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A woodworking router is extremely versatile, but only professional cabinet makers and keen DIY joiners know how to use it to its full potential.
Routers are great for cutting grooves in wooden planks and chamfering shelving, but a woodworking router does much more than you first realise.
I’d never owned a router until recently, but once I learned a few tricks, my router became a key part of my tool collection.
Read on to find the best woodworking router in the UK for 2023.
Best Woodworking Router – 2023 Reviews (The UK’s Top 3)
After many hours of research and testing, we recommend the Makita DRT50ZJX3. This 18V cordless router is excellent for keen DIYers and seasoned professionals alike.
The Makita DRT50ZJX3 router is an exceptionally versatile tool you can use as a hand or a plunge router. This versatility gave the DRT50ZJX3 an edge over its competitors in a close-run contest.
Read on for more details on each product we tested, starting with our worthy winner:
1. Makita DRT50ZJX3 18 V Cordless Router
- Powerful brushless motor
- Soft start function
- Variable speed control
- LED work light
- On/Off safety lock button
- Connects to dust extractor
- Aluminium base and housing
- Shaft lock
The Makita DRT50ZJX3 18 V cordless router is an exceptional tool. Yes, it’s expensive, but you get what you pay for and certainly get your money’s worth with this tool.
The neatly designed MacPac case contains a host of goodies, including a trimmer base, a plunge base (this converts the handheld Makita to a plunge router), an offset base, a dust extractor nozzle, 2 collets (3/8ʺ and ¼ʺ or 9.5 and 6.3mm) and various guides and templates.
This kit doesn’t include a battery or a charger, but you can share batteries if you already own other cordless Makita tools. Pro Tip: Some adapters allow you to fit other manufacturers’ batteries.
This Makita router has a cutting depth capacity of 40mm when used as a trimmer and 35mm in plunge mode.
You can change from plunge mode to trim mode by switching the base plate. The quick-release cam lock system makes this an easy job without requiring extra tools.
With a bare weight of 1.8kg, this Makita router is easily the lightest we reviewed, even when adding a 500g 4Ah battery.
The brushless motor runs much cooler than a carbon brush motor, meaning more energy goes into output power, making it more efficient and longer-lasting.
The 18V battery delivers variable speeds from 10,000 to 30,000 RPM with constant speed control to maintain the pre-set speed under load. This feature is useful when working with different materials.
This Makita router is expensive compared to the others we reviewed, but its price is competitive compared to similar cordless routers. If cost isn’t your main concern, this router is the router to purchase.
|The brushless motor is more efficient than carbon brushes. It’s also cooler in use and longer-lasting.||It’s expensive compared to others reviewed.|
|Lightweight, only 1.8kg without the battery.||No battery or charger is included.|
|As it’s battery-powered, you can use this router anywhere, and it will take batteries from the same Makita range.|
|Variable speed of 10,000 to 30,000 RPM makes this the fastest router we tested.|
2. Bosch POF 1200 AE Corded Router
- Great for routing grooves and edging profiles
- A parallel guide assists in milling precise grooves and circles
- Quick & easy bit changes through integrated spindle lock
- SDS for tool-free insertion of template guides
- Attaches to vacuum cleaners
The Bosch POF 1200 router is a solid tool for the average DIY enthusiast, but it has a few undesirable features that make it less popular with professionals.
The first issue is the motor, it uses brushes. I.e. small electrical conductors rotating the shaft. As mentioned above, these motors are less efficient than brushless motors.
The second issue is with the collet size. This router’s largest size is 8mm but is supplied with a 6mm collet. This size limits the types of jobs you can do with the Bosch POF 1200 AE.
This Bosch router is also noisy for its size. At 95 dBA, the operator must wear ear defenders when using it.
To give Bosch credit, they’re one of the only manufacturers that provide a true power output of 650W. So with a power input of 1200W, this gives you a measure of the router’s efficiency – in this case, 54%.
While 54% efficiency isn’t great, the power output is ample for any DIY project you’re likely to encounter.
On the plus side, the Bosch POF 1200 has many redeeming features. Here are just a few:
- You can connect the dust extraction port to any vacuum cleaner. This feature keeps your workspace clear of sawdust and prevents you from breathing in hazardous particles.
- It’s fitted with Bosch’s proprietary Special Direct System, allowing quick insertion of template guides without requiring additional tools.
- You can change router bits quickly thanks to its integrated spindle lock.
- With a plunge depth of 55mm, you can use this router to cut through most wooden boards, including kitchen worktops. However, you’ll need an 8mm collet and bit for these jobs.
- At 3.4kg, this router is light, considering the input power of 1,200W.
- The electronic speed control allows you to set varying speeds from 11,000 to 28,000 RPM.
I’m a big fan of Bosch and own many of its tools. I like the look and feel of their products, and this model is no exception. I particularly like the soft and comfortable easy-grip handles, especially when operating this router for extended periods.
|Lightweight for such a powerful tool.||The motor uses carbon brushes that may become worn over time.|
|Ergonomic design with soft grip handles.||Noisy – ear protection is essential.|
|Built-in dust extraction port for dust-free working.||It comes with a 6mm collet, which makes it unsuitable for some heavy-duty jobs.|
|Plunge depth of 55mm makes it suitable for kitchen worktops, provided you fit an 8mm collet.|
|Good range of preselected speeds to suit a variety of materials.|
3. Silverline 264895 1500W Plunge Router
- Variable speed control with soft start function
- Adjustable plunge depth (0 - 50mm)
- 7-stage turret stop
- Parallel, roller and circle guides
- Includes 1/2”, 1/4”, 8mm and 12mm collets
- No load speed 6000 - 26,000rpm
- Includes guide bush and measurement bar
For such a low-end cost, this Silverline router packs a lot of high-end features.
This Silverline router easily cuts through worktops with a plunge depth of 50mm, making it a firm favourite with kitchen fitters.
The fine adjustment dial ensures the cut is accurate, and the 7-stage turret-stop allows you to graduate the depth of cut when using it as a plunge router.
The soft-start gives you total control over the speed, which you can set anywhere between 6,000 and 26,000 RPM. This range is good enough for any job you’re likely to encounter around the home.
This Silverline router comes with four collets (1/2″, 1/4″, 8mm, and 12mm), which is great if you already own bits in these sizes.
At 87 dBA, it’s relatively quiet, but I still recommend some form of ear protection if you’re using it for 15 minutes or more.
This model weighs just over 4kg, so it’s not too heavy to use as a hand tool, and the 1,500W motor provides more than enough power for most jobs.
In terms of accessories, the Silverline router comes with the following:
- 30mm guide plate
- Parallel, circle and roller guides
- Measurement bar
- Dust extract attachment
These accessories provide an excellent start-up kit if you’re new to routing.
|Plunge depth of 50mm makes it ideal for kitchen worktops.||The motor uses carbon brushes that may become worn over time.|
|Quieter and lighter than most corded routers.|
|It has 4 collets to suit a broad range of bit types and several accessories.|
The Best Woodworking Router in the UK – 2023 Comparison Table
|Product||Speed (RPM)||Power||Weight (kg)||Cost||Rating out of 10|
|Makita DRT50ZJX3||10,000 to 30,000||18V||2.3 with battery||£££||9|
|Bosch POF 1200||11,000 to 28,000||1,200W||3.4||££||8.7|
|Silverline 264895||6,000 to 26,000||1,500W||4.1||£||8.5|
Best Woodworking Router Buying Guide
Below are the key features and points to consider when choosing the best woodworking router in the UK.
A collet is like a chuck on a drill. They come in several sizes, oddly in imperial and metric measurements.
The most common sizes are ¼”, ½”, 6mm, 8mm, and 12mm. The 6mm and 12mm roughly correlate to the ¼” and ½”, but not quite. So, if you have a set of imperial-sized bits, you may find they don’t fit the metric collet equivalent.
For heavy-duty work such as cutting through a worktop, where larger bits are necessary, the 12mm or ½” collets are best. The smaller collets work better at slower speeds and for detailed work.
Although collets are relatively cheap, a router with more than one collet saves you the trouble of buying others later, giving you greater options from the start.
Woodworking routers are corded or battery-powered, and the power measurement differs for each type.
Corded routers run off a 240V mains supply (stepped down to 110V on a building site), which generates much more power than any lithium-ion battery.
If you want to go cordless, 18V is the highest power rating for most tools, although batteries go as high as 36V.
An 18V battery with 4 amps running through it produces 72W of power (W = V x A). However, as batteries are rated in amp-hours (Ah), its power deteriorates with time. So, a 4Ah battery provides 4 amps for one hour.
Corded tools are rated in watts, and figures are usually marketed as power “output”. These figures can be misleading because the quoted number is the power input, i.e., the amount of energy used by the tool. Power output can be as little as half this figure.
The energy isn’t lost. It simply transforms into less useful energy such as heat and sound. Therefore, unless the motor is silent and generates no heat, the power output will always be less than the power input. The ratio of input to output is a measure of the motor’s efficiency.
Pro Tip: You may see tools rated in horsepower (hp). As a simple guide, 1,500W is roughly equivalent to 2hp.
Speed (no load)
The router’s speed is measured when spinning freely, i.e., when the router isn’t being applied to a piece of wood, and it’s measured in revolutions per minute (RPM).
Speeds are usually variable and range from 0 – 6,000 RPM at the slow end to top speeds of 30,000 RPM.
The better models have a soft start feature starting at zero and gradually increasing speed as you apply pressure on the trigger or adjust the setting wheel. As a safety feature, most routers come to a complete stop when you release the trigger.
Weight is a consideration if you’re using the router by hand. Some of the more powerful routers weigh in at a hefty 8 kg, which is ok for a table mount, but as a handheld tool, you wouldn’t want to use it for long periods.
The lightest type of router is called a hand router, and the cordless variety can weigh as little as 2kg, including the battery.
Plunge or Hand Router?
Plunge routers are best for cutting accurately into pieces of wood at 90⁰, although you can achieve other angles using a tilting base plate. You would use this feature for creating a mortice joint, for example.
Plunge routers are also called trim routers because they easily cut or trim boards and worktops. As such, they tend to be more powerful than hand routers.
As plunge routers can be handheld, some refer to the hand router as a palm router. Hand/Palm routers are commonly used for precise, detailed work where a plunge router is too cumbersome.
The maximum size of collet on a hand router is usually 6mm or ¼ʺ, but there is a vast array of bits available at this size for work such as engraving, chamfering, and profiling wood, plastic, or metal.
You can learn more about hand routers and their parts here.
Below are some other factors to consider when buying a woodworking router.
We can’t look at routers without discussing bits. Router bits, like drill bits, have a shank and a bearing tip. The bearing tip is the business end of the bit, and these come in various shapes and sizes to suit your intended cut.
Almost anything is possible, from chamfering a piece of wood to cutting out a kitchen worktop for a sink. Bits can form simple rebates, ogee profiles, dovetail joints, coving, and V-grooves. And by combining bits, virtually any shape is achievable.
Bits are available in metric and imperial sizes, so you’ll see them referred to as 12mm or ½ʺ. Note that these are not the same! Although there’s not much difference (0.7mm, to be precise) you must buy router bits that match the collet fitted to your router.
You can learn more about bit profiles here.
Depth of Cut
Also referred to as plunge depth, the depth of cut is the maximum thickness of material the router can cut through.
This might not be critical for mouldings because you can arrange the piece to allow cuts across the surface. However, you’ll need a cutting depth of around 50mm if you want to cut through worktops.
Manufacturers aren’t very good at providing information on noise, and sometimes you have to look at the online specification to find it. Still, noise is an important factor to consider when buying a router.
Sound intensity is measured in decibels (dB), to which a weighting is applied (A, B, or C scales) to give a relative reading at differing frequencies. Routers and similar tools are measured using the A scale.
Distance from the source and the length of time you’re subjected to noise are other factors, but a 70 dBA is generally considered safe. The trigger level where you must take precautions to avoid damage to your hearing is 85 dB(A), according to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID).
So, when you consider that routers can have a sound intensity approaching 100 dBA, and you can’t distance yourself from the source, you can only limit exposure time and wear ear defenders.
Can excessive noise affect the performance of the router? Yes, it can. Going back to the section on power, efficiency is the ratio of input over output, so the more energy converted to sound, the less efficient the motor is.
As the router chops through wood, a lot of sawdust is generated. So a router that is, or can be, fitted with a dust extractor is worth considering, especially if you work indoors.
This feature is particularly important if you’re frequently cutting worktops, as these usually have a chipboard or MDF core. Although worktops made in the UK and the EU don’t contain a significant amount of formaldehyde (classed as carcinogenic by the HSE), other binders and the sawdust itself are hazardous to health if inhaled.
It’s always worth checking what comes in the box when purchasing a woodworking router. Here are some accessories you might find:
- Adjustable tilting bases allow you to work at any angle to the piece you’re working on
- Router fence or edge guides for making channel cuts or to form a cut parallel to the opposite side of the piece.
- Additional collets are useful if you’re new to routing, but always check before buying any bits.
Best Woodworking Router in the UK – Final Thoughts
After a close-run contest, the Makita DRT50ZJX3 wins our award for the ‘Best Woodworking Router in the UK’.
Due to the DRT50ZJX3’s efficient brushless motor, versatility and lightweight design, this woodworking router is an excellent choice for professionals and DIY enthusiasts.
If you found this guide useful, check out our 9 Essential Types of Drills & Drivers article for essential information about power drills and drivers.
What is a good router for woodworking?
If you have a new kitchen to fit, a plunge router with a 12mm or ½ʺ collet does the trick. A handheld/palm router is better for more precise, detailed work.
Which router tool is best?
We looked at the best woodworking routers for DIY enthusiasts, and the Makita DRT50ZJX3 came out on top in 2023.
If you’re looking for a heavy-duty router, check out the Trend T11EKL. This 2,000 W ½” router runs off 110 V, so it’s ideal for site work. At 6.3kg, it’s a true heavyweight, and with a variable speed of 8,000 to 22,000 RPM, this Trend router handles most materials easily.
What’s the best budget wood router?
There are a lot of good routers at the budget end of the market. The Silverline 264895 faired very well in our review, as did the Bosch POF 1200 AE.
There are cheaper wood routers, but it’s not just about cost. You’re far better off getting a good deal on a mid-range model like the Bosch POF 1200 AE than forking out £50 for something that isn’t suitable.
Who invented the woodworking router?
It’s difficult to pinpoint the moment when the electric router as we know it today was “invented”.
Like many great tools and machines, it developed over several years, with the first patent granted in 1908. George Kelley of the Kelley Electric Machine Company lodged the first patent in the US in 1906, and more followed soon after.
To learn more about the router’s history, check out A History of Woodworking by Raymond McInnis.
Will a 12mm bit fit a half-inch collet?
The simple answer is “no”. The problem is with the shank — at 12mm, the bit is 0.7mm smaller than the ½ʺ collet. That may not seem a lot, but in engineering terms, it is, and the collet won’t tighten up against the bit shaft.
If you have a 12mm collet, you’ll also struggle to fit a ½ʺ bit into it. Always match the bit to the collet fitted to your router. Forcing it could damage the collet.
Can you connect an extraction port to any vacuum cleaner?
Any regular vacuum cleaner connects to an extraction port on a router, but there are things to consider before doing so.
First, the sawdust generated by the router is very fine, and if your vac has a HEPA filter fitted, it will soon block up, and you risk burning out the motor.
Second, the hose from the vac to the router severely restricts movement. Ordinary vacs aren’t designed to be flexible enough to work with precision tools like a router, so you need something better suited to the workshop.
Wet and dry vacs are ideal for this. As the name suggests, they can deal with dust and water, which is handy for spillages or flooding. An excellent example is the Trend TR31A wet-dry vacuum dust extractor. The Trend TR31A has a long flexible hose that allows the movement you need for routing and won’t clog up with dust.
To see how wet and dry vacs work with a router or similar tools fitted with an extract duct, check out this video by Brighton Tools.
Is a battery-powered router better than a corded type?
The top wood router in this review is a battery-powered model, but that doesn’t mean that cordless is the best.
There are many advantages of being cordless, not least of which is that you don’t need a power supply to use it.
However, the major downside of a cordless router is that the charge dissipates over a fairly short time, so you need to have a spare battery on standby.
Corded tools generally are more powerful than their cordless equivalents, but power is not necessarily a key factor when using a router. More important factors are variable speed and collet size. Both corded and cordless types perform equally in this respect.
Are routers noisy?
Yes, they can be extremely noisy, over 100 dBA in worst cases. As a general rule, 70 dBA is considered acceptable, and 85 dBA is the trigger level where precautions must be taken to prevent damage to your hearing.
Although often referred to as earplugs or ear defenders, hearing protection is more appropriate as a generic term. There are different types of hearing protection, but they fall into two categories – those inserted within the ear and those completely covering the ears (earmuffs).
The choice of hearing protection is personal, but for maximum protection and convenience, earmuffs are the best.
To find out more, check out 3M’s full range of hearing protection.
Can you use a router to form joints in wood?
Yes!. Although virtually any joint is possible, some tools are better than others for a particular joint. Mitre joints, for example, are better formed using a tenon saw and mitre block, or you could use an electric mitre saw.
Routers are ideal for forming mortise and tenon joints with great precision using a straight bit. There are special bits for dovetail joints as well. The Trend Knowledge Base has great examples of joints formed using a router.
Can a wood router be used on other materials?
Yes, as well as wood and most wood-based materials, routers can be used on plastics, metal and glass.
When using a router on other materials, it’s important to have good speed control and a range of bits that suit the material. Dust extraction is also recommended because the small particles can be dangerous if inhaled.
Solid tungsten carbide (STC) and the cheaper high-speed steel (HSS) router bits are usually used when cutting soft plastics such as polycarbonate and polyethylene or non-ferrous metals like aluminium, brass and copper. STC, in particular, keeps its sharpness for longer.
You can also use a router on ceramics and glass, but this is more of a specialist job because the rate at which the cutter is advanced against the workpiece must remain constant. For this purpose, computer numerical control (CNC) routers must be used with diamond-coated bits.