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By Ken Schulte
So you want to buy a router table and you don�t quite know where to start? Well the absolute best place to start is by asking yourself the $64,000 question��what do I want to do� If you ask yourself this question you can save yourself a lot of headaches and perhaps a lot of money. Below are some myths and evils of shopping for new tools that we are going to address to solve the riddle.
Bigger is better
If you�re a man, you are pre-wired to think that if it�s bigger it must be better. We want the biggest engines in our cars and boats and we want the biggest house and the biggest workshops. So why would we not want the biggest badest tool we can find? It all depends on what you�re going to do with it. I know of so many people who are making the decision to buy a table saw and come home with a 3HP cabinet saw that costs thousands of dollars. They end up using it to cut some small plywood, or rip some pine. They over bought. They could have easily spent half of the money on a good contractor saw and took the extra to buy some really cool other stuff for the shop. Someone told them bigger is better and now they own it. Ask yourself, what am I going to use this router or router table for?
Edge profiles Includes roundovers, decorative edges, bevels etc. Usually involves profile bits
Dado�s Includes grooves
Cabinet Doors Includes rail and stiles, large bit turning, mullions
Free hand Usually means edge profiles but some dado work with a jig.
Joinery Some box joints or dovetails, usually with jigs.
Laminate work Trimming up Laminate.
Match it up
Do you know the type of work you want to perform? Believe it or not, most of these tasks can be done with a good 1 � to 1 � HP router.
Here is the skinny, if you want to make cabinet doors, you will need to use the larger profile bits that come in sets. These are big bits and usually require some bigger horsepower. If you have become a graduate router table user than you will want to buy a bigger beefier router for these types of applications. Don�t forget that you must use a
router speed control for these large bits. You have to slow these bits way down in order to use them.
Most people do edge profile work with their routers. Profile bits come with a bearing on the top of the router to guide your work to the exact distance to the cutting edges. You don�t even need a fence for these types of operations. Profile bits are very popular and be bought for very inexpensive prices. Most people think they need a bigger router for this type of routing as well, you do not. In fact a 1 � to 2 HP motor does the job very nicely. One fact to keep in mind is the wood type. If you plan to rout a lot of hardwoods I would recommend a move to 2 HP. But a lot of your hardwood performance actually comes from the condition of your bits, the feed rate and the amount of stock you try to remove. If you don�t go hog wild trying to remove a half inch at a time you can prolong the life of your bits and your router.
Edge Profiles 1 HP to 2 HP
Dado�s 1 HP to 2 HP
Cabinet Doors 2 HP to 3 � HP
Free Hand 1 HP to 2 HP
Joinery 1 HP to 2 HP
Laminate � to � HP
I might need it.
It can be easy to get caught up in the buying excitement. Especially if you�re buying online. If you�re at Home Depot, Lowe's or a tool show, there is so much to choose from. Salesman always slant their product as the one that you
need. You never hear of anyone telling you to buy another brand, if so they would not be employed for much longer. Routers come with lots of features that can taint your best buying decisions. Buying a router that is bigger with the thought of you might need a bigger one later on down the line is kind of silly too. Consider this; most serious
woodworker's have more than one router. I myself have three. We like some for some things, and others for other features. I have routers that are dedicated to one particular job, they do nothing else but that job. It is what it is best suited for. So if you�re going to get serious, you will most likely be buying more routers, so get the right one for the
job you have in mind.
Someone else recommended it.
Chances are you have a friend who is a better woodworker than you and they said to go get this or that. Again it�s back to the same old mindset. Buy what you need not what someone else thinks you need. One caveat to this point, don�t turn down good input. Someone else may have some very good reasoning for a recommendation. Use it in
your decision making process, instead of doing what your told. (unless it�s your wife, then do what you�re told)
It was on sale
I got a good deal, so I went for it. Same mentality. Think of this, you buy a big honking 3 � HP router cause you got a scream of a deal. You mostly use it free hand to round over your stock. After trying to balance that 20lb monster for half and hour, your arms ache. Think about it.
I saw it at the tool show
I love going to the woodworking shows, they are fun and inspirational. They also lead to spur of the moment purchases. You get a demonstration, someone to ask questions too, wood chips flying all over and sometimes a good bargain. The guys doing the demos are good, they somehow can make the hardest task look so easy and ensure you that you can too. Man how cool is that? But the bottom line is they are there to sell you a tool. I do my homework before going to the show. I figure out what router I want and subtract the $9 (the price of admission). Learn to manage your impulses and you will have more cool stuff in your shop.
It must be new
You don�t always have to buy a new router. In fact you can get some real bargains online. I am amazed at the top brand names that sell online for a used router. People sell them for all different reasons. Some never get around to doing what they thought they would or abandon the hobby. The key to buying used, is knowing your prices. I have seen some people pay more for used than they could for brand new. They get caught up in auction mania. I have bought several used routers in the past. I have never had a problem with them. I am sure the exception is looming out there somewhere, but generally woodworker's are a pretty good lot of people.
If you�re interested in buying used, make sure you read through our Router Review. It is a must have for purchasing used routers.
Hopefully this article has helped you with some questions about your upcoming purchase. There are lots of variables and things change as new routers get more features. Some of the newest product ideas are the combo packs. You can buy a router with both a fixed and plunge base. This makes your life a bit simpler if you�re on a budget and want one tool for multiple jobs. Also if you don�t think you will be using your router much these combo kits are excellent since you won�t have to buy two different types of routers. Good luck and please remember to wear your safety glasses.
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