I thought about using some Christmas gift money on a trim router.
Chief use would be to rout grooves in table tops, etc for inlay
stripping and other inlay applications. Also to experiment on
conventional applications where it would be nice to have a much lighter
I looked in the archives, but much of the info is a bit dated. I did
note Morris' use of a HF unit and the $20 price certainly looks good
I am asking for input from trim router owners, commenting on the pros
and cons of their units.
Bill Leonhardt wrote:
| I thought about using some Christmas gift money on a trim router.
| Chief use would be to rout grooves in table tops, etc for inlay
| stripping and other inlay applications. Also to experiment on
| conventional applications where it would be nice to have a much
| lighter unit.
| I looked in the archives, but much of the info is a bit dated. I
| did note Morris' use of a HF unit and the $20 price certainly looks
| good for experimentation.
| I am asking for input from trim router owners, commenting on the
| pros and cons of their units.
Update: I haven't broken it yet - but neither have I really stressed
it (I use it with a speed control and haven't ever used it at full
speed. I do believe that I've gotten more than $20 in use already. At
that I price, I bought a second (just in case) and it's still sitting
on the shelf. I think the trim router may turn out to be one of my
better purchases from HF.
I thought the base (which I don't use) was a bit on the cheesey side;
so if you consider the HF unit seriously, I think you should take a
close look at the base before you buy.
I haven't measured runout (and won't unless I experience problems) and
the collet seems to grip bits securely. Both of these are usually
taken for granted; but they're failure modes that I keep an eye out
DeSoto, Iowa USA
Bill - some notes from the field:
I have a couple of trim carpenters I am around that use the HF routers
a lot. Sometimes they are on sale for as little as $15, and they look
at it the same way Morris does, (as do I these days!) and that is to
determine if they get their money's worth or not. HF will take back
anything within 90 days with a receipt, and a one year no questions
asked warranty is $5 on this. One was laughing with me at the fact he
spent more on the roundover bit than he did for the router.
I see a couple of Ryobis out there, and they are probably somewhere
between the HF and PC. The guys like the fact that they can get them
cheap ($75 - $80?) and they really do work well. They seem to hold up
well, and they sell some kind of kit that has different guides, handles
and all kinds of other stuff. I was surprised at how well received
they were. The shop I use for post formed laminates uses these and
DeWalts a lot.
My best laminate guy (an individual) uses PC as does his buddies. They
like the size, weight, feel, and it is a tool they are used to using.
But they are all heavily invested in the splitters, seamers, scribing,
tilt and all manner of other accessories for this tool. Somewhere
along the line they have fallen out of favor (the castings do look
pretty cheesy to me, but that doesn't necessarily affect performance)
because they tell me after about 6 months of use the machines won't
stay in adjustment. >Our< local PC repair shop refuses to repair them
since they were used commercially, so they feel screwed. They still
buy replacements, but they probably wouldn't buy again if they didn't
have all the guides and stuff to they would need to buy with another
I bought this Dewalt:
I like it a lot. It is bigger than the other routers, heavier, and has
a little more power. But I rarely use it for laminates as I simply
don't do that much. I bought it in a kit a few years ago and it has
all the attachments offered by Dewalt. It is a little fussy to set up,
but when it is in adjustment, it stays. It is a workhorse, and for a
little more $$ than a similar PC, you can get the adjustable edge guide
as part of it. It won't fit in tiny places as the PC will, and it is a
little top heavy, but I would sure buy it again. 3/8 roundovers in oak
are a walk in the park with this machine so it makes it perfect for
eased over edges. The guides are a good deal; on the PC I can "feel"
the cutting of the machine when I am doing laminate work; with this one
I can't feel it until I dull the bit a little. I look at this as a
small router, and that is what I use it for in my business.
If you are going to use these primarily on wood, I would purchase a
good set of carbide bits and practice a little before tearing into a
project. At 30,000 rpms, you can burn your wood fast. You can also
destroy bits, and at these speeds, HSS is a complete waste of time.
Good luck! Hope this helps. Even though others here will sneer and
you won't get the snob appeal with your amigos, based on what I have
seen out on the job I would certainly look at that Ryobi if I were on a
strict budget. I think now days they even come with a 2 year warranty.
If my Bosch Colt went missing this afternoon, I'd buy another before dark. I
figured it would be handy, but its actually put most of my other routers out
of business for most handheld routing chores, from hinge mortising, to
roundovers, to any edge profiles where I don't need to use the table.
I particularly like the edge guide ... even better after I put a longer
fence on it, as I do with all my router edge guides. Zeroing in on a precise
depth of cut is an easy falling-off-a-fence, turn wheel adjustable, process
... so much so that I can do it with one hand after as much use/practice as
I've had with it.
I also love the non-slip one-handed grip ... grasp it easily with one hand
and use two fingers on the other on the base to keep it flat to the work
Only con I've noticed thus far is that the bit/collet is not concentric to
the square base ... there's about +/- 1/8 - 3/16 variance from one edge to
the adjacent edge. Not a show stopper by any means, but you can't rotate it
90 degrees and still use the same clamped guide settings.
Also, the shop dummy lost/misplaced the collet wrench that came with it ...
but that's OK because, IIRC, it's a ubiquitous 7/16, or thereabouts, size.
IMO, I doubt whether there is a better tool of the ilk available in the
price range in the US.
Me too. I got the round base which accepts PC guides, centered and fitted
'em up. Excellent hinge mortiser, trimmer, and light pattern cutter. Only
problem is, I pitched almost all my 1/4" shank stuff when I retired the old
router. Oh well, I only need a half-dozen for it.
I'm thinking of using some Christmas gift cards from the Borg for a
trim router as well. I've been really attracted to the Bosch Colt:
The Dewalt is also an option, but some scant reviews I've found online
seem to give the edge to the newer Bosch. I've searched this group but
as you say the info is mostly dated. I'll be interested to see current
feedback to this question.
Caveat #1: I don't buy $20 tools from Harbor Freight. The place gives
me the creeps.
Caveat #2: I have several of these trim routers, acquired over the last
6 or 7 years, although the designs haven't changed much.
Caveat #3: I use them as routers, and haven't done any inlay, other
than a couple of small trial runs, which became firewood, due to their
level of beauty.
Caveat #4: Big, honking routers have ruined more work for me than I
care to recall. The '3.something hp' plunge router is bolted into a
table these days, and stays there. And I'm 6' tall, and shop at
Purchase #1: Porter Cable 7310 kit, laminate trimmer. Added the base
from Pat Warner, so I could see what I was doing. Worked for several
things, but the vertical adjustments seemed a bit arbitrary. Now has a
1/8" roundover bit seemingly permanently installed in it, with the
offset Pat Warner base attached.
Purchase #2: Porter Cable PC310 trimmer. Much better adjustment,
seemingly more available power. Now has a Pat Warner circular clear
base on it, and gets used for some more adventurous, lighter router
Purchase #3: Bosch PC20 Trim Router, which jumped into my basket a
couple of summers ago, when it first came out. Nice tool, with a few
limitations. I like the variable speed, the edge guide, the apparent
power increase, the ergonomics, etc. But this one seems to stay in the
case more often than the others, for reasons I don't understand
immediately. Maybe because the others are often 'ready-to-go' on the
shelf, for those quick and dirty items that my uncles used to do with a
low angle block plane and a chisel. And I had some problems with router
bit height creep on one project, although that may have been user error,
and/or a problem with a blue colored inexpensive straight cutting router
bit. (Doesn't matter. That piece looked terrible with the dye stain on
If I had to have just one, it would be the PC310. Feels great. Has
been a classic for quite a while. Not cheap. And usually has to be
special ordered. May not be available forever more.
Where's the gift card from?
So many other tools to buy. <G> It's actually on my list.
I get a lot of use out of the Bosch, but I wish it took templet
guides. Last week, I spent two days routing hinge mortises in
commercial doors with it, but I made templates thick enough to use a
bearing guided bit. The plain ol' PC690 in the straight base is
still nice, light, and easy to handle.
What I REALLY want, one of these days, is one of those kick-ass, ultra
precision, machined aluminum plunge bases that takes PC & Bosch
laminate trimmer motors!
I do consider myself a rich man, but I can't say it's for financial
Funny you bring this up... The Sundowner comes out of annual
This year, we needed brake rotors and pads, a left main gear tire,
and a Narco Nav/Com radio repaired, along with the usual FAA / Beech
panels-off inspection & rebuild requirements. I am glad my repairs
are 1/2 price, as I have a partner to share the costs.
Last year, we replaced all four master brake cylinders, the rotary
tail beacon (with a kick-ass Whelan LED strobe), the cabin ventilation
"scat" tubing, and the nose gear shimmy damper.
But the compression's all good, the linkages pass limits, and we've
got a very nice example of a Sundowner with a great panel. I can't
wait to get her back up again. They just repaved Block Island
airport, and Sunday looks like mid-60's!
BTW, wanna' see the worlds most overpriced hand truck tire? <G>
That'd be Micro-Fence portable 3-axis mill for "only" $399. Takes the
PC310 and Bosch Pro20. Combine it with the Micro-Fence and you have
0.001 precision from both the reference edge AND from the wood's
surface - critical for precise inlaying since you can route to the
actual width & thickness - with the option of dialing in some slop - ie
add 0.002" for glue and "slop".
If you want precision routing this thing is as close to perfection
as you can buy, short of a CNC machine.
No - not yet. Have drooled on one at the last two woodworking
shows. Got the JoolTool sharpening set up instead - I need
"sharp" more often than precision depth of cut -lathe tools
dull REAL fast.
BUT - I do have the Micro-Fence, with extension rods AND
the Circle accessory, along with the adapter for the DW
621 and the PC D-handle.
Have a nice very shallow circle routed in my workbench top
created while cutting out a bunch of circles for the impeller
shroud for the DC I haven't finished putting together yet.
It's only been a year or more since I drove away from Bill
Pentz's place with all the parts. One of this year's New
Year Resolutions is to get it together, hung and ducted
- BEFORE 2008 gets here.
While not many others may share this opinion, I have the Craftsman Rotary
tool and use it whenever I need a trim router. It came with a serviceable
plunge base, has variable speed and accepts 1/4" bits. It has always had
plenty of power for what I needed it to do. I also don't have a tool
dedicated for something I don't need that often, as it comes in useful for
many other tasks such as cutting, grinding, carving etc.
I have a PC7310 - I wouldn't have gotten one except that it was used
for about $20. It turns out I've used it quite a bit - any small-scale
hand routing task. A 1/4" roundover bit lives in it most of the time,
but I've also used it with a 1/4" straight bit for shallow mortises.
As far as cons, it just can't take off much material at one time, and
it obviously can't spin very large bits. The only other con is that
I've had to buy a couple duplicate router bits, as everything I had
previously was 1/2" shank.
The PC has been fine, but I've heard good things about the Bosch also.
(Sorry if this is a duplicate post!)
I have the ridgid r2400.
It's was reasonably cheap, I got it to rout-out 3/4" hardwood flooring
in tight quarters, so I thought I was going to destroy it. Of course
I also got throw-away bits because that 25 year factory finish puts
little notches in the carbide. Does the job just fine.
It's powerful, and I liked the variable speed, but I really haven't
given it a long-term hard life. I was thinking of buying a 1/4 -> 1/8
collet and using it like a rotozip to finish voiding the warranty.
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