How To Choose a Router

When looking for a new router there are a few things to consider:  the type of router, its size and horsepower, and any extra features are just a few of the elements that will go into your purchasing decision.  You will also want to think about why and how often you are going to use the router.

If you want to add a router to your tool collection for that occasional craft project, then a smaller, less expensive router may be a better choice than the larger, more expensive routers used every day by professional woodworkers.  In any case, a router is a great addition to any tool collection; and just like any new tool, it's a wonderful toy - but don't let your wife know that!

Types of Routers:

1. Standard, or stationary base, routers

A stationary based router requires you to unlock the base to change the depth of a cut. Some of them do have an adjustment screw that helps when close tolerances are needed. On most fixed base routers the base is also removable, which makes changing the bit a little faster. Fixed base routers come in a wide variety of sizes and horsepower.

2. Plunge base routers

A plunge base router is designed to allow you to set the router on top of your work and push, or plunge, the bit down into the wood to a preset depth.  These routers can be used for carving the letters for a sign or adding scrollwork to your project. However, the base has to be fully retracted and locked in place to change a bit.

3. Trim routers

Trim routers are much smaller in diameter than their than their larger cousins, allowing you to hold and operate them with one hand. The basic use of a trim router is trimming laminate when making countertops. The majority of trim routers only come with a 1/4" collet, as larger 1/2"  bits are not generally used for trim work.


1. Variable speed motor

Routers with this option have a control on the side that allows you to control the speed of the motor. This is because when you are using the larger 1/2”  bits, their best performance comes when operated a much lower speed than the 1/4"  bits - usually around 10,000 rpm, whereas the smaller bits have better performance at speeds of 20,000 rpm or higher.

2. Collet (chuck) size

Collets come in two basic sizes, 1/4" and 1/2", to accommodate the two basic shank sizes used in hand held routers. There are larger sizes, but these are usually only found in router tables.

3. Power rating, or horsepower

When looking for a router you will find horsepower ratings from 1.25 up to about 3.5 horsepower.  The lower-horsepower routers are used for smaller jobs where you don't have to remove a lot of material at once. If you need to plow out a lot of material you may want to look into the larger routers.

4. Soft start vs. Hard start motors

'Soft start' is simply a built-in circuit that lets the motor start slowly and gradually build up to the preset speed, rather than jumping right to the maximum speed as soon as it's switched on. This prolongs the life of the router.

I hope this information helps you make a decision on how to choose a router.


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