Newbie Question: I'd like to know more about routers.

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Forum topic by Pezman posted 06-02-2009 04:53 AM 1989 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 3281 days

06-02-2009 04:53 AM

Hello! I’m brand new to this whole woodworking business and would consider myself a total newbie, I have zero experience but am interested in building a casual skillset so I can eventually make stuff with my son.

Since I am starting from zero, it seemed logical to build a workbench first, I am currently building this “general shop workbench” (plans found here: right now I’m only building the workbench since I have a small garage. I should note that my ultimate goal is to not be a pro woodworker, but have enough skills / tools to make a few toys, pine wood durby cars, and forts. :)

My other tools include a 10” Sears table saw ( and a 12” drill press ( I’ve included these for reference so you can see what I already have.

The above table needs some of the MDF and countertop edging routed, I do not own any router and am having a hard time finding out any details about what I’d need to achieve my goal of building that table. I’ve gone to HomeDepot and considered buying this: but realized I know nothing to make a good choice, my previous craftsman products are “eh” but not amazing so I’m asking for help.

I’m guessing I’ll need a router table and a router to achieve my goals, but I don’t know that as a fact, please advise me in all things routers. What brand / hp needs do I have? Do I need a router table at all? I see all sorts of fancy bits but don’t know if you need a high HP to use them.

Seriously, I don’t know enough to know what to ask, please send help.

23 replies so far

View Durnik150's profile


647 posts in 3321 days

#1 posted 06-02-2009 05:01 AM


Routers are a world unto themselves and I’m sure you will get a ton of responses. I’ve been woodworking for about 4 years and a router and table was pretty much the last thing I purchased. I’ve had a hand-held fixed base Craftsman for a long time but wasn’t comfortable using it a lot due to my own lack of knowledge.

Both Woodcraft and Rockler have router table packages that would be a decent place to start. I went with the Rockler setup. It comes with a Porter Cable plunge router a table and stand. I think it was right around $200 for the whole setup. I’ve been experimenting with it more and more as I get more comfortable and acquire more knowledge.

Someone asked recently here on LJs what router they should get since their first one died. A majority of the responses steered him toward a Porter Cable product so I think that would be a safe bet. There were a couple other very good recommendations so searching out that forum question would probably help you tremendously. Its in the same Tools, Hardware and Accessories forum where you posted your question.

Best of luck and welcome to LumberJocks!

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

View James's profile


162 posts in 3281 days

#2 posted 06-02-2009 05:17 AM

Pez – Take a look at Freud routers. They are competitively priced and have outstanding bit changing and height/depth adjustment mechanisms. I bought one about 3 years ago and have had outstanding results with it.

-- James, Bluffton, IN

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Bob #2

3809 posts in 4021 days

#3 posted 06-02-2009 05:28 AM

I think you could perhaps start with a book that explains the router process and several uses and techniques.
After you get some time with that we can all help you make some decisions based on your needs at that time.

There is no way we can pack in 344 pages of info here.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View MyFathersSon's profile


180 posts in 3313 days

#4 posted 06-02-2009 07:06 AM

I will leave recommending brands and going into details on specifications to my more learned brethren.
But I will throw into the mix some basic practical thoughts—

Before you buy it—handle it.
With any tool you want to feel comfortable and in full control—but perhaps with a router most of all because of the weight and torgue.
Lift it—manipulate it—get a feel for how the handles fit in your hand. It should feel as natural as possible.
If possible find a friend who has the model you are considering – and feel it under real world conditions.

As for a router table—while not essential – for many uses you will find them VERY helpful.
I just finished custom beading 60 pieces of pine ranging from 1- 3 feet.
YES—I could have used the straightedge accessory—or made my own jig.
I’ve done both in the past.
But this time it was SOOO much easier and quicker just to set my router to depth and set the distance with my fence and slide the boards across the table.

-- Those who insist it can't be done - should politely refrain from interrupting those who are doing it.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3286 days

#5 posted 06-02-2009 06:32 PM

Durnik150, I hate to contradict, but I don’t think you can get that whole setup for $200 from Rockler. The top, plate, and fence is $199.99 for the cheapest version.

Pezman, that said, he as well as everybody else offered good advice. I personally own Bosch (MY favorite), Freud, Porter Cable, and Makita. They’re all good, it comes down to personal preference. I would not go with anything cheap, as a good router will last you for years and you won’t be looking to upgrade soon. I like the dual base kits. They provide a lot of versatilaty without a lot more expense. I would recommend a router table, but you don’t need to start with one. See what you want to do, and then work your way up. Good Luck


View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4099 days

#6 posted 06-02-2009 06:52 PM

I would stay with a strong name-brand like PC, Bosch, DeWalt, Makita. As a pro, I have either owned and/or used Craftsman and Ryobi and they are as you say “Eh.”

The listed brands will serve you trouble-free for years to come and are well worth the money. They will also handle very well.

I would recommend a combo kit. That is the router motor with 2 different bases, typically a plunge and fixed base.
This set-up is the most versatile and will get you going quite well.

I have not been impressed with the lightweight aluminum benchtop router tables. You might as well make your own router table surface. They are not difficult to make and will offer a larger surface with a lot less vibration.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View knotscott's profile


8015 posts in 3375 days

#7 posted 06-02-2009 08:32 PM

IMHO, the router is the most versatile tool in the shop. Putting the router in the router table is generally safer and more accurate than hand routing. Since the features that make a good router for table use are different than the features that make a good free hand router, many find it convenient to have at least two routers. For table use, a larger motor, larger throat opening, variable speed, one handed wrenching, and as many above table features as possible (like above table bit changes, above table height adjust, above table height lock) are desirable. For hand use, things like comfort, balance, lower weight, and possibly plunge capability are more desirable, so it’s really important to pick what you like. The combo kits offer a lot of versatility.

There are lots of good routers to pick from….top shelf names like Milwaukee, Bosch, Porter Cable, DeWalt, and Makita. There are very good value routers from Freud and Hitachi, among others….even the newer Craftsman routers are getting favorable comments from users, but I haven’t tried those myself. Lastly, your router is only as good as your bits…don’t cheap out on those. Get a router that accepts 1/2” shanks, and buy 1/2” shank router bits whenever possible. Good luck.

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

View pitchnsplinters's profile


262 posts in 3437 days

#8 posted 06-03-2009 05:02 AM

I contend that if you have never had a computer then you’d be happy with one that turns on. Save your money and go cheap. You still need to figure out if this is a hobby you’re really serious about. Get one off Craigslist. There are a tone of newbie shop owners selling there stuff off after they’ve owned it for 5 or so years. Hardly used.

-- Just 'cause a cat has kittens in the oven, it don't make 'em biscuits.

View BTKS's profile


1986 posts in 3464 days

#9 posted 06-03-2009 06:59 AM

I have to agree with Kent Shephard and Knotscott. 1/2 in is much more stable with better results. Have most of the big brands they recommend. I really like the router razer aftermarket attachment for plunge routers mounted in a table. Makes adjustment for table mounted and freehand a breeze. It is designed around the older style porter cables. The combo kit’s look like a good start but not sure how they would or wouldn’t work with aftermarket adjustment kits.
Pitchnsplinters is right, Craigslist or E-bay may get you good as well as cheap.
Go to a real tool store, not the big box. The mom and pop tool stores have smart people and the opportunity to handle the tools and get a feel for them.
If you get a combo kit of bits to start with you’ll see real quick which ones you use and don’t use. Carbide is hands down better than HSS (High Speed Steel) bits. Sharper longer, cleaner cuts and less burning. Worth the little extra money. Whiteside bits are well rated and Made in USA. I plan on ordering some but don’t personally have any experience with them. Take that for what it’s worth.
Best of luck, BTKS

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View mission76's profile


47 posts in 3623 days

#10 posted 06-03-2009 06:59 AM

If you decide on just getting a router I would suggest you get one with a plunge base…I didn’t and I regret it. Now I have to get another one

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 3753 days

#11 posted 06-03-2009 07:25 AM

My first router was a craftsman, with the cheap sears bit ( 30 years ago) it change the way I worked with wood. I now have 6 Porter Cable routers in my shop and they get used almost every day. I have both a vertical and horizontal router tables and consider them the second most important tools in the shop after the table saw.

You might want to view a few of The Router Workshop show at

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 3753 days

#12 posted 06-03-2009 07:47 AM


-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 3326 days

#13 posted 06-03-2009 08:09 AM

I agree with many replies so far. But if your JUST looking for good names that are priced right and dependable… I have several Porter cables and Bosch routers that have never given me ANY troubles.

-- Don S.E. OK

View Pete_Jud's profile


424 posts in 3753 days

#14 posted 06-03-2009 08:13 AM

Alot more are here.

-- Life is to short to own an ugly boat.

View Durnik150's profile


647 posts in 3321 days

#15 posted 06-03-2009 08:25 AM

Kent-You’re absolutely right. The package I picked up at Rockler was $299.00. My apologies for the misinformation.

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

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