Tool Test: 2-1/4-hp Router Combo Kits
Get double duty when you combine an interchangeable motor with both fixed and plunge bases.
Synopsis: Routers are popular tools for carpenters and woodworkers. With a daunting variety of router styles available, a router combo kit can be a good solution for someone who wants one router that can do many things. Woodworker and finish carpenter Kit Camp offers his take on eight 2-1/4-hp router combo kits, providing comments based both on tests he performed in the shop and on his personal preferences and noting the tight pricing range for this selection of tools. In the end, Camp rated two combo kits — a DeWalt and a Bosch — as best overall and a Hitachi combo kit as best value.
Most finish carpenters I know have at least a couple of routers in their trucks; cabinetmakers have double or triple that number in their shops. Even framing crews use routers to fabricate curved parts and to cut out window and door openings in sheathing. I have eight routers, and I can think of at least three I’d like to add to my collection.
Why have so many routers? Because different routers excel at different tasks. For most woodworkers and carpenters, midsize routers (1 3⁄4 hp to 2 1⁄4 hp) are the everyday choice. A fixed-base model is useful for cutting rabbets, hinge-mortising, flush-trimming, doing pattern work, performing joinery tasks, and taking on many router-table jobs. A plunge router does mortise-and-tenon work, deep excavations, and cuts that aren’t accessible from the edge of the stock.
For the best of both worlds, consider a combo kit, which includes a single motor with interchangeable fixed and plunge bases. (Some kits also include a D-handle base; more on that later.) Combo kits are less expensive than fixed-base and plunge-base routers purchased separately; they also allow you to keep both tools in one storage case. With one of these kits in hand, there…