When it comes to handheld routing, there’s always a twinge of fear in my gut. All of that spinning carbide and brute torque has the potential to do dastardly things to both lumber and limb, so I want a machine I know I can control. That’s why I’ll part ways with those who would pick two fullsize machines and choose Milwaukee’s 5616-24 mid-sized combo kit instead.
Here’s why: the 2.25hp motor is detailed with sensible stuff — feedback electronics to keep rpm up under load, soft start and variable speed. It slides in and out of either plunge or fixed bases like a well-oiled piston, once you flip a lever and push a button. Micro-adjustment is a simple twist of the Acme-threaded rod — no annoying wingdings to it — and the rubber grips are rock-solid. I like the BodyGrip wraparound on the fixed-base: it fits my hand like a broken-in outfielder’s glove and straps up tight. The plunge action on the other base is nice and smooth. I’ve never bested the power of this tool for profiling or joinery work. It is plenty for me.
Pick number two: RIDGID’s R2401 trim router. This was a really tough decision, because I’ve got a soft spot for Bosch’s extremely apt Colt compact router. Notice that both are trim routers. A trim router offers the ultimate in manageability for inlay, mortising and balancing the tool over narrow edges or small workpieces. Both Bosch and RIDGID have powerful motors and straightforward bit adjusters, but RIDGID adds a sweet perk: an LED light. My gosh, that’s handy when you’re tracking a freehand line or sneaking up on a mortise! If Bosch ever adds one, the scales could tip back for me.
Now, I’m digging in my heels: there’s a PORTER-CABLE 7518 Speedmatic 3.25hp router bolted inside my router table, and I wouldn’t trade it. It takes care of business for any job — burly tasks like panel raising as well as delicate profiling and joinery. Mine just keeps whipping up chips, hidden out of view. It’s a trusted router you’ll find in many pros’ shops — who work this full-size machine a heckuva lot harder than I do.