I'm thinking about buy my 1st router. I would be using for general wood working. I.e cutting out slots, finishing off edges, mainly trying to learn. The question is what features, characteristics and quality should a beginner look for? Thanks everyone.

  • I think this is likely to generate opinion-based Answers (if you get any at all given how quiet this SE has become) so it may be closed for that reason. But for my money I'd get a mid-range plunge router with more than one collet that has good reviews. Hard to go wrong with one of those and they're much more versatile and useful than mini routers, which are basically just for trimming and light grooving tasks (both of which all larger routers can do). Where are you based by the way? Will you be buying in person from a bricks-and-mortar or ordering online?
    – Graphus
    Jul 27, 2017 at 15:35
  • @graphus, im in the s.f bay area. Most likely will go to a store to get my hands on the router and get a fell. But tje information is a help. Thanks
    – cano
    Jul 27, 2017 at 15:39
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    Unfortunately, "what is the best _____" is always more likely to generate opinion-based answers, but asking what features are available and the practical considerations for each would generate more useful answers.
    – rob
    Jul 27, 2017 at 15:56
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    Just to expand on Graphus's comment, there is no reason to get a fixed-base router unless you're planning on immediately and permanently mounting it in a router table. Plunge routers are much more versatile. This consideration rules out trim routers. Jul 27, 2017 at 17:56
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    This question could possibly be reopened if, instead of asking which is the best router, you changed it to ask what are the characteristics and qualities of a router that you should look for in a quality tool. Jul 27, 2017 at 23:44

3 Answers 3

  • Plunge base - Does the base have the ability to raise and lower the router with hand pressure? This allows accurate plunge cuts for things like stopped grooves and mortises.
  • Power - Does the router have enough power to do bigger cuts? For an all-purpose hand router I'd look for a minimum of 2 hp. Less than that will limit what you can do, particularly in hardwoods.
  • Build Quality - How much play is there in the plunge pillars? How well does the depth adjustment lock? There are a number of things that can cause inaccuracy to creep into your work.
  • Ergonomics - How does it feel in your hands? Is the power switch easy to reach from the handles? Is the base large enough to be stable?
  • Other Features
    • Does it come with variety of collet diameters? (1/2", 1/4" or other common in your country)
    • Does it have soft-start / speed adjust / constant torque electronics?
    • How easy is the bit change mechanism (ratcheting is better than locking pin is better than two-wrench)?
    • Does it have dust collection ports?
    • Can it accept guide bushings?
    • Can it be mounted into the table ? (and how to rig depth adjustment mechanism)

I'm thinking about buy my 1st router...The question is what features, characteristics and quality should a beginner look for?

  • Medium size: Routers come in about three sizes: small, medium, and large. The small ones are often called palm or trim or compact routers and are small enough to hold in one hand. They're great for lightweight jobs like trimming the edge of plastic laminate flush with the substrate. Large routers have big 3 hp motors and can handle large bits for jobs like raising panels, but they're heavy, expensive, and can be difficult to handle. For your first router, you'll want a medium sized router with a motor between 1.5 and 2.25 hp. Medium-sized routers have enough power to handle most of the jobs you'll ever want to tackle, while still being small enough to be manageable and safe.

  • Kit with two bases: Most manufacturers offer a kit with a medium sized router, a fixed base, a plunge base, and a carrying case. The case may or may not be important to you, but having both bases expands what you can do with your router. I use the fixed base for most jobs, but the plunge base is useful for making mortises or any other time you want to change the bit depth easily.

  • Multiple collets: The collet is the part that holds the bit, like the chuck in a drill. Unlike a drill chuck, though, collets are specific to one shank size. In the US, most router bits will have either a 1/4" or a 1/2" shank, and your router should include collets for both sizes.

  • Router table suitability: Some routers lend themselves to use in router tables with features like height adjustment through the base, so that you can install the router in a table and adjust the bit height from above the table.

  • Dust collection: It used to be a given that using a router meant making a huge mess, but modern routers often include reasonably effective dust collection, which reduces the mess and improves visibility.

  • Reputation: Buy a router from a well-known brand like Dewalt, Bosch, Makita, or Milwaukee. You'll find cheaper options on Amazon and at Harbor Freight; it's best to avoid those.

  • Variable speed and soft start: A motor spinning up to 25,000 RPM in a fraction of a second generates a good bit of torque, which makes the router jump when you turn it on; soft start ramps up the speed over a little more time and avoids that. Variable speed lets adjust the speed to match the size of the bit that you're using; without variable speed, you'll need an external speed controller in order to use larger bits that shouldn't run at your router's maximum speed.


The ability to adjust the plunge depth AFTER it is locked in place with the typical side lock.

This way you can adjust the depth on the fly, without having to unlock and measure, and so on. I had this feature on my first (cheap Bosch) router, and I lost it when upgrading to a Makita RT0700C.

Also, if the router has this feature, it's also possible that this can be accessed from the bottom of the router when mounted upside down, which is a great feature when used on a router table. You have to pay for this feature, but it's cheaper down the road because you already have it built-in, and this is not a trivial feature to replicate properly.

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