Tool Review: Trim Routers
For many of your day-in, day-out routing chores, a little fistful of fury is all you need.
To call a trim router by its better-known name -- laminate trimmer -- is to seriously undersell this mini machine's usefulness in the shop. Fitting easily into one hand, it's the perfect tool for chamfering, rounding-over edges, mortising for hinges, and more. And, with its smaller base, you can guide one along a straightedge on narrower workpieces better than a full-size router. Sold on owning one? Then it's time to figure out which to buy. We gathered up 12 trim routers, both corded and cordless, and used them for more than a month to find a favorite. Here's what we learned.
Despite motor ratings ranging from 1.7 to 6.5 amps (and voltages of 18 and 19.2 volts on the cordless models), we just couldn't tell much difference in muscle from one trim router to another. All of them handled 1/2" chamfers in both cherry and hard maple at a reasonable feed rate without hesitation or bogging. As a group, they have ample power for all 1/4"-shanked bits except those that hog away a lot of material in one pass, such as 1/2" cove or lock-miter bits. None will accept 3/8" or 1/2" shanks, but one will run 1/8"-shank bits.
The quality of cut was very good from all of the routers, too. Given the high motor speeds, we expected our chamfering bit to burn the cherry, but we had to run the fastest router at its full 35,000 rpm speed, and a snail's-pace feed rate, to get it to scorch. As a result, we can't make a strong case for variable speed in these tools when used with most 1/4"-shank bits.
The tested routers provide coarse depth adjustments (unlock the base and slide it up or down on the body), fine adjustments, or both. Tools with only coarse adjustments make it fast to move or remove the base when changing bits, but can be difficult to tweak to a precise cutting depth. Those with only fine adjustments allow you to dial in cutting depth perfectly, but make gross changes tedious. So, the best depth-setting systems incorporate both coarse and fine adjustments. Most trim routers sport a depth scale. However, because bit lengths vary and the scales can't be "zeroed," as on a plunge router, we found these scales mostly meaningless, and they shouldn't figure into your buying decision.
Countertop makers probably don't care much about bit visibility because they usually use bearing-guided bits. But if you'll use your trim router to rout a recess for an inlay or to plow out a hinge mortise, you need to see what's going on down there. Transparent plastic bases provide a good view of the cutting action, but most of the opaque bases provide decent visibility, too.
Top Tool: Bosch PR20EVSK
Top Value: Grizzly H779
Learn the results of our testing of the Bosch PR20EVSK, Craftsman 11583, DeWalt D26670, Freud FT750T, Grizzly H7791, Makita 3707FC, MLCS Marvel 40, Porter-Cable 310 and 7310, Ridgid R2400, and Ryobi TR45K and P600 in the July 2007 issue of WOOD magazine, or download the review.