What to consider when choosing a router

         
         
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  Router cutters and routing machines for woodworkers  

An electric router is seen as an essential tool for most woodworkers, amateurs and professionals. It can be employed to fulfil a myriad of tasks, which can be increased with the huge range of accessories and different types of cutter. Like all power tools, you'll want to choose the best once to suit your needs and your budget.

 

For more information on the different types of router available see: What are the different types of router?

 
         
 

Router power

 
  The power of your router  

The more powerful a power tool, the harder and faster it should be able to work. How much power your router will need depends on how you intend to use it. For example, if you intend to use your router for making worktops, or door and window frames you'll need a more powerful, heavy-duty router than if you'll only be working occasionally on much smaller projects

 
         
  Router. Router cutter or router bits. How to choose the right router  

For heavy-duty tasks, light-duty routers will struggle to effectively remove enough material, and over-working them can cause the motor to overload. On the other hand, heavy-duty routers are not very suited to more delicate work, such as moulding for doll's houses or intricate engraving; a small, light-duty router will be easier to manoeuvre and easily powerful enough for this kind of work. Medium-duty routers may suit you if you're performing mid-range tasks.

 
         
 

Collet capacity

 
  Collet size and collet capacity on a router  

The strength of a router cutter is usually determined by the thickness of its shaft's diameter. The thicker the shaft the stronger the cutter should be. Stronger cutters can cut deeper in one pass, and they can remove more material, with less risk of breaking. The collet capacity will determine the size range of cutter your router can accommodate. 

 
         
  Routers come in various sizes, for different uses  

Heavy-duty and medium-duty routers will usually have additional collets which can be purchased to increase the range of cutter sizes they can hold. Although it's worth noting, cutters with smaller shafts risk breaking under the increased load from a heavy-duty router. Some light-duty routers will also have additional collet sizes, but they will usually be more limited, and you must always follow manufacturers instructions regarding cutter size.  

 
         
  Collet adaptors or collet sleeves for routers  

Light duty routers are generally supplied with 6.5mm (1/4¨) collets although some models can be fitted with an optional 8mm (1/3") collet, which will allow it to accommodate larger cutters. Most medium and heavy duty routers can often be fitted with alternative diameter collets of 6.35mm (1/4¨), 9.5mm (3/8¨), 12.7mm (1/2¨) and 8mm diameter, although most are supplied with only 6.35mm or both 6.35mm and 12.7mm collets. Collet sleeves, or adapters, are also available for reducing the collet's size, to hold cutters with smaller diameters, but these should never be used for heavy work or prolonged periods.

 
         
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Router speed

 
  Router speeds and power  

 

Routers can either be single speed or variable speed. Their speed is given as rpm (revolutions or rotations per minute) and describes the maximum speed the spindle will turn before a cutter is loaded. Variable speed routers will give you more flexibility in terms of working with different cutters and materials. Single speed cutters will not usually be suitable for use with plastics and aluminium because these need to be worked with slower speeds to cut effectively. Similarly, using larger cutters requires slower speeds. Cutters with a diameter over 50mm need to run at speeds between 12,000 and 16,000 rpm. Cutters with diameters up to 25mm usually need to be run at full speed, so these could be used in a single or variable speed router.   

 
         
 

 

  WD says "Remember to consider the power of the router alongside the speed. Light-duty routers usually have a faster speed to compensate for their reduced power."   
         
 

Router cutters 

 
  Trend has a huge range of different router cutters and router bits  

The range of cutters, and the amount of them, you'll need will depend on what you want to do with your router. Beginners will not usually need to start by buying a large selection of cutters until you can ascertain which you'll be using most frequently, or unless you have a large range of specific tasks you plan to undertake. You may need to have just a single type of cutter, but in a range of sizes, or you might find you need a variety of cutters for completing different tasks. Various router cutter sets are available.

 
         
 

Router tables and router accessories 

 
  Router tables and router accessories for creating hundreds of different cuts and shapes for things like moulding and other woodwork  

 

A router is a versatile tool due to the extensive range of cutter which are available, but it can have its versatility greatly increased due to the huge amount of different accessories you can purchase. Probably the most common accessory would be the router table, which allows you to mount your router, upside down, so it can be used as a stationary cutting tool. Other accessories, like various guides and jigs, can also be used to allow the router to complete an seemingly endless list of tasks. 

 
         
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