When we started on our home renovation, I knew I would run into projects that would require every type of tool imaginable. We lived by our golden rule of purchasing one major tool per project, building this into each project's budget, and committed ourselves to fully researching any tool purchase before we took the plunge. What we didn't anticipate though is the massive number of features, options, and decisions that would come along with some of the more significant and useful tools. Throughout all of our power tool purchases, no single item had a larger selection of features and options than what we ran into when purchasing our router.
When we realized what we wanted to do for the
staircase handrail, and we began planning for the eventual build, we knew we couldn't accomplish the project without a good router and router table setup. Raised panels, rails and stiles, and ogee decorative edges are quite difficult to create when you don't posses the machinery to perform the task. So I set out on my typical Internet research quest to begin reading feature lists, perusing user reviews, educating myself, and allowing my trust in "What Would Norm Do?" (WWND) to steer my decision making. (Norm who? Norm Abrams from The New Yankee Workshop and This Old House of course!) What I found was overwhelming, confusing, and almost made me throw in the towel.
Do you know how many routers there are out there? It's mind boggling! There are literally hundreds of combinations with varying price points and features, and all seemed to have their fair share of good and bad reviews. I had to come up with my own basic criteria and requirements so that I could begin narrowing the field. Our requirements were:
We needed a router that could accommodate a fixed table setup, for things like the raised panels, as well as a hand tool situations similar to what we needed when building our
raised vegetable garden. The router needed to handle various size bit shanks (pretty standard).
We also needed a plunge style base for various situations that I knew would arise, such as cutting out portions of flooring without damaging the hard wood around it.
While this narrowed the list of choices a bit, there were still a ton of options. Since I wanted multiple bases, and I wanted to keep the price down as much as possible, I decided to narrow my search to router packages that came with multiple bases. This reduced the number to only a handful including Porter Cable, Bosch, Dewalt, and Milwaukee.
Then I asked myself the question that helped me to finally make my decision. WWND? I went on over to the
New Yankee workshop website and did a bit of This Old House watching to determine that Norm was a Porter Cable user. I also remembered the router I worked with in college was a Porter Cable, so I decided to go with that as my brand of choice.
We bought an 890 series router package with fixed and plunge base options. This router is a bit more powerful that I had planned for initially, but I knew we would need this once we got into the more advanced wood working items down the road. It met all of the criteria that I had outlined, had a standard setup to fit with all of the aftermarket jigs that are available, and came with excellent user reviews. And, at the time of purchase, was the style of router Norm was using. It was a winner for us.
Since purchasing this router, I've been extremely happy with it. We've used it for countless projects, including the wainscoting, flooring repair, the garden, office desk project, and just about anything that needs a nice detailed edge on a piece of wood. I'm quite glad I selected this as our router of choice, and can absolutely recommend it if you are looking for a router.
What I didn't realize when we purchased the router was just how important the micro adjustments on the bases were to overall function and performance of the router. I've had to make extremely accurate cuts that come down to a 64th of an inch. With the small dials, slides, and adjustments I can make, every cut can be absolutely precise without significant effort.
If you don't feel like you need all of the power that comes with the 890s, and you want to save a bit on the price, look into the
Porter-Cable 694VK 11 Amp 1-3/4-Horsepower Plunge and Fixed Base Variable Speed Router Kit , it may be perfect for your needs.
After we bought our router and got it setup in a table, I felt like I could tackle just about any project. The cuts were smooth and clean, and speed and depth adjustments were accurate and easy to use. As you may have seen from the stair wainscoting project, which was the very first project we tackled with our new router, we took to its use quite easily and were able to accomplish a lot in a very short period of time.
While this router may not actually be worth its weight in gold (its actually pretty heavy, so that would be a lot of money), it is one of the treasures of my woodworking tools collection.
Next week I'll talk a bit more about the various accessories I've picked up to make our router use a little bit easier. Until then, if you have a router that you love or something that makes your routering as easy as pie, leave a comment and let us know.