Well, my errant finger pressed the order button on a new Porter Cable
895PK router kit last week, sight unseen. The UPS man delivered it
today and I'm a little sorry now that I didn't wait to see one of
these in person. Perhaps it's me, but this thing comes off as a
quickly designed and assembled collection of cheaply cast Chinese
aluminum, replete with peeling labels and plastic parts. The box
proudly proclaims, "Made in the USA of US and Imported parts." I get
the definite impression that most all the parts are coming from an
offshore Chinese factory. I even considered the possibility that
perhaps Tool-Crib was selling clone knock-offs of the real thing...
I'm used to the substance and feel of the venerable 690 series
routers, with well machined collets, heavy duty steel locking levers
and the substantial thickness of the housings.
To save anyone else from the shock of opening that box for the first
time, I am posting a few 'first impressions'. I'll follow up with a
more detailed review of the unit's actual performance at a later date.
(Read - when it's not 32F in the shop!)
Packaging/Unit in General:
Upon opening the huge blow molded case, I was shocked to find a
variety of labels laying throughout the case. Most of the labels
refuse to stick to the router, and either fell off in shipping, or are
peeling off as I write this. Even the 1/32"/rev marker label on the
plunge router base stop adjustment screw peeled off. Some of the
label fonts (i.e. The Motor ID label) look like they were printed with
a dot matrix printer. The collets are of poor quality, at least in
comparison to the older PC models, and the machine work is obviously
offshore. The collet wrench is soft stamped steel, again, offshore.
The black blow molded case(s) is/are a two piece design, each with
storage for five 1/2" and five 1/4" bits and the collets, as well as
template guides, collet wrench and height adjustment rod. They can be
separated into two identical units, each with storage for the
appropriate base. Each case may be used as a router pedestal, with
knockouts on the bottom for standing the router upright with a bit
installed. The top and bottom are not hinged but are of a clamshell
design, being held together with metal flip-clasps.
Although the various angles on the base are very rounded, the finish
of the sand castings is very consistent, and the forms used were
smoothed well before production, the housings on this base are
extremely thin wall, and the router body locking lever is very thin
aluminum - I thought it would crack the first time I engaged it. The
actuating clamp tangs are so thin that after just a couple of
operations, the aluminum is coming off in slivers. Additionally, the
lever just flops around in the base. The height adjustment worm
appears to be metal, as is the rack on the router body. - but the worm
has just one thread of engagement, and is rather sloppy at that. The
base plate is clear plastic, but I'm unsure whether it is styrene or
polycarbonate. Unfortunately, it is filled with open ribs and valleys
that catch every piece of debris that falls - making the clear base
impossible to see through when used upright. You cannot use a
template guide with this base plate. The hand hold knobs are
reasonably well formed, although they strongly emit the most peculiar
odor... The router collet locking pin is hardened steel and may be
actuated automatically by a movable tang, which engages at full router
depth. This behavior may be overridden by moving the tang. The tang
is metal, but sloppy in fit, and hard to move reliably. You may also
press the collet lock pin with a finger. The macro-adjustment release
lever is plastic and spring loaded, but seems to operate smoothly. My
biggest complaint about this base is that it is designed, as supplied,
solely for use in a router table. And therein lies the rub. The
router body release lever and the micro adjustment are tiny 3/16" hex
headed shafts of soft metal which show signs of wear after a couple of
operations. The included adjustment shaft is hardened steel, with a
large plastic knob and plastic depth adjustment scale. The biggest
problem with this arrangement is that, although you can lock and
unlock the router body and make fine adjustments from above the router
table, major changes still require access to the macro-release tang on
the base body - requiring you to reach inside the router table dust
collection box to access the lever from underneath. You could
conceivably twist on the micro-adjustment, but at 1/8" per revolution,
it could take a while, additionally accelerating the wear of the
shafts mentioned previously. See also: comments concerning the power
switch in the router motor evaluation.
Fortunately, there is more to like here - barely. The castings are,
again, very smooth, but considerably more substantial in mass. The
hand grips are identical to the fixed base grips - replete with the
same strange odor... The same collet lock pin actuator is present,
just as sloppy, but slightly easier to actuate. The labels on this
body are applied haphazardly as well as on the others - the PC label
on front is canted by about 10 degrees. That is, until it falls off
like the others have.
The plunge stop has 3 adjustable stops - two with allen head screws
and hex stop nuts, and one thumbscrew adjustment with 32 TPI. The
adjustment rate label for this stop peeled off and will not stay on.
That gives a total of four (4) stops, including the default - which is
the router base itself. The stop rod is an aluminum sleeve with a
soft steel turret which rotates inside. It is movable with a
thumb/finger while holding the grips. There is a movable plastic
hairline(?!) marker that locks with a thumbscrew. Amazingly, however,
you cannot see the scale label (also peeling) through the translucent
plastic of the hairline! What on earth were they thinking with THIS
idea? Additionally, the distance between the hairline (more of a
blunt felt tip line than a hairline) and the scale is about 1/4" -
leading to parallax errors. That is, IF your could even SEE the
The router body latch is more like the familiar metal design on the
690 series - all steel with a nut adjustment for clamp pressure. The
router sub-base is also the more familiar PC design, with a ledge for
using PC template guides. There is a clear plastic dust shield over
this, with a non-removable 1" OD (~3/4" ID) vacuum port for dust
collection present on the body itself. The spring loaded plunge base
has a spring loaded lever for height adjustments, and can be locked
into the released position for free plunge operations. I was amazed
to find that the router bit height can be changed as much as 1/8" by
pressing gently on the router grips while the plunge is locked. This
should make precision depth routing quite an interesting and
improbable experience. The plunge guide rods appear to be hardened
steel and the base does have bronze bushings riding on them - for all
the good it does. It turns out that only ONE of the guides is bushed
with sintered bronze, the other is plastic, which accounts for the
flex and bit movement.
The router motor itself is fairly quite, and has variable speed
(~10,000 - 23,000 RPM) and soft-start. The soft-start feature is
slightly disconcerting, however, as it comes up to speed somewhat
irregularly - sort of pulsing rather than smoothly. I was totally
appalled to find that the motor fields and rotor are NOT varnish
dipped or pressure impregnated - a must for a high speed motor - and
that the 6004RS bearings are made in China!
The imported, non-detachable power cord is sufficiently long at 10
feet, and has a rubberized strain relief 3" long at the motor housing.
The top power switch is relatively easy to operate, and shuts the
router off when set upside down on a flat surface while running (who
the hell does THAT?), but the lower switch is simply a plastic
mechanical slide that links to the upper switch and is quite difficult
to operate from the hole in the fixed router base. It is completely
unusable in the plunge base (great planning, guys!). This same
plastic slide is also what 'locks' the collet pin from engaging while
the power is applied. I can guarantee that running the router up to
max height while the switch is ON WILL break this slide. This means
that using the auto collet lock in a router table combined with a
remote power switch is problematic.
I'm not sure whether I will actually use thing or return it - but I DO
know that it makes my WELL used army green $65.00 B&D RP200 look
pretty good in comparison - dual bronze bushings on the plunge rods,
no discernable play in the plunge mech, easy to operate power switch
on the handle, good balance, and built in dust collection. It's main
problems are low power and a 1/4" collet.
It has been my experience that Chinese ball bearings don't hold up,
and that varnishing the windings in a high speed motor is mandatory.
I bought this because it was supposedly Made In USA / PC quality - but
it's not like anything I am familiar with. It is an assemblage of
Chinese pot metal and cheap labor, and I fear the only thing Made In
USA was the marketing department and the placement of the handles and
knobs on the router bases.
The included CD is a mix of heavy marketing propaganda and a couple of
extremely basic plans from Canadian based Oak Park Enterprises, LTD.
101 - Heart Frame
102 - Book Ends (Incorrectly Identified as a Dovetail Book Stand)
103 - Magic Boxes
Also included is a series of hokey video clips that demonstrate
building a very simplistic benchtop router table from the 'stars' of
Public Television's 'The Router Workshop' - sponsored by?
You guessed it, Porter Cable.
Form your own conclusions...