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Multiple bases make this compact router extremely versatile.


by Randy Johnson






Laminate trim routers are amazing little machines. Their light weight and compact size make them exceptionally easy to use. Although they are designed primarily for trimming plastic laminate (p-lam), they also work great for light-duty wood routing. 


Trim router motors range from 3.8 to 7.5 amps and run at speeds as high as 30,000 rpm. Add a base and the trim router weighs between 3 and 4-1/2 lbs. All models use only a 1/4-in. collet. You can buy a variety of bases and accessories (see Sources, page 34). Prices range from $80 for just the router with a standard base to $250 for a kit with several accessories. 


Understanding what each of these accessories is capable of doing is the secret behind getting the most from your trim router. These accessories make the trim router very precise.


Protect the Plastic Laminate


Apply a lubricant, such as wax, soap or Trim Ease (a commercial product available from p-lam and trim bit distributors), to the plastic laminate’s face when you use self-piloting bits. The lubricant protects the p-lam from burning or marring. Self–piloting bits are available in flush-trim or bevel-trim profiles. The flush trim (shown here) is used when you want to leave a flat, square corner. Its single cutting flute makes it fast-cutting. A solid carbide self-piloting trim bit costs $8 to $10, which is about half of what a ball-bearing-guided trimming bit costs. 






Ball Bearings Reduce Marring


Ball-bearing-guided bits greatly reduce the risk of marring and can be used without a lubricant. The bearings do wear out, so you should replace them as soon as they show signs that they’re not spinning freely. It’s also important to keep them clean of built-up glue. Ball-bearing-guided trim bits are available in either a flush-trim or bevel-trim profile. The bevel profile (shown here) is used when you want to ease the edge to make it friendlier to the touch and reduce its chance of chipping when bumped. Ball-bearing-guided trim bits cost $12 to $24 each.





Map-Proof Routing


Use a ball-bearing guide attachment when you want to totally eliminate the chance of marring the finished surface or when you want to leave an overhang on the part that you are trimming. A nonpiloted trim bit is used with this guide. The bit is a combination flush and bevel cut. You can trim straight or curved surfaces with this setup. 






Get a Super-Straight Cut


Use a straight guide when trimming against the substrate material. The straight guide bridges the small voids or gaps common in particleboard and plywood. The result is a straighter edge on the p-lam. This is important when another p-lam piece will be laminated to this edge. Straight edge guides do not work on curves or close in inside corners. A regular straight bit works fine with the straight guide.





Move Close into Corners


Use the tilt base when you rout inside corners on countertops and inside cabinets. The router must be kept perpendicular to the edge of the p-lam or an uneven trim will occur. You can use either a self-piloting bit or a ball-bearing-guided bit with this base.

Trim Odd Angles with Ease



An odd angle, such as the outside corner of an angled countertop, requires no special jigging when you use the tilt base. First, adjust the base to match the corner’s angle and trim the first piece of p-lam edging. Then apply the second piece and trim it using the same setup.








The tilt base replaces the regular base on the trim router and can be angled from 45 to 135 degrees.


Use it For Wood, Too


A trim router is also great for light-duty wood routing, because it’s compact and lightweight. It can easily handle a small profile bit for edge trimming or even a small straight bit for shallow grooving. It’s a handy router and worth having around the shop, even if you never do any p-lam work. You can even get oversize bases for some trim routers. The oversize base provides more stability when working on large surfaces.





The oversize base that comes with Ryobi’s trim router has two handles. This provides you with the same two-handed control you get with a midsize router. 


Scribing is Almost Automatic


An offset base is great for scribing a backsplash to the wall. Start with the backsplash 3/4 in. out from the desired final location. The small end of the offset base follows the wall while a straight router bit trims the back edge of the backsplash. The offset base can also be used to scribe a cabinet to a wall.

Easy Trimming in Tight Quarters


Trimming in tight areas and close to a wall is no problem with an offset base. In the photo at right, it’s being used to put the final bevel trim on a backsplash. The angled end of the base allows moving in close at inside corners. 







The offset base uses a small belt to drive the offset router shaft. The wedge-shaped base plate enables you to get up close along walls

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker May 2005, issue #114.

Source information may have changed since the original publication date.



Bosch (877) 267-2499 5.7-amp laminate router with straight base, #PR10E, $100 5.7-amp laminate router kit, includes straight, offset and tilt bases, #PR10EINK, $200. Freud (800) 334-4107 6.6-amp laminate router with straight base, #FT750T, $100 7.5-amp laminate router kit, includes straight, tilt and two-handled plunge bases, #FT1000EK, $140. PorterCable (800) 321-9443 5.6-amp laminate router with straight base, #7310, $115 5.6-amp laminate router kit, includes straight, offset and tilt bases, #97311, $230. Ryobi (800) 525-2579 4.5-amp laminate router with straight and two-handled oversize bases, TR45K, $80. DeWalt (800) 433-9258 5.6-amp laminate router with straight base, #DW670, $110 5.6-amp laminate router kit, includes additional bases, #DW673K, $180. Craftsman (800) 377-7414 3.8-amp laminate router with straight base, #27512, $100. Makita (800) 462-5482 4.4-amp laminate router with straight base, #3707FC, $1504.4-amp laminate router with tilt base, #3708FC, $160.


May 2005, issue #114

Purchase this back issue.

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