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Routers: a buying guide

Resourceful Routers

A router is just the tool you need to take your woodworking projects from average to spectacular. Whether you're looking for a router to create intricate decorative patterns, cut mouldings, create custom cabinetry and door panels, do wood joinery or craft traditional wood signage, The Home Depot has what you need.

Types of Routers

Typically, routers are divided into two categories: fixed and plunge. However, some routers come with multiple bases to allow switching between a plunge and fixed base.

Fixed Routers

Router Table SystemBosch Fixed Router

Fixed routers have a stationary base and work brilliantly for edging and work that requires very precise depths. Most fixed routers are designed so that they can be attached to a router table for working on long or oversized projects. Premium fixed routers are also designed so that precise height adjustments and changing bits can all be done conveniently from above the table.

For the ultimate in portability, consider a portable router table system. These heavy-duty portable router tables work perfectly with fixed and plunge routers both in the workshop or on the jobsite.

Plunge Routers

Ryobi Plunge Router

The plunge router's housing permits controlled vertical movement during a cut, so you can plunge the bit into the surface of your workpiece. Plunge routers offer more flexibility because they allow precise cuts on the interior of your workpiece, including through cuts, deep grooves and mortises, as well as pattern and template work.

Interchangeable-base Routers

Dewalt Router Kit

Many interchangeable routers can be purchased in a kit that includes a fixed base, a plunge base and a carrying case. You simply remove the motor from one base and insert it in a different base. This allows you to upgrade your base or purchase bases with different handle styles at a lower cost than buying another router. Interchangeable bases also give you the option to leave one base attached to a router table and remove the motor, rather than attaching and removing your router or buying a separate router for your table.

Power and Capacity of Routers

Most manufacturers give router power ratings in maximum (or peak) horsepower (hp), which can only be attained for a brief period. Make sure you're not comparing maximum horsepower on one model to sustained horsepower on another. If you have doubts, compare the amp ratings of the motors. Routers are available with 1/4" and 1/2" collets, which indicate the size of the bit shank they can accept. Routers with 1/2" collets are more versatile because 1/2" bits are available in larger diameters, and many routers with a 1/2" collet include adapters so they can also accept 1/4" or 3/8" bits. If you will be working with large-diameter bits, you'll need a router that's capable of slower speeds. As the diameter of the bit increases, the appropriate routing speed decreases, so routers with a wide speed range are more versatile.

Router Bits

Router Bit Set

Regardless of the quality of your router, the router bits you choose are equally as important in determining the success of the tool. The Home Depot carries top-quality router bits for all your needs.

Consider the following router bit features:

Shank

  • Bits with 1/4' shanks work well, however using a stiffer 1/2' shank will give even smoother, more accurate results.

Cutter angle (shear angle)

  • Premium router bits have blades that do not run parallel to the shank. Instead, they are angled slightly so the blade slices the wood rather than chopping at it. Shear angle will give very smooth results.

Premium Carbide

  • Thicker, denser carbide router bits are more cost-effective in the long run. Thick carbide is designed to be re-sharpened multiple times.
  • The carbide itself is important too - not all carbides are the same! Look for router bits with extremely fine grain or hi-density carbide. The smaller the carbide grains, the longer it holds a sharp edge and maintains its strength.
  • Titanium Cobalt is currently the most advanced formulation of carbide and is also impervious to corrosion and pitting caused by wood acids.

Forged Body

  • Heat-forged router bits are far stronger and longer-lasting than die-cast or turned router bit bodies.

Safety Features

  • Anti-kickback design is important. Bits with a full metal body that extends almost all the way around the perimeter of the bit greatly decreases the chance of kickback.

Non-stick Coating

  • Guarantees less working friction and decreases the chance of burning your wood from improper feeding.
  • Resin, rust and other corrosive agents also have less chance of building up.
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