These compact tools are handy for small routing tasks, but most have room for improvement.
Synopsis: Trim routers, also known as laminate trimmers, are compact and handy. In this tool review, former Fine Woodworking shop manager John White says that among the current crop of trim routers, there is some room for improvement. Among the tools, White rated a Bosch model as best overall and a Craftsman model as the best value.
Trim routers make short work of jobs that are awkward to do with midsize and large routers. Not much bigger than a soda can, and with much lower torque than their big brothers, they are easily held and guided with just one hand, leaving your other hand free to hold down stock or to keep the power cord from snagging. I often use one to do a quick roundover or bevel on the edges of trim, decking, or plywood. Because it’s easy to control, a trim router is also ideal for quickly cleaning out a mortise for a hinge. Trust me, once you have one, you’ll find yourself reaching for it all the time for jobs that you previously would have done by hand or struggled to do with a bigger machine.
The tools we now refer to as trim routers first appeared years ago as specialty machines called laminate trimmers. They were designed for one specific use: cutting and shaping the edges of shopmade plastic-laminate countertops. But despite the decline in shop-based laminate work, several of the machines I tested for this article still appear to be designed specifically for traditional laminate tasks. They have comparatively large and tall motors, fairly precise depth controls, tilt and offset bases, and trim guides instead of fences. More-versatile trim routers, such as the Bosch, Ridgid, Craftsman, and Makita models, have smaller contoured motor housings that are more comfortable to hold and include conventional…