Varible speed is needed for bits over about an inch in total circumfrance.
The really big ones like raised panel bits that are three inches or bigger
you should slow the router down to under 12,000 rpm.
Does it really matter on a router this size though? I dont know I wouldnt
think it has enough power to have variable speed and be usefull. I see all
these under 2hp routers with vs a marketing gimmick. You need more power
Buy the variable speed, you'll be glad you did.
Larger bits need to be slowed down for safety. The variable speed
can also be used to slow things down during difficult cuts or in
easily burt woods.
Variable speed routers also usually have "soft start" which is a
feature that you might not appreciate until you have it. Soft start
allows the router to take a few seconds to come up to speed, rather
than going instantly fro 0-22,000 rpm when you flick the switch.
One can take a lighter cut with the smaller routers while using big
bits. The bit still needs to be slowed down, and the work will take
longer. The end results can still be perfect, just as they would with
a larger machine.
If someone is going to spin large bits all the time, I'm with you, get
a bigger router. But for the average Joe, I find VS much more than
a marketing gimmick, even on a 2 HP machine.
The advantage of the variable steed normally means that you can spin a
larger than 1" diameter bit with out having to worry about the tip speed of
the bit being too high. You simply slow down the speed to a safer speed.
That said, with a router of that size, you are not going to want to be
spinning the larger bits anyway as the router does not have the power to
comfortably perform the task and especially on the biggest bits.
That said, this router will be a good size for cutting with the smaller
profile bits and a great size for cutting dove tail joints. Variable speed
comes in handy regardless of the size bit your are spinning when you work on
different woods. Since many woods are prone to burn more easily than
others, slowing down the bit speed can help to prevent burns. Also many
woods cut better and cleaner with different cutting speeds. So I would
recommend getting the variable speed.
Lastly, the current Wood magazine had a review of several routers in this
class that come as fixed base and plunge based kits. IIRC Bosch came out on
top followed by DeWalt and Makita. and lastly the 690 series PorterCable.
If you are wanting to be frugal with your purchase, the Porter Cable is a
safe bet but the design is becoming dated and out paced by the competition.
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