Periodically, we like to go back check in with a tool that generated a lot of enthusiasm when it was released, just to see what kind of impression it’s made on the people who actually use it. After a year or so, woodworkers who've made the investment have had a chance to thoroughly field-test the new tool, and they've had time to formulate and voice their opinions in our customer reviews. It’s interesting to see how the various superlatives put forth when a tool first hits the market hold up under the rigors of actual shop practice, and worth taking note when one turns out to be almost exactly what its manufacturer claims.
A while back, we reviewed the Bosch Colt Variable Speed Palm Router. At that time, the Colt was enjoying accolades in uncommon numbers for a new router model from a company that’s been making routers of all long, long time. In essence, the Colt was hailed as a new kind of router, designed to fill a long ignored gap in the typical selection. More versatile and powerful than the average “laminate trimmer”, the Bosch Colt took muscle and features from the world of “full sized” routers and tucked them into a compact, maneuverable, ergonomically advanced router that is, most notably, designed for one-hand use.
Much of what the Colt brings to the table is simply a matter of specifications. It has a 5.7 amp, 1 HP motor, which puts it in the top of the class of one hand operable routers. The Colt is equipped with a soft start to prevent a sudden jolt of torque when you flip the switch, and Bosch’s proprietary “constant response circuitry”, which helps keep it running at a consistent speed under heavy loads. And there’s more: for a full rundown on the simple matters of fact, read our July, ’06 post on the Colt. Now, we want to take a look how the colt actually handles and performs in the typical woodworking shop. And for that purpose, we are fortunate to have a number of excellent customer reviews. Here, for example, is a detailed account from Bert in Murrieta, CA:
"I needed a laminate trimmer that could also double as a small router to occasionally route smaller edge profiles (such a chamfers and round-overs). I did some research and found the Bosch Colt to have the most favorable reviews.
"I could not be happier. In fact I find myself using it more for quick routing jobs that don't require a bigger motor, than I do for laminate trimming. I prefer to route on a router table, but when I can't and I don't need any more power than 1HP, I usually end up reaching for my Colt. It's great for routing mortises for hinges, making rabbets for back panels, freehand cutouts, chamfering, softening edges with roundovers, etc.
"It's very quick and accurate to adjust, and locks down rock solid. The motor is more than adequate for most jobs that I use it for, and the spindle lock is great for bit changes. The finger pockets in the base really helps with support and control and makes a difference when routing on narrow edges. The router has a hefty and sturdy feel yet is light weight. The soft start feature and variable speed makes it versatile in a variety of routing situations.
"It does have one drawback. The upper part of the main motor housing is made of plastic and has a rubberized form that acts like a handle and fits well in my hand during operation. The bottom part of the motor housing is made of metal, either aluminum or magnesium. When I use the router for more than 10 minutes of routing, it gets very hot. And because that part of the router slides and sits in the base, the base also gets very hot... kind of a heat sink effect. And if you're using your other hand on the base, it can get pretty hot to handle. However, the upper part of the main motor housing (with the plastic and rubberized handle) does not seem to get that hot. I usually use form fitting gloves when routing so that usually takes care of the heat issue. I don't know if it's a design issue or just a problem with my particular router. This heat however, does NOT seem to affect my router's performance in any way, so far.
"Other than the heat issue, I absolutely recommend the Bosch Colt. It won't replace my bigger routers by any means, but for what it does, it does it beautifully and more. And for the price, nothing can beat it!"
Adding this specially designed sub-base and template guides makes the Bosch Colt perfect for router-cut signs and a variety of template routing projects.
That sounds about right to us. The Colt is great for small routing jobs like easing off edges with a round over bit and cutting hinge mortises where larger routers, apart from being serious overkill, are often difficult to balance and require the commitment of both hands to holding the router, instead of leaving one free to steady the workpiece. And Colt purchasers seem to agree. It’s a great tool for smaller routing projects where maneuverability and one-hand use is the key:
"Why I never brought this one earlier I will never know. I used to fight my big
DeWalt doing door mortises. Now with the cheapie PC mortise jig and this Colt mortises are a breeze.
"And as for trimming laminate, I love it. Wish I had it on my last few counter top jobs.
As for the heating issue, I have never trimmed anything longer than a few minutes so I can't comment.
"Like the snap release for the collar [the Quick-Clamp base release]. Great idea."
(posted by Paul in Seaford, VA)
(What about the heat issue? Frankly, we think 10 consecutive minutes of routing is a lot, and wouldn’t come up very often (the complaint doesn’t). Still, Bosch has taken that into account and offers an inexpensive base cover as an accessory that provides extra insulation in heavy use.)
A compact router that doesn’t sacrifice power or big-router features could have any number of applications, including some that might not spring immediately to mind. This next review, posted by Eric Shonts, points out a few out of the ordinary routing situations where the Colt’s design would come in handy. At the same time, it brings up the single criticism that we’ve heard with any frequency at all:
"One more minor complaint. On mine, the amount of force to push in the spindle lock button is too high, and you really have to "bury" the button to get the lock to engage the spindle. I know they're trying to keep it from engaging accidentally, but seems a little overdone. Other than that, I love it. I have not noticed the heat issue, but have not used it a lot yet. I think this will be a GREAT router for building canoes and kayaks, especially when template routing in thin plywood for stitch and glue boats, and for cutting hatches in all types. Also looking forward to using it for cutting pick-up pockets in a guitar body someday. Very happy I bought it!"
Well, in truth the pushbutton spindle lock doesn’t seem to be making most Colt owners’ day. From what we’ve seen and heard, most of the people who bring it up at all agree that the spindle lock could be easier to engage, but consider the difficulty a minor disappointment tucked into a very satisfying big picture. The last we heard, Bosch is considering design changes to the mechanism. Currently anyone who’s having trouble can contact Bosch for a free second wrench to use for a two-wrench bit change system. In the near future, in fact, they will begin including the second wrench as standard equipment in all Bosch Colt packages while they take on the larger task of designing improvements to the existing mechanism.
Is the spindle lock situation a deal-breaker? We don’t think so. Even if you decide to forgo the one-wrench bit change feature entirely, remember that the Quick-Clamp base release will let you take the router motor completely out of the base in about a half a second, giving you easy access to the spindle and collet nut. In other words, even if you’re one of a minority of people who find the pushbutton too hard to use, the alternative two-wrench method will be pretty easy, and will only add a couple of seconds to the bit-change process. With all of the other things the Bosch Colt has going for it, and ample evidence that it’s standing up exceptionally well to the manufacturer’s claims out there in the field, we still think it’s a well designed, versatile, useful tool and an overall winner.
(Read more Bosch Colt Palm Router reviews)