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A more detailed guide to buy the best trim router, our recommendations for top compact routers.

A router is a very useful tool for a woodworker as it is essential for cutting and shaping workpieces. The selection of a router should be carefully made and there are many parameters that you need to account for when deciding which category of a router is best for your application. The final decision you make is usually based on a trade-off between different parameters to find the best trim router with a high-speed cutter to cut laminate and stocks accurately without chipping it. However, these days, a good trim/compact router is much more than a laminate trimmer.

Now, if you are in a hurry, here are our picks for top quality trim routers:

What makes a good trim router great?

  • Versatile and easy to use
  • Must be perfectly suited to furniture-making tasks such as: rounding over and chamfering edges, routing hinge mortises, flush-trimming veneer, and edgebanding, routing cavities for inlay and many other tasks.
  • The size must be small enough to make it agile, able to move effortlessly around corners and curves, balance on edges and narrow parts such as chairs’ legs.
  • Lightweight and ergonomic to be used with one hand so that you can maneuver the router while adjusting the position of the workpiece with the other hand.

I was fortunate enough to experience some of the best compact routers daily, here are the winners:

Here are the Best Trim Routers with Reviews from Jack

1. Makita XTR01Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Compact Router

Makita XTR01Z

See price on Amazon

Feature

  • Various speed control  (10, 000 – 30, 000 RPM)
  • 4.4 pounds
  • Dimension: 6.2 x 8.5 x 5.8 inches
  • Superb ergonomics
  • Small, lightweight and powerful.

Motor

It has a powerful high torque motor capable of producing variable speeds of up to 30,000 RPM. This is a decent motor range for the most type of router cuts.

Variable Speed Controller

The router is equipped with a variable speed controller that a user can easily be used to adjust the speed of the spindle depending on the task.  The adjustment of speed is done using a dial.

Dual LED Lighting System

Visibility for any woodworker is of utmost priority as it helps the user to navigate and maneuver the machine according to the task at hand. This model features a dual-LED lighting system that helps light up the workstation and improves the performance of the machine.

Battery Operated

This machine is operated through a rechargeable Li-ion battery that allows the user to work with the machine without a cord. It greatly improves the worker’s ability to perform operations without any hassle to adjust the machine wire.

Applications:

The model’s motor power and performance enables it to be used on almost every woodworking application. It is widely preferred for profiling edges and signs making operations where accuracy and precision are required. The load screw on the Makita is able to control all bit-height adjustment.

Price, size and portability analysis:

The price of this model is decent and it is neither too high nor too low. The functionalities and features available clearly suffice the price of the product. Moreover, the size of the router itself is sufficient to carry and move around easily. The device is exceptionally portable and is equipped with a standard tool kit to help the user during various applications.

Advantages

– The construction of this model is rigid giving it high durability.

– A machine is significantly portable and easy to handle.

– LED lights enhance the visibility of the machine

– Power management is efficient to suit all types of operations.

2. DEWALT DWP611 1.25 HP Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router with Dual LEDs – Top pick for trim router

DEWALT DWP611

See Price On Amazon

Features

  • 1.25 horsepower motor
  • Variable speed control
  • Soft-starting motor that features full-time electronic feedback
  • Dual LEDs and clear sub-base
  • Adjustment ring for controlled bit depth changes to 1/64 ’’
  • Dimensions: 5.6 x 11.5 x 7.3 inches
  • Weighs 5.5lbs

Motor

The motor is specially designed to carry out heavy-duty projects by providing speeds ranging up to 16,000 to 27,000 RPM. The maximum torque generated by the motor goes up to 1.25 HP which can work on the toughest hardwoods with ease.

Height Adjustable Mechanism

This model has an adjustable ring at the bottom of the base which can be used to change the depth of the tool bit. It enables the user to change the depth within 1/64-inch.

Soft Start Mechanism

Electronic feedback circuitry is entwined with the soft start mechanism of the machine which powers it throughout the cut. The soft start mechanism results in minimal noise production which in turn reduces the frequency and size of vibrations produced.

Dual LED Lighting System

This feature is essential in lighting up the workspace for the user to work with convenience and ease for optimum precision.

Applications

It is used in operations that require high power input to make desired cuts. The soft start mechanism enables it to be used on very hardwood materials which allow working on different cut profiles. The DeWalt adjusts height when using fixed base by releasing a locking lever and then turning the motor in the base, it is a very well designed system.

Price, size and portability analysis:

As compared to other routers this model’s price is also very affordable and within a decent range of budget. Moreover, the functionalities available by the router are more advanced and suited for woodworkers that use router consistently.

The size of the machine is small and it is easy to handle during a task. Moreover, it can be easily stored anywhere since it is designed to enhance portability. The weight of this model is also very less making it ergonomically efficient for a user to work with, this is truly the best palm router in the market at the moment.

Advantages

  • Easiest to use, the most versatile.
  • It has a spindle lock with 12 different levels which helps in changing the router bits quickly
  • Price is comparatively affordable
  • Equipped with Dual LED light system which enhances visibility make more precise work much easier.
  • Lightweight and ergonomically designed for users make it comfortable for one hand use with a rough exterior that provides a comfortable grip and traction.
  • The small size plunge base is ideal for inlay work while the fixed base has superb height adjustment.
  • Minimal vibrations and noise produced due to the Soft Start Mechanism
  • Well designed, compact but powerful. The fixed base has excellent height adjustment, comfortable for one hand with solid grip and good balance while the plunge base is just as good.
  • Offer great visibility while operating which is an underrated ability.
  • Perfect to use with a CNC router for woodworking

3. Bosch Colt 1HP Palm Router

Bosch Colt 1HP

See Price On Amazon

Features

  • Variable speed motor with speeds from 16,000 – 35,000 RPM
  • Convenient straight edge guide
  • Quick clamp system for easy motor removal
  • Versatile bit changing system
  • Conveniently positioned variable speed dial and angled cord exit
  • Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.4 x 4.7 inches
  • Weighs 3.3lbs

Motor

This model features a motor capable of maintaining speeds between 16,000 and 35,000 RPM operating at 5.6 amp. The motor is supported with a durable base that is used to support the router making it more durable.

Straight Edge Guide

The machine is equipped with a guide that works efficiently in leading the router with workpiece resulting in the accurate cutting of the workpiece. This added feature is very important for trim routers since the machine is handled mostly manually and requires a stable operation.

Depth Adjustment Mechanism

Bosch Palm Router has a separate system for changing the depth of tool bit. It can be used to make adjustments on a micro and macro level giving the machine the ability to perform tasks within the desired tolerance level.

Applications

Due to its lightweight design, this model is preferred for cutting hinge mortises that require user’s usability and control of the machine to be optimum. It is mostly used for duplicating parts and cleaning veneer.

Price, size and portability analysis:

The price of this model is similar to the models discussed above making its price competitive and affordable enough to be one the best trim routers for the money for its value.

The best part about this model is its lightweight compact packaging resulting in the total weight of 11.8 pounds. As compared to other models it comparatively more portable.

Advantages

  • Durable construction resulting in long life and maximum stability.
  • Extremely lightweight and easy to handle design for a variety of woodwork operations.
  • Motor rating is exceptional and has a wide range of RPM providing optimum efficiency.
  • Competitive market price.
  • Comfortable to hold. Bottom heavy so it is well balanced and stable to use.

Cons

  • Lacks LED lighting.
  • The black sub base limits visibility.

4. Ridgid R2401 Laminate Trim Router – The best value trim router

Ridgid R2401

See Price On Amazon

Features

  • 1.6 horsepower motor with electronic feedback and soft start
  • No load speeds range from 20,000 – 30,0000
  • Quick release lever and LEDs
  • Easy access micro adjustment dial
  • Round and square bases
  • Dimensions: 6.5 x 3 x 3 inches
  • Weighs 4lbs

Motor

The speed of the motor can be determined with easy access micro adjust dial giving the user complete control of the speed of the motor during operation. This function allows the user to manipulate the speed according to the load required during cutting.

Quick Release Lever

This feature allows the motor to be easily removed from its base allowing users to repair and replace router motor with ease and convenience.

Applications

The operations performed by this model are very simple and limited. It can be used for hole drilling and flushing cutting plugs as well as profiling edges with limited and simple intricate designs.

Price, size and portability analysis:

Price of this machine is extremely cheap and affordable for everyone. This model is designed to suit the user’s usability and is ergonomically designed to maximize control. Although the brand is not as mainstream as other brands still it is an effective trim router for people who use infrequently.

Advantages

  • The machine is simple and easy to operate. Bit height adjustment is quick and accurate.
  • A requirement for maintenance is minimal.
  • Comfortable to hold, it is my favorite tool to work on round edges.
  • Large opening in the base. a clear sub-base, and a LED light which provides great visibility.
  • Easy to change bits.
  • The second, square sub-base is good to guide the router with a straightedge, and an edge guide.
  • Although limited features are available in this model it is very affordable to buy for light routing. One of the best compact router for the money.

5. Makita RT0701CX7 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit

Makita RT0701CX7

See Price On Amazon

Features

  • Variable speed dial control with speeds of 10,000 to 30,000 RPM
  • Smooth rack and pinion fine depth adjustment system
  • Quick release cam lock system
  • Electronic speed control
  • Soft startup capability
  • Dimensions: 10 x 8 x 6 inches
  • Weighs 3.9lbs

Aluminum Motor

The tool features a 1.25 HP motor which is capable of delivering differential speeds ranging between 10,000 to 30,000 RPM. Optimum efficiency in terms of power usage and woodworking is achieved since the aluminum motor is made for heavy-duty tasks.

Soft Start Mechanism

Similar to the DEWALT DWP611 Variable Speed Compact Router, this model has an electronic feedback circuit that is incorporated with the soft start mechanism. The soft start mechanism results in minimal noise production which in turn reduces the frequency and size of vibrations produced. Moreover, the electronic load controller maintains a consistent speed when a load is increased.

Lockable Button

This option is important in keeping the machine safe and prevents accidental starts. Lockable button option also allows for smooth operations of the machine.

Applications

It can be used for profile cutting, veneer cleaning and trimming shelf lipping. Although overall functionality is limited, the model offers the main woodworking operations making it suitable for common use.

Price, size and portability analysis

The price of this model is affordable but the features are limited. As compared to other models the functionalities of this model aren’t as many in relation to the price tag. The size of the model is very compact and durable. In fact, it is the most portable handheld trim router available in the market by the brand.

Advantages

  • Smooth and powerful performance ensures optimum output.
  • Ergonomic design for added ease and usability for users.
  • Simple and easy to use with very high precision.
  • Sturdy and durable construction.

What is a trim router and how does it work?

Trim routers, compact routers, palm routers or laminate trimmers are portable hand-held devices used for woodwork applications. They are basically compact versions of regular routers and are more prominently used for smoothening the edges of the workpiece after lamination or veneering operation. It is most commonly used where the workpieces are small and intricate cutting is required for precision.

The main job of a trim router is to cut a piece of plastic laminate to a very small size just a tiny fraction of an inch larger than the plywood or other substrates to cover it. Combining with a flush-trimming router bit, a trim router could zip around edges, and perfectly trim the excess laminate while making it flush with the substrate’s edges.

The user has to use his hand to steady the workpiece while they perform the operations from the other hand. The bits of the routers can be changed subjectively to the need of the application and tolerances required. The basic difference between a trim router and plunge router is the size and power rating which are comparatively more for a plunge router.

In a trim router, the bit and the motor are mounted centrally in the base plate using a spring. The central position gives the trim router good control for the user to operate. Moreover, the base plate is adjustable which allows the user to change the height of the bit. For very sharp and tight corners an offset base is present for the convenience of the user. The base can be changed for different types of cuts such as bevel.

The collet size of the trim router is usually 1/4″ which restricts the size of the bit that can be wielded by it. However, there are dozens of router bits available with varying designs to suit the operation.
Factors to take into account before buying

Motor Speed and Speed Controller

The speed of the tool is essential in determining the cut profile of the woodworking operation. A nominal speed is required since very high-speed results in loss of controllability of the router and very low speed of the tool bit results in requiring extra efforts from the user. A variable speed controller helps in different uses for different bit sizes. Clean cuts at high speeds are achieved by small bits, whereas large bits are needed for slower speeds to avoid any accidents. Usually, a dial knob is used to control the speed of the router.

Electronic Feedback Circuitry

This feature is responsible for adjusting the torque by the motor based on the output of the machine and the load applied by the user. With EFC, the user is freed from constantly adjusting the speed of the rotation tool and focus on the cut profile. The pace of the work done is efficient due to this feature.

Vacuum Port

This feature allows the router to remove unwanted wood shavings from the work surface. The dust collection mechanism of a trim router should be efficient and smooth since the leftover of the wood may interfere during the cutting process.

Depth Control

Depth control functionality helps in adjusting the depth of the tool. For any trim router, it is important to have a decent range for depth since they expand the application the router can be used for during woodworking. The user should buy a router which allows them to adjust the cutting height from above the table using a dial or manual handle. This feature helps the user avoid stopping the process every time the depth needs to be changed. ‘Above the table Adjustment’ is an alternate name given to this feature.

Arbor Size

The arbor size or the collet size determines the minimum diameter of the tool bit that is going to be used in the router. Usually the diameter size of the collet in ¼” inch but for some trim routers the size can reach up to ½” inch.

Now that we have gotten over the basis, let’s find out what makes a good trim router.

Safety while trimming

We know that plastic laminate is extremely hard and brittle. The material is not easy to work with as it chips easily and when it is cut, chips will be flying around. They can certainly damage your eyes and believe me, plastic laminate chips are even more dangerous than feathery wood chips.

I would recommend reading this article to learn how to keep yourself safe. Get yourself a good pair of goggles for laminate work.

Tips for working with a Trim Router

In many projects of yours, there will be situations where tight corners are inaccessible to a router, even with your lightweight compact palm router. For example, imagine when you are trimming a self-edge with an inside corner or an edge that meets a wall. It seems impossible since the base of your router will collide with the adjoining edge of the wall, even the best palm router is not able to help in this situation.

Solution: Try to nibble off the excess laminate with a pair of diagonal cutters and flush the ragged edges with a fine file.

What about when you have to trim an edge or an outside corner that is not 90 degrees? In this situation, your pilot bearing runs a little below the corner and with an off-square corner, you will eventually leave some overhang or gouging into the intended corner.

Solution: Try the nibble and file technique above. Another thing you can do is to cut a tapered shim to stick to your router’s baseplate with double-sided tape. Now you can cut the shim to the angle necessary to keep the bit shank parallel to the surface that it is following.

Compare and Contrast Table

Best Trim/Compact Router Comparison

Conclusion – Our final pick for best trim router

All the parameters indicate different strengths of a particular trim router but the selection of a particular router is subject to the frequency of use by a woodworker. If the usage of the trim router is minimal then the Ridgid R2401 Laminate Trim Router is best suited for the user. It requires minimum power and is capable of handling a decent amount of operations.

Whereas for an experienced user the selection is dependent on usability and convenience with handling. Makita’s models hold an important value in the market due to its durable structure and ergonomic design. However, the DEWALT DWP611 Compact Router is our top pick for its value, power, and features, it comes with exciter features for any user such as dual LED lights and vacuum port making it the first choice for any regular woodwork user, it is truly the best compact router.

Updated July 2019: More information on using a router for woodworking:

Consider using a plunge router if you don’t find a compact trim router is suitable for your needs.

Lastly, remember that a good router table and router lift is always essential for your workshop and check out this YouTube video for how to use a trim router.

Source: popularwoodworking, finewoodworking, Rockler, Wood Magazine