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Excellent routers for the money (and in general for that matter)

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Review by jtm posted 09-30-2014 06:46 AM 18841 views 1 time favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Excellent routers for the money (and in general for that matter) Excellent routers for the money (and in general for that matter) Excellent routers for the money (and in general for that matter) Click the pictures to enlarge them

So I figured it was time to contribute to the review section of this site. Rather than review each router individually, I decided that since these share a lot of the same features, it might be a good idea to review them as a whole.

I have four routers, all of which are current production models sold at Sears:

1) Craftsman Professional 14-amp, 2.5-hp Fixed/Plunge Base (in my router table)
2) Craftsman 12-amp, 2-hp Fixed Base (for my dovetail jig)
3) Craftsman 12.0 AMP/VS 2.0 HP Digital Plunge Base (for general handheld use)
4) Craftsman Professional 28212 6.5 amp Corded Fixed Base Palm Router (for trim use)

The three full size routers all include a 1/4” and 1/2” collet, an edge guide, dust collection, and a carrying bag. The plunge action on the 14-amp professional is exceptionally smooth, with no discernible play. The 12-amp digital model is a similar plunge design that is almost as good. While the bases can be switched on the two 12-amp models, the professional model base can not. This is because the power switch gets in the way. I suppose you could elevate the motor enough to avoid this, but that would impede the amount of plunge travel, thereby negating any benefit to using this base. The only reason I mention this is because I use the 14-amp professional model permanently in my router table, so I have a perfectly good plunge base sitting unused.

The other benefit to these routers is the above-the-table height adjustment. That said, I do believe this capability is overrated with routers in general. Interestingly enough, the two 12-amp models will bind slightly while making a height adjustment (which is easily corrected for by supporting the motor while making the adjustment), whereas the 14-amp professional model does not. One thing to note is that with all of these routers, locking the motor in the base will cause a very slight shift in the height of the bit. This is not exclusive to Craftsman routers, as I’ve read reviews of other routers where the same behavior is observed. That said, it only takes a few tries before you learn how to compensate for the shift.

Power is more than adequate for most woodworking tasks. I can easily rout dados, edge profiles, flush trim cuts, etc. Moreover, all of these have variable speeds. The only caveat here is that I have yet to rout 3+” raised panels, so I’m not sure how far these can be pushed into shaper territory. That said, I was able to rout a full 1” bullnose edge profile with a fairly large Whiteside bit with no issues whatsoever.

I haven’t gone so far as to test runout with a dial indicator, but there is no detectable vibration while routing. Also along these lines, the bases are flat, and perhaps more importantly, can be used with standard Porter Cable style bushings.

The trim router holds its own when compared with the other brands in its class. Plenty of power, solid feel, and adjustable speed. It also includes an extremely useful accessory grip baseplate.

As if performance and features weren’t enough, Craftsman really steps it up with their prices. Sears seems to always be running specials, and coupon codes are everywhere (on par with the ubiquity of Harbor Freight 20% off codes). To give you an idea, all four of these routers cost me less than one Porter Cable 7518 or Milwaukee 5625.

For the average home woodworker, these are an excellent value.

Highly recommended




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jtm

230 posts in 1838 days



21 comments so far

View kajunkraft's profile

kajunkraft

160 posts in 2411 days


#1 posted 09-30-2014 09:18 AM

Thank you for your review. I have never owned nor operated a Craftsman router. The only knock I’ve heard is that they discontinue models and then parts/accessories are hard to come by.

What I found especially interesting is how you allocate the use of your fleet. I am a limited router user and have 1 trim and 1 in a table. Have been thinking about expanding my collection but didn’t really know how to justify the expense. You have presented an allocation of uses which helps me see that there is a reason to own several.

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5193 posts in 3445 days


#2 posted 09-30-2014 08:38 PM

Your review is a bit one sided. A better approach would be a hands-on comparison of different brands. A Ford may be the best car there if that was the only car I ever drove. My past (bad) experiences with Craftsman tools has gone back around 50 years. Never have I had a Craftsman power tool that was great or even satisfactory and I have owned quite a few. I regard them as just a step above Harbor Freight. Many people swear by them and many swear at them. I prefer to buy the genuine article; not the Sears cloned version. But if you are happy with them, that’s all that matters.

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3351 posts in 1999 days


#3 posted 10-01-2014 12:57 AM


A better approach would be a hands-on comparison of different brands.

Two problems:
1) he doesn’t own different brands
2) that would invalidate about 98% of the reviews on this site

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View kajunkraft's profile

kajunkraft

160 posts in 2411 days


#4 posted 10-01-2014 01:30 AM

Well I didn’t expect to be commenting again on this post, but here I am. Most reviews are on a specific product (v. comparing it to others), aren’t they? And I don’t see how it matters if he has never used another brand. He is stating that he is happy with his routers and says why he is happy, as well as pointing out a few negatives. Seems like that constitutes a product review?

On the other hand, it may smell a little like a “plant”, an attempt by an insider to promote his own interests?

Like Mr. Ron says ”...if you are happy with them, that’s all that matters.”

View jtm's profile

jtm

230 posts in 1838 days


#5 posted 10-01-2014 01:56 AM

On the other hand, it may smell a little like a “plant”, an attempt by an insider to promote his own interests?

- kajunkraft

Huh?

I have nothing to do whatsoever with Sears/Craftsman. I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of their stuff is only marginally better than Harbor Freight.

Also, if you look at my past threads, you’ll see that I ordered a Triton 3HP router, but since it was on back-order for forever and a day, I decided to cancel it. The Craftsman Professional was on sale for a little over $100, so I decided to order it instead (based on my positive experience with the other routers).

The reason I reviewed these is because they seem to be the hidden gems in the Craftsman line. A router is a fairly simple design: it’s a motor that spins a bit. If there’s no detectable runout, the base is flat, and the motor doesn’t burn up, then I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a good product. The fact that these are relatively inexpensive makes them that much better.

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

117328 posts in 3778 days


#6 posted 10-01-2014 02:24 AM

Just because some of us have not had good luck with craftsman products there’s no reason that jtm is not allowed to give a review on his experience with tools he owns and has used and we don’t own or have not used. I have had good experiences with a handful of Harbor freight tools but that is not the norm as far as other HF tools are concerned so that still does not mean HF does not make sometools that are actually pretty good,I guess the same can be true for sears tools.

Thanks for your review jtm

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos wood crafting & woodworking classes

View realcowtown_eric's profile

realcowtown_eric

617 posts in 2138 days


#7 posted 10-01-2014 02:35 AM

You said…..” a router is fairly simple design, a motor that spins a bit”

Guess again…..users other than me will tell you it;s way more complex than that.

I’ve had an almost new craps man HD router apart trying to make it work some years ago. , the armature was tossing off bits of steel debris. lodging between the stator and the rotor. the bearings were housed in plastic. A total piece of crappola,

I’ve gotimport (makita) laminate trimmers where the bearings are housed in plastic, and they have given me decades of serivce. There is a difference between ” cheap” plastic and “engineered and tested plastic” Methinks Crapsman hasn’t figured that out….and I don’t care if they ever do.

Had to have thecrapsman armature turned 3x to get enuf clearance for the chips spinning off the laminations of the armature have enuf clearance to fall out….

I got a lot of tools and have fixed a whack of them over the years for various and sundryy reasons., but NEVER EVER seen an armature self destructing, The laminations were either flawed, or the finishing of the final turning was too aggressive. No matter, the damn thing couldn’t work.

Caveat… I’ve got Craftsman commercial duty belt sanders that have been in use x 40 years, and I’d buy another one , but the newer stuff I won’t touch with a 10’ pole after what I saw and experienced…

And I don’t even know if I can get parts for my old belt sanders, but I doubt if I could get parts for any newer tools…..the times they are a changing.

You know, I’d go looking for a “dewalt store” in the neighborhood selling their reconditioned tools, I find great buys there, and they stock and quickly order parts. They are after all “tool people: as opposed to craftsman at sears, where the best you can expect is 6 weeks to find out that they don’t have the part. .after spending a half hour explaining what you want.,

40 years ago, craftsman was great/ good with a cast iron warranty…..., nowadays, seems to be bottom end of the totem pole for tools, seemingly buying Monday morning production from the cheapest importer, and likely saving money by not having a QC program.

But that’s just me.

Who wouldn’t even be tempted to go dumpster diving behind their store to find returns…..

Eric

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View jtm's profile

jtm

230 posts in 1838 days


#8 posted 10-01-2014 05:15 AM



You said…..” a router is fairly simple design, a motor that spins a bit”

Guess again…..users other than me will tell you it;s way more complex than that.

- realcowtown_eric

I apologize for the ambiguity in my statement.

My point was this…

Relatively speaking, a router is a much simpler tool than a bandsaw for example. A router is only a universal motor that needs to spin true and perpendicular to a flat base. Most of the router is the motor itself. On the other hand, a bandsaw has a fair amount of key components: the fence might not be straight; the wheels may or may not be coplanar or balanced; the guides could be garbage; the table may not be flat; the trunnions could be junk and crack; the motor may be cheap; the frame may flex under tension, etc…

Again, I don’t own a production cabinet shop, and my routers are not in service day in and day out. But when I need to rout something, these work perfectly fine for my needs.

For the record, I love to buy tools, and I often look for reasons to buy the better brand (which is why I bought a Laguna 1412 bandsaw instead of a $449 Craftsman). But in the case of these routers, I can’t see how the $220 Bosch will be any different than my $110 Craftsman.

If any of the motors burn out, I’ll be sure to update this review.

View LarryT's profile

LarryT

17 posts in 2278 days


#9 posted 10-01-2014 08:16 PM

I recently sold a craftsman router that I had for several years. Aside from a light that always seemed to burn out
very quickly, it performed as a hand held tool satisfactorily. My issue with this older model was that the depth
adjustment was very difficult to keep at a fixed depth. It seemed to always creep no matter how tight I tried to
lock it. I wanted to use it in a router table and the depth adjustment was not suitable for “upside down” use.
It was very difficult to adjust and maintain. Went to a Bosch which had none of these issues. I also
purchased a used Porter Cable for most of my hand held work. So far after a couple of years, these seem to
be working fine.

View Henndoe's profile

Henndoe

30 posts in 2243 days


#10 posted 10-04-2014 03:29 PM

Good review jtm. I own the 14 amp pro model and i love the thing. The only issue i ever have is that once in a while i need to take the brushes out and blow the dust out of the motor. It wont spin at top speed if i dont. As soon as its clean its fine again. The other thing i like is that it is the same diameter motor as porter cable690 series so it fits in all the lifts that are made for them. I keep it in the rockler lift.

View realcowtown_eric's profile

realcowtown_eric

617 posts in 2138 days


#11 posted 10-11-2014 04:41 AM

You was wondering ” I can’t see how the $220 Bosch will be any different than my $110 Craftsman.”

Here’s just one example of how, and it’s not a test I’ve seen iin any woodmongery magazine…

Take a panel raising bit and mount it in the router. Lock everything down just as yoiu would when working.

Turn the router upside down, and measure the distance between the outer tip of of bit, and then push down on the base and measure again.

Comparing the amount it flexs between different routers will give you an indication of the solidity and tolerances of the base mounting mechanism.

Why is this important to me? .....

If I’m making two dozen doors with maybe 6 or 7 ft of panel edges to route each-maybe 150 ft of edges , that little flex is directly related to the amount of sanding I’ll have to do when that panel raising bit does a dig in and flexes the base.

When I was selecting HD routers, I bought and tested four or five, starting with the cheapest of course, and finally found the Hitachi M12V the stabilist. I don’t know if thats the case these day, but I suspect it is.

I don’t do panel raising but on an infrequent basis, but when I do, from past experience, if I wanna screw up a lot of work in a hurry, a cheap router is the ticket. Generates hours of pleasant sanding, which if imperfect, flashes out when the stain and finish is applied, generating a total redo after spending hours to try and repair the damage. Nobody pays me for that, so I guess I just have to do it for penance for buying a cheap router-not likely
.

I LOVE TO START FROM SQUARE ONE again…..Don’t you?

And like I said, I’ve seen the inside of crapsman routers, and sorry if I offend anyone, but there just ain’t no finesse or sustainable accuracy that I’ve seen within that housing in my opinion. Bearings housed in plastic, armature laminations that fall apart.

I have several routers, and the oldest are perhaps 1950 B&D routers, but several more modern makita/bosch/in many different formats, and NEVER have I had to “blow them out” to make them run at top speed. Does Craftsman mention that in the manual? Maybe bowing out the craftsman router clears the chips from the fractured armature, just like the one I took apart…..which also never ran at top speed!

Oh, I guess maybe it was just a bad example I saw.

Good luck to y’all crapsman afficanados. Not me.

Eric in Calgary

-- Real_cowtown_eric

View lumberjoe's profile

lumberjoe

2899 posts in 2450 days


#12 posted 10-14-2014 01:29 PM

I have the craftsman professional router and wrote a review a while back. I also have the Bosch 1617. I prefer the Craftsman by a very large amount – especially the fixed base. The plunge base is a toss up.

The motor circuitry is far more responsive on the craftsman. When you really start getting into it, the craftsman responds instantly with more power. The Bosch has a bit of lag. Also the opposite is true, when you lighten up, the bosch takes a minute to come out of beast mode. The Craftsman again responds instantly.

Also the craftsman has porter cable style sub bases which makes buying accessories simple.

This router has been used at least 2 to 3 times a week for 2 and a half years and still functions like it was brand new.

If you want to ignorantly bash a product because of the manufacturers name, that’s your choice. But if all you have to go on is the name of the box, you should probably spend a while with a tool before you start bashing it.

-- https://pinepointwoodworks.wordpress.com/

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

117328 posts in 3778 days


#13 posted 10-14-2014 02:34 PM

Joe

Doesn’t your Bosch have soft start ? That would be why it doesn’t come to full power right away.

-- https://www.artisticwoodstudio.com/videos wood crafting & woodworking classes

View lumberjoe's profile

lumberjoe

2899 posts in 2450 days


#14 posted 10-14-2014 02:42 PM

The craftsman does too. I’m not talking about start, but the digital circuitry that maintains a constant RPM when in use. When the motor starts to bog down, the electronics respond with more power to keep the bit spinning and the max selected RPM. On the craftsman it’s seamless. On the bosch it’s very noticeable.

A good comparison is a sluggish automatic transmission in a car trying to maintain speed going up a big hill

-- https://pinepointwoodworks.wordpress.com/

View CharlesA's profile

CharlesA

3351 posts in 1999 days


#15 posted 10-14-2014 02:53 PM

I have the Bosch—never noticed that.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

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