Trim routers can transform an inelegant project into a beautiful one, or they can allow you to outfit your home in beautiful trim that you make yourself. While not everyone’s ready for a project of that size, there’s no time like the present to invest in a trim router and start learning the tricks of the trade.
Of course, it’s not always obvious that you’re getting a good deal when you’re shopping online. Manufacturers aren’t shy about inflating what their products can do while disguising their shortcomings. You don’t want to buy a tool you don’t fully understand, and that holds a lot of people back from shopping online.
We believe that shouldn’t be the case, which is why we’ve done the hard work for you. We assembled these reviews of the best trim routers of 2020 to help you find a model that works well and comes at a great price. We’ve also created a buyer’s guide, so if you’ve never shopped for trim routers before you can learn everything you need to know before you buy.
|Bosch Colt PR20EVS||3 lbs||4.3/5|
The DEWALT DWP611 is a great pick for people who want to get their trim done quickly and accurately. It comes with a powerful 1.25hp motor, which gives you enough power to make short work of most trim projects. It also comes with variable speed control, which keeps the bit spinning at the same speed, even when encountering different resistances, which makes it easy to do complex cuts or change between different kinds of wood. It also comes with a soft-starting motor, which won’t kick when you first turn them on, which is important for safety and comfort.
It also comes with a pair of bright LEDs and a clear sub-base, which makes this model a great one for doing trim work, since you’ll be able to see better what you’re doing from above. However, it is a bit heavy, which is a good thing since there will be a good amount of resistance as you move it, which helps prevent mistakes. It also means that it will wear out your hands and arms faster, which is too bad. Overall, this is one of the best compact routers on the market, and its unique features make it great for making trim.
The Makita RT0701C is a great choice for the cost-conscious shopper who is also looking for a powerful and precise router. It comes with variable speed control, so you can set the speed to the task at hand, and also electronic speed control so that the speed will remain where you set it, even if the router encounters varying resistances. It comes with a soft-starting motor which is good for safety and comfort reasons. The motor is also powerful, packing in 1.25hp, which is more than enough for most projects.
You also get very precise depth adjustment on this model, which means you can make the exact cuts you want to make, instead of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best as you do on other models. Something to note about this model is that the plunge base is not compatible with standard templates, though the regular base is. If you want to use standard templates with the plunge base, you’re going to have to spend some extra money to get an adaptor. Overall, this is a great router for trim work, and you can get it for a low price, making it the best-valued palm router on our list.
The Bosch Colt PR20EVS is a model worth considering if you want to get a router with a straight-edge guide. This model’s edge guide can guide the router parallel to the edge of a piece up to 3-5/8-inches away from the edge. That’s a long-distance for edge guides and gives you the ability to make more complicated and beautiful cuts. It comes with a 1hp motor, which isn’t overwhelming but isn’t weak, either. It comes with precision depth adjustment, which makes setting the proper depth easy and quick.
It also comes with fast and easy bit changes, which is something you should always be looking for in a router, as it helps you get jobs done quicker and with less frustration. However, this model doesn’t come with a plunge base, so you’ll have to purchase a compatible one separately if you’re interested in that function. It also finicky speed adjustment that doesn’t hold as consistent as the other models on this list and has a habit of being too hard or too soft. This is the model to buy if you need an edge guide and don’t mind paying extra for a plunge base.
We hope that our reviews are already helping you think about what you’re looking for in a trim router. If you’re still not sure which router is the right one for you, be sure to check out this guide. We’ve loaded it up with great information that should teach you everything you need to know before you buy. This guide helps put some of the thinking that went into our reviews in context, so you can understand why we reviewed the routers as we did.
Power is something that you should never neglect when you’re shopping for a router of any sort. These days, you can get a powerful router for a good price, so don’t settle for something that you know to be inferior, because odds are that you can find a model with better power at a similar price.
It’s a good idea to stay away from routers with less than one horsepower. Once you start getting under that threshold, you may start finding that the router doesn’t have the power for the project at hand, especially if you’re using harder woods or lower-quality bits. Having more power is almost always a good thing as it allows you to complete projects faster.
Some people object to extra power because they think it makes the router difficult to control. There’s some truth to this, but most of the difficulty in controlling occurs when you first fire up the router, so getting a model with soft start functionality can solve this problem.
Different projects work better with different bit speeds. Sometimes the bit itself will work better with a lower or higher speed. Or, you may want to change the speed to work with harder or softer woods. Softer woods will crack and splinter if they have too much force applied to them. If you’re going too fast with harder woods, you’re going to prematurely wear down your bit, which raises your lifetime cost of operation. The ability to change the speed on a router is called “variable speed control,” and it adds a lot of value to the router.
You’ll also want to keep an eye out for routers with “electronic speed control,” where an onboard chip works to keep the bit spinning at the same speed. On other routers, more resistance or less resistance can lead to changes in the bit speed, which can lead to weird feedback, which in turn often leads to subpar cuts. Electronic speed control solves that problem by keeping the speed consistent, even when the resistance isn’t.
Not all routers are created equally when it comes to precision. If you want the best cuts, you’re going to need to be able to precisely set the bit depth. So, you should pay attention to both the overall scale of precision and the sensitivity to change. How far up and down can you adjust the bit? That’s the overall scale.
The smallest increment by which you can move the bit is the sensitivity. The best routers have a large total scale, but a very small sensitivity to change. Many cheaper routers only come with a sensitivity of just 1/16th of an inch, while the best models can go as low as 1/64th of an inch for very precise cuts.
You can also expand the total distance or scale of the bit depth by mounting the router on a plunge base, but not all routers come with this feature.
The best thing you can do before buying is sit down and make a list of all features you can see yourself using on your new router, as well as requirements for power and precision. Once you have that list, eliminate all models that don’t meet those requirements.
Once you’ve done that, it’s safe to choose the cheapest remaining model. That will provide excellent value, but also have all the features that you need. Or, if you’re below your maximum budget, you could upgrade to model with superior features.
The DEWALT DWP611 is our top choice for trim routers due to its great power, clear base and LEDs, and its soft-start feature. The Makita RT0701C can be had for a low price and comes with variable speed control and price depth adjustment, only missing out on first because the plunge base doesn’t work with standard templates. However, the price is so good that it earns the title of “best value.” The Bosch Colt PR20EVS is the model for you if you want an edge guide included in your purchase, and if you like fast bit changes.
We hope that our buyer’s guide and our reviews have cleared up what you should consider when you shop for a trim router. You should be able to use this information to find a model that fits your budget and that you’ll also love using.
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Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!