DeWalt and Porter-Cable have jointly manufactured a router that introduces woodworkers to a new class of compact machines. There are small differences between the two models, but both combine the maneuverability of a laminate trimmer with the power, versatility and user-friendly features of a larger router. Each model is available as a fixed-base unit or as a kit with an additional plunge base.
These routers have two features in common with laminate trimmers: They are very comfortable to hold with one hand, and they only accept 1/4" shank bits. But that’s where the similarities end. Most laminate trimmers have 3/4 hp to 1 hp motors that pull about 5.5 amps; the new compacts have more powerful 7 amp, 1-1/4 hp motors. Most laminate trimmers have awkward height-adjustment controls; the new compacts have a system borrowed from larger machines that’s very precise and easy to use. No laminate trimmers have a plunge-base option; the new compacts do.
In fact, it’s the plunge base that really takes these routers to a new level. The plunge’s sub-base accepts Porter-Cable-style template guides; the sub-bases of the fixed-base models do not. The plunge models also accept a very nice edge guide (available as an accessory); the fixed-base models take a different edge guide that isn’t as large or as easy to adjust. The plunge base offers 2" depth of travel, while the fixed base offers 1-1/2" of travel.
We’ve given our Editors Pick award to the DeWalt version of this router because it has two useful features that the Porter-Cable model does not: variable speed and LED lights. Variable speed allows you to decrease the speed of a large-diameter bit in order to make the router easier to control. LED lights illuminate the area around the bit, which is really handy for precision work.
If you’ve been looking for a one-handed router with more guts than a laminate trimmer, you really should give these machines a road test. In some ways, these routers bring us full circle. After years of marching towards larger and more powerful machines, we finally have a compact router comparable to the 1/4" collet high-quality machines of 30 years ago, such as the legendary Stanley dome-top series. But these new routers have many more features than the old models and are better engineered.
DeWalt, dewalt.com, 800-433-9258, 1-1/4 HP Peak Variable
Speed Compact Router, DWP611, $199; 1-1/4 HP Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit, DWP611K, $139.
Porter-Cable, deltaportercable.com, 800-223-7278, 1-1/4 HP Max Torque Compact Router Fixed/Plunge Combo Kit, #450PK, $189; 1-1/4 HP Max Torque Compact Router, #450, $129.