Tool Test – Craftsman Digital Readout Plunge Router

From November 2006 Popular Woodworking

Adding a digital readout to a plunge router is more useful than adding a laser, but this digital feature alone might not be reason enough to give up your old plunge router. The Craftsman #17517 allows you to set the depth of your cut in 1?64″ (or 0.1mm) increments and see the results in a lighted LCD window on the front of the tool.
This clever function is surprisingly accurate and easy to learn to use. You simply touch the router’s cutter to your bench, press a button to zero out the digital scale and then turn a dial to set the depth of cut you want. (The readout is in fractions or in millimeters.) You then lock the setting and start routing. One warning on this feature: the millimeter scale on this tool actually is finer than the imperial scale so you might be tempted to “go metric.”

The digital function works best with the router used handheld , it’s less than perfect with the router mounted in a router table. Also, I think it’s too easy to accidentally “zero” out your setting when you intend to simply turn off the digital readout. And while the router holds its setting fairly well in use, you can knock it loose by plunging with excessive pressure. So take it easy.

Regarding the router’s other features, I liked the soft-grip handles and the soft boot for the dust collection hose , too bad the dust chute clogged immediately every time I used it. The router offers a nice 10′-long cord, a spindle lock for one-wrench bit changes and a motor that ramps up gradually and is variable in speed from 15,000 to 25,000 rpm. The 10-amp motor itself is gutsy enough for most workshop tasks, and is (like most routers) too loud to be used without ear protection (89 dB up to 100 dB). The router comes standard with both 1/2″ and 1/4″ collets.

For me, the router would be more appealing if the digital readout could be switched to decimal fractions, the router were more friendly in the router table and if the dust chute functioned well. However, for the first digital-readout router I’ve ever used, I can say that I’m intrigued by what’s next

– Christopher Schwarz

More information on the Digital Readout Router from Sears