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The Best Compact Routers to Shape and Cut Wood
No woodworker should be without a router. Routers are essential to cutting your material the way you want. Whether it’s making cutouts or creating sharp edges for a table, you will need one to shape and cut your stuff. That’s why you need to check out this guide on all things compact routers. Compact routers are just routers but smaller for portability and ease of use on smaller projects. If you want to cut in one hand and steady the wood in another, a compact router is for you.
These top picks for compact routers in 2023 are robust and durable machines, with many boasting great features at quality prices. If you are looking for the most durable routers in 2023, look no further than right here.Show contentsReviewing the Top-Rated Compact Routers of 2023
Compact Routers: A Buying Guide
- Makita Compact Router - Best Overall
- Dremel Compact Router - Runner Up
- Dewalt Compact Router - Most Lightweight
- Avid Power Compact Router - Most Versatile
- BOSCH Compact Router - Honorable Mention
Compact Routers: A Buying Guide
You will find compact routers to be a smaller and lighter option than other woodworking router tools. They are a bridge between traditional trimming routers and full-sized models. It is impossible to complete some carpentry projects without a compact router. But in all of their glory, compact routers pose a challenge for novice and experienced users alike: finding the best one.
It is difficult to determine the right compact router for the job when so many models look similar, but this buying guide can lead you in the right direction. Read till the end before you add another router to your workshop.
What Are the Types of Compact Routers?
Fixed-base compact routers
When the router bit on a complex router is in a fixed position and doesn’t change during the cut, it is known as a fixed-base complex router. This type of complex router will stick to the preset cut depth, and the router bit will always protrude past the base preset until the machine is restarted and the preset depth is changed.
Never forget that you can still adjust the depth of “fixed-base” compact routers after cutting by turning a dial or unwinding a collar. Also, some compact routers known as tilting bases are fixed-base routers that tilt at a specific angle, and they work superbly for machining inside corners and at odd angles.
Plunge-base compact routers
Any router with a spring-loaded motor housing that moves back and forth on an axis can be called a plunge router. Because of the spring-loaded motor and up and down motion, plunge routers allow you some luxuries. For example, you can change the depth of the cut on the fly without restarting the machine. Simply turn on the router and slide a spinning router bit into the material hassle-free.
Plunge-base routers do a neater job. With this router, your mortise and tenor joints won’t have freckles. In addition, it should be easy to vary the cutting depth across the workpiece. Another exciting thing about plunge routers is they each have their range of depths within which you can readily lower or raise the housing using a knob or lever. A quality plunge router should come with an in-built depth gauge to prevent the router bit from plunging too deep.
Plunge routers are the way to go with detailed cuts. The quick vertical movements allow you to make them a precision tool for patterns through cuts, mortises, and deep grooves. You can also use them to make templates if that’s the sort of thing you like to do.
Combo compact routers
So far, you’ve learned about fixed-based routers and plunge-base routers, but what about routers with interchangeable bases? These are called combo compact routers. They come with kits of interchangeable parts that include both fixed and plunge bases, allowing you the option of swapping between both bases. When you purchase a combo compact router, you are not paying for the price of two routers, nor are you paying for one. They are priced above the other routers, but you have the best of both worlds as far as routers are concerned.
They are usually more expensive, and the added disadvantage of changing out bases while cutting can slow down your workflow. But you can enjoy the best of both worlds without owning two separate routers.
What Compact Router Is Suitable for You?
For a more durable and beginner-friendly option, choose fixed-base routers. They can be set up in minutes, and you can have one hand on the workpiece as you work the router with your other hand, leaving more room for better precision. If you are new to compact routers, you won’t have much of a challenge operating them as their design allows them to be used by operators with little or no skill and experience. And at such an affordable price, there is little doubt why you should get them over a plunge model.
Whether for making identical cuts or edge shaping, these relatively static machines are an ideal choice. They allow you to preset your cut depth so you can pick the machine up any day and use the same setting on your router bit repeatedly. You are free to fine-tune the depth of the router bit to a high degree. You should never cut a dovetail joint with only a dovetail jig after you get a fixed-base router; it will prove to be a more reliable companion.
Freedom is the major selling point of plunge base models, and they are great for making complex cuts like tenon joints and making carving inside a material (like mortises) much less problematic. Just like freedom in the real world, the freedom and flexibility that plunge models offer come at a price, and that is why a plunge base router costs more than a fixed-base router of similar size and capacity.
Make sure you get some practice before using a plunge base router for professional jobs or any serious jobs, so you can properly adjust the tool as needed. If you get this type of router, be ready for complete control over the depth and appearance of your cuts.
What Power Rating Is Suitable for Compact Routers?
Only 1.25 horsepower (HP) is needed for a compact router to be operational. If you were dealing with denser materials and more significant router bits, you might need something more potent than 1.25 HP to handle it. The more powerful a router is, the faster you can do heavy-duty tasks because now you only need one pass instead of performing multiple passes. On the flip side, the more powerful a router is, the bulkier. So for light wood jobs, go for a smaller model, and you will have more refined control and still get the job done.
How Much Should Your Compact Router Weigh?
This consideration is entirely up to you. A lightweight router makes maneuverability easy; you can be more precise and make more intricate shapes. A bulky tool offers more torque but does the opposite and can tire you out faster. Choose a router between 3.5 and 6.5 pounds.
Reviewing the Top-Rated Compact Routers of 20231– Best Overall
Match the speed to any application using the Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit. This robust and durable compact router is a must-have for everyone. Few routers are as solid and precise as this one; this is the bargain that you shouldn’t sleep on at all. This Makita router is the best overall on this list because of its versatile speed choices, top precision, and powerful motor akin to a larger router.Key Features
2– Runner Up27% Off
- Offers variable speed from 10,000 – 30,000 RPM at a dial
- Better precision with the slick rack-and-pinion depth adjustment system
- Quick-release can lock system for effortless depth adjustments
- Maintains constant speed under load
- Powerful motor for a better performance
The Dremel 335-01 Plunge Compact Router is ready to be turned into a compact plunge router so you can cut precise decorative edges, straight slots, or route freehand. This router lets you begin a cut from the middle of your workpiece. The plunge-router adapter is compatible with Dremel rotary tools that accommodate 1/8-inch diameter bits. You won’t have to spend extra bucks on a single-purpose machine if you already own one of these.Key Features
3– Most Lightweight43% Off
- Converts rotary tool to plunge router
- Plunge features a lock-in handle and two depth stops for quick adjustment
- Made of both plastic and metal materials
- Includes plunge router attachment, an edge guide, round cutting guide, and a mounting wrench
If you are tired of the heavier and bulkier router models, then the Dewalt 20V Max XR Cordless Router fits the bill. This router allows you to easily match its speed to the application using a variable speed dial. It also offers constant speed during cuts because of the soft-start motor with full-time electronic feedback. It is a woodworker’s dream router tool.Key Features
4– Most Versatile20% Black Friday Deal
- Two LED lights that illuminate any work surface
- Height adjustments are hassle-free because of the fast depth adjustment ring
- Built-in electronic brake to slow the motor down faster when turned off
- Variable speeds from 16,000 to 25,500 RPM
Ergonomically designed for convenience, the Avid Power 6.5-Amp 1.25 HP Fixed-Base Wood Router is the right choice for you. It has a rubber-covered handle for a comfortable grip and a quick clamp system that allows motor adjustment from base to base.Key Features
5– Honorable Mention39% Black Friday Deal
- Parts and accessories can be interchanged with other compact routers
- Includes accessories like a vacuum attachment, workpiece edge guides, and a pack of router bits
- Features a 3/8 collet and LED lights to illuminate your working area
- Properly machined motor with good fit and tight tolerance
You are putting routing power and unique precision in the palm of your hands when you get the BOSCH PR20EVS Colt Variable-Speed Palm-Grip Compact Router. This machine allows you to place your fingers into support pockets for additional stability, helpful when trimming edges.Key Features
- Offers 1.0 HP and 5.6 amp with variable speeds from 16,000 to 35,000 RPM
- Straight edge guide that leads router along and up to 3-5/8 inch from the edge of a workpiece
- Angled cord that keeps the cable away from your hands when working
- Durable aluminum fixed base
- Accepts bits up to 1 5/16 inch in diameter
People Also AskedQ: Should I get corded or cordless compact routers?
A: Cordless models give you less stress from maneuvering and working where no power sources are available. But they require constant recharging and have a limited runtime. In contrast, corded models a more powerful and can work for longer but offer less portability.Q: What depth range should I be looking to get in a compact router?
A: How deep your router can cut should be depended on how deep you want to cut into the workpiece. So just make sure the depth range is compatible with your projects.Q: Are compact routers durable?
A: The more metal parts your router is made of, the more durable it will be. Make sure you get a router with housing that is nearly all-metal. Metal helps your router last longer and provides more stability. Rugged aluminum is always an excellent choice.