Tool Test: Compact Routers
Choose the best tool for profiling, flush trimming, and mortising one-handed.
Synopsis: Cabinetmaker and remodeler Paul Johnson uses a compact router nearly every day for certain jobs: edge profiling, flush trimming, hinge mortising, and trimming laminate. For this article, he put seven models to the test. He took 1/2-in.-deep passes in hardwood and MDF, and then concentrated on more typical tasks: rounding over door edges and cabinet faces, routing profiles in cabinet tops and shelves, mortising hinges, and cutting slots, rabbets, and dadoes.
The original compact routers were created for a singular purpose: trimming laminate for countertops, cabinetry, and shelves. More recently, compact routers have become the go-to tools for edge profiling, flush trimming, and hinge mortising. I use one nearly every day in my remodeling and cabinetmaking business, and I really appreciate how a compact router, which can be held with one hand, frees my other hand for holding stock or managing the cord. Since I was in the market for a new compact router, I welcomed the chance to review all of the currently available models in a head-to-head test.
How we tested
I routinely use my compact router for dadoes, grooves, and rabbets, so I began the process with a power test. I gathered half a dozen species of hardwoods and some MDF and took successively deeper passes with a 3⁄4-in. mortising bit. I found that all but one of the routers could take 1⁄2-in.-deep passes with little problem. With power no longer a question, I concentrated on day-to-day shop and job-site tasks. I rounded over hundreds of feet of door edges and cabinet faces; routed profiles into cabinet tops and shelves; mortised hinges; and cut slots, rabbets, and dadoes.
Best overall and best value
After a few weeks of using these routers, I determined that the Bosch is the best overall, but the Makita and…