Choosing a router, or anything for that matter, is a convoluted endeavour these days. The options are simply endless, and the odds of a novice fishing out just the right fixed-base router are worse than a stab in the dark.
There is a lot of questions to ask yourself – and your wallet. Questions about the weight of the router, its horsepower, ergonomics, and of course your budget, all have to have agreeing answers. Ask yourself how often you will be using the router and how punishing the jobs will be to it.
If all you do is hobby around with little pieces of soft timber every other weekend, then you could get away with a small lightweight router. But, if you are on the professional end of town, you might want to summon the heavy duty bad boys to the show, provided your wallet is just as heavy.
Here is a review of six best fixed-base routers to look at if you are considering buying one.
Ryobi ZRR 136 K
The Ryobi ZRR 136 K fixed-base router is a great machine for beginners. It is lightweight, weighing only 6.7 pounds but its high performance 8.5 Amp ball-bearing motor will leave any DIYer or hobbyist satisfied. The machine comes with a solid die cast aluminium base which affords it accuracy and stability.
When it comes to ease of operation, the Ryobi ZRR 136K fixed-base router scores high with its ergonomic handles which make it comfortable in the hands, and a conveniently located on/off button for less clumsy operation. It’s also a relatively quiet router and the shaft has no wobble which is important if you are looking for precision.
DeWalt DW 616
The DeWalt DW 616 weighs in 10 pounds, which is hefty compared to the average router, but the weight is for a good reason. When faced with hardwood projects, this is the router to call upon. The DeWalt DW 616 fixed-base router comes with an able 1.75 horsepower delivered by an 11 Amp motor, which will make short work of any tough hardwoods.
To enhance the precision of the machine, it comes equipped with a micro-fine depth adjustment ring which makes adjustments in tiny 1/64 inch notches. To further enhance accuracy, the router is equipped with a sub-base concentricity gauge to maintain bit concentricity.
Durability is no issue with the DeWalt DW 616. Its switch is dust sealed to protect it from wood-dust problems, and the nickel plated motor ensures smooth long-lasting and accurate depth adjustment.
While this is quite a powerful fixed-base router, it is still comfortable and convenient to operate. The rubber handles enable a firm comfortable grip, while the low centre of gravity makes the router stable. Changing the base requires no tools at all with its quick-release motor latches, and for ease of servicing, the DeWalt DW 616 comes with a detachable power cord.
The Porter-Cable 690LR fixed-base router brings power and efficiency to your workshop with its 1.75 horsepower, 11 Amp motor generating an impressive 27,500 revolutions per minute, making it the tool of choice for precise cuts. It also comes with a micrometre depth adjuster which makes adjustments precise to the nearest 1/128th inch.
The machine is built to withstand punishment with its robust components. The dust-sealed switch and sealed ball bearing construction prevent wear and tear even when the machine is subjected to the most hectic working conditions. To take its durability and precision a notch higher, the router’s motor housing and base are made of precision machined aluminium, while its cam-lock lever allows easy coarse height adjustments resulting in a more consistent and steady performance.
If you ever find yourself yo-yoing between a plunge and a fixed-base router, the Bosch MRC 23 EVSK combination plunge and fixed base router pack is where to put your money. This is a versatile combo pack capable of handling various router needs with its 2.3 horsepower motor which delivers 10, 000 to 25, 000 rotations per minute. The speed is adjustable so the machine can be used on a range of materials and bit sizes.
The router takes ease of control and precision to another level with its Constant Release circuitry which holds a constant speed even when under load, while it’s trigger on/off switch lies conveniently within reach right on the handle.
Changing from plunge to fixed-base is a no-hassle task which requires no wrench or spanner. The router pack comes with a two-stage fast clamp system for easy conversion.
If you intend to work long hours with your router, comfort is essential and the Bosch MRC23EVSK offers just that with its ergonomic handles and low vibration.
While this is a great tool altogether, centring can be a problem, and the lock/latch system that holds the motor can be a bit too stiff to operate.
Craftsman 12-amp, 2-hp Fixed Base Router
The Craftsman 12-amp, 2-hp router will smash anything in its path with its hands in the pockets. The 12 Amp motor delivers 10, 000 to 25, 000 rotations per minute which will bully any material, whether soft or the most stubborn hardwood.
For precision and ease of operation, the Craftsman router comes with precision height adjustment while its dual view side windows provide increased visibility on the cutting action. Speaking of visibility, the router comes with an inbuilt light for easy accurate routing.
The Craftsman 12-Amp router offers remarkable comfort with its soft start technology where the motor gradually increases its number of rotations per minute which prevents jerk-starts. The on/off switch is conveniently located, although the same can’t be said of the speed adjuster.
Milwaukee 5625-20 Fixed- Base Router
The Milwaukee 5625-20 is a workhorse. With a height of 9.3 inches and a weight of 12 pounds, this router is rather heavy which can be a drawback. But where it has failed in size, it compensates with an impressive brew of power, precision, and efficiency. It is equipped with a beastly 3.5 horsepower, 15 Amp motor which will plough through a range of materials from soft to hardwoods.
The router comes with a 36 position speed dial which enables the user to match the speed with the material and bit size precisely.
The tilted handle is a thing to love. It provides maximum comfort when dealing with such a huge machine.
Were the machine scores low is on the durability of the switch which is prone to dust malfunction since it’s not dust sealed.
How to Use a Fixed-Base Router
If you would really like to call yourself a serious woodworker, you might want to add a fixed-base router to your collection of power tools. It is basically used to rout or hollow out timber to make decorations, especially on the edges. It is also extensively used to make joints, for example the dove-tail type.
The fixed-base router can look intimidating with all its little knobs, thumbscrews and fancy-shaped blades. A first-timer will likely get it wrong and mess up the workpieces or even injure themselves.
But operating a fixed-based router is definitely far from attempting to land a jumbo jet. So here are 10 easy tips on how to use the machine without injuring yourself, your timber, or the router itself.
Know Your Router
While all fixed-base routers essentially perform the same task, no makes and models are created equal. Each one will come with its own abilities and shortcomings. This most applies to power. Some fixed based routers can plough through hardwood in one pass like it was biscuit. They are powerful and can handle the pressure. Try the same things on a weak router and you’ll have smoke and a blown motor.
Even when it comes to operating the router, you will find that each one comes with its own methods for adjusting the depth, speed, and other parameters. Reading the user manual will definitely equip you with enough knowledge about the router. Even if you got it second- hand and didn’t get the manual, just look it up on the internet sing the make and model number. Most reputable manufacturers have operating manual usually in pdf format which you can download for free.
Define the Cutting Path
One of the first lessons in woodwork 101 is that you need to mark out the path for your cutting tools before putting ‘blade to timber.’ If you are to successfully use a fixed-router with precision, don’t fire up the machine without first marking out the design with a pencil.
Install the Right Bit
Routers come with different blades and you have to select the one which suits your design. Refer to the manual to get the instructions on how to install the blade.
Care should be taken to make sure the router is not plugged into the mains when changing the blade to avoid the risk of accidentally pressing the on-button, which may result in serious injury.
Use a Secure Worktop
Fixed-base routers work best with a router table which can be used to secure the work pieces in place. If for some reason you can’t get a router table, just fashion any worktop which will allow you to hold the wood you’re working on firmly.
When in the wood workshop anything can hurt you, and a fixed router won’t hesitate to have a go at your finger when given the chance. Take all necessary precautions to avoid injury.
Now everyone can respect the damage that a router blade can do to your body when in contact. But, few people acknowledge the need to wear protective clothing to guard them eyes and ears when routing. The noise from the machine is loud and sharp enough to damage your ears on prolonged exposure.
There is also a very serious threat to your eyes when operating a fixed-base router. As it routs away at your work pieces, the router can sometimes shoot not just dust but also sharp splinters, which will happily do some blinding deeds to your eyes.
Before you switch on your fixed router, make sure you have your full protective gear on.
Choose the Right Starting Point
You can’t just start at any point when routing. Of course you can, but you risk having an irregularity at the point of entry if you start midway. Start from one end to the other with uniform pressure. Once at the other end, disengage the router from your work pieces and switch it off to change direction.
Switch on the Router Before Initiating the Cut
Do not switch on the router while the blade is on the work pieces. Doing this may harm the motor and knock off a damaging chunk off your work piece. Start the machine then once the blade is in full rotation, rout away.
Use One Long Pass
Once the router blade has started digging away, do not stop midway. Just use one long uniform pass from end to end. The only time you can stop is when turning at corners or at the end of your pass. Eating away at the wood in short lengths will result in irregularities.
Do not Keep the Router at One Point
Do not keep the router on one point on your workpieces. The fixed-base router has a really fast spinning bit which will burn your timber black. These uninform dark shades will mar the appearance of your work especially if you intend to use clear varnish.
Match the Speed of Your Pass With the Rotation of the Bit
Some fixed-base routers come with adjustable speed. Move your router along your workpieces at a speed that corresponds with the rotation of the router blade. If you are too slow, you will end up burning the timber black. Further than that, you end up with an unnecessary electric bill.
On the other hand, if you are too fast, you risk over-working the motor which will result in damage.
The speed of your routing won’t just depend on the power of the router but also the nature of the wood you’re working on. Hardwoods will demand slow passes, while you can get away with quick ones on soft wood.