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Router kits include both a fixed base and a plunge base

For mid-size routers with 1.75- to 2.25-hp motors, reviews often recommend router combo kits as the best buy. The motor can mount on either the fixed or the plunge base, usually with quick-release levers for easy changes. Some woodworkers keep the fixed base mounted in a router table, using the plunger base for freehand work. Since you're only buying one motor, this option costs less than buying two separate routers, but there are some drawbacks. It takes extra time to switch bases, the bit size is usually limited to about 2 inches and the motors are usually 2.25 hp or less -- too small for heavy-duty jobs or continuous use.

The Bosch 1617EVSPK (*Est. $250) is the router combo kit that stands out above the pack, recommended in four comparison reviews, including the most recent tests of 12 router kits in the July 2008 issue of Wood Magazine. The Bosch kit is powered by a 2.25-hp soft-start motor with electronic speed control and a variable-speed dial, and you can mount the switch on the left or right as you prefer. Though the Bosch router kit has been getting top marks for several years, the newest version lets you adjust the bit height on the fixed base from above a router table - a major convenience. Reviews say the scales are easy to read, bit changes and depth adjustments are easy, and the Bosch excels in overall comfort.

The Milwaukee 5616-24 (*Est. $210) also earns praise for comfort, and it's the top-ranked combo kit in the June 2007 comparison tests at Popular Woodworking. Woodworker Troy Sexton praises it as the smoothest running, with the least vibration. Controls are easy to reach whether the router is used handheld or table-mounted, and it's easy to change bits. It loses points at Wood Magazine for a variable-speed dial that doesn't work well. Tools of the Trade Online notes that the depth adjustment can slip a little due to an undersized thumb screw. It can be tightened with pliers, but that could eventually strip the threads. The cord placement also requires extra care to avoid an accident.

As a budget choice, the Craftsman 17543 (*Est. $120) gets a "top value" award at Wood Magazine, performing much better than a budget favorite in earlier reviews, the Skil 1825 (*Est. $100) . Bit changing and depth adjustment on the 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, owners reviewing it at Sears.com give it mostly positive reviews, agreeing that it's a good value.

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SKIL 1825 10 Amp 1/2-Inch Hybrid Router
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $198.48 $89.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Bosch 1617EVS 2-1/4 HP Variable-Speed Router
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from Amazon.com
New: $347.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Milwaukee 5616-24 2-1/4 Max-Horsepower EVS Multi-Base Router Kit Includes Plunge Base and BodyGrip Fixed Base
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $454.00 $368.77   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

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