At first blush, confronted by the variety of routers from which to choose my dynamic duo, I felt a bit daunted. Even just the eight in my shop represent a significant continuum of costs, styles and features! But the crux of solving the challenge revolved around the various woodworking tasks I use my routers for in my day-to-day shop routine.
When I put my noodle to that question, the list of tasks quickly got pretty long. Looking back, I do a significant amount of pattern or template routing. Using a router paired with a template to machine perfectly matching components is an invaluable process in making furniture. I had to keep that in my bag of tricks, for sure. And, while I generally prefer to plow dadoes and rabbets on my table saw, there are times when a router is the more practical choice. My router table (in truth, I have three … hey, I am a woodworking magazine editor) is in use all the time. I use the table for machining as varied as rounding over an edge, to cope-and rail-cutting and raising hardwood door panels.
So I certainly need a router with enough power to do some occasional “heavy lifting.” But as a 55-year-old guy, I am beginning to realize that my upper body strength is not what it was when I was 25. So for my workhorse router, in the last year or so, I have found myself reaching for a mid-sized machine. In fact, I have used a Craftsman combo kit that combines a mid-size router motor with a plunge base and a fixed-base. While not very expensive, it has done yeoman duty and provided excellent service.
So my first selection, based on my day-to-day use, was relatively easy to choose. What about my second and final choice? Once again, I simply looked back at my history of work, and the choice was easy. I use the Festool trim router for tasks like cutting out hinge mortises, routing decorative reveals, inlay work — tasks that require more nimbleness than power. It runs like a champ and, paired with the Festool dust extraction system, it is a pleasure to use. To be fair, if I had spent more time using the new category of palm and compact routers, like the Bosch Colt and the offerings from DeWALT and PORTER-CABLE, they may have been tops on my list. But the Festool has proved so good to use, that I have not given the others a fair shake.
So for good or ill, those are my choices. But as you know, if you put a dozen woodworkers in a room and ask a woodworking question, you can easily end up with 12 different answers.