From IWF: New Compact Routers from DeWalt and Porter-Cable

This morning at the International Woodworking Fair (IWF) in Atlanta, DeWalt and Porter-Cable each took the wraps off a new compact router. While there are some differences, there is one shared trait that makes this big news: Both routers are available with a plunge base. Until now, the choice of small plunge-base routers was very limited.

Both bases have a 2″ plunge capability, a release-to-lock lever, a five-step adjustable turret stop, and they are fitted with non-slip grip handles. The locks are easily within reach of your thumb as you hold the router, and the plunge action is as smooth as a piece ready for finish. The base plates on the plunge bases accept standard Porter-Cable guide bushings as does the round base that comes standard with the Porter-Cable fixed-base compact router. (The D-base included with the DeWalt router does not accept guide bushings.)

Each company offers its 1-1/4 hp trim router , more power than the category front runner , with a fixed base (450 for Porter-Cable and on DWP611 on the DeWalt side) for a reasonable $129 and $139, respectively.

The new compact routers are also available as kits , the motor, a plunge and a fixed base and other accessories. Porter-Cable’s kit (450PK) is expected to retail for $189 while DeWalt’s kit (DW611PK) is approximately $10 more. The routers have all the accoutrement available that you would expect , guide bushings, dust adapters, straight-edge guides and a centering cone to get the base perfectly set.

Let’s get into some specifics. Both routers weigh in at around four pounds. Add the plunge base and you pump up the figure to just more than six pounds. The routers are adjusted via a single-wrench and a thumb-activated spindle lock. The design makes process of changing bits easy in that bored around the spindle there are 12 motor shaft detents to catch the lock pin. That’s a minimal 15Ã?° to find alignment , no more spinning the shaft 360Ã?° as you search for the opening.

Theoretically, you could tighten or loosen the collet with a ratchet action while the base is in place, if you have ample finger dexterity. But with the ease at which the base is pulled from the motor, I think you would be more apt to separate the two to make changes. In the photo to the right, I have my fingers on the depth-adjustment ring’s quick-release tabs, which easily allows a fixed base to be separated from the motor (the ring is removed when using the plunge base). Squeeze the tabs then slide the base off the motor. The ring also makes for quick and easy fine-tune depth adjustments. When the settings are dialed-in, flip the adjustable clamp to lock down your position.

In addition, the Porter-Cable and the DeWalt compact routers feature electronic speed control to maintain your cutting speed as you work, and each has a soft-start feature to prevent any wild wobble as you flip the covered rocker-style switch.

Another great design feature is the extended length of the collet. As you can see in the photo, the new collet is longer than the competition’s collet and that allows better contact with the router bit and less vibration as you operate the tool.

In the difference category, DeWalt’s compact router has variable speed settings while the PC router is a single-speed model. The fixed base on the DeWalt tool comes with a D-shaped base plate that makes straight cuts such as dados and rabbets easier and more accurate.

These routers should be fine additions to any router arsenal. The DeWalt DW611PK and the 450PK model from Porter-Cable are great choices as an introductory router set. Like the larger horsepower two-base kits that are often heralded as great starter kits, these routers can do most operations in the shop and should ease any woodworker’s concerns when first becoming acquainted with the tools.

Information provided at the show has the DeWalt compact router on the store shelves in October 2010 with Porter-Cable following closely sometime in November.

– Glen D. Huey

7 thoughts on “From IWF: New Compact Routers from DeWalt and Porter-Cable

  1. GregL

    If either had a 1/2" collet I would buy one on the spot. I have many bits with 1/2 shafts that are smaller bits that a 1 1/4hp router cold easily spin. I agree that it takes more motor to run a large bit with a small router but not all of my 1/2" bits are large cutters and I would have to spend more on 1/4 shank bits than the router is worth just for the convenience of a smaller router. Buying alot of 1/4 shanks would duplicate many that I already own in 1/2" and use with my larger routers.

  2. Glen

    Dave is correct. There are a few differences between the two routers. For example, the PC router is not a variable speed tool (even though the photo shows that ability). Likewise, the bases that come standard with the routers are different – DeWalt has a D-shape base and the PC is round.

    Jason, the routers are limited to bits that have 1/4" shanks. I also wondered about the possibility of including a 1/2" collet. It was explained to me that to do so, and to spin the larger-size router bits, would over-tax the 1 1/4-horsepower motor. A larger collet would also require a re-design of the shaft to make it a beefier diameter.

  3. dave brown

    Dewalt and Porter Cable are owned by the same parent company. They’re the same routers underneath but they’re positioning Dewalt as the premium brand and Porter Cable as the slightly cheaper, not quite premium brand.

    Sort of like GMC and Chevrolet. Same vehicles, a few small differences.

  4. dave brown

    Geez Glen. Why’d you have to go and do that to me?

    I have the Bosch Colt and it’s my go-to small router but it can’t plunge unless I spend $300 on that fancy base. I also have the DeWalt DW616 kit and it’s my go-to big router.

    I’ve been wishing the Colt were a bit bigger or the DW616 were smaller and this might fit the bill. And I can plunge without buying a $300 add-on for my Colt?!

    But I don’t need anything else on my wish list.

    Curses to you Glen!!! lol

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