocky to feature both a variable speed motor and a one-horsepower motor. It produces a minimum RPM of 10,000 but can hit a maximum of 30,000 RPM. The variable speed knob at the top lets you change the speed while using the tool too.
The aluminum housing on the outside is easy to use also. This housing features clear markings that help you see the depth at which you cut.
And the Winner is…
When it comes right down to it, the best compact router we found is the DELWAT DWP611PK, which has a 1.25-horsepower motor and a variable speed design. The transparent base of this tool gives you complete and total visibility that for making accurate cuts, and it also comes with a plunge base that you can adjust. We highly recommend this DEWALT router for those looking for something that is small, compact and easy to use.