I am in the market for a new router. I have an old B&D 3 hp router that has seen better days. I am looking for a GOOD plunge router that wont break the bank. One that I have been looking at is the Hitachi KM12VC, it seems to have good reviews and the price is in the range that I can "swing" right now. Any comments/suggestions would be a great help.
A typical "nice" router would look like this:
1. ½" chuck: Smaller bit shafts can be fit using an adapter.
2. 2 wrench collet: This is getting scarce but search for it. Sometimes it is hidden or it can be retrofitted. This is the alternative to the spindle lock which I consider dangerous.
3. Variable speed: (8,000 rpm to >24,000 rpm.) Nice but close to useless <3HP, but mandatory >3HP. Note that the slower speeds are mandatory for larger bits but you need the horsepower to push them.
4. Plunge base: This is the most versatile, but a fixed base is fine for a third or fourth router
5. Bit clearance: Able to accept or modifiable for large panel bits 3½" to 3¾"+. Mandatory for panel bits.
6. Guide holes: These are used to mount a straight edge guide or for ski and foot use. These need to be a minimum of 12mm or ½".
7. Soft start: Is handy especially with the heavier horsepower (higher wattage) routers. Without it, a starting router could be wrenched out of your hands.
8. Light weight but versatile and powerful. With power you want weight but you also want to pick it up and use it all day long. Sometimes table mounting is a viable solution.
9. 1¾" template guide hole: 1½" hole with a " shoulder for brass template guides. There is the Porter Cable 1 3/16ths standard but is too small for even occasional use. Makita allows for a 40mm template guide.
You're opening a can of worms here and I'm going to be the devil's advocate. I was recently in a tool store that had Milwaukee, PorterCable, Triton, Dewalt and Freud routers. I took a look at each and arrived at the following observations.
You want 12mm holes in the metal base to accommodate the straight edge guide and if you take off the plastic baseplate, you want a clear 3 3/4" hole to clear large bits.
The PorterCable may be a popular brand but none have straight edge holes large enough to provide stable ski work. Further, of the models on display, none had openings in the metal base large enough to handle >3" bits used for panel molding for kitchen cupboards.
The Milwaukee suffered the same fate except for one heavier model. However, there are those here who have had problems with Milwaukee products.
The Freud had all of the right stuff (except it had a spindle lock and no two-wrench capability) but there are versions of the Freud that won't fit into anything (including Freud) except home-built tables. Not that it is a bad thing. I make my own tables using OakPark baseplates.
The store didn't sell Hitachi or Makita. Probably one of the best routers for versatility and robustness is the Hitachi M12V. Unfortunately, it is no longer made but if you find one used, there are still parts available at Hitachi service centres. The M12V2 solves a few problems (like having to modify the base for oversized bits) but creates others by adding a vacuum attachment that interferes with just about everyting and the template guide mounts cannot be removed without major effort. The spindle lock cannot be defeated nor replaced thus rendering the M12V2 useless.
The Makita is equally versatile and robust as the M12V but it has one glaring problem in that it will not take large bits without major expense and effort to modify the base.
These are the only ones I've seen lately. I would like to hear from others and perhaps create a table based on the 9 desirable features of routers that I've copied above.