We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links. Learn more

Tools

Best Combo Wood Router

Routers are rather unique in the world of woodworking tools, especially amongst handheld power tools. They are the only tool which is designed for shaping the wood, rather than cutting it. Granted, these tools cut the wood in order to shape it, but the focus tool is creating the profile, the shape.
 
Many consider the router an “extra” tool, when compared to more “essential” ones. That depends on what type of woodworking you are doing. If your main thrust is rough carpentry, there is little chance that you would use a router. But if you are trying to do any sort of finish work and especially if you are making furniture, a router is essential.
 
A router works by spinning a bit which cuts a profile in the wood. They are most commonly used to form profiles on the edge of the wood, but can also be used quite effectively for cutting a relief into the surface of the wood. They typically work at extremely high speeds, as the higher the speed the router works at, the smoother the cut.
 
There are two basic categories of routers, ones with a fixed base and “plunge” models. The fixed base is used for cutting profiles in edges and the plunge base is used for cutting in the middle of a flat surface. Combo routers come with one motor but two bases, allowing you to use the same router for both purposes. This is a great money saver, especially for those who are buying their first router.
 
The motor on these routers is of medium size, typically about 1.5 HP. In comparison, some detail routers have .25 HP motors and some heavy-duty profiling routers have motors as big as 3 HP. The 1.5 HP motor is big enough to use with pretty much any of the small to mid-sized router bits, but is too small for use with the larger router bits. Larger bits have a 1/2 inch shank, which would prevent them from being mounted in some of these routers, which only have a 1/4 inch collet. However, the more powerful ones have both 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch collets, allowing them to accept all router bits.
 
Since these are all combo routers, they are very similar to one another. The biggest difference is going to be ease of use. Some manufacturers just seem to make their tools in such a way that they are easier to use than what others do. In addition to that, we want to take into consideration any differences in power, as well as overall tool quality.

Milwaukee 5616-24 Multi Base Combo Router

Milwaukee wins the top spot based on overall power. While there are other 2-1/4 HP combo routers on our list, this one is a 13 amp motor, making it have a little more torque than the others. That will help keep it from bogging down on those rough cuts, especially with the larger bits installed. It comes with both 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch collets, so you can use any size router bits with it, including panel raising bits. There is a rotary “turret” depth gauge, with six different stops, each of which is 1/8 inch deeper than the previous; great for deep cuts in dense hardwoods.

The adjustment is calibrated for 1-64 inch increments and the plunge system uses four point PM bushings and constant spring tension throughout the 2-7/8” range. Motor is variable speed, with a dial speed control, giving 10,000 to 24,000 RPM. For the fixed base, there is a body grip, so you can hold the router body directly, instead of just the handles. Clear sub-bases and a dust shield are provided.

Bosch 1617EVSPK Combo Wood Router Kit

Bosch’s kit provides a little more speed than either the Milwaukee or the Makita, with a fully adjustable range of 8,000 to 25,000 RPM. Like the others, it has a variable speed dial to set the speed, as well as circuitry to maintain the speed under load. The motor is rated at 2-1/4 HP and 12 amps, making it slightly less powerful than the Milwaukee and slightly more powerful than the Makita.

Soft start circuitry eliminates the jerk common to starting a router and both bases are designed with quick clamp systems for easy changes, as well as micro fine adjustment of bit depth. A precision centering design makes it easy to keep the bit on the intended outline when working with jigs, templates and fixtures. The trigger switch can work from either side, making the tool ambidextrous.

Makita RF1101KIT2 Combo Router Kit

Makita’s kit comes with a 2-1/4 HP router motor, but it’s rated at 11.0 amps while its speed range is slightly larger than the Milwaukee, giving you 8,000 to 24,000 RPM via a variable speed dial. The electronics motor controls maintain speed even under load and this is also a low noise unit, with an output of only 81 dB.

The motor and tool are all ball-bearing design for long life and the housing is flat on top, providing stability when changing bits. Brushes are accessible externally for easy maintenance. and a cam-lock makes changing the base and adjusting the motor height quick and easy when using the fixed base. The max plunge depth on this unit is 2-19-32 inches and both sub-bases are already drilled to accept industry standard template guides. Like the Milwaukee, it comes with both 1-4 inch and 1/2 inch collets.

DEWALT DWP611PK 1.25 HP Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit

This is a slightly smaller router, with a 1.25 HP motor and it’s also more compact. Nevertheless it’s still packed with the same types of features we’ve seen in the other routers. A variable speed control with electronic speed control keeps the bit turning from 16,000 to 27,000 RPM, higher than the bigger units could do.

The fixed base (only) provides 1/64 inch adjustment on the bit depth. Dual LEDs illuminate the workpiece through the clear plastic baseplates and this model only comes with a 1/4” collet, as it’s a lower power unit. The motor can be easily removed from one base and put on the other for various types of work.

PORTER-CABLE 450PK 1.25 HP Compact Router

Porter-Cable’s claim to fame with this unit is it’s billed as a compact router because there’s times when a compact router is needed, as a larger ones just won’t fit in the desired space. Even so, it’s got a 1-1/4 HP motor, with electronic speed control and soft start. This one isn’t variable-speed, but provides a fixed speed of 27,000 RPM packed into a motor that’s only 2.70 inches in diameter. The depth adjustment ring is calibrated to provide accurate settings of 1/64 inch. The depth ring and clamping mechanism work together to ensure that the motor stays locked in position. The turret on the plunge base provides five stepped or repeating plunge cuts.

Rich the Tool Man

Before embarking on the current stage of my life, I spent 15 years as a Manufacturing Engineer in both the medical equipment field (medical electronics) and automotive engineering (city transit buses). After that, I owned a small construction company, mostly doing residential remodeling and commercial tenant finishes. I am no longer in either of these fields, but still get my hands plenty dirty as a consummate do-it-yourselfer; working on everything from remodeling my own home to rebuilding my car’s engines. My hobby (when I can find the time) is woodworking; making everything from toilet paper holders, to shelves, to music stands for my own home. My wife long ago gave up the idea that a two car garage is for parking two cars; it is my workshop.

While I cannot claim to having worked professionally with all types of tools, I have worked professionally with some. This comes from my previous careers, where I had to specify, buy and at times live with those decisions. Additionally, I would have to say that my engineering background has given me a thorough understanding of the construction of such tools. So, while I may not have used a particular type of tool personally, I have the knowledge to cut through all the advertising hype and statistics; in order to get at the truth of how well a tool will operate and last.

In my current career as a writer, I've written over 90 books. This includes my own titles and those I've written on contract. I've also written a complete website on how to build your own home.

Related
Go to top