Attempting to make those clean cuts on the edges of narrow strips of wood is never easy if trying to do it by hand. Thankfully, that’s where a wood router can come into play and make things so much different for you.
I’ve owned a wood router for several years and would feel completely lost without it. I just love the fact I know in advance it’s going to produce an even cut of even size, even if I’m trying to replicate it on a number of pieces of wood.
My wood router has opened up a whole host of new projects I can dive into, and if you do not currently own one, I would seriously suggest you change that.
But I know the problem you will now be facing. You venture online, and there are just pages and pages of wood routers to choose from. It’s confusing and perplexing.
So, I’m here to help.
I have eight of the best wood routers available on the market right now. But I’m not simply going to list them and let you get on with choosing one. Instead, I’m breaking them into different categories to make your life easier.
Finally, I will pass on some tips on key areas you need to focus on when buying a wood router. I’m sure that by the time you have finished checking everything out, you will feel in a much better position to go ahead and make that purchase.
- Best Wood Router for Beginner – WEN RT6033
- Best Wood Router for the Money – DeWalt DW618PK
- Best Budget Wood Router – Ryobi P601
- Best Wood Router Under $100 – ThinkWork Compact Router with Router Bit Set
- Best Cordless Wood Router – Milwaukee FUEL Compact Router 2723-20
- Best Wood Router Under $200 – Porter-Cable 690LR
- Best Wood Router for Router Table – DeWalt DWP611PK
- Best Combo Wood Router – DeWalt DW618PKB
How I Made My List
I’ve spent a vast amount of time using wood routers, so I know what to look for in a quality machine. So, each of the eight wood routers listed here have passed through different criteria to determine whether they are worthy.
That means these machines are robust, deliver consistent results, are easy to adjust and set up, and are reliable. I’ve also considered what other owners have said about their experiences using these machines. I feel that gives you a better overall idea of what it’s like to own one.
So, let’s get on with checking out the different wood routers.
Best Wood Router for Beginner – WEN RT6033
- Power: 2 ½ HP
- Speed: 8,000 – 23,000 RPM
As a beginner, you want your wood router to be as easy to operate as possible. So, that’s why I selected the WEN RT6033.
It comes with some 2 ½ HP of power and a variable speed option ranging from 8,000 to 23,000 RPM. I love it goes as low as 8,000 RPM, as that means you can take your time while you become accustomed to the movement of the router.
This model also provides you with both ½” and ¼” collets, so it can effectively move between operating as a large router and a smaller one. I do enjoy some versatility in my tools, so that’s a massive plus, in my opinion.
For adjusting the depth, this is achieved via a wheel option where you can decrease at a rate of just an absolute fraction of an inch. Once again, I feel this offers you the precision you should look for with your router, no matter your skill level or experience.
Overall, I feel this router is durable enough for a beginner and is also straightforward to operate.
Best Wood Router for the Money – DeWalt DW618PK
- Power: 2 ¼ HP
- Speed: 8,000 – 24,000 RPM
I always feel intrigued when looking at any tool from DeWalt, and the DW618PK is no different. In my opinion, this router offers the best value for money thanks to the quality of the item and the end results it can produce.
First, it has a huge 2 ¼ HP motor, which comes with a variable speed control allowing you to adjust things between 8,000 to 24,000 RPM. I always enjoy having this type of control over a power tool, as it means you can slow things down for more intricate jobs without stressing out.
But that’s not the only reason why I love this router.
It’s actually both a plunge and fixed base router, so it does cover more potential jobs as a result. Also, the handles are covered in rubber, so they feel comfortable when holding, and it also absorbs some of the vibrations.
This model comes with a good dust collection option, and I also find that the overall balance of the model is good since the center of gravity is low. Overall, it’s comfortable, highly durable, and exceptionally easy to use.
Best Budget Wood Router – Ryobi P601
- Power: 18V battery
- Speed: 29,000 RPM
As long as you already have the battery, this wood router by Ryobi is fantastic for those on a budget. Delivering speeds of up to 29,000 RPM, it is clear from the outset that this is one powerful router capable of producing outstanding results.
Adjusting this model is also exceptionally easy. Forget about using tools to change things, as they are not required with this model. Instead, it has a knob on the machine that allows you to accurately adjust the height of the router, allowing you to get the sort of results you want.
I also find that this router is exceptionally comfortable to grip. Moving around is also effortless, so you get absolute control over what you are doing.
But I admit that this router feels a bit on the small side. However, that’s not always going to prove a problem, as sometimes having a smaller router can be beneficial.
Overall though, this wood router does the job, and it does it very well indeed.
Best Wood Router Under $100 – ThinkWork Compact Router with Router Bit Set
- Power: 1.25 HP
- Speed: 30,000 RPM
If you were worried you would need to spend a fortune to own a good wood router, think again. The ThinkWork Compact Router with Bit Set costs under $100, and I believe it represents real value for money.
For this price, you get a router with over 1 HP of power, delivering speeds of up to 30,000 RPM. That should be sufficient for most projects, and it’s also more powerful than you get with many more expensive models.
One thing I do love about the model is the translucent cover. This helps in two ways. First, it does stop dust from scattering all over, but it also allows you to see exactly what is going on. I find that makes a difference in keeping an eye on things, and I wish more models actually had this as an option.
But a special mention must go to the set of extras you get with this model. You get 15 different pieces, including guides and various bits to add to your router. This makes it even better value for money when considering it costs you less than $100.
Best Cordless Wood Router – Milwaukee FUEL Compact Router 2723-20
- Power: 18V battery
- Speed: 31,000 RPM
I know times exist where cordless is better, or perhaps you prefer no cords getting in the way. If that’s the case, then I feel the Milwaukee FUEL Compact Router is probably the best cordless router on the market.
It comes with an 18V battery that does hold a reasonable charge time. It’s certainly enough to let you get on with your projects before plugging it into the mains to charge up for the next time.
From that 18V battery, you get a router that offers speeds of up to 31,000 RPM, and I find that impressive. It’s higher than most routers out there, leading to substantially smoother cuts.
People report that this model does not grab or seize stock when using it, even on wood such as mahogany. That’s a problem with other brands, so it appears that this model runs smoothly at all times.
I do also appreciate that it comes with a brushless motor. That means it has better efficiency and also requires less in the way of maintenance.
Finally, the router only weighs some 2.9lbs, and that’s practically nothing in the world of power tools. But don’t think it means you will be missing out on some power, as that’s not the case when you have 900W pushing you along as you do with this model.
Best Wood Router Under $200 – Porter-Cable 690LR
- Power: 1 ¾ HP
- Speed: 27,500 RPM
The Porter-Cable 690LR is a prime example of what you can buy in the way of a first-class wood router without spending more than $200. Complete with 1 ¾ HP of power, it produces a pretty incredible 27,500 RPM speed. That leads to smooth end results backed by a whole lot of power.
But that’s not why I love this particular model so much. Instead, it’s the micro-adjuster that comes with the model. This allows you to adjust the depth to as little as 1/128”, which is an absolute fraction.
What I love about that part is that this Porter-Cable model gives you absolute precision, and there’s no doubt that some projects call for that type of thing. Also, removing bits from this model is made exceptionally easy thanks to an auto-release system. There’s nothing worse than struggling with this type of thing, but that’s not the case with this model.
Holding the router is comfortable thanks to the two ergonomically designed handles. You feel you can get a good grip on things, and you also won’t have the impression that the router will simply slip out of your hand when in use.
Overall though, it’s the adjustment aspect that makes this stand out for me. Sure, it’s a perfectly good router capable of making a host of high-precision cuts, but I feel that there’s a whole lot more to this router than just that.
Best Wood Router for Router Table – DeWalt DWP611PK
- Power: 1.25 HP
- Speed: 16,000 – 27,000 RPM
If you plan on using a router in combination with a router table, I would look at the DeWalt DWP611PK. For me, this is the best router when used along with a table, so let me explain why.
It comes with 1.25 HP, and even though that’s less than you get with other models, I wouldn’t worry about it. Also, it does have a variable speed dial allowing you to move between 16,000 and 27,000 RPM.
That’s a vast difference between the two, and I always appreciate it when I can move between speeds. It means I get more control, allowing me to work on more nuanced aspects without worrying about the router slipping away.
This model does come with a plunge base, and it has the option of fine-tuning the depth for those exact cuts. I find it very easy to adjust, which gives me the confidence that the router will do precisely as I want it to do.
For changing the bit, then I like how DeWalt has incorporated a multiple shaft lock. It not only helps hold the bit in place, but it makes for quick and easy changes.
Overall, the router’s design is comfortable and highly efficient. It feels light in hand but still delivers on end results while you also have the option of including various accessories to increase how you can use the router.
Best Combo Wood Router – DeWalt DW618PKB
- Power: 2 ¼ HP
- Speed: 8,000 – 24,000 RPM
This DeWalt router is a fantastic option if you are in the market for a combo wood router. It offers you a fixed base and a plunge router, so it covers you from every angle.
It comes with 2 ¼ HP and a variable speed option ranging from 8,000 to 24,000 RPM. I find those speeds to be perfect for pretty much any type of project, and having the ability to control the speed so accurately is a huge deal.
I always love how DeWalt tools feel. You just know they are high-quality and built to last, and this model will not disappoint. You also get both ¼” and ½” collets giving you even greater versatility when operating this router.
Add in one of the best dust collections on the market and a super-fine adjustment tool for changing the depth, and you have an excellent router that will undoubtedly make your life easier.
How to Choose the Right Wood Router
All eight models listed above are excellent in their own right. But how do you go about choosing a router that is going to be perfect for your needs? Well, I’m here to help.
Several vital components stand out when it comes to a wood router. So, this is what I suggest you look out for before going ahead and making that purchase.
Power is important. The more power, the greater the torque, and you need torque when using a rotary power tool. The lowest you should go is ¾ HP, but I would suggest not even going below 1 HP. By doing so, you should give yourself enough of an opportunity to get some smooth cuts.
But if your budget can cope, I suggest you aim for something between 2 HP and 3 HP.
Sometimes you need to slow things down and take more care of what you are doing. This only becomes possible when you have a router with a variable speed option.
I would advise you to look at a model with a wide speed range. This becomes even more important when new to using a router as it means you get to take great care over what’s going on.
A wood router will tend to be classified according to its collet size. Generally, it will come with either ¼” or ½”, but you also get models that cover both.
The collet size refers to the shank diameter, which then relates to what the router can cut.
If a model has a ¼” collet size, then this is regarded as a light-duty model capable of only small cuts due to size restrictions. If you plan on working with more heavy-duty projects or even working with larger joints or moldings, then go for the ½” size instead.
Fixed or Plunge Base?
The final thing to consider is whether you want a fixed or plunge base router. A fixed base is where the cutter remains in place while the cut is made. Also, you need to adjust things before you start.
A fixed base router is a perfect solution if you repeatedly have projects involving the same depth and size of cut. This version also works best with a router table.
A plunge router requires you to push down on the router for it to spring into action and for the cutter to meet the material. You can also lock the router in that position to ensure everything stays the same.
One massive advantage of a plunge router is you do not have to start at the edge of the material. It can be used to cut notches and holes away from the edge, increasing the versatility of how it can be used.
Overall, I consider these areas most important when considering a router. However, you should also look at how easy it is to adjust and change the bit sizes and dust collection.
A wood router is one of those tools that anybody working with wood cannot be without. It changes so much when dealing with so many projects, and it also doesn’t have to break the bank to own one in the first place.
My best advice is to think carefully about your projects before buying a router. If unsure as to how you will be using it, consider a combo router to cover all bases.
I promise you will be glad you did go ahead and make that purchase of a wood router. I know I’m happy I bought one several years ago, and it’s still going strong today.