ou may be a complete beginner to woodworking, or an experienced woodworker by this stage. What makes a wood project look and feel so professional? Well, to a great degree, the answer is in the router. If you are a professional woodworker and you are here to find out the best compact router available, then this is the right tutorial for you. If you are a beginner, and you want to find out about compact routers in general, then this is also the right tutorial for you. We will cover it all, from the best handheld router, covering many brands we highly recommend. We will also include instructions on using a small router or mini router tool.
Table of Content
- 1 Compact Routers Explained
- 2 Our Recommendations for the Best Compact Router
- 2.1 The Ultimate Compact Router: MAKITA Compact Router Kit
- 2.2 Ultimate Small Router Set: THINKWORK Compact Wood Palm Router Kit
- 2.3 Best Multifunction Compact Router: BOSCH Colt Router Tool
- 2.4 Best Battery-Powered Router: MILWAUKEE M18 Fuel Compact Router
- 2.5 Best Value for Money Cordless Router: DEWALT 20V MAX XR Cordless Router
- 2.6 Best Plunge Router: MAKITA Plunge Router
- 2.7 Low-Cost Compact Router: CTOPOGO Compact Wood Palm Router
- 3 What to Look Out for in the Best Compact Router
- 4 Tips for Using the Best Compact Router
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
Compact Routers Explained
To know how to use a compact router, or mini wood router, you will need to know more about them. Small woodworking routers are extremely versatile in that they can mold your wooden project into something that other tools can not.
- Edges can be beveled (meaning to smooth and angle the edges of the wood)
- Smooth out unflushed surfaces, almost like a planer would
- Mini router tools and handheld routers can create profile molds over joints.
- If there are any uneven or crooked edges the small router can straighten them out
- Any form or design work or shaping to the wood can be done with a small router.
There may be a route for every task at hand, and of course, a router for every project. The different variations are designed for specific tasks, even though they are generally built the same. Which would be the best router for your project? Let us find out.
The Palm Router
Let us begin with a small woodworking router, which is one of the best small routers for beginners in the woodworking industry. This little handheld router is versatile in function, regardless of its small size, it can achieve the finest details on the most tricky to work with pieces of wood.
Some of these routers are about one-quarter of an inch in size, and they are not limited to working on wood. They are also able to work on laminate, like Formica. The palm router is up for any job and your DIY abilities will grow exponentially.
If you are on the hunt for a router tool that can make deeper grooves than the rest of them, then a plunge router will be the right option for you. They work in a vertical motion, which is slightly different, but they work brilliantly. Some of the capabilities include creating patterns and dadoes, and even templates.
Fixed Based Routers
Where other routers are moved along the plank or wooden surface that you are working on, this one is fixed, meaning it has a stationary position that does not move. This means that the wood comes to it, instead of you bringing the router to the wood. In terms of professional opinion, this would be the most recommended by woodworkers.
For each job, there is a specific level of router tools that must be used. You can not use a heavy-duty router for a small DIY-styled job at home. It would be unnecessary. A DIY project would suit a lightweight small woodworking router for the types of tasks at hand.
Our Recommendations for the Best Compact Router
Now that we have all the clues about the different styled routers that you could choose from, it is time for us to start discussing our favorite options. You can of course find compact router reviews if you search the internet, but we have carefully selected our favorite options and you can choose from these, we have recommended them because we believe in their abilities.
The Ultimate Compact Router: MAKITA Compact Router Kit
If you have already searched for compact router reviews, you would have stumbled upon glowing recommendations for the brand Makita. They have always been one of the most reputable brands, always coming highly recommended, along with glorified stories of how this brand saved the day, on numerous occasions. It is one of the most versatile tools on the market and is easily accessible across the globe. Its abilities are not comparable to other tools because they are so vast and commendable. It has one of the easiest uses and this makes it a go-to amongst many hobbyists and professionals alike, thus it has been considered the best compact router.
The structure of this model is made from aluminum and this provides the security of durability. This also makes it remarkably lightweight, which adds to the easy handling and mechanizing.
Ultimate Small Router Set: THINKWORK Compact Wood Palm Router Kit
Consider this compact router for all detailed woodworking projects and tasks. It has a high-performance 1.25 horsepower motor, perfect for trimming and routing any piece of wood to your best design. This router comes equipped with all the necessary bells and whistles, so there will not be any extra buying after this router. The design of this model is sleek and the grip works to make all applications as easy as they can be.
Best Multifunction Compact Router: BOSCH Colt Router Tool
If you are out for a convenient and versatile woodworking tool, then this compact router by Bosch is one of the best for the job. This compact router has a more versatile diameter with a larger capacity for accepting a wider variety of bit sizes. With this versatile bit-changing system, working fast and effectively becomes a lot easier.
With a more compact design, this router makes for more precision in tighter spaces. With a 1.0 horsepower 5.6 amp variable-speed motor it has a great range of different speeds. It is comfortable to handle with slots for your fingers, increasing stability and comfort, which allows for easier work when trimming edges. This router might be compact but that does not mean that it does not pack a punch as there is no sacrifice to its power. The router comes with a very strong aluminum base which gives you enhanced results when working. It can adjust the macro and micro settings, making it very precise in use.
Best Battery-Powered Router: MILWAUKEE M18 Fuel Compact Router
This is one of the best compact routers, and it is battery operated, not limited by a plug source, and comes with a brushless motor which allows for maximum power and performance. A high level of precise control for detailing and clean edges is made easy thanks to its great ranging variable speed dial. It uses Redlink Plus intelligence, preventing it from heating, overloading, and over-discharge, helping to create the highest level of performance possible.
This router comes with a button allowing for macro adjustments, fast and effective, with a 1.5-inch adjustable range. There is a screw that can be adjusted to your preference for better accuracy. You will be able to find this specific compact router reviews online, it is one of the best small routers available.
Best Value for Money Cordless Router: DEWALT 20V MAX XR Cordless Router
This compact router is a DeWalt product and this name is one of the most powerful titans in the tool business, and this compact router shows it. Working is made a whole lot easier thanks to the DeWalt trim routers’ helpful LED lights, brightening your workload. As well it is quite easy to adjust at specific height settings with great precision. Although it is a cordless model this doesn’t stop it from having a great level of power. It is the ideal tool for home DIYers thanks to it being cordless, as you will get the maximum level of flexibility and convenience for all scenarios around the house.
As an ideal cordless router for home use, boasting versatility, precision, power, and convenience, one should consider this a good option when thinking of home DIY. This model comes with an electronic brake which slows down the motor faster after it has been shut off, allowing for more precision in one’s work. Maintaining great speed during your cuts is made possible thanks to the soft-start motor with full electronic feedback. We love the DeWalt Trim Router, it is recommended by us.
Best Plunge Router: MAKITA Plunge Router
If you are a serious user looking for a more industrial-strength product, then this router by Makita might be for you. This router comes with a trigger that has a lock for easy hassle-free operation. This large plunge router is given more strength thanks to it being made with oversized ball-bearings and thanks to its two rubber-coated control handles, it is easy to operate and makes for comfortable working, despite it being a large tool.
This is a large machine, with a 3-¼ horsepower plunge router giving it some tremendous power, and it still manages to create perfect synchronicity between power and precision for an immaculate woodworking experience. This router’s variable speed brings impressive precision and it comes with premium performance thanks to the smooth plunge action. This impressive tool comes with an electric brake giving it better productivity, a soft start feature allowing for smoother start-ups, and a large plunge depth which gives it easier penetration into whatever wood it is working on.
Low-Cost Compact Router: CTOPOGO Compact Wood Palm Router
If you are looking for an affordable option and do not want to dip into your hard-earned savings then this simple router from CtopoGo could be your solution. As it is made with high-quality aluminum and plastic this compact router retains a high level of durability and is made easy to use with its transparent base allowing you to have more accuracy in your work.
This affordable electric trimmer is easily adjustable, small, and has enough power for a variety of uses. It comes with a fantastic set of accessories including a trimming guide, wrenches, a straight guide, and everything else needed for the best outcome for your operation. If you are looking to get all kinds of details and effects when profiling wood this set comes with 12 piece shank router bits that will help you to achieve this. This router is the best option, for those just starting out and with a limited budget, to start your journey off with.
What to Look Out for in the Best Compact Router
There is a large variety of multiple different compact routers, with many various brands offering compact routers offering different sizes and styles for whatever type of project you are planning on working on. When trying to find the right router for you and when looking through the compact router reviews, there are particular features that one must be aware of and look out for. Below you will find highlighted important considerations to keep in mind.
Compact routers use a motor to power the shanking bit, in other words, this means that with more power the motor has, the better the performance of the router. Horsepower is what is used to measure the strength of the motor. The more powerful and industrial-strength routers usually have about 3-4 horsepower. The more powerful routers are great for easily profiling wood in smooth, along with motions, allowing you to be more efficient with your work with a large range of woods, even hardwoods! Standard mini wood routers usually have around 1.0 horsepower and stronger units around 1-¼ to 1-½ horsepower.
The power of the tool determines how easy it will be to control it. A very powerful router may be more difficult to handle and use than a smaller one. Always ensure that you maintain perfect control over the more powerful routers. The more powerful tools not only produce greater the noise levels, vibrations, and size, but failure to control the machine can impact the quality of the cut on the wood.
Battery-Powered or Corded
Regarding the smaller woodworking routers, they are either battery-powered or have wall socket cords that need to be plugged to work. There are two options, battery-powered, or cord connection. With the corded models, you can get more consistent power, without the disadvantage of having to charge the batteries as well as getting a higher power level. The disadvantage of this is brought up by the limitation of where you can work on wood as you need a wall socket to plug it in nearby. Depending on the length of your cord you might even have to depend on an extension cord to get your work done.
If you are looking for more freedom with your tools then you might want to consider the battery-powered models. You are less restricted on where you can work, easier to hold and maneuver, and can reach those hard to get to places. The disadvantages though are that they have limited battery life and need to be charged as well as having inferior power to their corded counterparts.
Fixed or Not
If you are in the market for buying the best compact router you will notice that some include a fixed base point where the others are handheld. Most people need a fixed base, and if you need one then you will have to locate the appropriate one that is functional with the tool you have and purchase it separately. Better small routers usually include both without separate purchases, so keep this in mind.
If your unit has a fixed base, ensure that it is a good quality product that allows easy and precise control, has good guiding lines, and is easy to fix and repair. The better compact routers include a plunge base for better versatility.
Your compact router is only as good as the bits you use them with, even if it has great size, functions, and power. If your compact router cannot hold a large variety of shanking bits then you might not have the best compact router. It should also be able to easily change these shanking bits to make your life easier. Certain models don’t come with these shanking bits and one would need to purchase these separately but other models have these included already. If you are looking for better quality work then you would want to get better quality shanking bits. If you are serious about your woodwork then you will want to get a router that you can use a wide range of bits with that are easily interchangeable.
When looking for the best compact router you must consider ones that have a great range of speed options, the wider range of speed control the better. Smaller or larger router, it should have a good variable speed control which will let you have a better time with your project by adjusting the power of your router in more precise increments.
If you need to work efficiently with precision, you will want to have the speed that suits and matches your style of work, wood, and bit. Thus it is important to have variable speed control which will give you much more freedom with your project.
Precision adjustments usually are concerned more with plunge routers. When you are working with plunge routers it is important to be able to adjust their depth with a high level of precision. The higher-quality compact routers include macro adjustments and micro-adjustments that allow for higher levels of precision. You will be able to work faster making easier changes with the macro adjustment setting.
Making smaller and more precise adjustments to your router bit depth to get the exact profile on your wood, will require a good micro adjustment dial. You will get better control for more precise work when working with a micro-adjustment dial to allow for depth cutting in increments.
Size and Comfort
One must consider what their project is and what they want to achieve in it, thus it is important to get an appropriately sized router for the job at hand. For smaller applications, you will want a mini wood router that is easily held, easy to guide, lightweight, and easy enough to use. If you are using a large router for a small application then it will affect your ability to control the router. Thus you must use a mini wood router to give you easier detailing and better precision.
Your routers should have a high level of durability and to achieve this, when purchasing a good quality compact router it should be made of highly resistant materials such as aluminum. Good durability is very important for any power tool, if your router is created with cheap materials it will deteriorate at a very fast pace. The router must be durable enough to last long with many uses against strong woods, giving it a long life so that you won’t have to replace it after just a few uses.
The better quality routers will have extra features allowing for maximum work output. Such as an electronic brake, LED lighting so that you can have better lighting for increased control, a speed lock, soft start motors, etc. These small features add up to give you a much better experience working with your router allowing for higher quality work.
Find out how many accessories are included with the machine as they make a big difference to the user’s experience and offer greater value for money. The best routers will come with bit sets incorporating trimming guides, wrenches, straight guides, and so on. So keep an eye out for this.
Ball Bearing Guided Bits
If you are passionate about woodworking you will want to keep your eyes out for routers that utilize ball bearing guided bits. Some of the best compact routers utilize ball-bearing guided bits. These will give better accuracy and help to reduce marring. They can even be used without the use of lubricants. They come either as a flush-trim or bevel-trim profile.
You will want to take into consideration the price of the router and what is the best option for you and how much you are willing to spend on it. The higher the quality the higher the price and sometimes the difference can be dramatic. The more expensive they are, the more durability, power, and precision they have. If you are serious about woodworking then you might want to invest in a higher quality router but if you are a beginner it would probably be wise to invest in a cheaper simpler router.
If you are a beginner then you should ideally look for a simple and affordable router. Your budget should be determined by the type of work that you intend to do and what exactly it is that you need from your router.
Tips for Using the Best Compact Router
Once you have decided on the best compact router for your needs, it is time to get down to the woodwork. Below we have listed a few tips that will help you with working with your compact router.
- To make your work easier for yourself you can use individual gauge blocks for different profiling tips. You can even make your own!
- To easily enlarge holes you can use a flush-trim and rabbeting bit.
- For better precision, you can always place tape strips along the router base edge. This will help to nudge the bit further away from the guide when you recut.
- To prevent finger injury you can make a simple starter pin from a rod when freehand routing.
- You can use customized stop blocks for better control of where the wood profile starts and stops by measuring them to the edge of the workpiece.
- To help reduce the risk of the machine tipping to get an enhanced and safer finish then you will want to flush-trim solid wood shelf edges by clamping them together on the edge.
Depending on the type of project you have in mind, there are many various types of routers to choose from, ranging from the simple more affordable mini router to the heavy-duty plunge router. With the right choice, you will be able to achieve a lot with your woodworking projects. These tools are an integral part of a woodworking studio. Hopefully, this guide has been helpful for you in furthering your knowledge of woodworking routers and has inspired you for many great future projects and which router is best suited for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Can You Do With a Compact Router?
Compact routers can be used to straighten out crooked edges on wood, shape details, profile wood, and cut decorative edges.
How Are Trim and Plunger Routers Different?
Trim routers are smaller and more lightweight, used to flush edges. Plunge routers are larger, more powerful tools with a fixed base and they lower vertically.
Can You Use a Drill Press Instead of a Router?
It is possible to use specific drill presses as a router when you speed them up, using the right bit, but it is not recommended to do so if you are seeking a certain level of perfection.