Digital readout has finally arrived on a mainstream router. This new 10-amp plunge router from Craftsman has an integrated LED screen that allows you to precisely set the depth of cut, in fractions of an inch or millimeters, without using a scale or ruler. Adjusting the depth of cut on many plunge routers can be a real hassle, but not on this machine. The Craftsman system is easy to use because it's so intuitive. As with all plunge routers, the first step is to lower the bit until it touches your workbench and engage the plunge lock lever to hold the bit in position. Next, rotate a depth-of-cut knob to lower a stop rod until it contacts the router's base. Standard procedure so far, but now comes the new, digital part. Press a zeroing button, then dial up the stop rod. As you turn this knob, the readout screen clearly indicates how deep the bit will cut, to the nearest 1/64-in. A simple twist of another knob locks the stop rod in place, and you're ready to go.
Other good features on this router include 1/4-in. and 1/2-in. collets, variable speed, soft start, a conveniently located on/off switch, and a dust shield and dust port. This router would work well in a router table, but it lacks a couple of user-friendly features. Although you get a long extension knob for setting the height of a bit from underneath the table, you can't raise the collet high enough to change bits from above the table. Another small problem: when the router's upside down, the digital readout is also upside-down; it would be nice if the readout had a button for flipping the numbers. Or a plug for a separate, external readout (like the digi-router, page 25) –wouldn't that be neat!
Sears, www.sears.com, (800) 349-4358, Craftsman Digital Router, Model 17517 , $140.