A wood router is an essential tool for any woodworker, and perhaps the most versatile tool a woodworker can have. Not just for boring holes, wood routers are also useful for edge shaping, finishing and smoothing, creating rabbets and dadoes, and more. If you’re trying to choose between a trim router and a larger midsize router for your projects, a midsize router can offer more versatility and power, making it better for a larger range of projects. A trim router is a fine option for homeowners with a DIY inclination, but for those more interested in woodworking as a craft, a more powerful router is a must.
The tough part about choosing a new wood router is figuring out what the best wood routers available are. Go to any home improvement store and you’ll be confronted by rows of machines from different brands with a million different features. We wanted to make it a little easier for you to pick the best wood router.
The Dewalt DW616 is a bestselling machine recommended in many wood router reviews, but it has a high price. We were sure we could find an alternative available at a low price, so we invested in some safety goggles and tested the best wood router models we could find at low price points. We found that the Skil 1817 to be a great and inexpensive midsize wood router with many of the same features as the Dewalt DW616. If you’re not sure you want to shell out for the DW616’s high price, check out our router review and comparison below to figure out which is the best wood router for you.
The Dewalt DW616 Wood Router is a 120-volt midsize wood router with 1.75 horsepower and extra-fine depth adjustment in 1/64-inch increments. This fixed-base router can be installed into a router table or used by hand for tons of different projects. Both ¼-inch and ½-inch collets are included with the router. The motor locks and releases without requiring any tools, so you can change out bits and bases quickly. A concentricity gauge helps you install the sub-base perfectly centered around the bit you choose. It is heavier than the Skil 1817 and requires two wrenches to change to change out the collets. This wood router’s main advantage over the Skil 1817 router is its longer warranty coverage: three years rather than the one year offered by Skil. It also has slightly more amperage, at 11 amps rather than the Skil’s eight. However, the Skil 1817 still has a lot to offer, and is available at a great low price, so don’t make your decision just yet.
The Skil 1817 Wood Router has similar specs compared to the Dewalt DW616. This 120-volt router also has 1.75 horsepower and 1/64-inch depth adjustment increments. It comes with a ½-inch collet and ¼-inch collet adapter to suit just about any woodworking project, and is compatible with wood router tables. A quick-release lever makes it easy to remove the motor. Unlike the Dewalt DW616, the Skil 1817 uses soft-start technology to “rev up” to the router’s full speed rather than jumping right into it. This helps to prevent kickback and also helps extend the life of the motor. The router’s fixed, clear base also has a LED SiteLight for extra visibility. The Skil 1817 is lighter than the Dewalt router, and a chuck lock means you only need one wrench to change collets. Although the warranty is one year rather than three, most tool defects show up within the first year of use, so the Skil 1817 is still a great option with a low price.
The Dewalt wood router has a motor with 1.75 horsepower and 11.0 Amps at its disposal. This combination of HP and Amps is ideal for a range of light-duty woodworking projects like inlay and dovetailing. The HP is on the low end for mid-size routers, but still enough to handle plenty of work.
The Skil wood router has a 1.75 horsepower, 8 Amp motor. It is a touch less powerful than the Dewalt router, but still performs well in the kinds of tasks mid-sized wood routers are great at as the workhorse of wood routers. More powerful motors are often heavier, making them harder for some to use as handheld tools.
You can adjust the Dewalt wood router’s depth in 1/64-inch increments by using the micro-adjusting ring. This provides lots of versatility in how you carve and cut so you can make more exact adjustments.
The Skil wood router also has micro-fine depth adjustment in 1/64-inch increments, so you can have more control over your results. We like more control: it means a more professional and polished finish.
The Dewalt wood router comes with ¼-inch and ½-inch collets. These collets are long and self-releasing, so they’re easy to change out using the two included wrenches, although some newer routers use spindle locks that only require one wrench.
The Skil wood router comes with a ½-inch collet and a ¼-inch collet adapter to give you tons of versatility for your woodworking projects. A chuck lock means you only need one wrench to change out collets rather than two.
The Dewalt wood router can be used as a handheld device or installed into a router table for extra stability as you work. Mounting your router to a table means you can use both hands to feed wood into the tool and make small adjustments.
The Skil wood router is also compatible with router tables. Using a router table with your router makes this machine easier and safer to use for things like milling small parts perfectly the first time around without wasting wood on mistakes.
The Dewalt wood router does not have a soft-start mechanism, so it may be easier to use when installed in a router table rather than as a handheld router--especially for fine-tuned work that requires a delicate touch.
The Skil wood router uses soft-start technology. This gives you a finer degree of control and makes the router easier to use for small and large projects. It’s also easier on the router’s motor, encouraging a longer motor life.
The Dewalt wood router is a fixed base router, meaning the router bit position remains constant. Although plunge routers have their applications, a fixed base router is easy to use and can give you more precision. A fixed base can also be easier to use if you’re a beginner.
The Skil wood router is also a fixed base router. Fixed base routers are great all-purpose machines, work well with router tables, and are great for edge shaping and precise cuts that require high accuracy. Plunge routers tend to involve more “subjectivity” than fixed bases.
The Dewalt router does not have variable speed settings. Variable speed can give you more control and better cut quality depending on the project. The single-speed combined with the lack of soft-start technology makes the Dewalt router harder to control.
The Skil wood router is also not a variable-speed router. Single-speed routers tend to be less expensive, although less versatile than variable-speed. But since the Skil has soft-start technology, it starts up more smoothly than the Dewalt router does.
The Dewalt wood router has a clear, durable Lexan plastic sub-base, so you can always see what you’re doing. The sub-base concentricity gauge helps you to center the sub-base around the bit, preventing accidental off-center cuts.
The Skil wood router also has a clear plastic base, as well as an LED SiteLight to give you a clear view of your project as you work. This base deflects wood chips and sawdust from spitting into the air around you as well as lighting your project.
The Dewalt wood router weighs 10 pounds. This heavier weight compared to the Skil router makes it easier to use as part of a router table, or for short bursts as a handheld router.
The Skil wood router weighs just 7.2 pounds, almost three pounds lighter than the Dewalt. It’s easier to use for handheld applications as well as in a router table without sacrificing stability.
The Dewalt wood router comes with a 90-day money back guarantee, a one-year free service contract, and a three-year limited warranty. The Dewalt’s warranty offers more versatility and protection than the Skil router’s warranty, which is part of its high price. If a longer warranty makes you feel more secure, you may prefer the Dewalt wood router.
The Skil wood router has a 30-day money back guarantee and a one-year warranty. Although the Skil router has less extensive coverage than the Dewalt router, most mechanical problems and defects tend to show up within the first year of use. The Skil wood router is still a great addition to your toolbox despite its shorter warranty.