Router advice needed

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Robin Smith, Oct 7, 2001.

  1. Robin Smith

    Robin Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi,
    I am about to purchase a router, and am seeking advice from the woodworking types here who have used them for speaker making (one of my intended uses).
    I have a few questions:
    1. Do you need a plunge router or is fixed router sufficient. Is it a feature worth paying more for? What advantages would it give me that couldn't be solved with a well-placed drilled hole for starting a route.
    2. Do you need avariable speed router? I am looking at sears models mostly (I have a gift certificate to spend).
    3. Is a 1/4" router sufficient or should I go for a 1/2 router. How likely in the realm of speaker building and basic furniture building am I likely to need bits that require a 1/2" router.
    Here are the models I am deciding between (all prices in Canadian $):
    Craftsman 1/4" 9 amp variable speed (15,000 - 25,000 rpm) PLUNGE router - $179
    Craftsman 1/4" 9 amp variable speed (15,000 - 25,000 rpm) fixed base router - $149
    Craftsman Professional 1/2" 9 amp fixed speed, fixed base router - $189
    I am tempted to go for the last one as it is probably an all round better machine but if variable or plunge is likely to be something I regret not having I may look further.
    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thanks
    Robin Smith
     
  2. Brandon B

    Brandon B Second Unit

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    Plunge and variable speed are nice, but if you are going to stick with this router for a while, my .02 says the ability to use 1/2" bits wins.
    BB
     
  3. Eric M Jones

    Eric M Jones Second Unit

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  4. GordonL

    GordonL Supporting Actor

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  5. Brian Steeves

    Brian Steeves Second Unit

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    My suggestion would be to get a router like the Porter Cable 690. It has the ability to use both 1/4" and 1/2" collets and can be used with a standard base and plunge base.
    Variable speed routers are almost exclusively used for spinning large diameter bits such as panel raising bits.
    My $.02
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    BPS Designs Home Page
     
  6. Vince Bray

    Vince Bray Stunt Coordinator

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    Just picked up a porter cable at the pawn shop for ridiculously cheap. Definitely get a 1/2" and TRY to get the plunge base. Porter makes a kit with plunge and fixed for about $199 on special. The 1/2" bits are less likely to chatter, are more stable, etc. The plunge is huge! When cutting holes, you rotate a little stop after each pass that advances the bit 1/4" deeper into the stock for the next plunge. This is a GIANT time saver vs. routing holes with a fixed base and having to adjust the router depth each pass. Get a porter cable.
    Vince
     
  7. Robin Smith

    Robin Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the reply guys.
    A couple of questions have arisen based on the collective responses.
    It sounds like plunge is a good feature to go for but not so much the variable speed. Good info to base my choices on.
    GordonL, if 1/2 bits can't safely be used at 25,000 rpm, how come the Sears 1/2" router is a 25,000 rpm router?
    I think the 1/2" router comes with a 1/4" adapter so it can use both bit sizes, but either way if it is 25,000 rpm and I use 1/2" bit, are you saying this is unsafe?
    I checked out the Porter Cable and they have a router that is 23,000 rpm fixed speed and it is a 1/2" router.
    Is it more the actual size of the bit (not the shank but the head part) that matters more for needing slower speeds? I am not planning on doing any overly complicated routing with the fancy cabinet bits so this would be less important, right?
    Vince, don't some fixed base routers still have the ring adjuster for depth adjustment? They are not plunge routers, but they have an easy adjuster for the depth of cut. I guess you are saying that this feature is valuable to have, even if not on a plunge router. The 690 Porter model mentioned earlier appears to have this even though it is not a plunge router.
    Are the Sears models that inferior? I would assume they are better than the Skil and Black and Decker models I see, but definitely not as good as Porter Cable and DeWalt. Given that I am a casual woodsmith to be, would the Sears model suffice or am I best to skip them altogether? If a Porter Cable or DeWalt is the same price then sure, but given that I am also in the market for a table saw and some blades and bits and the like, I don't want to break the bank. I am looking for optimal price/performance here.
    Thanks for the replies guys.
    Robin Smith
     
  8. Vince Bray

    Vince Bray Stunt Coordinator

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    The craftsman routers look alot like ryobi, which is bad. I have a ryobi, and it is inferior to porter cable in every way.
    The rpm limit is on large headed bits, not the shank size. There are roundover bits that are about 3.5" wide, or as stated above, panel bits even bigger. For your use cutting holes and flush cutting, you're fine. The bit manufacturer will specify the max rpm for a given bit.
    The depth adjustment on a plunge router is MUCH easier and faster to work with. Look closely at the porter cable and you will se a disc with multiple posts sticking up at different heights. This works with an adjustable rod that stops the plunge at a certain depth. When cutting, you usually go in 1/4" depth increments so as to not overload the tool. You make one pass around the hole (lets suppose you're cutting holes). Then you rotate the disc with all the posts to the next lower post - *click* - and you're ready to go around again. Two clicks and three passes and you're done for that hole (in 3/4" wood). Reset the depth adjuster and go again for the next hole. The fixed base routers offer different degrees of ease, but none as good as basic plunge ability. You will be spinning the adjuster each and every time you need to set the depth. Also the plunge takes the bit cleanly out of the work without hitting the side and making a boo-boo. The precision of the tool is important for consistency, and in this respect, you need an ALL METAL tool, base, etc. No plastic should be used in the adjuster or anywhere that would lead to flexing that screws up the precision. The porter cable also takes an edge guide that leads itself to making a simple circle cutting jig.
    Btw, I also have a PC circular saw, and the build on all their products is exceptional.
    Vince
    Porter Cable sales rep (kidding)
     
  9. GordonL

    GordonL Supporting Actor

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    quote: It sounds like plunge is a good feature to go for but not so much the variable speed.[/quote]
    A plunge router is more about being able to make certain cuts conveniently. Variable speed is more about safety.
    quote: Is it more the actual size of the bit (not the shank but the head part) that matters more for needing slower speeds?[/quote]
    Correct. To give you an idea of what speeds to use, here are some recommendations from Jesada http://www.jesada.com
    FYI, American Woodworker Magazine just published their Tool Buyers Guide. You should be able to get that in Canada I would think. Anyways, here are their recommendations:
    Mid-size, fixed-base routers
    Bosch 1617EVS
    Makita RF 1101
    Porter Cable 690 - Best Buy
    3HP Routers
    For router table use:
    Porter Cable 7518
    For general use:
    Dewalt DW625
    Porter Cable 7539
    Freud FT200E - Best Buy
    All of them, except for the PC 690, has variable speed.
    Another good resource is www.wwforum.com
    [Edited last by GordonL on October 07, 2001 at 11:41 PM]
     
  10. Robin Smith

    Robin Smith Stunt Coordinator

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    Awesome, thanks guys,!
    I am learning more and more and appreciate the input. I found the Porter Cable 690 online for $189 which is roughly the same as the Sears Pro model I was looking at. Now its the decision on whether I want to take the plunge on getting the plunge or not. I am leaning towards saying yes I need it which unfortunately for me adds to my costs, but I'd rather get what I want upfront and be happy in the long run.
    Thanks again.
    Robin Smith
     
  11. GordonL

    GordonL Supporting Actor

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    Forgot this - the url to American Woodworkers review of mid-size routers http://www.americanwoodworker.com/20...als/index.html
    Their one complaint about the PC 690 is the small opening in the base not being able to handle some common bit sizes.
    [Edited last by GordonL on October 08, 2001 at 12:05 AM]
     
  12. Mac F

    Mac F Agent

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    I have the Craftsman 1/2 in variable speed plunge router. I have been very happy with it so far. I will admit that some of the other brands, Porter-Cable, etc may have some advantages, you will probably not see them unless you get into heavy duty woodworking. If you get this far into it, you should try reading some of the speciality magazines.
    My 1/2 in router uses two collets for 1/2 and 1/4 in bits. Definitely go with the capability of 1/2 in, there are more bit sizes available. By all means get the variable speed model of anything. This is important when using the larger bits, such as for panel raising.
    The only down side I have found for my router is the mouth size. It won't take some of the extremely large bits used for making raised panel doors. It will work with a vertical panel bit but not some of the horizontal bits. By the way, if you are interested in this type of work, you will need some sort of router table to work safely.
    By all means get some sort of router. It is possibly one of the most versatile tools on the market. I once made a set of speakers using only a sabre saw and a router. This is not the recommended procedure, but it is possible. You might look for the PBS show "The Router Workshop", you will be amazed what this tool can do.
     
  13. Brian Steeves

    Brian Steeves Second Unit

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  14. Brian Bunge

    Brian Bunge Producer

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    I agree with Mr. Steeves about using the PC 690 set. I bought this last December and it is an excellent router. I thought having both the plunge and fixed bases was cool but I find that I hardly ever use the fixed base. I just set router bit depth with the plunge base and lock it into place. Works great!
    Also, when I bought it last year Woodcraft was giving away the $50 edge guide for free! I'm sure it's a seasonal promo, but it has come in handy as well. I've used it to route vertical grooves all the way around my bookshelf and subwoofer cabinets.
    Brian
     
  15. Grant B

    Grant B Producer

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    I got the Porter Cable router package with fixed & plunge bases, motor and table...pretty reasonable $, great package!
    If you haven't used one, always use a guide...they are monsters when they get away from you
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  16. David A. Frattaroli

    David A. Frattaroli Stunt Coordinator

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    Get the Porter Cable 690 kit. It includes a plunge and fixed base along with two collets, a 1/4" and a 1/2". It's a great router and comes with a hard case. I got mine from www.amazon.com for $199. At the time, it came with a $45 Porter cable edge guide (free).
    I use mine for building furniture and other HT projects.
     
  17. Jack Gilvey

    Jack Gilvey Producer

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    I went with the DeWalt 621 plunge model for the extra power and superb balance and "feel", but I've noticed quite a collection of aftermarket attachments specifically for the PC 690 which would make it an extraordinarily flexible combo. Haven't found nearly that much stuff for mine, although I really don't need much more than my Jasper.
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