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For small jobs such as creating edge profiles, a 700w (1hp) router is sufficient. For deeper cuts or for extended use, a 2100w (3hp) router would be best.
A wood router is a powerful tool used by both professional and hobbyist woodworkers alike. Designed for creating patterns and edges on a piece of material, they allow you to create more advanced pieces with ease.
Of course, as with many other woodworking tools, wood routers come in different shapes and sizes. One of the key things to consider when buying a wood router is the amount of power it is capable of producing.
It can be tempting to buy the most powerful tool you can get your hands on but this isn’t always the case. On the other hand, you may purchase a less powerful tool to save money only to find that it isn’t up for the challenge.
So, this guide on power will help you to choose the right tool for you. This is important considering that there are so many excellent wood routers on the market today.
How Is A Wood Router’s Power Measured?
When you are shopping for a wood router, one of the first things you will need to look at is how powerful the tool is and whether this power will meet your needs.
Power on a wood router is measured in horsepower and the rate of this will tell you how well the tool will deal with tough materials and larger bits.
It is possible to make multiple passes with a less powerful router to achieve the desired result but why do that when you could simply purchase a more powerful tool and get the job done more quickly?
You will find that there are varying degrees of power depending on the type of router you are using and we will look at these types in a little more detail later on.
For now, let’s just understand that the horsepower of any given wood router could be anywhere between 1HP and 3 ¼ HP.
Why Are Some Wood Routers More Powerful Than Others?
The reason that some wood routers are more powerful than others is that they are all designed to do different jobs.
A compact palm router is perfect for light, detailed design work but you would never use this for working on dense hardwood.
That said, while a large full-sized router would make light work of cutting edges on a piece of dense material, the tool would be far too cumbersome for other types of work and would simply make the job more difficult than it needed to be. Hence the use of less powerful, more lightweight wood routers.
Why You Might Want A More Powerful Wood Router
When you come to buy a wood router, it can be very tempting to go for more or less power than you might need.
However, it’s important to choose a tool that will work well with the types of job you need to do. In some cases, a more powerful tool is needed and you’ll know that this is what you need because of the following points.
Types Of Cut
There are some wood routers that are designed for more significant tasks and in this case, they need to be more powerful.
For example, if you need to do things like dovetailing or working with denser wood then more power is a must.
Not only this but these larger, more powerful wood routers allow you to perform more advanced tasks so they’re ideal for commercial or production situations.
For example, they’re excellent for making deeper cuts, shaping the edge and round-overs.
Even if you are totally new to woodworking, you will likely be aware of the fact that wood comes in different hardnesses.
There are softwoods like pine, cedar and fir that are much easier to cut into and would benefit from the use of a less powerful wood router.
On the other hand, there are hardwoods such as oak, walnut, maple and beech which are often used in furniture making thanks to their robustness.
However, since they are so hard and dense, it can be much more difficult to cut into them and the delicate power of something like a palm router just wouldn’t cut the mustard…or the wood.
For this reason, it is imperative that you have a wood router whose power is enough to neatly and safely cut through hardwood without damaging the tool or the material.
Length Of Use
If you are going to be using your wood router for a prolonged period of time then it’s essential to make sure that it can handle this workload.
The more powerful the tool, the longer it will be able to comfortably run for. If you’re doing heavy DIY work or are working at a commercial level, your router will be running for much longer each day so be sure to look for something more powerful.
A wood router works by attaching collets which are all designed differently for different cutting needs. Some are small and others are much larger but if you’re using something that is bigger, then it stands to reason that you’ll need more power to run it.
That’s why it is important to choose a higher-powered machine when working with larger collets. You will normally find that any given router is designed to work with a specific size of collet and the power will match this.
What Are Typical Wood Router Power Levels?
There is no standard power level for a wood router and this is because routers come in different forms. Designed for various needs, each type of router operates at a different level of power and this will affect which you choose.
If you don’t need a huge tool that’s capable of putting out enormous amounts of power then a trim or palm router might be the best choice for you.
They’re compact and incredibly easy to use as a hand tool and are perfect for things like hinge mortising, trimming, slot cutting, decorative inlays, edges and small-scale dovetailing.
You would normally find that these routers are no more than 1HP in terms of power so they’re more suited to light work and operate using a ¼ inch bit.
A mid-sized router is one of the most versatile in terms of power since some tools can be as low as 1300W (1 ¾ HP) while others go up to around 1800W (2 ¼ HP). You’ll need to choose the option that matches your needs.
What’s great about the mid-sized router is that it is able to handle a wide range of jobs so is a good choice for a first router.
You’ll have the benefit of being able to complete tasks that a palm router would manage as well as some of the things that a larger tool could do. They work with ¼ and ½ inch bits which further demonstrates their versatility.
A full-sized router is considered to be a true workhorse and the most powerful type of wood router. They’re ideal for commercial use and for those who need to produce large amounts at once.
You would normally use a full-sized router with a router table owing to their much larger size. Trying to use one as a handheld tool would be far too tricky.
Generally speaking, you would not expect a full-sized router to be any less powerful than 2100W (3HP). That said, these tools quite commonly go up to 2400w (3 ¼ HP).
The plunge router is a variant of the midsize and full-sized router and, as its name suggests is used to ‘plunge’ into the wood allowing the user to make designs and holes in the centre without cutting from the edge.
These are rather powerful tools and come in a range of horsepower, however, most commonly, you would expect a plunge router to be rated at 2400W (3¼ horsepower), on average.
Choosing a wood router comes with a lot of decisions and it’s essential to make sure that you purchase a tool that’s going to make life easier and match your needs.
While there are a lot of things to consider, power is one of the most important and looking at this will help you to make sure that the tool you choose will be up for the job.
Different types of wood router have different power levels but in some cases, you might need something more powerful.
This may be if you are working with hardwoods or for specific types of cut and when working with large collets.
Full-sized wood routers offer the most power and are ideal for heavy or commercial use while a palm router is compact and perfect for light tasks.