what to look for in a router
Photo: Jonathan Kantor
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Router Table Ready

What to Look For

Soft start: A router that kicks when you start it is unnerving. The best ones ramp up to speed smoothly when you hit the power.

Variable speed: The ability to adjust rpm to the size of your bit or the hardness of the wood is a big plus. Better routers, like cars, rev up and down smoothly without a hitch.

One-wrench bit change: A button holds the collet steady while you wrench the bit loose—much easier than using two wrenches.

Dust collection: Look for a port for a shop vac. A plastic shroud to contain the dust near the bit is an added bonus.

Clear base: It’s easier to see where to stop and start.

Router-table compatibility: Milling trim is a snap if a router can easily be flipped over and mounted to a table.

½-inch collets: A router’s collet is the equivalent of a chuck on a drill. A router that can handle ½-inch bits will be bigger and heavier than one that handles only ¼-inch bits, but the bigger, more costly bits are sturdier and steadier performers at high rpm.

Removable power cord: This feature saves it from being strained while in storage.

This tool's removable base attaches easily to a router table, so you can feed the wood to the bit in a controlled way. It also comes with a long-handled knob for making fine (slow) and coarse (rapid) depth adjustments from above the table. 2¼ hp, 9 pounds (fixed base), 11¼ pounds (plunge), about $280, Delta Porter Cable
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