Bosch 1619EVS
Bosch 1619EVS

Best heavy-duty plunge router

Reviews recommend this 3.25-horsepower Bosch wood router for heavy-duty routing even on hardwoods, praising its soft-start variable-speed motor, dust control and self-releasing collets. As a plunge router it can start grooves or cuts safely in the middle of a board, so it's versatile. Despite its 13.2-pound weight, reviews say this router maneuvers well for handheld use, yet also works well mounted in a router table. The large base opening and 2.56-inch maximum depth make it usable with large bits. It comes with a one-year warranty.
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Milwaukee Body Grip 5615-21
Milwaukee Body Grip 5615-21

Fixed-base wood router

If you don't need to do plunge work, a fixed-base router costs less and can be easier to learn to use. This single-speed, 1.75-hp Milwaukee wood router lacks dust control, but does have self-releasing collets, so bits are easily changed. Reviews recommend it as an excellent choice as a first router. It's designed so you can hold it with one hand, and at 8.8 pounds, it's lighter than most. When mounted on a router table, reviews say height adjustment is still easy. Like most Milwaukee tools, it comes with a five-year warranty.
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Bosch 1617EVSPK
Bosch 1617EVSPK

Best router combo kit

Woodworking router combo kits combine one motor with two bases: a fixed base for table-mounted and trimming work and a plunge base for cutting grooves in the middle of a work piece. This 2.25-hp Bosch router kit earns top ranking in more comparison reviews than any other model by a wide margin. Reviews say the scales are easy to read, bit changes and depth adjustments are easy, and the Bosch excels in overall comfort. You can adjust bit height from above a router table; a major convenience. The warranty is for one year.
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Sears Craftsman 17543
Sears Craftsman 17543

Budget wood router combo

Bit changing and depth adjustment on this 2-hp Craftsman router kit isn't quite as convenient as on the Bosch and Milwaukee kits, and scales aren't as easy to read. Nor is the Craftsman as easy to use in a router table. However, comparison tests show that it outperforms others in its price range. It has LED lights to illuminate the work area, and like the Bosch router kit, a soft-start motor with electronic speed control. The warranty is for one year.
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*Est. $120 Estimated Price
Bosch Colt PR20EVSK
Bosch Colt PR20EVSK

Best trim router

The Bosch Colt palm router gets high praise in more reviews than any woodworking router of this type (also called a laminating trimmer or palm router). This lightweight 3.3-pound wood router comes with a self-releasing quarter-inch collet, variable-speed with electronic speed control and two-stage depth adjustment -- features usually found only on more powerful routers. It's also comfortable for either right- or left-handed use. The warranty is for one year.
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Wood Routers Runners Up:

Bosch 1617EVS *Est. $155

2 picks by top review sites.

Plunge routers vs. fixed-base routers

Wood routers are categorized by the way the motor is attached to the base:

  • Plunge routers attach the motor to a spring-loaded base, so you can plunge the bit safely and accurately into the middle of a piece of work. They're the safest type.
  • Fixed-base routers lock in the depth of cut by raising or lowering the motor on the base. They're often considered the easiest for beginners to learn to use, especially when mounted in a router table.
  • Trim routers (also called laminate trimmers or palm routers) are very light and small fixed-base routers, using bits with quarter-inch shanks, powered by 1-hp or smaller motors.
  • Combo router kits come with one mid-sized motor plus both a fixed base and a plunge base. They're a cost-effective and convenient way to get two tools in one.

You can use both types of wood router (plunge and fixed-base) in either of two modes: handheld or mounted upside down in a router table. This is more or less like the difference between using a circular saw and a table saw, or a jigsaw versus a scroll saw. In one mode, you hold the wood steady while moving the tool; in the other, you hold the tool steady while moving the wood.

Expert reviews find that within each type, the best handheld router is usually not the very best choice for use with a router table -- so it's a good idea to think ahead about how you are most likely to use a router. Handheld routers are useful for a variety of tasks -- for example: rounding the edges of wood, making grooves, trimming laminate or cutting mortises for hinges. Table-mounted wood routers are used for precise cuts (as for joinery) and production runs.

Although experts say to take horsepower and even current draw (amp) specifications with a grain of salt, router size is specified in horsepower and type. Trim routers, which are rated at one horsepower or less, are best for small jobs. Mid-size routers of 1.75 to 2.25 horsepower (or 10 to 13 amps) are best for general use. Router combo kits are usually of this size. Heavy-duty routers are meant for continuous use or making deep grooves in hard woods. These are usually 3-hp (15-amp) routers.

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