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Tool review: Do-it-all Routers

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Power and Speed
Speed chart on router
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With some routers, you determine
the best speed for your bit and then
set the speed dial as indicated on
its chart.

Power and Speed

1. Power

To compare the routers, we challenged each of them in these shop tasks using new bits in red oak:
• 1/2"-wide plunge mortises 1-1/2" deep;
• three full-depth profiles (two different cove-and-bead bits and a profile-and-groove bit from a rail-and-stile set) and a 7/16" x 1/2" rabbet with brisk hand-fed rates;
• and using a 3-1/2"-diameter raised-panel bit in a router table.

All the routers impressed us by plowing through the handheld tasks without bogging down, even when we fed them faster than we normally would. Next stop: the router table, where we divided the 1-1/2"-wide raised-panel profile into three equal passes. Once again, all the routers handled the 10-feet-per-minute feed rate. So we upped the ante for the next round, cutting the profile in two equal passes. This time, only three tools--all with test-topping 15-amp motors--could do it without bogging down.


2. Speed

Slow speeds work better for big bits, and most routers' low speeds bottom out at 8,000 or 10,000 rpm. But one router's lowest speed was 12,000 rpm. Although it did not create a problem in our tests, we still prefer slower speeds when routing woods prone to burning or tear-out.

Kudos to the manufacturers that show actual rpm markings on their variable-speed dials. Second best are those with a speed chart on the motor housing, shown at above right, that corresponds to numbers on the speed dial. Worst are those where you must refer to the owner's manual to decipher the numbered speed markings.

Once you dial in the correct speed, it's vital that the router maintain that speed during the cut. Using a phototachometer, we evaluated each model's ability to do that while routing raised panels. None dropped more than 1,500 rpm, with all but one varying only a few hundred rpm once into the cut. However, that machine consistently pulled 12 to 19 amps during those cuts, causing it to warm up an average of 3° with each pass, which could shorten the life of this router.


Continued on page 3:  Fixed-depth Routing

 

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