Hitachi M12v - The Old One (but new!)
Review Score: 9/10
I found it for 220. I think they used to go for 180ish but people are trying to sell used ones for 350 on Amazon right now.
I really wanted the Milwaukee fixed-base power-house and was planning a purchase of the Bosch 1617 combo kit for plunge and freehand work later, so when I saw this thing at a reasonable price, it struck me as the best of both worlds for now.
Sure there's other high-powered quality plunge routers but this thing and the Milwaukee both had a bit of a siren-call about them based on comments I've read about both. Not to mention it's big, green and absolutely hideous. It looks like a big dumb robot head. I like that.
Anyway, I love this thing but I'll get the sparse negatives out of the way.
* Handles feel a touch cheap (my right one feels like it's split at the seam), but they can be fitted into three different positions which strikes me as a rare and useful feature.
* I don't like that the depth of cut adjustment threatens to bust a piece of plastic out when you push it too high. The shaft should just lock, but oh well.
* One place where the machine seems virtually indestructible is in those metal bits coming off the sides of the base for you to screw a template onto. Unfortunately this requires some working around if you want to make a partial cut with a wider bit since they get in the way. I wanted to reduce the depth of my bit to get the square part of the table edge cut a little bit shallower but it was impossible. That seems like a bit of an oversight and I've seen a guide for building a router table around this model that recommends cutting them off.
* I've seen some complaints that electronics like the circuit board governing the speed control tend to give out after a year or two. If I get two+ years of regular use out of this thing, I'll be happy with it but it's definitely something to consider before you shell out more than it would cost for a new modern router in its class. Those decades-old Makita designs and the fixed-base Milwaukee will probably outlast these units.
Other than that, it seems smooth as a dream to me. Keep in mind I'm a router noobie but my first project was some free hand edge work with a 2.5" thumbnail bit (I went with a whiteside bit). I had speed set to maximum. I knew lower probably would have been appropriate for the wood (pine) but these are just under-the-tablecloth leaves for when we have guests that probably won't even get a finish and I kind of wanted to see this thing moving at full power.
What I wasn't prepared for was the total lack of effort it would take on the router's part. There was no resistance, extra vibration, or even change in pitch when the wood started, well, disintegrating basically. I thought the bit had flown off or something until I noticed I was getting completely caked in very fine sawdust and that yes, I'd gone a touch too far to the left and around the corner of it. Once I was I knew it was cutting it was easy. It just moved along the edge like the wood was air.
I'm not kidding. It was almost liquid sloshing back at me and covering my clothes and I was using a large bit. There was some minor burn on the pine in one spot where I paused for a fraction of a second but otherwise the cut seemed really clean. I'll take it slower on the other 7 cuts I need to make.
People seem to have a lot of concerns about using a high-power heavier router freehand but honestly, I think it's probably safer than a lighter one unless you're a smaller person and the weight's a bit much for you (I'm 6'3 but not particularly beefy). It's like a circ saw. A heavier more powerful one will go right through the tougher knots and is less likely to fly back on you if it meets any kind of resistance. I would think the average person can handle 10ish pounds half-resting on a surface with two hands pretty easily.
Anyway, the positives for ease of skimming, and remember, I'm a noob so take it with a grain of salt:
* Very smooth. The weight helps I'm sure but there was no serious vibration and I felt like it took very little effort to use it freehand. It glided right along that edge like there wasn't even anything to cut.
* Plunge action feels just right for the weight of the router. I've seen a lot of concerns about this in router reviews and I really like the 'just right' feel of it.
* Plunge lock is rock solid. I have no concerns about putting this in a table or the silly thing springing up on me while freehanding in fixed base mode.
* Power. Oh yes. But I'm sure moving up to a 3.25HP is exciting for anybody doing it the first time. It really did just disintegrate that pine with a 2.5" diameter bit though. It was a Tim Allen moment to be sure. I heard that little dog growl punctuated by a question mark in the back of my head once I realized it was moving through the wood without anything resembling resistance or labor on the part of the motor.
* Cutting Depth Finesse - I don't feel overly qualified to cover this one but aside from the thing I didn't like above it does seem to work very well and is a simple matter to lock down tight.
* Perfect switch. It's a blocky up/down slider. You're unlikely to ever turn this router on by accident but sliding down with your thumb to turn it off without taking your hand off the right handle is a cinch. I like that. Any router with a hard to reach switch from the handle kind of bugs me.
* Other than the handle complaint, it does seem ruggedly constructed. The complaints about the newer Hitachi models that there's too much plastic in the wrong places is definitely not true of this one.
* Now that I have it, I keep noticing that it's in every old router book I look at. Shallow of me, but reassuring that guys writing about this stuff professionally seemed to like it.
Last edited by Pherdnut; 08-10-2009 at 07:30 PM.