Choosing a router can be confusing, especially if you are new to woodworking. Full size, compact, fixed base, plunge base, fixed speed, variable speed, these might all sound a bit too much at first. So, what should you pick? Don’t worry and keep reading this article to see how easy it actually is to pick a router.
It’s all in the power
So, what is the difference between a full size and a compact router? It’s all in the motor power. A compact router has between 1 and 2 HP, while a full-size router has a power up to 3-1/4 HP. You might be tempted to just get the more powerful one, but when it comes to routing bigger isn’t always better. Light-duty tasks, like rounding over or chamfering edges, are best done with a compact router. Using a full-size router for such a task would be tiresome. Decorative molding ore small joinery projects are other great compact router uses. The full-size routers on the other hand are used for more heavy-duty jobs. So, there’s no winner in the compact router vs full size as they are used for completely different jobs.
Other things to consider
The size of the motor is what differentiates the compact routers from the full size, but it’s not the only thing you need to consider when buying this tool. You should also consider these factors:
The variable speed feature is generally found in mid and full size routers. It is extremely useful if you plan on using one router for all bit sizes. Most routers have adjustable speed settings between 10,000 and 30,000 RPM, with lower speeds used for larger bits and higher speed settings for smaller bits.
Plunge or Fixed Base
The router is just a motor that can be attached to either a plunge base of a fixed base or both. A plunge base allows you to first set the depth and then lower, or plunge, the bit. The fixed one, as the name suggests, has the bit in a fixed position. Most routers on the market come with both bases, but some come only with a fixed base.
This is a feature that allows the motor to slowly accelerate to the preset speed. Without a soft start, the router will immediately go to full speed and you run the risk of it jerking out of your hand.
Now that you know what to look for in a router, it’s time to go and buy one. Below you will find a couple of recommendations, a compact and a full size router. Both are great tools to have and can be used by beginners and professionals alike.
Makita RT0701CX3 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit
If you are looking for a good compact router you can’t go wrong with the Makita RT0701CX3. This is an affordable, agile router that delivers great results.
The Makita RT0701CX3 has a 6.5 Amps 1.25 HP motor with variable speed that can be adjusted between 10.000 and 30.000 RPM. This is not the strongest motor in the world but it will get most jobs done fairly quickly. Another great thing about this Makita router is that is has a soft start, which you don’t generally see in an entry-level tool. The router will perform very well with trim jobs, cuts, and boring holes, both on hard and softwood. The motor is double-insulated with a heavy-duty aluminum housing for durability.
The router comes with a 1/4” collet for bits. Additionally, you can purchase a 3/8”, but don’t try to use a 1/2”, as it will not fit.
The Makita is a rather cheap router, with just the tool being sold for less than $100. We recommend getting the kit with all 3 bases, as this will get you more bang for your buck. For just a little over $200, depending on where you purchase it, you can get a kit with a plunge, tilt, and offset base, as well as 2 dust nozzles, a couple of wrenches, a 1/4” collet, and a tool bag to keep everything together.
All in all, the Makita RT0701CX3 is a great tool if you just want to perform small routing jobs around the house and if you already own a routing table, this tool should fit perfectly. Sure, it will not be able to perform heavy-duty jobs, as it only has a 1.25 HP motor, but other than that it is probably the most versatile router you can find.
DEWALT Router, Fixed/Plunge Base Kit, Variable Speed, Soft Start, 2-1/4-HP
So, what do you do when you need a powerful router for more heavy-duty jobs? You get a DEWALT DW618PKB. This is a full-size router with a 12 Amps 2.25HP motor, powerful enough to tackle anything you throw at it. Just like the Makita, this too is a tool with variable speed, which can be adjusted between 8,000 and 24,000 RPM. You will definitely be surprised about how quiet this router is, especially since it has a 2.25 HP motor.
The router features a soft start and the base is made out of die-cast machined aluminum for increased durability. It has a micro-fine depth adjustment ring that allows you to easily make precise depth adjustments of up to 1/64″.
The kit costs just under $200, which is actually a great price for a full-size router, and one of the best budget router tool options out there, that comes with both a fixed and a plunge base. The kit also contains 1/4″ and 1/2″ collets, wrench, large hole sub-base, Vacuum adapter, and soft carry bag. The DEWALT DW618PKB can be attached to a routing table as well.
Both tools have their uses, so when it comes to compact vs full size router, the real question is what do you need it for. Compact routers are best used for small jobs, while the full-size one is best for heavy-duty projects. If you have decided to go with a compact router, you should definitely purchase the Makita RT0701CX3. If, on the other hand, you need a full-size router, go with the DEWALT DW618PKB.