A Tale of 3 Routers

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Blog entry by David Craig posted 01-08-2010 04:04 PM 1764 reads 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Today is payday and I have put off new tool purchases over the holidays so that there was room in the budget for a decent Christmas for the kids and so dad is going to pick up a router, one he probably should have picked up in the first place :)

Two years ago, a friend takes me to Harbor Freight and I see a 1 3/4 HP plunge router ON SALE (took me a bit to realize that these things are ALWAYS on sale) for about 40 dollars. Impulse buy later and I am playing around with the router down the basement. It works ok, jerks on start up but I eventually learn to know what to expect from it. The thing is, I want to do inlay and the inlay kits require PC style bushings and this thing doesn’t have the plate needed for the bushings. The router is a little stiff and difficult for gentile work anyway so I let the idea slip from my head.

Then Christmas comes, about 6 months later, and Santa gave me a Craftsman router table with a router mounted underneath. All joy until I realize that the router only uses 1/4 inch bits and most of the bits in my collection are 1/2 inch. I make do for a few months then I buy a router to mount underneath. I pick up a 2 horse Craftsman with slow start. It holds 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch bits so I am back in business. Then I get the idea that I would like to do raised panels, only I discover that RPM rates have to be reduced for the larger bits and this thing has no speed dial. Not a problem, I could just pick up a speed control for the router, only this has soft start :) and speed dials don’t work with soft start routers :)


Today I am picking up a Ridgid multibase kit and I am here to tell you that I definitely did my homework. I know it has the horsepower, I know it has multispeed, I know it has a PC style bushing baseplate. I will put the fixed base under the table and use the current router as a spare for routing dovetails and things outside the table. The plunge router base will be nice, I can finally look into an inlay kit. I will have two extras that I can give away to anyone new to the arena who can’t afford the tools.

My lesson has been learned. I won’t spend 400 dollars in the future in order to save me 100 bucks.

Happy woodworking everyone,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

13 comments so far

View firecaster's profile


572 posts in 3419 days

#1 posted 01-08-2010 04:16 PM

I’ve been looking at that one also. 2 1/4 HP. Let me know what you think of it. I’m hoping to pick it up at the WW show in Atlanta the end of this month.

-- Father of two sons. Both Eagle Scouts.

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3762 days

#2 posted 01-08-2010 04:23 PM

Since my space is very limited here in Gainesville, I purchased the Porter Cable 895, which is a “kit” in a hard case that includes the PC 890 series 2 1/4 HP router and both a fixed and plunge base. It’s not too heavy for hand held work, and it also fits in my overarm pin router.

U.P. north (in da UP eh!) I have much more storage space, so I have both the PC 890 and the 690. The 690 is really great for hand held work on a dovetail jig.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3649 days

#3 posted 01-08-2010 04:27 PM

ha! good story. good moral. and sounds like you got some good experience out of it , purchasing and woodworking related. sometimes the best way to learn what you need is to get everything you don’t need first.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3287 days

#4 posted 01-08-2010 04:55 PM

I always love it when someone ”sees the light” While occasionally cheap power tools have their place, in the long run they are normally a waste of money. I bought my last Craftsman tool over thirty years ago. I was using a jig saw and getting nowhere. I actually quit in the middle of a cut, even though the saw was still “working”, and went and bought a new one. It was a Skil when Skil still made industrial quality tools. The difference was unbelievable. That totally changed my outlook on tools. I can’t bring myself to buy cheap now, even for limited use.


View dbhost's profile


5712 posts in 3232 days

#5 posted 01-08-2010 05:02 PM

Still no problem. Routers are like dollars, it takes a LOT of them before you have too many…

I have 3 right now, 2 of which I actually use… Both Hitachi KM12VCs, roughly equivalent to the Ridgid combo you are grabbing. I got my Hitachis on sale @ Amazon dirt cheap. (One for $120.00, the other for $99.00, yeah kind of a gloat…).

Nothing wrong with “cheap tools” as long as you shop right. My cheap Harbor Freight lathe works as well as the expensive lathe it clones… There are certain HF tools however that just don’t ever seem to make it to the “gems” lists. Their routers are among the tools that are NOT well thought of, and your experience confirms that… I hope after all of this you have learned to seek out others experiences.

ALL tool manufacturers at one time or another have been known to produce junk. The web is full of stories of guys that have Powermatic table saws that have this or that problem, and Veritas hand planes that just don’t cut right. It is true with a higher end tool, you usually get better quality control, but every now and then, everyone has an early Monday morning you know?

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View Joe Watson's profile

Joe Watson

316 posts in 3547 days

#6 posted 01-08-2010 05:17 PM

i agree with dbhost having a router collection is almost the same as a plane collection they all have thier purposes and uses and chances are you will use them all at some point. I have one router in my table saw wing thats a craftsman works for what i needed it I have a HF trim router i bought for 20 bucks that does exactly what i need it to do and I have a brand new plunge router. One day I too may have a need for variable speed. not really wasted money because at the time it served my purpose. And even the great Norm once said you can never have too many routers.

-- Got Wood?

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3109 days

#7 posted 01-08-2010 06:12 PM

Thanks for all the comments so far folks. In defense of cheap tools, I will say that my first tool buying decisions, though inconvenient at times, were good lessons for me (in both tool purchasing and tool use). Many long term woodworkers will give sound advice but sometimes the reasons are lost in translation. “You get what you pay for” is a sound statement but it also leaves much room to interpretation. Is the problem the quality of the cut? Is the tool going to break too soon? Are there features missing? When you are new, comments about features and capabilities get lost because you can’t picture the hows and whys. It takes use to grasp the concept. You have to run into a situation where you want do do something and can’t. This promotes you to think about the problem and how to resolve it. Sometimes you can resolve it with a workaround, which teaches you about the tool and how to make jigs, or you can’t resolve it and you look for 3rd party vendors or other tool models. For what it cost, I probably saved some money in knowing what it is that I want before buying it and that knowledge came from the cheap tool.

I work as a computer systems analyst. When I was an operator, I used to look forward to system issues. Not because I loved chaos and all the pain that goes with it, but I never walked away without knowing just a bit more about the inner workings of a process, what can go wrong, and how to fix it. I have taken machines apart, down the basement, understand how they work, have looked at the problems with the end product and gained more knowledge about why it didn’t come out right. This pays off. I start thinking about the process before I think about the end result.

That being said, I still am looking forward to getting my new router :)

Question for those patient enough to read my ramblings. I have a very nice trim router, but was curious if anyone knew of a good trim router with a plunge base? I think a small plunge router would be perfect for inlays as you can get a little more control and 1hp should be sufficient for most small cuttings. I have the dremel plunge base, but find it a little too small for the work I want to do. Input is always appreciated.

Thanks you all for your attention,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3235 days

#8 posted 01-08-2010 06:34 PM

Heh, I’ve run into the exact same issue. My Ryobi is ok, and I cobbled together that MDF insert for my table saw to work as a router table (though the 1” thickness limits me to only 1” of router bit above the table top…). I want the same thing you do though: variable speed and compatibility with all the Porter Cable style accessories. I still plan to keep my Ryobi around for sure, to do edge work and misc. tasks.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 3309 days

#9 posted 01-09-2010 02:37 AM

Love those routers! I have three that are 2 1/4 hp (Bosch, Porter cable and Milwaulee) and one PC 7518 that is 3 1/2 hp in the table. I got a new router table and fence system for christmas so I am building a router cabinet…it’s addictive! Also have 2 laminate trimmers that I rarely use.

View RKW's profile


328 posts in 3448 days

#10 posted 01-11-2010 04:41 AM

hey David, i too was planning on doing raised panels. fortunately i discovered they are very easy to do on a table saw. You might want to consider this before investing in a panel bit.

-- RKWoods

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3109 days

#11 posted 01-11-2010 07:49 AM

Solid advice RK and, ironically, I pointed another LJer to a webpage on making raised panels yesterday. I did some online searching because he stated he didn’t have a router table and was working from some plans that called for them. The process does look very doable and is a viable alternative to putting stress on the border line horse routers. Only exception might be if you are looking for a profile that is a little more decorative but I doubt I will see too many of those occurrences in my future.

Thanks for the comments all,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View RKW's profile


328 posts in 3448 days

#12 posted 01-30-2010 05:39 PM

hey David, woodsmith’s latest magazine has an article on making raised panels on the table saw but they also coved the profile on the table saw. I knew you could do coves(ive never done it) but i had not thought about using the technique with the panels. They look really great, you should check it out. If you need info on this particular issue, let me know. By the way, did you buy the new route, and how is it?

-- RKWoods

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3109 days

#13 posted 01-30-2010 06:06 PM

Hey RKW. Interesting that you mentioned the Woodsmith article. I got it a couple days ago and you were the first person I thought of. When I do raised panels, I think the tablesaw will definitely be the direction I will head. I also liked the user submitted jig for keeping them tight against the fence.

I did pick up the new router and I had it now for a couple weeks. Very nice change from the routers I am used to. I will give a review on it in a couple days.

Thanks for the heads up on the article :)

-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

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