Routers offer woodworkers a fast and fairly easy way to add unique details and personalization to their wood projects. Wood joints made with routers can be made faster and more precisely than other joint-making methods. Before you buy a router, though, consider how you will use the router most often and what kind of power and price level you need.
Choose a Comfortable Router
Comfort may not be the first thing that comes to mind with a router, but it will play a part in how well you can use the router over time. Hold any routers that you're considering, and make some motions as though you're using it on a real project. Test drive it if possible to see that the hand grips feel good to you, that the weight is manageable and that the controls are easily reached. Router work is precise, so you don't want to be distracted by discomfort.
Plunge Routers vs. Fixed Routers
If you will use the router for shaping furniture edges and making basic joints, a fixed router is probably sufficient. If you plan to make a lot of internal cuts, away from the board edge, a plunge router offers more precise control of where the router bit enters the wood, because the router bit can be moved up and down.
Buy a Well-Built Router
Router work is precise, so be prepared to spend more for a quality tool. A name-brand, mid-priced, sturdy router will give more exact cuts for a longer time than a flimsy bargain version. You don't want a shoddy router to give up and cause permanent errors on your wood projects. With plunge routers, quality is even more important since more moving parts are involved.
How Much Horsepower?
You'll find that routers come in a wide range of horsepower. The smaller motors are sufficient if you plan to shape edges and make internal groove cuts. If you intend to make a lot of woodworking joints, though, go for higher horsepower routers. Wood joints take larger router bits and need to remove a lot of wood, so power is key.
Solid Router Base
If possible, set the router on a solid surface and check to see that the base provides enough stability to prevent rocking. As you move the router around, it should stay level and not feel as though it may tip over. A heavy router base is fine, and will add stability to the router, as long as you can move it comfortably.
Ease of Adjustment
Check out the controls and be sure it's easy to make adjustments to speed and to turn the router on and off. On plunge routers, work the plunge action a few times to see that you can control it smoothly. Also find out how to take the router bits in and out. If it's difficult to change router bits, you won't enjoy using your router very much.
When comparing router models, make note of the number and type of router bits that come with each router. If bits for your favorite projects aren't included, you'll need to buy them separately, which can be expensive. If two router models are close in price and power, the number of bits may help make your decision. Beware of inexpensive routers that include a huge range of bits, as router quality may go down to make up for the included bits