Guide bushings are the metal sleeves that can be locked into the base
of the router for cutting with a pattern, making mortises with a jig and
using a dovetail jig. They are essential accessories for your mid-size
All of the routers in this group accept guide bushings, but the Porter
Cable two-piece guide bushings (see photo, at right) are very easy to
use and have become a common home center item. Several manufacturers'
machines accept the Porter Cable bushings, and this is a positive feature.
Unfortunately, the opening in the router base needed to accept these bushings
is fairly small (1-3/16-in.) so you'll need an auxiliary base for use
with larger bits. The Bosch 1617EVS stands out in this area because it
has a large base opening, and an adapter (#RA1100, $15) which allows it
to accept Porter Cable guide bushings.
Routers are noisy tools, and their high-pitched racket is particularly
irritating (and dangerous!). One manufacturer, Makita, has addressed this
problem, and their new line of routers is significantly more pleasant
to use than the others. We measured decibel level, but that alone doesn't
capture the difference in this machine (see chart, page
74). The range of pitches on the new Makita routers sounds lower and
less grating ? the way other routers sound when you have hearing protection
on. You still need to wear hearing protection with the new Makita machines,
and when you do, using these routers is downright pleasant.
Some machines make it easy to make very fine depth-of-cut adjustments.
This is crucial for some operations, like using rail-and-stile cutters
in a router table.
There are many different depth control arrangements on these machines,
so we approached this feature by having a group of independent testers,
a mix of seasoned and brand-new woodworkers, handle the machines and rate
them. The results are in the chart on page 74.
These mid-size routers can be the most versatile machines in your shop.
A good selection of accessories will make this happen: Extra bases (fixed-handle,
plunge, D-handle); easy-to-use template guide bushings; solid and easy-to-adjust
fences; and dust collection. Only the Porter Cable 690 hits a home run
in this department, and we wish that other manufacturers would follow
There are a few features which, though hardly essential, add to the convenience
and good "feel" of the tool. And because you handle a mid-size router
a lot, they do make a difference.
One we like is a lever lock on the motor housing. Most machines have
a wing nut that you turn to lock the motor height. The lever lock is positive,
easy and fast.
Switching position is another small matter, but one that affects convenience.
Some machines have the switch in a constant position in relation to the
handles. You always know where it is, which is convenient for some operations
when you want to keep your eyes on the bit while you turn the router off.
And most, but not all, routers have self-releasing collets. These help
keep bits from getting stuck in the chuck, an irritating problem.
IMPORTANT for a tool as versatile as a mid-size router. The Porter
Cable 690, for instance, is uniquely versatile; it can be used with any
of three bases, plus an effective dust collection subbase.
Routers are certainly versatile, but nobody would call them pleasant to
operate. The new Makita routers, however, are significantly quieter and
less shrill. With hearing protection on (it's still recommended) using
this router can actually be pleasant.
These are a must-have accessory. Some of the better bushings, however,
like this two-part Porter Cable system, require a small base opening.
You will need an auxiliary base to use even medium-size bits like a 3/8-in.
rabbeting bit. The Bosch 1617EVS router (below) gives you the best of
both worlds with a large base opening and an adapter ($15) that allows
you to quickly attach the readily available Porter Cable bushings.
CONVENIENCE FEATURES, though they don't affect performance, are
important in a heavily used tool like this. SELF-RELEASING COLLETS, a
relatively new convenience feature, help prevent bits from getting stuck
in the chuck. And LEVER LOCKS are a handy improvement to the traditional
wing-nut knuckle banger.