The Best Wood Routers of 2023
A wood router is a crucial addition to any carpenter, joiner, or DIY woodworker’s arsenal, and it is an extremely versatile machine that can be used for a wide variety of tasks. Paired with the right bits, it can even help to make up for certain tools you might be missing in the workshop!
In recent years power tool manufacturers have made significant advancements in their wood routers, adding a wide range of additional features like variable-speed dials, ergonomic handles, and even interchangeable bases! While these features certainly make the job easier, they can also make it more daunting when you are researching which router to purchase.
In this blog post we’re going to take a look at the different types of woodworking routers available, what to look for when purchasing a router, and our selection of the best wood routers of 2023.
What are routers used for?
Before diving into the different types of wood routers, let’s cover the basics. A wood router is a tool that’s used to make grooves or “hollow out” a workpiece that’s usually made of wood, but can also be made of plastic, MDF, or even metal. Thanks to their flexibility and the wide variety of attachments available, they’re perfect for adding character to your woodworking project by creating clean, custom patterns.
Some of the most common uses of routers include:
- Edge profiling and shaping for wooden furniture and fixtures
- Making joinery cuts including rabbets, dadoes, and mortise-and-tenons
- Trimming excess wood or laminate trimming
- Engraving custom artwork designs into wooden pieces
These are just a few of the most common examples, but with the right router bit you can tackle a huge variety of woodworking jobs around the workshop and construction site!
Types Of Wood Routers
As mentioned, there are several different types of routers you can get – with the most common being plunge routers and fixed-base routers.
These differ in how they are operated, and their capabilities, however it’s important to remember that some newer models feature interchangeable bases that allow you to change from fixed to plunge base – giving you the best of both worlds!
Plunge routers, as the name suggests, use a plunging motion to cut the workpiece from above, similar to the drill press or pillar drill. The middle section of the router holds the router bit and is then pushed downwards using two spring-stacked columns which guide its path. Once the cutting depth is adjusted to your desired setting, the router bit cuts only to that specific depth.
When using a plunge router you’ll see better accuracy on the depth of your cut, which is ideal in projects requiring precise cuts. This also provides the benefit of better flexibility, as you can work with a variety of different cut depths on the same piece of wood.
The main drawback of using a plunge router, however, is that it can be time-consuming and sometimes confusing to adjust and set up the plunge base, especially for beginners. In some instances, plunge routers are also more expensive than their fixed-base counterparts.
Fixed Base Routers
Fixed base routers, as you might expect, have a completely fixed base and cutting depth. In practice, that means that the cutting bit cannot move, or plunge, from top to bottom – it can only make precision cuts at a uniform depth.
Naturally, this makes the fixed-base router unsuitable for a number of tasks where it’s necessary to cut the material from above. Plunge routers provide more flexibility, however, the fixed-base router has benefits of its own too.
These routers are often more compact and ergonomically designed, making them more comfortable to use, even in awkward spaces. They are also considered more accurate than plunge routers, and therefore they are the top choice for trimming work and making super-precise cuts.
What to look for in a router
- Collet Size – the diameter of the collet, which holds the router bit
- Power Supply – how the machine is powered, typically batteries or mains
- Base type – the type of base which sits on the material, providing stability
- Variable speed control – allows for varying speed settings for different applications
- Accessories – provide extra functionality such as dust extraction or better stability
The collet size of your router will determine the size of router bit you can use with the machine. In the UK you have two standard sizes: 1/2″ and 1/4″. Larger sized collets are less prone to slipping and are better for making larger, heavier duty cuts. Smaller sized collets allow for more precise work and finer detailing.
Power supply is a very important factor to consider. If your project requires you to work far from any wall sockets, then a cordless router powered by removeable batteries is your safest bet. If you have easy access to a wall socket however, corded options provide more power at a lower price point.
The most suitable base type for you will depend entirely on what you’ll be using the router for. Make sure to do your research, or get a model with interchangeable bases for more flexibility!
If you’re working with larger collets then variable speed control is a must. Large router bits spin more slowly and if you do not adjust your speed when needed, you risk splitting the wood. Most modern routers include this feature as standard.
Don’t forget to consider any additional accessories you may need. Dust extraction adaptors can help to keep the workplace clean and safe, and mounting feet can help to keep the machine secure and stable.
Our Top Picks
From handheld palm routers, to corded plunge router kits, these are our top picks of the best and most popular wood routers of 2023!
The Makitas DRT50ZJ is a fantastic cordless trimmer router, featuring a powerful brushless motor in a lightweight and ergonomic body. Compatible with a range of collet sizes, this tool can be used with any Makita 18V battery and packs a variety of useful features like soft start, constant speed control and a dual LED worklight.
- Voltage: 18V
- No-load speed: 10,000 – 30,000rpm
- Plunge Capacity: 40mm
- Weight: 2.1kg
- Collet Capacity: 1/4″, 3/8″
The DeWalt DCW604NT is one of the best all-round routers available. Perfect for a wide range of tasks, it comes with fixed and plunge base attachments, along with a bunch of useful accessories like a fence guide and guide bush. Powered by DeWalt’s 18V XR battery system, it packs a punch with variable speed control giving excellent flexibility.
- Voltage: 18V
- No-load speed: 16,000 – 27,000rpm
- Plunge Capacity: 55mm
- Weight: 4.83
- Collet Capacity: 1/4″
The Milwaukee M18 FTR-0X offers unprecedented levels of power in a lightweight cordless package. Using Milwaukee’s REDLINK PLUS intelligence system with the REDLITHIUM-ION M18 battery system provides incredible runtime and performance, as well as a range of handy features like a variable speed dial, activate braking, and dual LED worklights.
- Voltage: 18V
- No-load speed: 10,000 – 31,000rpm
- Plunge Capacity: 50mm
- Weight: 3.6kg
- Collet Capacity: 6mm, 6.35mm
If you’re looking for maximum runtime, then the Hikoki M3612DA/JPZ is a great option. Powered by Hikoki’s MultiVolt battery technology, this machine offers fantastic performance and increased runtime, rivalling corded models. It also features a newly improved design with easier depth adjustment, convenient lock-on switch, and integrated dust collection.
- Voltage: 18/36V
- No-load speed: 11,000 – 25,000rpm
- Plunge Capacity: 50mm
- Weight: 5.8kg
- Collet Capacity: 6mm, 8mm, 12mm
Corded wood routers like the Trend T7EK offer consistent, reliable cutting performance, whilst eliminating the need for battery changes or charging. Suitable for precise and heavy-duty cuts, it includes a micro adustable side fence, as well as sliding cheeks for better safety and cutting accuracy. An excellent addition to any woodworker’s tool kit.
- Power Input: 2100W
- No-load speed: 11,500 – 28,000rpm,
- Plunge Capacity: 50mm
- Weight: 4.5kg
- Collet Capacity: 1/2″
Router Bits & Accessories
Without the bit, a wood router would essentially be useless! Luckily there are a wide selection of router bits available, designed to be used for a variety of woodworking tasks including grooves, mouldings and trimmings in materials like softwood, hardwood, plywood, MDF and more! Constructed from dependable materials like tungsten carbide, these router bits are available in a selection of different sizes and pack options.
Wood routers are also compatible with a range of different accessories that help provide additional functionality and safety. Some of the most common router accessories include:
- Guide bushes which attach to the base of the router and provide better cutting accuracy
- Jigs help provide a cutting template for precise styles, shapres and patterns
- Side fences guide the machine when cutting along parallel or straight edges
- Trammels allow you to cut consistent circles or arcs in various materiasls
What safety equipment should be worn when using a router?
Using the correct safety equipment is extremely important when operating any woodworking power tool, due to the harmful dust and wood chips that are produced.
When working with a wood router you should always make sure to wear the right PPE, most importantly safety glasses, hearing protection, and a dust mask or respirator. Depending on the project, you may also want to wear cut resistant gloves, and steel toe boots.
How do I keep my router in good condition?
Keeping your wood router in good condition is easy – just make sure to follow a few important steps:
- Store the machine in a dry, clean, weatherproof environment
- Lubricate the moving components regularly
- Clean any dust and debris from the collet and router bit regularly
- Inspect the brushes of the router regularly, and replace if damaged
How do I change router bits?
The method of changing the router bit differs slightly depending on the model, but most are similar.
Note: ALWAYS make sure the machine is powered off and disconnected before changing bits.
- Use an adjustable wrench to remove the plunge base and access the collet nut
- Loate the spindle lock lever and lock the spindle in place
- Use a wrench to loosen the collet nut counterclockwise until the router bit slides out
- Insert the new router bit all the way into the collet nut until it stops
- With the spindle still locked, use the wrench to fully tighten the nut clockwise
- Reattach the plunge base back onto the motor housing and clamp
- Inspect the router bit and test it works properly
We hope that this guide has helped provide a better understanding of how wood routers work and what to consider when buying one.
Make sure to tune in to our blog for regular buying guides, tool reviews, news and more!