Last updated: September 3, 2021

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Are you into woodworking and looking for a tool that makes your tasks easier? Whether for professional or domestic use, having the right tools is a necessity to carry out all your projects successfully. A wood router, for instance, is the ideal piece of equipment to tackle any carpentry or DIY job.

Not all wood routers are born equal. Each machine has specific characteristics, and it is vital that you understand them to get the desired results in all your projects. You will have to consider factors such as power, cutter diameter, overall quality, or accessories available. If you want to know more about these machines and how to choose the right one, this guide is for you.




Key Facts

  • Wood routers are high-speed, rotating cutting tools. Mainly used to create grooves and to make decorative cuts along the edges of a piece of wood, as well as to hollow out sections.
  • These tools come in a variety of sizes and shapes, depending on the hardness of the woods and other materials you want to cut. The type of cut will also influence your decision.
  • Like any electrical tool, the wood router requires power, and this is one of its main purchasing criteria. It will determine the woods you can work on. For example, a motor below 800 watts (W) will only allow you to work with softwoods.

Our Selection: The Best Wood Routers

Do you want to decorate a wooden handrail, or create a wooden frame for a painting? Then you need your very own wood router. What you can do with it depends on the model you choose, as each has its set of features and capacities. In the section below, you will find our selection of the best wood routers currently available on the market:

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Wood Routers

Wood routers are essential for every woodworking enthusiast out there. These machines offer a wide range of possibilities, which we will explain in the following section of our guide. If you still have any doubts regarding wood routers and what they can do, you will find all the answers you need right below.

The most modern machines have continuous jigs.
(Source: Vasileios: 19973689/ 123rf.com)

What is a wood router exactly?

This machine is designed to carry out machining work by removing wood chips. Hollowing out, profiling, and cutting are done by moving a multi-edged rotary tool called a milling cutter. Milling allows you to machine a wide variety of materials, such as wood, cast iron, steel, and synthetic metals.

You can also rough down and whet materials with a router. On traditional milling machines, the workpiece is moved by bringing the areas to be modified closer to the tool, making it possible to create a wide array of shapes – from completely flat surfaces to much more elaborate ones. Modern wood routers feature a computerized numerical control.

How does a wood router work?

The basic operation of these machines is very simple. Basically, a motor rotates a shaft installed on a vertical axis equipped with a tip, a milling cutter, or a tool holder. It slides on a table located in front of the shaft to carve the piece of wood. The piece is shaped or calibrated according to your needs.

The variety of accessories available is one of the main characteristics of wood routers, making them extremely versatile. You can use them for decorative woodworking as well as carpentry. As you can imagine, there are machines designed for every type of work.

While they can be made of steel, the jigs are most often made from aluminum.
(Source: Robert: 11645220/ 123rf.com)

What are wood routers used for?

These tools are used for machining workpieces with a milling cutter, and you can find various types of routers adapted to different tasks. However, their main application is to machine the removal of wood chips (hollowing out) with the movement of the milling cutter. Other common uses include:

  • Cutting grooves;
  • Profiling corners;
  • Whetting;
  • Roughing down pieces of wood;
  • Creating decorative cuts on edges;
  • Hollowing out pieces;
  • Building molds.

What are the advantages of wood routers?

Wood routers are much more compact than traditional or metal milling machines. These machines are usually called table-top milling machines or biscuit joiners. Their main advantage is, indeed, their size. Since they are more compact, they won't need a dedicated space in your workshop and can be used on any table.

Wood routers are mostly used in cabinetmaking workshops, carpentry shops, and woodcrafting stores. Their numerical controls make them extremely precise, and the lathe works at high speeds but more quietly than larger traditional models.

Few tools are as versatile as wood routers.
(Source: Vasileios: 84333137/ 123rf.com)

What is the rotation speed of wood routers?

You will need to adapt the rotation speed to the type of cutter mounted on the shaft and its diameter. In that regard, it is always best to have a machine with which you can select the speed of the shaft, either mechanically or electronically. Otherwise, your work will be much more limited, and errors may occur.

A speed that is too low poses the risk of the piece being ejected at over 120 mph. Too high a speed creates a risk of the tool exploding. Safety always comes first. Some of these machines are equipped with rotation direction inverters for synchronized work. Let's look at the different speeds you can find on these tools:

  • Basic range: These machines have one or two rotation speeds and are tailored to DIY enthusiasts. Very basic functions for softwoods only.
  • Medium-high range: They offer between three and five speeds. You may choose between 1,800, 3,000 or 9,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). They are ideal for professional work and advanced DIY lovers.
  • High range: These professional machines have continuous speed adjustment to offer maximum precision.

You should take various precautionary measures to prevent all accidents while handling your wood router.
(Source: Dmitry: 18197270/ 123rf.com)

Why do I need a jig for my wood router?

Jigs have two functions. First of all, they serve as a reference and protect the user at all times. Although some are made of steel, the majority of jigs are in aluminum. The space covered by the jig and through which you can see the shaft is called a slot; older jigs feature a single one, while newer models have two slots.

In fact, the most modern routers have continuous jigs. In addition to the two slots, these models include an adjustable element designed to hide the light. How you can adjust them depends a lot on the wood router you have purchased.

How can I work with my wood router?

Few tools are as versatile as wood routers, your creativity being the only limitation you have. You can mill grooves for wood connectors, profile corners and edges for decorative purposes, and even preform unique pieces. You set your own limits, so don't be afraid to let your imagination run wild. Here is a small step-by-step guide to get started:

  • Choose a cutter that fits the task at hand.
  • Adapt the speed of the router to the size of the cutter and the material you will be working with.
  • If you plan to cut the piece with a jigsaw first, leave extra room to use the router.
  • Always use a stop as an auxiliary jig when working straight corners.
  • Wood routers can handle rounded parts, such as the edges of a round tabletop. In that case, use a milling compass.
  • Attach the piece on the work surface.
  • Adjust the desired milling depth. Remember that deep grooves and cuts require several stages of milling.
  • Mill away!

The power of the wood router is one of the main shopping criteria to evaluate.
(Source: Dmitry: 15379126/ 123rf.com)

What safety rules should I follow when using this tool?

You should take various precautionary measures to prevent all accidents while handling your wood router. The most frequent risks with these machines are accidental contact with the milling cutter or the moving piece. There are also risks of entrapment, splashing, or dermatitis from contact with the coolant. Our recommendations are:

  • Use a protective screen.
  • Avoid using loose clothes, especially wide sleeves or ties.
  • If you have long hair, tie it before working with your wood router.
  • If the machine has hatches, close them before working.
  • Use safety gloves.
  • Use safety glasses and safety shoes.
  • Always keep the machine and the table clean and free of wood chips.
  • Work in a dedicated and well-lit area.
  • Know the operation of the machine and its accessories.

The most powerful wood routers can reach over 2,000 volts.
(Source: Thanagon: 89875595/ 123rf.com)

Shopping Criteria

Wood routers are very versatile machines. You should now know what they are, what their purpose is, and to operate them. Before making your purchase, you should familiarize yourself with some key shopping criteria. These factors will make a difference in your final decision:

Power

This is undeniably the main purchasing factor for this type of tool. It largely defines the materials and tasks you can perform with your wood router. In short, the power determines its working capacity. In this sense, less powerful machines are suitable for work on softwoods and chipboard only.

The more powerful wood routers reach over 2,000 volts and are more suitable for working on hard and durable woods. These machines are also designed to work in series. They are very specialized equipment, more expensive and perfect for professional and industrial tasks.

Don't overlook the speed and speed adjustment system of your wood router.
(Source: Dmitry: 19433533/ 123rf.com)

Speed

You should also take into account the speed and speed adjustment system of the wood router before making your purchase. The most affordable machines only offer two speeds, which is more than enough if you plan on doing small DIY tasks that don't require too much precision.

For more specialized jobs or professional work, you will need much more speed. Keep in mind that operating the router at the wrong speed can lead to accidents. In that case, we strongly encourage you to opt for a machine with computerized numerical and feed controls – or at least a wider selection of speeds.

Clamp Diameter & Cutting Depth

The diameter of the clamp is also essential if you want to choose a wood router tailored to your needs. The diameter of these parts is measured in millimeters. The most commonly used sizes (and the ones you should look for) are 6, 8, and 12 mm. Larger diameters are designed for industrial milling cutters.

In addition, you won't want to neglect the cutting depth of your wood router. The purpose of these machines is to penetrate the material being worked on and to hollow it out, each tool having its own capabilities. The very minimum you will need for any job is 40 mm, and the most powerful machines can reach 65 mm.

The diameter of the clamp is also essential if you want to choose a wood router tailored to your needs.
(Source: Dmitry: 50327031/ 123rf.com)

Size & Weight

Another key shopping criterion to evaluate before choosing a wood router is its size. You can find these tools in various designs on the market, some of which are very light and portable. These wood routers aren't suitable for professional work, but you can take them with you wherever you want, and they take up very little space – although they still won't fit in your toolbox.

Professional wood routers, on the other hand, are much larger. They are generally designed to be attached to a workbench or on the floor itself. These machines must be flat and perfectly balanced. Although they are more expensive and require their own space in the workshop, they offer greater stability and precision.

Accessories

Accessories can make all the difference. Before getting your own wood router, you must know which accessories come with it and how to use them. You won't be disappointed if you purchase a machine with spare milling cutters, spindles, a template guide, a good worktable, a dust collector, and steel jigs.

Wood routers are one of the machines that most benefit from the use of accessories. If you are looking for a machine to complete your DIY equipment, make sure the model you buy has spare milling cutters. Ideally, it should come with a complete set of 6, 8, and 12-mm milling cutters. That way, you don't have to get them separately.

Summary

As you discovered throughout our article, there is a wide variety of wood routers on the market. These highly versatile machines will allow you to perform a number of tasks at home or work. You can let your imagination run wild and start creating anything you want with wood, from cabinetmaking and decoration projects to DIY and carpentry.

In this article, we have told you everything you need to know to buy the right wood router. The time has come for you to make a decision! Follow our advice and pay close attention to our shopping criteria. Remember to take into account factors such as power, speed control, weight, size, and spare parts.

If you found our guide on wood routers helpful, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share it with your friends and family on your social media!

(Source of featured image: Thanagon: 79170272/ 123rf.com)

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